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Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997

Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997

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Confessions of a Mormon Historian: The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997

1,484 pages
22 heures
Apr 30, 2018


Leonard Arrington (1917–99) was born an Idaho chicken rancher whose early interests seemed not to extend much beyond the American west. Throughout his life, he tended to project a folksy persona, although nothing was farther from the truth.

He was, in fact, an intellectually oriented, academically driven young man, determined to explore the historical, economic, cultural, and religious issues of his time. After distinguishing himself at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and serving in the army during World War II in North Africa and Italy, Arrington accepted a professorship at Utah State University. In 1972 he was called as the LDS Church Historian—an office he held for ten years until, following a stormy tenure full of controversy over whether the “New Mormon History” he championed was appropriate for the church, he was quietly released and transferred, along with the entire Church History Division, to Brigham Young University. It was hoped that this would remove the impression in people’s minds that his writings were church-approved.

His personal diaries reveal a man who was firmly committed to his church, as well as to rigorous historical scholarship. His eye for detail made him an important observer of “church headquarters culture.”

Apr 30, 2018

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Confessions of a Mormon Historian - Signature Books

Confessions of a

Mormon Historian

... the Lord will surely prefer us to err on the side of honest disclosure.

—Leonard J. Arrington, May 4, 1988

Confessions of a

Mormon Historian

The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997

Volume 2: Centrifugal Forces, 1975–80

Gary James Bergera, editor

contributions by Joseph Geisner

and Lavina Fielding Anderson

Signature Books | Salt Lake City | 2018

Confessions of a Mormon Historian

The Diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971–1997

Vol. 1 Church Historian, 1971–75

Vol. 2 Centrifugal Forces, 1975–80

Vol. 3 Exile, 1980–97

Published in cooperation with the Smith-Pettit Foundation and the Leonard J. Arrington Revocable Trust. Copyright 2018 Signature Books Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Signature Books is a registered trademark. Printed domestically on paper certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Design and typographical composition by Jason Francis.


First Edition 2018

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Arrington, Leonard J., author. | Bergera, Gary James, editor.

Title: Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997 / edited by Gary James Bergera ; foreword by Susan Arrington Madsen ; contributions by Rebecca Foster Bartholomew, Joseph Geisner, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Jeffery Ogden Johnson, and Thomas G. Alexander.

Description: Salt Lake City, Utah : Signature Books Publishing, LLC, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017002581 | ISBN 9781560852469 (alk. paper)

Subjects: LCSH: Arrington, Leonard J.—Diaries. | Religion historians—Diaries. | Mormons—Utah—Diaries.

Classification: LCC BX8695.A77 A3 2017 | DDC 289.3092 [B] —dc23 LC

record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017002581


Chronology by Joseph Geisner and Lavina Fielding Anderson

20 A Member of the Party, July–August 1975

21 Weathering the Storm, September–December 1975

22 Entrepreneur of History, January–March 1976

23 Recollections, April–June 1976

24 At the Service of the Brethren, July–September 1976

25 The Appeal to Censorship, October 1976

26 Problems with Church Bureaucracy, November–December 1976

27 A Sinking Feeling, January–June 1977

28 Under a Cloud, July–October 1977

29 Unconscious Self-Censorship, November–December 1977

30 An Impossible Assignment, January–March 1978

31 Bombarded with Rumors, April–May 1978

32 Things Which Are Not Published, June 1978

33 The Interests of the Kingdom, July–August 1978

34 Pride and Regret, September–October 1978

35 Keeping the Liquidation to a Minimum, November–December 1978

36 A Bruised Ego, January–March 1979

37 A Proper Occupant, April–June 1979

38 A Questionable Future, July–September 1979

39 Hard Sledding, October–December 1979

40 Leaps, January–March 1980


Joseph Geisner and Lavina Fielding Anderson

This is a continuation of the three-part summary, begun in volume 1, of Arrington’s life in the context of national and world affairs and simultaneous developments in the church. We refer to Arrington as LJA.


August. After months of negotiations and legal opinions, LJA hears that the church cannot release or fire Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, who will give birth to her first child this month. This welcome news represents a change in church policy.

August 8–17. LDS conferences held in South America and Asia are attended by 44,500 church members. LJA, accompanied by Grace, joins President Spencer W. Kimball’s party during the three-week tour of the Far East.

August–September. Communists take over Laos. Israel and Egypt sign the Sinai Interim Agreement.

October 2. A Relief Society conference is held on the heels of conferences in April and June for the Primary and Young Women organizations. The format is changed to eliminate training workshops directed by women. Confusion caused by general authorities repeating the same addresses to all three conferences results three years later in limiting the Relief Society to an annual evening meeting in April and the Young Women to a short evening program in September, while dropping the Primary from the conference schedule altogether.

October 3. Church President Spencer W. Kimball announces the new First Quorum of the Seventy, reconstituted from the previous First Council of Seventy but with less permanence for quorum members.

November. The History Division counts 700 oral-history interviews conducted since the program began.

December 2. Hugh B. Brown, former first counselor to President David O. McKay, dies.


January. Grace Arrington is diagnosed with a congestive heart condition. Although medication controls some symptoms, her condition deteriorates gradually until her death in 1982.

January 7–8. The Religious Studies Center is established at Brigham Young University. David B. Haight becomes an apostle.

February 15. Over the next two weeks, 53,000 church members in the South Pacific attend nine area conferences.

March 28. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson delivers a talk, God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History, and warns employees of the church’s seminary and Institute programs of the humanizing trend of the New Mormon History. He will make similar statements in September, implying that such history violates the temple covenant not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed.

April 3. At an LDS general conference, the congregation is asked to support the canonization of Joseph Smith’s 1832 vision of the celestial kingdom and Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of the dead. They will appear for the first time in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which will include other revisions to the format, text, and annotations.

June 2. Apostle Delbert L. Stapley, the History Division’s advisor, reports the First Presidency’s authorization of a one-volume history of Brigham Young, but not for a seven-volume treatment as LJA had proposed. Given the enormous body of Young papers, LJA organizes a team of researchers to find the most significant and relevant material for the project.

