35 years ago today - Feb 28, 1987-Saturday

[Leonard Arrington]

Reminiscence about Dialogue

[The quarterly journal] Dialogue is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. ... I first heard of Dialogue in the summer of 1965. A group of us were planning the formation of the Mormon History Association, which we did formally in December 1965. We had given serious consideration to the establishment of a quarterly journal. ... He [England] approached me about Dialogue. I told him about our plans for a Journal of Mormon History. He said the Dialogue people would (a) welcome articles on Mormon history; (b) give special emphasis to running articles on Mormon history; (c) allow us to edit a special issue on history occasionally.

Gene mentioned the intended title, Dialogue. I was not so sure I liked it. I preferred Latter-day Saints Review or Mormon Humanities Review or Latter-day Saints Quarterly. I wanted the journal to carry primarily responsible articles that were positive in tone, but scholarly. Assured on this I presented the matter to our Mormon History Association people and they agreed to support Dialogue. Wes Johnson appeared before the Mormon History Assn. Meeting in San Francisco in Dec. 1965 and presented the case and the group voted to support Dialogue.

At that early stage, I think in the fall of 1965, the Dialogue founders asked me to be one of the advisory editors. I think they did this to insure support by the Mormon historians. I told them I was inclined to accept but wanted to be sure it was all right with my ecclesiastical colleagues. I asked my stake president, Reed Bullen, to whom I was a counselor. Was it consistent with my position as a counselor in the stake presidency? He said he had no personal objection, but thought it would be appropriate for me to clear with "the people in Salt Lake," meaning Church Headquarters. I then wrote to President Hugh B. Brown who, I thought, would be understanding of Mormon intellectuals. He wrote back that he was very busy, but he advised that I talked with President Harvey Taylor of BYU (a Vice President under Ernest Wilkinson). Whatever he recommended was what President Brown would recommend. I was teaching summer school at BYU at the time, as I recall. I wrote to ask for an appointment with him, and he set up a Friday afternoon. We spent at least an hour. Basically, he counseled as follows:

He thought Mormon intellectuals did need an outlet for their thoughts. He thought BYU Studies was too in-house to serve as an adequate outlet for the free thought of Mormon intellectuals. He thought a magazine edited responsibly would be a good thing. He thought someone like me could exert a good influence. He urged me to accept and to be a force for good as an advisor.

So I accepted. I was encouraged by Gene England's positive point of view and by the appointment of Lowell Bennion as another advisory editor.

I was elated upon receiving the first issue. It was of far higher quality than anything I had imagined. The paper, the cover, the design, the print, the articles, the art work-everything was far superior to anything I had envisioned. I was so proud! And pleased!

And then came the second issue. I knew at once we would have trouble because of the appearance of the article by J. D. Williams on Church and State. I was disappointed in two respects. I thought it too negative and that it could have been edited to make it less negative; why didn't they do so? And second, I was disappointed that they didn't tell me or ask my counsel. Why was I an advisory editor if I wasn't asked for advice? Counterbalancing that feeling was the thrill of other articles in that second issue, particularly "Every Soul Has Its South" by Karl Keller and the poems by Carol Lynn Wright (now Pearson).

Shortly after the appearance of the second issue a Logan stake was visited by President N. Eldon Tanner, second counselor in the First Presidency. I made an opportunity to talk with him privately about Dialogue and my serving as an advisor. His reply was that so long as they asked my advice occasionally and so long as they took that advice occasionally, he thought I should remain. I thought long and hard: they aren't asking my advice. But I stayed with them because I thought the positive outweighed the negative.

As the president of the Mormon History Association in its first year, I was in touch with a large number of historians. I knew how much they appreciated Dialogue. I was also in touch with a large number of faculty in other disciplines at USU, BYU, and the U of U. They also very much appreciated Dialogue. Finally, as a counselor in the stake presidency with a president who was gone a great deal, I was in touch with many students who had problems, some intellectual problems and some social. Many of them expressed how they had been helped by Dialogue. So I felt the journal had a positive impact and I was glad to be lending it support.

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

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