Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History
This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by James B. Allen. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
In 1972, Leonard J. Arrington was appointed Church Historian, the only non–General Authority to hold that position since 1842. Earlier, Elder Howard W. Hunter, adviser to the Historical Department and the previous Church Historian, had told him that the Church needed a professionally trained historian and some new histories. The Church was mature enough, Elder Hunter said, that its history should be more open in its approach than it had been previously. He did not believe in suppressing information or hiding documents that were part of Church history and thought it was in the best interest of the Church to write honest, though discreet, history. Leonard considered this to be his charge. I felt deeply honored when he invited me to become one of his two Assistant Church Historians.
This was a heady time, sometimes dubbed the "Camelot" years because of the exciting new opportunties they presented for Church historians and the numerous books and articles that resulted. The Church Historian's Office was reorganized so that Leonard became the head of the History Division. He soon gathered around him a group of young, professional historians and proceeded to do what he had been assigned to do. Their work, however, did not sit well with some who were fearful of what a more candid, open approach to history could do to the faith of the Saints, and "Camelot" ended after less than a decade. I experienced all the grand euphoria and deep disappointments of that "golden era" discussed by Gregory Prince in Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History. I was therefore anxious to read this book and am delighted to review it.