June 4. A new bureaucratic position, the Presiding Bishopric Area Supervisor, later called the Area Director of Temporal Affairs, is announced as part of the decentralization of the Presiding Bishop’s responsibilities. Geographical zones, each with its own international office (PBIO), are created.

June–July. The Teton Dam collapse in Idaho causes fourteen deaths and $1 billion in damages. The First Presidency issues a statement opposing legal abortions. Kimball speaks to 17,000 church members in England and Scotland and 25,000 on the European mainland.

July. James B. Allen’s and Glen M. Leonard’s book, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, is released by Deseret Book. It is a one-volume history designed for Mormon readers, in place of Essentials in Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith. The book sells 10,000 copies in four months and reviewers praise its careful and candid treatment of sensitive issues including polygamy, the Utah War, and the racial restriction for priesthood ordination. A second printing is prepared but not printed. It will be sixteen years before the book is reissued in a revised edition.

Meanwhile, a book by Gene A. Sessions, Latter-day Patriots: Nine Mormon Families and Their Revolutionary War Heritage, is published in celebration of the US bicentennial. Sessions utilized church archival material as part of his study of LDS colonial ancestry.

September. LJA is interviewed by apostle Delbert L. Stapley, who asks how manuscripts are reviewed and authorized. In a meeting with the First Presidency and Twelve, he hears criticisms from Benson and fellow apostle Mark E. Petersen that The Story of the Latter-day Saints might cause young people to question their faith assumptions. Neither apostle has read the book. LJA receives private support from Howard W. Hunter and President Kimball.

That same month, the LJA and Dean L. May book, Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons, based on a manuscript by the late Feramorz Y. Fox, is published to positive reviews. However, an unnamed apostle instructs the Church News not to mention it. A second printing/edition will not appear until 1992.

LJA receives a letter from S. Dilworth Young, one of the seven presidents of the Seventy, complimenting him on his new book, From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley. It is the first positive letter LJA has received from a church leader.

September 21. The James H. Moyle family underwrites the church’s oral history program with a gift of $100,000. The program is renamed for Moyle.

September 27. Kimball dedicates the Language Training Mission (later Missionary Training Center) in Provo.

September–October. The American Episcopal Church approves the ordination of women. The LDS presidency issues a statement opposing the Equal Rights Amendment, saying it might bring far more restraints and repressions and stifle many God-given feminine instincts than one would think. It would, in fact, strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution.

November. Jimmy Carter, a self-described evangelical Christian, is elected US president. The UN General Assembly condemns apartheid in South Africa.

December. LDS Public Communications purchases time in fifty-four of the top US media markets for an hour-long production that invites viewers to telephone church headquarters for a free Family Home Evening booklet and information on parent/child communication. Reportedly over 90,000 viewers respond.

December 29. The First Presidency urges mission presidents and stake presidents to join others in efforts to defeat the ERA. In twenty-one states, church members, representing themselves as concerned citizens, lobby legislators against ratifying the proposed Constitutional amendment.


January 1. The First Presidency announces that semi-annual general conferences will be reduced to two days from three. The women’s meeting, a week prior to the general sessions, will be restricted to ninety minutes, all others, including the priesthood sessions, being two hours long.

February 21. Kimball and entourage begin a nineteen-day tour of Latin America, conducting area conferences in three Central American and four South American countries.

March–April. Alvin R. Dyer dies. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat begins meetings with US President Carter. Alex Haley, author of Roots, is awarded the Pulitzer Prize, although later accused of plagiarism. His research sparks an interest in the church’s genealogical records.

April 29. In a meeting of the Historical Department staff, First Presidency counselor N. Eldon Tanner announces that Seventy leader Joseph Anderson will be replaced as managing director by G. Homer Durham, sustained three weeks earlier as a new member of the Seventy. Both make short remarks. Among Durham’s first actions is, on assignment, to reduce the number of employees.

June 3. The Relief Society general presidency consisting of Barbara B. Smith, Janath Russell Cannon, and Marion Richards Boyer sends a letter to regional representatives in Utah after Benson asks the women to have ward bishops send ten women each to Utah’s International Women’s Year (IWY) meeting. More than 13,000 LDS women attend the convention in Salt Lake City, June 24–25, and vote down every proposal including equal pay for equal work.

late June. LJA speaks on nineteenth-century Mormon women at a meeting sponsored by the IWY, as do two others from the department, Jill Mulvay Derr and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, without controversy.

summer. LJA and Assistant Church Historian Davis Bitton finish a draft of The Mormon Experience. Durham’s review is positive, and the manuscript goes to the publisher in New York, Alfred Knopf, at the same time it is shared with the First Presidency.

August. The First Presidency requests the division to provide background on the Mountain Meadows Massacre—the only time general authorities would request historical information. LJA hears that apostles Gordon B. Hinckley, Mark E. Petersen, and Boyd K. Packer have met with Stapley and Durham to express dissatisfaction with LJA’s leadership.

October. LJA hires Carol Cornwall Madsen half-time to replace Derr, who has cut back her hours. In mid-1978 Madsen and Susan Staker will complete the manuscript of Sisters and Little Saints: One Hundred Years of Primary, published by Deseret Book in 1979. The First Presidency assigned Packer to review the manuscript and he directed the authors to revise the manuscript to stress that the Primary operated under the direction of the male priesthood.

November. Packer is the designated reader for The Mormon Experience. After his mostly favorable report, the First Presidency states that it has no objection to publication. That same month, US President Gerald Ford pays a call on Kimball in Salt Lake City.


January 26. Israel and Egypt establish diplomatic relations.

February 16. The publisher’s proofs for The Mormon Experience arrive. After finalizing photographs and maps, the authors will later add mention of the June 1978 lifting of the racial ban on priesthood ordination.

February 24. Durham advises LJA that his title has been changed to director of the History Division. The First Presidency soon after informs him that he has been released as Church Historian and replaced by Durham, who has also become the History Division director.

