Mike Quinn telephoned me today with an incredible story. A history student with a minor in church history at BYU, a convert from Catholicism, had done a master's thesis which was a demographic study of early Kirtland. ... Everybody regarded it as an outstanding thesis, and the papers had been signed that he had passed. The thesis had then been turned over to Milt Backman, head of [LDS] church history. Milt then came back to Keith saying that the thesis wasn't faith promoting enough and that he would have to rewrite the first two chapters. He as chairman of church history couldn't approve a thesis which the Brethren would think wasn't sufficiently faith promoting in tone and subject matter. And this after the committee had already approved it! Apparently Mick [Backman] persuaded Keith Perkins to insist on the revision, the rewriting. The student had come to Mike and asked if this had to be done. Mike will talk with Jim Allen. He thinks it is too late to require the student to do any
rewriting. Mike (and I) are dismayed about the image this gives to Church history at BYU. What image does it give to the Catholic convert? To the Jewish professor? To the student? The latter, incidentally, was called in by Keith Perkins who used the following argument with him: "You know, if you let this thesis go through the way it is you might hamper your chance to be a bishop, or a stake president!" Great argument!
[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]