Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leonard Arrington diary opened after ten years

Excerpts of Diary of famed Mormon historian reveals more of the man, Salt Lake Tribune
The newly opened diary of Leonard J. Arrington, Mormonism's most influential historian of the late 20th century, reveals a life imbued with the sense that he was chosen by heaven to help the LDS Church and its people truthfully tell the Mormon story. The diary — or, more precisely, the scrapbook — fills 50 boxes ...

Arrington had what he called a "holy, never-to-be-forgotten encounter" that confirmed his belief that God wanted him to "carry out a research program of his peoples' history," 

...Both [he and his wife] were thrilled when Arrington, in 1972, was named the church's first professional historian in the newly organized Church History Division. ...

Grace Arrington suffered, the siblings say, as she watched some in church leadership undermine the historical endeavor and her husband. He was replaced unceremoniously as church historian in 1980, but still managed the history division.

"My mom absorbed a huge amount of pain from all that," Carl Arrington says. Depressed and suffering from heart disease, she died three weeks before the history division finished moving to BYU in 1982.

"He [Arrington] maintained a cheerful countenance ... even as the ship was sinking," Carl Arrington says. ...

"Our great experiment in church-sponsored history has proven to be, if not a failure, at least not an unqualified success," Arrington wrote in his diary. " ... One aspect that will be personally galling to me will be the gibes of my non-Mormon and anti-Mormon friends: 'I told you so!' "

...Jan Shipps, an eminent non-Mormon scholar, sees his fingerprints on the LDS Church's increasing openness to scholarship in the past decade.

She cites the enormous resources the church put into the five-story Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City and the publishing of The Joseph Smith Papers. The church's cooperation with Walker and his two co-authors on the 2008 history Massacre at Mountain Meadows, is another example.

"Now, people at all kinds of institutions are studying Mormonism and it really is a change," Shipps says. "I don't think it would have happened if you didn't have that period when Leonard said history has to be told how history should be told."

Walker agrees. "It's a product of a generation of church leadership that understood that honest inquiry is not incompatible with faith."

Arrington's children say their father would be happy with recent developments.

"He won a few battles. He lost many more. But, finally, he's won the war," Carl Arrington says. "If he is looking down, and I'm sure he is, he's smiling from ear to ear."

Read the entire article here


Anonymous said...

I knew Leonard Arrington well enough to know that he was a good man. But I don't believe that he would think that he won the war. I think he would believe that the LDS Church lost the war. The Church had no choice but to acquiesce. The leaks in its revisionist history had the potential to sink the ship. Still do. But now, by flip-flopping, the Church is able to effect its own spin. This is stage two of damage control; but the Church is still going to be required to deal with the implications of its earlier state of denial and its revisionist "stage one." Now or later. Just as it is now being required to deal with its betrayal of Leonard Arrington, whether it wants to or not.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the 'outflow' of disaffected members due to uncomfortable information is really quite high. The scholarship opened up during the Arrington era, coupled with the high availability of information, compliments of the Internet provides a big disconnect for intellectually oriented members who explore their history and doctrine against the dissimilarities so easily demonstrated.

Yes -- stage 2 is underway, and the church is beginning to be more open -- and is in fact leading the way in the production of some of the oddities of the past.

But that isn't going to stem the tide anytime soon.