March 15. Lowell Durham Jr., a nephew of G. Homer Durham, warns LJA that Hinckley wants to cancel the sesquicentennial history series, based on misgivings by apostle Marvin J. Ashton, a member of the Deseret Book board of directors. Before the end of the month, the church attorney will offer an objection based on the inviolability of the author contracts.

April. Durham and Hinckley decide to cancel the sesquicentennial series despite the attorney’s objection. That same month Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) declares independence from the United Kingdom.

June 1. By this date, LJA’s portrait has been removed from the gallery of Church Historians in the second-floor hallway portraying all the officially appointed men from John Whitmer to G. Homer Durham. The display has been modified to include Dyer and Anderson, who were managing directors but not Church Historians.

June 8. The church lifts all previous racial restrictions on ordination and temple attendance. The same day sees a Nevada jury rule that the alleged Howard Hughes will giving his estate to the LDS Church is a forgery.

June 25. Future general authority Helvécio Martins and son Marcus are ordained elders in Brazil. In August, Marcus becomes the first full-time proselytizing missionary of black African descent since the lifting of the ban.

July. Sonia Johnson and about twenty others march in Washington, DC, under the banner Mormons for ERA. She becomes an articulate spokeswoman for equality.

August–September. Elder Stapley dies. The church announces the first seven general authorities, all members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to be given emeritus status. The prime minister of Israel and presidents of Egypt and the United States meet over an extended period at Camp David, Maryland, to sign a peace accord.

October. Durham informs LJA of a hiring freeze in the History Division. That same month, the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected pope in Rome as John Paul II.

November. The first LDS missionaries officially enter Nigeria. In Jonestown, Guyana, nearly a thousand members of the Peoples Temple commit suicide under cult leader Jim Jones.


January. The US and China begin diplomatic relations. The national trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly recommends The Mormon Experience. However, research for such projects will become more difficult as employees of the History Division are told they will have to submit requests to Durham to examine manuscript material. Over time, the restrictions will increase so that only the highest members of the hierarchy are allowed to view some collections.

February 18. As president of the Twelve, Benson organizes the church’s thousandth stake in Nauvoo, Illinois.

March. The Egyptian parliament approves the peace treaty, and the next day the Israeli parliament approves it. In Utah, Durham praises The Mormon Experience to the Seventy but declines to mention it publicly.

May. Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female prime minister of the U.K. In the LDS administration building, Kimball approves LJA’s proposal for a biography of Brigham Young.

June. The first printing of The Mormon Experience sells out of its 10,000 copies without being mentioned by the LDS Church News. It remains out of print until 1992. US President Jimmy Carter and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT II treaty limiting nuclear weapons.

summer. Edyth Romney continues to transcribe holograph documents with support from the Mormon History Trust Fund. Four books in the Sesquicentennial History series are completed by Thomas G. Alexander, Milton Backman Jr., Richard L. Bushman, and Richard O. Cowan. LJA signs a contract with Knopf for his Brigham Young: American Moses.

August 24–25. The Sunstone Foundation holds its first theological symposium in Salt Lake City, providing a platform for classroom-style lectures by informed individuals, and responses from colleagues, with Q&A from the audience, all based on academic rather than church credentials.

fall. LJA teaches Mormonism in American History at BYU. Two students enrolled in the class are recruited by the chair of the little-known Strengthening Church Members Committee to report on the content of LJA’s lectures.

September. LJA signs a contract with Knopf and receives an advance of $5,000 for Brigham Young: American Moses. About the same time, the church releases a new edition of the Bible with cross-references to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, as well as to Joseph Smith’s revision of the King James Bible.

October 5. Hinckley, who chairs the church’s Special Affairs Committee, authorizes stake presidents in Missouri and Illinois to hold anti-ERA planning meetings in church buildings. Women who are recruited to lobby or demonstrate are instructed not to identify themselves as LDS.

October–November. Patriarch Eldred G. Smith is given emeritus status. When a successor is not named, it effectively retires the office of Church Patriarch. In Provo, BYU law professor John W. Welch incorporates the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in order to defend the claim that the Book of Mormon is a literal history of ancient America. Elsewhere in the world, Panama assumes sovereignty over the Canal Zone and Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

December. R. Lanier Britsch completes his history of the LDS Church in Asia. Thus far, Deseret Book has taken no steps toward publishing the finished volumes in the series. In Virginia, Sonia Johnson is excommunicated. Her bishop claims she had discouraged people from entertaining proselytizing visits by LDS missionaries.


January 20. US President Jimmy Carter announces that the US will boycott the International Olympics in Moscow. In retaliation, the Soviet Union will later boycott the 1984 International Olympics hosted by Los Angeles.

February 22. The church’s administrative structure is reorganized to consolidate and strengthen the lines of administration at church headquarters. The executive directors of the Curriculum, Genealogy, Missionary, and Priesthood Departments become members of the seven-man presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

February 26. Ezra Taft Benson speaks at BYU on Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets, an address that seems to claim unlimited authority for the LDS president. Among the points made were that the president would never lead the church astray, that it was right for him to speak on political issues, and that disobedience to him would lead to suffering. Benson was next in line for the church presidency.

March. The History Division is forbidden to see the papers of the LDS Church presidents (diaries and correspondence) without special permission, granted only by G. Homer Durham, where previously LJA could grant permission.

March 2. An announcement is made that LDS ward meetings, previously spread throughout the week, will be consolidated into a three-hour block consisting of sacrament meeting (70 minutes); gender-separated meetings of Young Women and Young Men (the YM and youth priesthood program for boys are combined), Relief Society for women, and priesthood meetings for men (40 minutes); then Sunday School for teens and adults by age group (40 minutes). The Primary meeting for children is to span the two 40-minute sessions (80 minutes total).

