40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Jan 9, 1979-Tuesday

[Leonard Arrington]
I was told this morning by Glen Leonard that he had received a letter from Dennis Lythgoe, who is bishop of a ward in one of the suburbs of Boston, Mass. According to the way Glen understands it, Dennis wanted to appoint a sister as president of the ward Sunday School. He looked through all the manuals of instruction and couldn't see anything that specifically prohibited it. Upon inquiry with his [stake] high council representative and stake president, he learned that they also could see no reason this should not be done, particularly in view of the fact that one of the other wards in the stake had a black as president of the Sunday School who held no priesthood, and another ward had a person who held only the Aaronic Priesthood as president. After consulting with the stake president, he was given the go-ahead and sustained the woman as Sunday School president. One of her counselors was a woman and one was a man. The Sunday School functioned very well. Seeing this arrangement functioning so well, one of the other ward bishops decided to do the same thing, and with the approval of the stake president, did so. Some person in that ward, however, didn't think it was a proper thing to do, and wrote to Elder [Rex D.] Pinegar, the area supervisor. Elder Pinegar gathered together information about it and then submitted it to the Quorum of Twelve. The Quorum of Twelve then discussed the matter and informed Elder Pinegar to inform the stake president to inform the bishop that this was not a proper procedure and that he would have to release the sister. B[isho]p Lythgoe then wrote to the former stake president there, now a member of the Quorum of Twelve, Elder [L.] Tom Perry. Elder Perry wrote back a rather curt letter saying that he had not been present when the Quorum of Twelve discussed it but he verified that it had been discussed and that the minutes indicated the decision that Elder Pinegar had conveyed to them. The other bishop also wrote to Elder Hale [Robert D. Hales], a former regional representative of the region and a former bishop in Boston, and he replied more or less the same way-rather tersely. So Bishop Lythgoe will be releasing the sister, and, as he expressed, "We have taken a step backwards." Of course much of it must be to avoid the impression that we are about to turn over certain leadership positions to women.

I am suddenly reminded of something important I want to record in the diary. Yesterday afternoon Scott Kenney came in to tell me about a "find" in the papers of [LDS President] Joseph F. Smith. He has been going through the Joseph F. Smith papers preparatory to a study of the Joseph F. Smith administration. He found a letter written by Joseph F. in his own hand in which he mentions his struggle with the Word of Wisdom. Apparently for some 20 years of his life he chewed tobacco secretly and could not get rid of the habit. This started while he was a teenager-presumably about the time that he was expelled from school for beating up the teacher and was later called (at age 15) as a missionary to Hawaii. The habit had apparently established itself at that time-early 1850s. Joseph F. mentions in his letter that one day he was called in by Brigham Young (maybe John Taylor-my memory is uncertain) to discuss some matter, and he was close enough to President Young that he [Young] could smell the tobacco. He [Smith] apologized and confessed to using tobacco secretly, said he had tried several times to quit the habit. The president told him that he really must stop, so he made a Herculean effort and did stop it. He comments that his use of tobacco had had an undesirable influence on his "wives and children" so quite probably he was still using tobacco when he married Julina [Lambson], the mother of Joseph Fielding [Smith], and possibly another one or two of his plural wives. Scott speculates perhaps his own understanding of the difficulty for people to give up the habit explains his refusal to deny temple recommends and appointments to Church positions to people who still used tobacco. Strict enforcement of the Church rule did not come until 1921, three years after Joseph F.'s death. Scott believes that Joseph F. was understanding and tolerant on this matter. Scott said he would furnish me his notes on this finding. It is an important thing for us to know because we can see a number of implications-it helps to explain some of his own insecurity during the 1860s and 1870s.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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