40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Jan 1, 1980-Tuesday

[Leonard Arrington]

Annual Comment on the History Division

... I begin by expressing sorrow that we have lost two valiant persons in the division, Bruce Blumell, who left September 1 to go to law school in Canada, and James Allen, who left September 1 to return full time to the History Department in BYU. Both left of their own volition, and both would have stayed if they had thought the future of the History Division was bright. In a way, they both were encouraged to go by pessimistic comments about our future made by Elder G. Homer Durham, managing director of the Historical Department. In addition to these two departures, Glen Leonard was transferred from our division to the Arts and Sites Division to be associate director and Jill Derr will leave the division December 31 to devote more time to her family and to work with the Relief Society and Deseret Book Co. on a history of LDS women. Both of those departures were (are) voluntary, but once again they would have stayed with us if they had thought their future with us was bright. Neither was (will be) replaced. So we are gradually losing strength. Elder Durham has also told me privately that he does not expect to renew the employment of Carol Madsen, who works for us half time, in the 1981 budget. He expects to "cut her off" at the end of 1980. ...

Elder Durham keeps threatening to move us to BYU, as a special center sponsored by them. For some reason he thinks our work is "academic" and ought to be under university auspices. But the academic freedom at BYU is less than here, I'm sorry to say; Bob Thomas, academic vice president, has no backbone, nor does Ernest Olsen, director of BYU Press. ...

Persons tell us that Elders [Ezra Taft] Benson and [Mark E.] Petersen do not like what we are doing and that if and when President Benson becomes president of the Church we might all be relieved of our positions. It's almost as if the decisions of the bureaucrats were being made, not on the basis of what the Prophet wants, but on the basis of what the next Prophet wants. I refuse to believe that Elder Benson would fire us; I am convinced that we are doing what the Lord wants and that the Lord will not permit such a violent end to our work. I refuse to act on the basis of what might happen if Elder Benson became president. ... My appointment as historian is so disregarded that the First Presidency do not refer letters to me that deal with historical matters. I am not asked to read any manuscripts for historical accuracy, no talks on history are cleared through me. The Mormon Experience, the preparation and publication of which was approved by the First Presidency, could not be mentioned or reviewed in the Ensign or Church News. Nor could Building the City of God. Building the City of God, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, and The Mormon Experience, among others, may not be cited as references in articles in Church manuals and the Ensign. Not a single general authority (except Elder Durham) has written to express appreciation for any of my articles or books, nor has any called me, nor has any called me into his office to discuss historical matters which have come up. But though I have reason to feel rejected, I feel completely confident that my work is approved by the Lord and that within ten years of my death I will be regarded as one of the "greats" in the field of Church history-by General Authorities as well as by others.

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

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