Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Diaries of L. John Nuttall

Diaries are LDS history cache     
Dennis Lythgoe
Deseret Morning News  
The entire article is available here

THE DIARIES OF L. JOHN NUTTALL, 1879-1892, edited by Jedediah Rogers, Signature Books, 512 pages, $125 (limited edition of 500 copies)

L. John Nuttal acted as a temple recorder to LDS Church President Brigham Young, then as private secretary to Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.

In that unique role he traveled often with LDS Church presidents, attended hundreds of meetings, answered private correspondence and overheard many conversations, which he recorded in his diaries.

It's not surprising that the editor and the publisher consider Nuttal's diaries to be one of the most significant in 19th-century Mormon history. Hence, "The Diaries of L. John Nuttal."

Nuttal ... became heavily involved in financial decisions concerning church property, including Brigham Young's estate. ...

As a polygamist, Nuttal lived underground for at least six years, beginning in the 1880s. He was bothered by long absences from his family, including his 18 children... When President Woodruff suffered abdominal problems, Nuttal waited on him, shaved him, kept his journal and attended to some of his office duties.

Most of Nuttal's diaries and papers reside in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of Brigham Young University, while his work regarding the First Presidency can be found in the LDS Church archives.

Nuttal was most often likely to write in his diaries about business dealings, political maneuvering and church-leadership decisions. The editor calls the 28 diaries "a rich cache," especially with regard to the activities and business of the church's First Presidency.

This is important because the papers of the First Presidency are still unavailable to researchers — and Nuttal was the only secretary to the presidency who kept a diary.

Nuttal portrays John Taylor as "strong-willed and demanding," but who also had a "warm and personable side" and displayed "kindheartedness, generosity and compassion."

Nuttal's diary is very important for understanding the atmosphere and discussions that led to the Manifesto issued by Woodruff, which banished the practice of polygamy in 1890.

    These diaries are fascinating to anyone with any familiarity to LDS history and a desire to know more.

    Jedediah Rogers and Signature Press both deserve kudos for shepherding such a dynamic work to publication.

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