Reflections of a Mormon Historian

Leonard J. Arrington on the New Mormon History

Book Notice

Reflections of a Mormon Historian: Leonard J. Arrington on the New Mormon History, edited by Reid L. Neilson and Ronald W. Walker (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark, 2006)

This compilation of essays written by Leonard J. Arrington provides numerous insights into the life and work of the first president of the Mormon History Association and the first non–General Authority Church Historian. The volume brings Arrington’s essays, and thus much of Arrington’s thought, into one place. Most of the essays—which are largely speeches—have been published previously. Two of them are being published for the first time in this volume: “Clothe These Bones: The Reconciliation of Faith and History” (1978) and “The Marrow in the Bones of History: New Directions in Historical Writing” (1975). The book also has a complete biography of Arrington’s writings, compiled by David J. Whittaker, and fifteen pages of photographs.

The collection of essays is divided into three sections: first, Arrington as historian; second, reflections on Mormon history; and third, Mormon historical writings. The items in part one discuss Arrington’s calling as Church Historian, the founding of the Church Historical Department, and the creation of the Mormon History Association. The essays in part two discuss the personal sides of scholarship: tensions between faith and intellect, the place of the “questing spirit” in writing history, and the search for truth and meaning in history. The essays in part three deal directly with Mormon historiography, methods, and the particular challenges to Mormon historians.

Students of Mormon history will find here a convenient window into the life and thought of Arrington, whom Ron Walker, in his introductory essay, calls “The Happy Warrior.” This book also sheds light on other important events of the latter part of the twentieth century, including the reorganization of the Church Historian’s Office, the founding of the Mormon History Association, and the era of the New Mormon History. It will be of interest to those who worked during the Arrington years and those wanting to better understand him and the New Mormon History that he has come to symbolize.


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