20 A Member of the Party

July–August 1975

Don’t get too worked up about something. —July 9, 1975

July 2, 1975—Wednesday

President Daryl Chase¹ was in my office today to ask about using the library and archives. Since it happened to be my birthday he said, Let me tell you a birthday story. When I was a student at the University of Utah [in the 1920s], he said, I had had some difficulty with the Registrar—a woman was there who apparently also was a practical joker. Anyway she said, ‘Oh, incidentally Mr. Chase, I know how old you are.’ President Chase, knowing that she had not seen any of his papers yet and feeling that he was considerably older than she would suppose, replied, I bet you don’t. She said, Well, I am pretty good. I can read palms and they are usually completely reliable, and I’ll bet you $1.50 I can tell you how many birthdays you’ve had.

President Chase had previously had experience with another palm reader who hadn’t even been close, so he confidently said, Okay, I’ll bet you can’t. She then said, You have had nineteen birthdays. He laughed at her saying, I guess I won $1.50 because I have had far more birthdays than that. She said, Well, I will tell you what I will do. I must have made some mistake. Let me go here for a minute to my desk. She then went back and got a book, looked in it for a minute and said, I know where I made my mistake. She said, I’ll bet $5 I can tell you how many birthdays you have had."

He realized that this was a lot of money, but President Chase decided the risk was pretty good, so he said, Okay, I’ll bet you $5 you cannot tell me how many birthdays I have had. She examined his palm at some length and then looked back in her book and then she finally declared, Mr. Chase, I can tell you, you have had only one birthday—all the rest you think you had were just birthday anniversaries. So he paid the $5 and she treated the whole office.

Judith Long² came in today from San Jose [California]. She had been working closely with J. Winter Smith³ during the last few days and weeks. She is a very lovely young woman, daughter of a completely inactive father and a largely inactive mother. She was essentially outside the Church until five years ago. She has been working on her husband. He is now truly converted and they have now been regular temple goers. She had not had any contact at all with J. Winter Smith, but recently while she was in the temple for a reason she does not understand the name J. Winter Smith came into her mind and she could not get rid of it. She asked around and found out about him. She kept these things in her heart. Finally she went to the other stake patriarch and said, You know J. Winter Smith. Does he need somebody’s help? The patriarch seemed overjoyed. He said, You know, Sister, we have been praying for days and days, even weeks that the way would be cleared for some person to work with Brother J. Winter Smith on the precious manuscripts that he has in his possession. You are the Lord’s answer to this prayer. He asked her if she would be willing as an unofficial ninety-day assignment to work with Patriarch Smith. She said she would be glad to do so. So she has been doing that. She has been there helping J. Winter Smith go through the manuscripts in his possession. They have sorted them into three piles: (1) Those to be donated to the Church Archives; (2) Those to be distributed to the family; (3) Those to be destroyed.⁴

When she was coming up here to work in the Genealogical Society Library, she was to bring the envelope marked Church Archives, but when she went to get it yesterday it was not there nor could she find it. She is very concerned—very worried that he may have destroyed all the envelopes forgetting that he was only supposed to destroy one of the three. Anyway, she will be going back to work with him next week and will attempt to find the envelopes and will attempt to get to us the things which ought to come to us. She will also attempt to keep him from destroying as many of the manuscripts as she can. I told her that I would guarantee to pay her expenses up and back if that were necessary for her to deliver some of the manuscript[s]. I also encouraged her to make xerox copies or typescripts [of those] which he would not part with. She said she would attempt to do so. She also said she would attempt to be more firm with him than she has been at this time.

Chris [Waters] and some of the staff provided me a nice red carnation for my coat and a number of people dropped in to wish me happy birthday.

July 8, 1975—Wednesday

This morning about 2:00 I awoke for no reason that I can determine having had impressed on my mind the need to make a talk before our History Division staff on the background of our origin and our administrative policies. I couldn’t go back to sleep and so stayed up for a couple of hours of reading and messing around. So let me record in the diary the thoughts that came to my mind and maybe I can rest in peace tonight.

During my interview with President [N. Eldon] Tanner on January 6, 1972,⁵ he suggested that I talk to Earl Olson who had also accepted a call to be church archivist. Earl and I talked for perhaps an hour and we decided that the bulk of the then present staff of the Historian’s Office should be under his direction since they were working in library and archives. We decided that it was my responsibility to set up some organization to fulfil the call from the First Presidency to me to write Church history. I asked Earl to make a tentative proposal as to who, if anybody in his group, should function under me. He in turn asked me to send a list of suggestions to him. As I recall, I talked with him the next day on Friday and the following Monday. I find in my diary a letter I wrote to him Saturday morning, January 8, in which I laid out what I planned to do. There is a note also which says that I conveyed all of this to him orally and it was not necessary for me to mail it.

Earl proposed to me that he thought Sister [Edyth] Romney, who had been retired a few weeks earlier, had been kept on at their request to be my temporary secretary (apparently Earl had known a little in advance that I would be called). So if I wanted her she would be assigned to work with me as a temporary secretary. Earl thought Merrill Lofthouse, who was in charge of the written records sent in from wards and stakes, should be under my direction and also Flora Chappuis, who at the time was working on the history of some of our European missions. He also said that if I wanted him I could have Dean Jessee, their chief cataloger because he thought Dean would be a natural to help us in writing history. I told him I certainly did want him.

Earl had each of these people placed in the area which he expected me to occupy—which was the area formerly under the direction of Brother A. William Lund, who had died the preceding February and was Assistant Church Historian along with Earl.

I find in the memo I wrote to Earl on January 8 a proposal that we inaugurate a sesquicentennial history, a heritage series, and also a series of articles for Church and professional magazines and journals. I find also an expression that I would like to have two Assistant Church Historians; namely, Jim Allen and Davis Bitton and also a note that I would like to have a historical assistant, Michael Quinn, to work half time. Presumably, no contacts were made with any of these people at that time. The following Friday, January 14, President Tanner announced to the Historian’s Office staff—a group of about thirty-five people—the appointments of Elder [Alvin R.] Dyer, Earl and myself. At the same time Earl had arranged to have Brother Lund’s old office fixed up as an office for me—a nice rug on the floor, a nice new table, nice new desk, chairs, a dictaphone, etc. I don’t know how Earl had accomplished this so quickly. Sister Romney, Merrill Lofthouse, Sister Chappuis all had desks in that area and were at their places. I immediately went to Dean Jessee and asked him if he would agree to come in, in the capacity of Historical Associate. He said he would be happy to and at the same time I asked Michael Quinn if he would work half time, and he agreed to do so as an Historical Assistant.

