40 years ago today - March 30, 1981

[Michael Quinn]

[From Quinn¿s 1988 memoir:]

Both Newsweek and Time magazines quoted me in their articles about the significance of a document purporting to be the Mormon founder's blessing on [his son] Joseph Smith III to be his successor as Church President. It was 'discovered' by Mormon documents-collector Mark Hofmann.

Charlie Gibbs, a senior member of the Public Affairs Department at LDS headquarters, told me privately that its staff was very grateful I had published the 1976 article about the 'Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844.' He said that this allowed them and the General Authorities to tell the media that BYU Studies and unnamed LDS historians had acknowledged 'for years' that there had been such a blessing. Thus, the PR-Machine said: 'This newly discovered document is no big deal' for the claims of the Church as led to Utah by Brigham Young and currently led by Spencer W. Kimball. Instead of provoking a crisis of faith that the secular media headlined, this publicity resulted in a WELL-INFORMED shrug of faith. Under the present circumstances, my article's perspective was even helpful to those who preferred only Utah's method of succession from Mormonism's founder. This fulfilled what I had hoped to achieve for strengthening the faith of rank-and-file Mormons since I first began my 'controversial' research at age seventeen. Exactly twenty years had passed since then. [Hofmann was later found to have been a forger of historical documents and murderer after he planted two bombs that killed two people. A third bomb exploded prematurely and injured Hofmann himself.]

[From the diaries and memoirs of D. Michael Quinn, in 'On Writing Mormon History, 1972-95,' edited by Joseph Geisner, Signature Books, 2020]

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