45 years ago today - Aug 18, 1978-Friday

[Leonard Arrington]

Earl Olson telephoned this morning to say that Elder Boyd Packer had telephoned him to say that he had read the Primary manuscript, thought it was fine, but did have one principal concern, which was that we need to suggest or to say throughout that the Primary operated under the guidance and direction of the priesthood. I told Earl I would take care of it, and I told Carol [Cornwall Madsen] to put at least one phrase to that effect in every chapter in the book. She agreed to do so. Usually when people keep wanting things like this to be said in a secular institution, this would suggest a certain insecurity. Maybe the priesthood do feel insecure about innovations being made and policies being determined without explicit recognition of the role of the priesthood in doing so.

Swearing Elders-Reminiscences

... Sometime in the late 1940s, possibly about 1949, Sterling McMurrin and some friends at the University of Utah began meeting once a month at lunchtime to talk about the Church. Since the Church does not have an avenue for intellectual discussion about the gospel in Sunday School or priesthood or sacrament meetings, they simply got together to discuss their research and writing and thought about theology, history, practice, and other aspects of Mormonism. Above all, they wished to provide an opportunity for people writing master's and doctor's theses and books and articles to present these, or summarize these, before a group of interested peers.

... I did not see this group as anti-Mormon or anti-gospel or anti-religion in any sense. To me, the discussions provided intellectual support for our traditional beliefs and practices. To say this another way-and it may sound incredible-my own testimony was bolstered as the result of attending these sessions. I found there was an intellectual side to Mormonism and took pleasure in learning more about it. I learned much from these brethren. ... One member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Adam S. Bennion, knew of the group and was sympathetic with it, and I remember one glorious evening when he agreed to meet with us and give us a talk. He chose to build bridges between some members of our group and some of the more critical "orthodox" Brethren. As to the name "Swearing Elders," I think that was simply a joke. The notices of meetings which I received used the term "Mormon Seminar." Some people referred to it as McMurrin's Seminar, since he was either the original organizer or a leading member. I think the term "Swearing Elders" was probably a take-off on an expression which had been used in Mormon folklore for a long time, "Smoking Deacons." ...

As the years passed by, the major concern of these people seemed to be the problems which arose out of the denial of priesthood to blacks. This certainly was a preoccupation of McMurrin and Lowell Bennion. This, as I recall, was in the late '50s. At any rate, I do not know that the group continued into the '60s. It served its purpose at the end of World War II, and as the years went by some dropped out of the Church, some moved away, some came to hold administrative offices and couldn't spare the time; then of course Dialogue was founded and provided a forum without these meetings. Similarly the Mormon History Association was organized. I do not know of any meetings of this group after, say, 1965. ...

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

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