Brother Dyer arranged for us to meet Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00 and I told him on the occasion of our first meeting that I wanted Jim and Davis as Assistant Church Historians, Dean as an Historical Associate, and Michael Quinn and Richard Jensen, who was at the time pursuing a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, as Historical Assistants. I told Brother Dyer about the need to do the sesquicentennial history, to start the Heritage Series, and about the need to prepare articles and perhaps other books. Brother Dyer said he would go to the First Presidency about our organizational procedure. He said he thought it would be wisest for us to ask to become a department of the Church and to change our name. He asked me to consider what our new name should be. In our second meeting, I suggested Historical Department of the Church. Brother Dyer, Earl, and myself discussed that at some length. Brother Dyer then went to the First Presidency and the First Presidency suggested that he go to the Quorum of the Twelve. Brother Dyer then arranged a meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve to which he invited Earl and myself to sit outside. At the proper moment when they were ready to discuss our matters, we were then called in. Brother Dyer had had us work with the graphics department in preparing some huge posters. He asked Earl to talk about the new organization of archives involving the appointment of Don Schmidt. He asked me to talk about the new organization of what we decided to call Church History Division involving the appointment of the two Assistant Church Historians and such other historical associates and assistants as we might need. He also asked me to talk about projects. He had suggested the desirability of having an advisory council of about a dozen people. I had suggested about a dozen names. They would give us counsel on projects. The Twelve discussed all of this in our presence and asked us questions and finally a motion was made to approve our proposals. It was passed unanimously. It was obvious to me, however, that some of the Twelve were not enthusiastic in approving some of the names on our list for the Advisory Council. I talked privately with one of the members of the Twelve about it and finally decided to drop the whole idea. The Twelve asked me to prepare a resume for the two Assistant Church Historians, which I did immediately and got back to them before the end of their meeting. They then approved the two names subject to interview by Brother Dyer. Brother Dyer then asked me to call Jim and Davis in and gave them an interview about an hour each and called them to their positions. Both accepted. We gathered in my office with Dean Jessee and had a prayer of thanksgiving that we were now organized and ready to function. I told Jim and Davis that I would regard them as my counselors in the equivalent of a stake presidency and from that time we have operated under that kind of an arrangement.

Today I received a telephone call from Richard (Dick) Beck, son of John Beck.⁷ He lives on Virginia Street, telephone 521-7660. He is seventy-two years old. He had first married a granddaughter of John Taylor and so one of his sons is named John Taylor Beck. His first wife died and he had an unfortunate second marriage. He is now married to a Jones who comes from a polygamous family in St. George [Utah]. Mr. Beck is a senior analyst with A.G. Edwards⁸ in Salt Lake City. He used to be a partner in Hogle Investments.⁹ He has done well. He still works 11:00 to 4:00 each day.

He called me after talking with three of his friends, O[rvin] N. Malmquist, Everett Cooley, and Sam Weller. In brief, Mr. Beck wishes me to consider writing a biography of his father, John Beck. He has a great deal of material about his father—clippings, account books, letters, etc. Dick Beck calls himself a Jack Mormon—takes a cocktail, smokes, and is no hypocrite. He says John Beck became alienated from the Church in his last days.

Dick Beck wants a straightforward history but one that is not sensational. He says John Beck owned the Beehive House in 1896. His wife Bertha lived there. He said the Church bank foreclosed on the house while he was president of the mission in Germany.¹⁰ He says he left three wives, two sisters and a cousin. He says a novel was written about John Beck as chief character entitled Misdividends.¹¹ He said John Beck brought many converts to the Church in Germany to work for him in Eureka.

Mr. Beck would like me to visit him at his home at the first opportunity where he would serve me a Coke and show me the material, have me meet his wife and so on. I told him I would not be able to do this before July 24, but would attempt to do so as soon as possible after. He said he was willing to subsidize the writing of the book. His chief goals in life now are to get a proper biography of his father and to assure that his children are well taken care of.

Roland Rich Woolley and Mary Woolley came by the office this morning to discuss the Woolley biography.¹² I invited Becky Cornwall to meet with us. We talked about an hour and then Mary and Roland invited me to have lunch with them and Dennis McCarthy¹³ at the Alta Club. Roland, Mary and myself then went to discuss the publication of the biography with Jim Mortimer.¹⁴

In essence Jim said the following. He was definitely interested in considering it. The size of the book was such that he probably could not publish it without subsidy because he would have to charge $14.50 and at that price he couldn’t sell enough to make it worthwhile. He had never published a book with a subsidy, but he said he would be glad to do so. The purpose of the subsidy would be to enable him to sell the book at a price which would insure satisfactory sale. Suppose that he published 4,000 or 5,000 copies on a book that would be 500 pages printed. The cost of the book would probably be about $4 per book. That would give him only 50 cents profit if he sold the book for $10 with a 40 percent discount to retail dealers [and a royalty to authors]. He would need to make at least 15 or 20 percent, so if he had a subsidy amounting to $1 per book for 4,000 or 5,000 copies, he could probably make out financially. He said if I would furnish him by next week a few introductory pages and a one-page precis [abstract], he would submit it to his board at their meeting July 18. He would argue for it. If the board approved, he would then contact Keith Montague to prepare a design. I told him we would be through with the manuscript about the last of August and he would then submit it to the press to get an exact estimate of cost which he would hope to have back by September 5 or 6.

