45 years ago today - Dec 18, 1974-Wednesday

[Leonard Arrington]

In the meeting with the advisors neither Brother Hunter or Brother McConkie brought up the matter of us giving any response to Elder Packer's letter to the First Presidency about our work. ... We are in no sense to regard his suggestions as binding or as causing us to change our policies duly arrived at in the past. This is comforting. I feel that we have the full confidence of both Brother McConkie and Brother Hunter and as long as our division and its work has the united support of Earl and Brother Anderson and as long as we keep Brother Hunter and Brother McConkie reasonably well informed on what we are doing, we will be able to carry out the policies which we have desired and wish continued. ...

President [N. Eldon] Tanner has been working with Brother [Lee] Bickmore on restructuring the organization of the Church in the central level. Specifically they are going to make new committee assignments to representatives of the Quorum of the Twelve and it is their purpose to reduce the administrative responsibilities of the General Authorities. Specifically they will probably reduce the number of advisors from the Quorum of the Twelve on any committee to two and they will probably avoid members of the quorum being administrators of any agency, division or chairman of any committee or department. This will leave them freer to move about the Church counseling, reorganizing and so on. This will also leave time freer in counseling strong department heads, who will be appointed. As a part of this President Tanner has asked Brother Hunter to have us do a historical study of the [organizational structure of the] First Presidency and Twelve in the history of the Church ... That they are asking us for these historical studies shows confidence and awareness of our work. They have also asked us to do a study of the understanding Church leaders have had about what kind of temples should be built. There is apparently a feeling that the day of building temples as monuments for eternity is at an end. We are spread all over the world and it will be too expensive to build monuments all over. Thought is therefore being given to building endowment rooms where the [liturgical] film will be used in connection with ward chapels, stake centers and nice homes. In that way they would be able to do ordinance work in many parts of the world convenient to the habitations of members without an inordinate expense. ... In connection with Church organization one basic question they want answered is whether the Presiding Bishopric report to the Twelve or to the First Presidency and some suggestion on that will need to be made by whoever does the study.

...This morning coming on the bus I sat with John Talmage who told me a little about management of the Deseret News during the period he was associated with it. Brother Talmage says that in 1934 [1914] when his father [apostle] James E. Talmage became more closely connected with the Deseret News the News literally had twenty-six bosses, all of the General Authorities of the Church. Each one felt free to phone up and tell them what to do both on policy and procedure matters and often did so even to the extent of requiring them to run a picture or article on some relative leaving on a mission or something of that order. Elder Talmage felt that this was a hopeless situation and tried to get it altered. The chief obstacle was President [J. Reuben] Clark who hated newspapers, did not trust them, and wanted to have the right to interfere and make suggestions whenever he wished. Finally sometime between 1934 and 1939 [1937] Albert Bowen of President Clark's law firm was chosen to be an apostle and was made the contact man among the General Authorities and since that date there has been one General Authority who has been more or less a representative through whom all matters pertaining to the Deseret News were channeled by Church matters. That man today is Gordon Hinckley. Brother Talmage reminisced a little and mentioned the time when President [Charles W.] Penrose as editor of the News wrote an editorial about [J. T.] Goodwin, son of C. C. Goodwin. The editorial went something like this: Many years ago there came a person into our community who was not exactly one of us but who was received well by the community. He enjoyed writing nice things about people and he was regarded as having a particular talent in writing obituaries. He was assigned to write obituaries for many people and people came to have such affection for him that as a term of affection they called him Obituary Goodwin. He reared a son who followed in his footsteps in the newspaper game, [J. T.] Goodwin, but the son grew up in an atmosphere of anti-Mormonism and hatred for the Mormons and their institutions. The editorial went on, "This son of Obituary Goodwin ..." Brother Talmage regarded that as one of the nicest ways of calling a man a son of a bitch that he had ever read in the Church newspaper.

Brother Talmage mentioned the period when [Ralph] Jordon came in, a kind of apostate Mormon-not a good Mormon at all-free thinking. If a General Authority told him to do something, he would do the opposite twice as strongly. He mentioned [Earl] Hawkes coming in and insisting upon a good strong contract under which he could more or less run the paper the way it should be run but the people kept trying to interfere and use influence and persuasion and finally after some years according to Brother Talmage he caved in and gave up the struggle and more or less did what they asked him to do.

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

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