During the past few days a trial took place in Salt Lake City which had great significance for Mormon historiography. For years [anti-Mormon publishers] Jerald and Sandra Tanner have published documents which were stolen or surreptitiously removed from the Church Archives or xeroxed without permission. On the one hand the scholars were delighted to have access to documents which were restricted. On the other hand they could hardly condone the unethical if not illegal practice. In every instance, no matter how flagrant the theft or unwelcome the publication, the Church has chosen to overlook the action and simply to deny use to Tanner and his friends.
A few months ago Andy Ehat, graduate student at BYU, completed a thesis which traced certain sacred ceremonies in early church history-endowments, ordinances, etc. For this purpose he managed to obtain access to certain restricted documents, among them the diary of William Clayton which has been kept in the vault of the First Presidency. Jim Allen also obtained access to this document for use in preparing his biography of Clayton. Ehat and Allen exchanged notes and xeroxes of documents. Some eighty pages of the Clayton diary were filed in Jim Allen's office at BYU. The bishop of one of the BYU wards was allowed to use Jim's office on Sundays and one evening each week. One of his counselors was looking through his files out of curiosity, saw the Clayton diary material, read some of it, was fascinated, and removed it long enough to make a xerox copy. He showed it to friends, among them Richard Van Wagoner, who in turn shared it with others and a copy ended up with the Tanners. [[The religion professor who had the copy of the typescript from Ehat was Lyndon Cook, so Arrington's account is a little confused.]] They quickly published it and to this date have sold something like 1800 copies.
Ehat felt crushed. For one thing, he was blamed for the leakage. For another, he had expected to publish his thesis and felt that it was now unpublishable because the heart of it, what came from the Clayton diary, had been published. He had been ordered by BYU to buy up the copies previously distributed, had been denied access to other documents, and otherwise lost some of his credibility. He decided to sue the Tanners and obtained the willing services of Gordon Madsen as attorney. Gordon talked with the Church lawyers in the attempt to get their support and help. Conferences were held and the church decided to stay out of it. Representing the Tanners was Brian Barnard. On Wednesday, March 21, the trial was held ... Judge Christensen gave his decision. He found for the plaintiff [Ehat]. He apparently delivered quite a lecture to the Tanners, put an injunction against further sales of the Clayton book, and fined the Tanners as follows: to be paid to Ehat: $900 representing the profit from the Clayton book; $3,000, representing what Ehat thought he would make from the publication of his thesis; $11,000, representing compensation for the loss of reputation, damage to character, etc. of Ehat. [[A year later the judgment would be overturned on appeal. ...]]
[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]