Roland will be here for the dedication of the BYU Law School building at that time and if everything is ready by then, we will be able to make a precise agreement under which the book would be published. This would involve a check to cover the subsidy allowing a 15 percent royalty to me on each book. This would be my pay for writing the book. I would, of course, expect to share it with Becky Cornwall even though she is not listed as co-author.

At the dinner with Roland, Dennis McCarthy said that when I finished with the books Roland wanted me to do, I should make an arrangement with him (Dennis) to do a biography of his father, Wilson McCarthy.¹⁵ I confess I would be very anxious to do this. Roland said afterwards he thought that would be a great project. He said Dennis and his mother have a great deal of material about Judge McCarthy.

A Canadian native from a poverty-stricken Mormon family in America, McCarthy became a fine lawyer, then judge, then head of RFC, then president of Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. He is a distinguished person in the world of American business yet from a modest Canadian background.¹⁶ His wife Minerva is Roland’s older sister. She would now be eighty-seven years old, but very clear of mind. Roland encouraged me to do it. I would be very tempted.

Today in our executives meeting Elder [Joseph] Anderson told us some stories about Heber J. Grant. He said he had a reputation of being a kind of a spendthrift. Actually he spent very little on himself. Most of his spending was to help out friends and loved ones that he felt needed help. He paid off many widows’ mortgages that Brother Anderson has knowledge of, he helped support children in school of dear friends, he supported some persons in business deals that were not good risks yet he wanted to help out the person out of friendship.

When President Grant was old, he needed to have a prostate operation. No doctor in Salt Lake City wanted to do it because those operations still involved a certain risk and nobody wanted to do it on the president of the Church, so he went to the Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago. The doctor there, a Jewish doctor, performed the operation and then sent him a bill for $2,500. That was a large sum of money in those days. President Grant directed Brother Anderson to write a letter for his signature saying that he supposed the doctor would presume him to be a wealthy man. There were lots of flowers sent by his business associates, he arrived in a fine chauffeured car, he was the director of Union Pacific Railroad and so on. Actually, however, he was not a wealthy person. He sent along his own personal accounts to show that he was not a wealthy person. The doctor considering this knocked $1,000 off the bill and charged him only $1,500. Later on during the depression of the 1930s, U and I Sugar stock got down to 13¢ per share—not $13 but 13¢ per share. President Grant was able to buy up considerable quantities of stock at that price. As time went on the stock went up and up and up. President Grant’s normal procedure was to hold onto stock, but this time he decided to sell a quantity of it and made a substantial profit. Having made the profit he then wrote to the doctor in Chicago saying that he had been a person of modest means, but now he was better able to pay and sent him back a check for $1,000.

President Grant was an honest person in his business dealings and went out of his way to satisfy every person as fully as he could.

In the meeting this morning I secured approval to permit Jim Allen to spend two months at home working on the one-volume history. I also secured approval of Don Schmidt to have Shari Anderson spend two or three weeks—whatever is necessary—to work with Jim in choosing pictures for the one-volume history.

July 9, 1975—Wednesday

Gordon Irving came in this morning and said he found a phrase in one of Brigham Young’s sermons [letters] using the expression Don’t fret your gizzard. In other words, don’t get too worked up about something. I think we ought to put that on a placard and put it up for our personnel to see when we have a staff meeting discussing a serious problem.¹⁷

Jim Allen and I had a conversation this afternoon with Jim Mortimer about our one-volume history of the Church that Jim and Glen Leonard are writing.¹⁸ We discussed the following topics:

(1) Title. Jim Mortimer thinks our proposed title, Introduction to LDS History sounds too text-bookish. He wants us to think of a more exciting title.

(2) Our Mormon History Trust Fund will furnish the maps, the photos, the research assistants, the editorial work, and the payment to those that will critique the manuscript. In return he will pay the Mormon History Trust Fund $5,000.

(3) As incentive and payment for expenses to the two authors, Deseret Book will pay a consulting fee to Glen and Jim in the amount of $500 upon receipt of the manuscript and $500 for each printing in return for which they will do consulting with him on the book. This amount they are free to keep personally or to contribute partially or entirely to the Mormon History Trust Fund.

(4) Jim Mortimer will have Keith Montague do the design for the book. Beginning September 1 Deseret Book will have a new design director, Michael Graves¹⁹ and the Keith Montague work will be under his direction or at least Michael Graves will keep prompting Keith to get the work done quickly.

(5) In order to have the book out by April [general] conference, which he must do, he must have the manuscript by December 1. This means that Jim must have the manuscript ready for us to read no later than November 1 which means he will have to aim at October 1 for his first draft copy.

Jim agreed to all of these arrangements as did Glen Leonard, Jim Mortimer, and myself. It was further agreed that all these arrangements will not be reported to Jim’s board of directors and if they query him on it honestly and correctly Jim can say that the authors are not receiving any royalties.

Jim Mortimer said it had been his understanding that the names of the authors would not be on the book. I told him that was false—that we must have the names of the authors on the title page, but that we would identify them as being members of the Historical Department and that the project was completed under the direction of the Historical Department. This must be clear from the title page as well as from the preface. Moreover, Jim Allen and Glen Leonard must sign an agreement with me as Church Historian in which they agree that all revisions will be under the direction and subject to the approval of the Church Historian and that in case of their leaving the Historical Department or death, whichever is shortest, they will agree that this work will be done by the Historical Department and that this includes the possibility of extensive revisions, putting other names as co-authors, and dropping their own names.

July 11, 1975—Friday

On Tuesday, July 8, Debbie [Liljenquist] finished typing corrections I made, made a xerox copy, and Maureen [Ursenbach Beecher] took over to Deseret Book the final manuscript of Latter-day Patriots by Gene Sessions.

