Today I sat next to Laury Cracroft in Rotary. He told me a number of interesting things. In 1939 when Vardis Fisher's book Children of God first appeared, the editor of the Utah literary magazine, The Pen, thought the book should be reviewed and asked Laury [a student] to do it. It was depression time, but Laury managed to get some money and buy the book from the Paris [Salt Lake City department store] and proceeded to review it for the Pen. He stated that the book would not of course be well received in Salt Lake City and within the Mormon community. Having said that, he then proceeded to describe and summarize the book. The next day after it appeared, he was called in by the dean of men at the U of U and told that he would almost certainly be kicked out of the university. He was warned by two or three administrative officials and received some nasty phone calls. When the Pen put out a special centennial edition in 1950, they included articles that had appeared in the Pen by Bernard de Voto, Vardis Fisher, Wallace Stegner, Fawn Brodie, and one other person he couldn't recall, and himselfthis review. The next day after the Pen appeared there was [a] piece on the front page of the Deseret News-or maybe on the editorial page-criticizing strongly this edition of the Pen and using very strong language like "the U has no business publishing articles by all these apostates and anti-Mormons." [[Apostle Spencer W. Kimball "exploded" when he saw the Pen, according to Kimball and Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball, 262.]]
Laury began to receive hostile telephone calls once more; in fact, many. He talked to one of his neighbors, Lou Callister, a prominent attorney. Lou said, "You have got a strong case, Laury. Clearly they have libeled you, and you have a good basis for suing. I wouldn't like to handle your case, but if you can't find anyone else, I'll do it." Laury's wife [Kathryn] complained so much about the telephone calls that she told him he should do something. So he went to Dr. [John A.] Widtsoe who was, he thought, a calm and reasonable man, and told him the story. Dr. Widtsoe said he would take up the matter with Deseret News and other officials and he thought they would work out something that would be satisfactory. Shortly thereafter persons from the Deseret News called him up and asked him to come over to discuss it. He said, "You're the ones that have given me the trouble; don't you think you ought to come to my office instead of yours? You're the ones that have caused it." So they came over to his office, and they agreed to run a retraction on the first page in the location near where the other was-or maybe on the editorial page-a retraction worded by Laury himself. They did run it the next day. Below it, however, they did try to give some explanation or justification for the same. But this satisfied Laury, and the matter was essentially closed. ...
There's one other aspect to the story. At the time the article was published-I think on the Tuesday following the Sunday on which it appeared-Laury was to be proposed to be a member of Rotary. Laury thought this might result in persons voting against him, so he phoned up his sponsor and asked him whether he thought it would be proper for him to resign. The
sponsor said, "Definitely, it would be in your interest to resign." So Laury was fully prepared to do that. He mentioned this when he had his conversation with Dr. Widtsoe. Shortly thereafter he received a telephone call from Richard L. Evans, who was president of Salt Lake Rotary at the time. Brother Evans said, "Your resignation from having your name submitted has not been accepted and will not be. Your name will be submitted as if nothing had happened. There will not be a single person vote against you. You will be approved, and I welcome you next week to Rotary as a full-fledged member." Laury said, "I know you have done wonders, Brother Evans, but you can't possibly promise all this. I know there are people who will vote against me on the basis of that editorial." Brother Evans replied, "Laury, this is a fix, and when I fix things, you can depend on the fact that they are fixed!" Laury said, "How can you possibly work it out?" He said, "There will be four people working until the next Rotary meeting and we will phone every single member of Rotary, and we will make sure that everyone votes for you. So don't worry about it." It happened, of course, and Laury was made a member and later became the president of the club.
I asked Laury who in the Deseret News had written the editorial making the libelous assertions. He said it was Mark Petersen, and Mark Petersen had always been against him in subsequent dealings that have taken place.
Two or three weeks ago in my Tuesday meeting with Elder [G. Homer] Durham, he started out by telling me that I had some special friend. He didn't know who the friend was, but it was a sister. The sister had written a letter to the First Presidency complaining that my picture was not with those of other Church Historians of the past. After Elder [Howard W.] Hunter there is a picture of Elder [Alvin R.] Dyer, and then Elder [Joseph] Anderson and then Elder Durham. The First Presidency had replied to this sister that they would investigate the matter. The First Presidency then wrote a letter to Elder Durham which verified that I had been selected as a Church historian, that I was a proper occupant of that office, and suggested to Brother Durham that either my picture ought to be put up or they would like a letter of explanation of why it shouldn't be. Elder Durham read the letter to me. He then said that it was the feeling that they should not put up my photo with the others but simply provide an explanation next to the exhibit which would explain that in 1972 when the Historical Department was organized, that the managing director-a general authority-was regarded as the proper successor to Howard Hunter as Church Historian and Recorder. He asked me if I had any objections to that. I assured him that I had none, that the least of my thoughts was having my picture on the wall, and that it didn't matter a bit to me and never would, and I thought what he planned to do was just fine. He said he would then write a letter to the First Presidency explaining what they had done and justify it and tell them that of course I agreed with this.
I learned today, from her, that the person who had written the letter was Julie Harris of our book acquisition and cataloging staff. She seemed rather proud of having done so, and said she still believes that my picture should be there.
[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]