45 years ago today - Oct 25, 1974

[Boyd K. Packer to First Presidency]

On several occasions I have expressed in our council meetings my concern for some projects being undertaken by the Church Historian's Office and some of those who have been engaged to work on the projects. May I state with emphasis, as I have in our meetings, that my concern does not deny in any way that these brethren are active members of the Church. It is a matter of orientation toward scholarly work - historian's work in particular ...

I have come to believe that it is the tendency for most members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and history, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it perhaps is wholesome. However, it is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to consider the Church with the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his measuring standard.

In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extended academic studies, to judge the professions of men against the revealed word of the Lord. ...

We have evidently authorized a series of publications in order to make available to all members of the Church much information that is in the Archives and in the Historical Department. ... these publications will be of interest to other historians and perhaps serve them well, but at once may have a negative affect upon many. ... I have seen how such published information has disturbed young students in the Church.

[Several exexamples are presented from recent or forthcoming publicatons, including a lawsuit by the decendants of Brigham Young against the church, Brigham Young encouraging his son to restrict tabacco use, and the morphine addiction of Phineas Howe Young] ...

And again the question, why should the Church publish that?

I agree with President Stephen L.[sic] Richards who once stated.

"If a man of history has secured over the years a high place in the esteem of his countrymen and fellow men and has become imbedded in their affections, it has seemingly become a pleasing pastime for researchers and scholars to delve into the past of such a man, discover, if may be, some of his weaknesses, and then write a book exposing hitherto unpublished alleged factual findings, all of which tends to rob the historic character of the idealistic esteem and veneration in which he may have been held through the years.

"This 'debunking," we are told, is in the interest of realism, that the facts should be known. If an historic character has made a great contribution to country and society, and if his name and his deeds have been used over the generations to foster high ideals of character and service, what good is to be accomplished by digging out of the past and exploiting weaknesses, which perhaps a generous contemporary public forgave and subdued?"

[Brigham Young's divorce, refering to Brigham Young simply as "Brigham", Brigham as an "idler"]

... However, if I know scholars at all, it would be my opinion that this first book is something of a test. And if I am not mistaken and I think that I am not, if the things I have mentioned go unnoticed, it will be an invitation to put in print many other things from the Historian's Office. Such information will do precious little good and may do a great disservice to individuals both past and present.

I mentioned that I have raised this subject before. Each time the Historical Office has been discussed in our meetings, I have expressed my concern. ...

I have lived in academic circles, have observed the tendencies of highly "schooled" Church members; have seen how perversely such information as this is often used, and wonder if these projects ought to be carefully reviewed before they continue. ...

[Letter: Elder Packer to First Presidency]

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