Susan and Dean [Madsen] came Wednesday night. We had supper together and a nice chat in the evening. Grace phoned to wish them bon voyage,²⁰ and we had a nice chat with her. She [Grace] is having a good time in North Carolina and feeling well.²¹

Susan and Dean introduced to me in the cleverest way some interesting news which was that Susan is pregnant and will have a baby approximately February 28, 1976. Susan and Dean very shyly handed me an envelope and said, Dad, thought you would like to have a going away present. So I opened the envelope and inside was a little bit of poetry with a little baby doll attached and the poetry essentially ended up declaring me to being a grandfather of the year beginning February 28, 1976.²²

July 14, 1975—Monday


We had nothing equivalent to this division in the old Church Historian’s Office, and when the First Presidency called me in and talked to me about this position they said they wanted some writing and publishing in this field. They appointed Brother [Alvin R.] Dyer as our director.

After our appointment they gave us a week to think about it and plan and so on. Then they announced it publicly to the Church Historian’s Office which had about thirty-five employees at the time. They asked them if they would sustain us, which they did.

At the time Brother Dyer told Brother [Earl] Olson and myself that he would like to meet with us every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 a.m. I remember I had to come down from Logan [Utah] one morning and be here by 8:00 for this meeting, and it had been snowing real bad. When I got here they told me that Brother Dyer, who lives in Salt Lake, hadn’t made it because of the snow storm.

Brother Dyer said in the first meeting that the First Presidency wanted us to tell them what staff we would like to have and what we would like to work on. The first Tuesday I told him I would like to have two assistant historians, namely Jim [Allen] and Davis [Bitton]; that I would like to have two historical assistants, Richard Jensen and Mike Quinn; and Brother Olson said he would transfer Brother [Dean] Jessee into our division. Brother Dyer said we needed to decide what to call this new division, and we decided to call it the History Division, and call the two divisions Archives and Church History Division. Then Brother Dyer said he would have to get the names cleared. This happened at the Thursday meeting—created a new department, call it the Historical Department; have two assistant historians and two assistants.

Then we met with the Quorum of the Twelve one Thursday when Brother Dyer explained our program and to clear these names. We were there to answer any they had. Brother Dyer proposed we have an advisory council, which we agreed to. We were talked out of that, but it was approved by the Twelve at the time. Then the project to do the sixteen-volume history of the Church and the Heritage Series was approved—all within ten to twelve days.

Then Brothers Allen and Bitton were interviewed and approved, and Dean and Mike Quinn; and Richard over the telephone. Then we learned about Bill Hartley at Washington State and interviewed him by telephone. Then Davis mentioned Gordon [Irving], and we employed him half time at first.

Brother Olson handled this thing through the bureaucratic procedures. I never realized this until just recently. He had had a person leave who had been working here and hadn’t replaced him and hadn’t replaced Sister [Edyth] Romney, who had retired and he had decided to keep her on an hourly basis. His own mother²³ had been secretary to Brother [A. William] Lund and he hadn’t replaced her. So we had these spots to replace people. Then we kept adding one after another.

Brother Dyer arranged for us to have a first meeting and second meeting with the First Presidency. Brother Dyer says, My whole function here is to put the wheels under you so that you can move along. And what a blessing this was to have such a great organizational man. It was right after a second meeting with the First Presidency—the day after—that Brother Dyer had his stroke. So we had Brother Dyer to do all the things he needed to do before his disability. The whole department is a creation of his.

When I was interviewed by a member of the First Presidency in January of 1972, I said, Well, I already have certain responsibility up at Utah State and I’ve contracted to write some books and so on. He said, We want you transferred yesterday. I said, Is there a certain reason as to why right now instead of June or July? Yes, we’re about to move into the new building and have already contemplated expanding and we need you right now. I said, Well, okay, I’ll make arrangements with Utah State University and I’ll come down here on a half time basis and reduce my salary there if you’ll give me something. So I was half time during that quarter and two-thirds time during spring quarter.

The First Presidency said, We want you to understand, Brother Arrington, that you are at perfect liberty to use our facilities, to use your time here and staff here to finish things promised at Utah State University.

One was the Charles C. Rich book, which I had contracted to write and had a group of young seniors and graduate students on different aspects of his life and had a person here [Rebecca Cornwall] researching. That was in a certain stage of preparation when I came here. Then you [Chris Waters] helped [with typing] and finally we got that finished. But the reason I felt freely in using you was because of this promise from the First Presidency in doing so.

The second was the [David] Eccles book which we had started and had a rough draft of it.

Third was a history of First Security Corporation and had finished about one-half of that and then finished that later. It never was published. The company decided not to publish it, but we did finish about a 500 page history of First Security. They own it and paid for it, and I hope they’ll do something with it someday.

Fourth, I made an agreement with University of Utah Press to do this book on United Order and Cooperation among the Mormons and had done a first draft. Then I got down here and forgot it and finally remembered it, and the University of Utah discovered that I had had it. That was one of the considerations involved in getting Dean May. Without Dean it wouldn’t be finished and most of the merit is his work because it was in horrible shape.

But all of those are projects which originated at Utah State [University].

July 15, 1975—Tuesday

Last Friday afternoon the department held a going away party for Elder and Sister Alvin R. Dyer—cake and ice cream and nice talks by Elder Howard Hunter and Elder Joseph Anderson. Yesterday they moved Elder Dyer and Laura [Castano] to the nineteenth floor of the central tower of the Church Office Building. Today Brother Anderson moved into Elder Dyer’s office, Earl moved into Elder Anderson’s office, Don moved into Earl’s office and Richard Oman moved into Don’s office. Sister Jacobsen will remain in her present office.

Floyd O’Neill and [Greg] Thompson from the University of Utah Western Study Center²⁴ came in my office this morning to bring copies of Utah: A Hispanic History.²⁵ I presented to Floyd the matter of Brigham Young’s letters to Indian chiefs and asked his advice on publishing them. He counseled me not to publish them. He said it would only bring trouble to the Church. The militant Indians would flay it as condescending and cultural imperialism. It could not do any good, he thought.

He said he was not familiar with Larry Coates or his work. He said he would also counsel me against publishing minutes and records of meetings between Brigham Young and Indian chiefs except that where there is no surface condescension. [H]e thought it might be desirable for us to publish some of these in professional historical journals but not submit it to Indian History, which is controlled by the militants.

He said the word Indian is a good one to use as a collective term. Native American people is also acceptable. The term Lamanite is objected to severely by the militant LDS and others[,] mildly disapproved by a large proportion even of LDS members. He said that LDS members will not complain about the term to Church officials, but they do privately to him—they do not see its appropriateness in this day and age. It is an ancient term pertaining to an ancient people. He said he and Lyman Tyler would be glad to read anything we might prepare for publication and give us counsel on it before we submit it. I told him I appreciated that offer and might very well be taking them up on it.

He said the state of Indian–White relations today is such that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t and to get involved you have to have a pretty thick skin. He said his own skin was thick, but he attempted to use wisdom in all that he did.

July 29, 1975—Tuesday

I was talking with someone the other day about Church newspapers and periodicals. Apparently Brother [Boyd K.] Packer has been an advisor to these people for the past two or three years. That is probably how he got involved in the J. Golden Kimball episode²⁶ and perhaps the reason he was especially interested in making comments about our Brigham Young book. At any rate this person said he and his group had had many experiences with Elder Packer. It was his judgment—and the judgment of his associates—that Elder Packer was so constituted that if anyone goes to him to ask about the advisability of doing something, he will automatically say no because he thinks this means they have a doubt about it and not a clear go-ahead from the spirit.

July 31, 1975—Thursday

Today Russell Williams²⁷ called Earl [Olson], myself, and Maureen [Beecher] to his office. And he told us that we are at liberty to keep Maureen on as a member of our staff after she has her baby. Her case in my letter caused the personnel people to go to the Legal Department of the Church and to other legal firms to get opinions as to whether they could continue the practice they had been following of terminating the services of employees upon going to the hospital to have their babies. Brother Williams wrote a three-paragraph one-page letter to the First Presidency reporting the results of these legal decisions which obviously were that the Church was no longer exempt from the applications of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The brethren in their meeting apparently decided to permit Sister Beecher to retain employment and to do the same for other female employees who might be pregnant. With such a decision having been made and approved by President [Marion G.] Romney in consultation with Brother Williams, it is now up to the personnel people to work out the terms to be arranged—how much sick leave will be permitted and so on before they return to work. Brother Williams is now in the process of working out these details. He wanted to give to us the result of the policy change to assure Maureen that she will be retained, but suggests that not much be said about it yet until there is a public announcement until after the details have been worked out.

Maureen, of course, was very happy as was I and Earl. After our return, Maureen and I had a moment of prayer in my office.

August 3, 1975—Sunday

Yesterday afternoon, Grace [Arrington] and I drove to Logan to attend the David Eccles testimonial, Great West Cookout, and Festival of the American West.²⁸ We went to the home of Susan and Dean [Madsen] to dress and rest, then went to the fine arts center at USU for the testimonial, which was at 5 p.m. We met a number of friends from Salt Lake City, Logan, and elsewhere, and some of the Eccles family. Stewart Eccles, Justin Eccles, and others told me how much they enjoyed the book. Stewart said he had read it twice, very carefully, and he thought I had done a very good job. Thought it was splendid. He has not had a chance yet to ask Albert what he thinks of it. He understood Marriner didn’t like it, but thought that was partly because he thought the history of Utah Construction was defective, and because Marriner was jealous of his father—thought it might diminish his own standing. Spencer Eccles said he enjoyed the book, thought it was great. I told him I would furnish him a copy of the First Security history. Spencer’s wife also said she enjoyed the book.

I also met Joe Quinney, who was very pleasant and cordial, but said nothing specifically about the book. Also George Eccles, who was also very pleasant and cordial, but said nothing about the book. I met Emma [Eccles] Jones, who was very complimentary of the book, and told me how much Nonie liked it. I did not see Nonie, but saw Dick [Harrison] for a minute only and he made no remark about the book but seemed to be pleased and happy. I met several of the grandchildren and all seemed to like the book, or at least those I met did.

Governor [Calvin] Rampton came in and sat with Grace [Arrington] and Phyllis Taggart.²⁹ I sat next to the Governor for a few moments, and he told President [Glen] Taggart he and Lucybeth [Rampton] had read the book and enjoyed it. Taggart asked the Governor if he had heard any reaction from the Eccles family about it. Rampton said he had been out playing golf with one of the grandchildren—didn’t say who. Said they played nine holes together and the governor had to leave to come to the testimonial. Asked this grandson if he wasn’t coming. He said no, he wanted to finish out the other nine holes. Rampton replied: Well, I guess that means there are two bastards in the Eccles family, Albert and you!³⁰ (At the request of Nonie and Dick Harrison, Albert was not invited to the testimonial.)

At this point President Taggart took us to the stand and began the testimonial. He spoke about ten minutes, reviewing Eccles [life]. Then Governor Rampton spoke about the same length, describing the importance of Eccles and the Eccles family. Then a slide presentation on the life of David Eccles written by David Smith of USU. Beautifully done. Then [USU music teacher] Steve Simmons sang some Scottish songs. Then they called on me. My talk was about 12 minutes. Then [assistant USU president] Jerry Sherrat for a resolution written by Carlton Culmsee. Then a final word from President Taggart.

George Eccles was very friendly and complimentary, and even posed for a photograph with me and a couple of others. Joe Quinney also complimentary and several others. So if they weren’t complimentary about the book, they were at least complimentary about the talk, and the program. This included the mother of Spencer Eccles.³¹ All USU officials were very complimentary.

After the program, we ate in the Walnut Room of the Union Building. Had a nice visit with Reed and Catherine Bullen. Also Boyd Christensen and wife. It was fun to be back among friends. Saw Evan Murray, Dee Broadbent, Ken Lyon, Tom Moulton, Dale Steed, Ned Gines, and others.

Then went to the Festival of the American West, which was simply great—singing, dancing, slides, everything. After the performance, we went to the home of the Zollinger Fruit Farm to get a lug of blackcaps,³² then drove back to SLC.

I should tell also something I heard in the Friday meeting of

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