Breaking News: Changes in Family and Church History Department Organization

By March 12, 2008

This morning, Elder Oaks presided at a Family and Church History Department meeting at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square where it was announced that the department will be split into The Family History Department and the Church History Department.  Elder Marlin K. Jensen will remain as Church Historian and Recorder.  Richard Turley was released as managing director of the Family and Church History Department and is now the Assistant Church Historian and Recorder.  These changes have been immediately effective with the split occuring in April.

More details should be forthcoming as they are made available.  I think I speak for a great deal of people when I say that I have a great appreciation and admiration for both Elder Jensen and Richard Turley, and I am very happy they will be serving (continuing to serve) in these capacities.


  1. Steve Olsen is the new Managing Director of the CHD.

    Comment by David G. — March 12, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  2. This is great news.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 12, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  3. Excellent news regarding the appointment of Turley as assistant Church historian. Thanks, Jared.

    Comment by Christopher — March 12, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  4. Interesting news.

    Comment by BHodges — March 12, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  5. The significance of the change is not immediately apparent to me. Is it simply that Turley is now freed up to spend more time on history projects? Or something else? Any other practical implications?

    Comment by Randy B. — March 12, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  6. This is excellent. Now maybe they’ll decide to reseparate the family history books from the religion reference books in the BYU library.

    The religion books used to be right by the history and language books. Then some bright person decided that religion and family history naturally go together, and they’re in the basement together in their own room. Anyone doing work on the Bible has to walk back and forth between 4 levels and half the length of the library. /rant

    Comment by Ben S — March 12, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  7. Randy, I have heard that now that Family history and Church history are separated, the resources of the Church History Dept. will be less attenuated and individuals will be able to focus on the needs of the Dept.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 12, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  8. What J. said. The response from my friends within the JSPP is overwhelmingly positive. They’re glad that Elder Jensen and Rick Turley are remaining on their side of the fence and see this as a way to reinforce department identity. It will also, as Randy suspects, allow Turley to work more intently on his historical projects. From what I understand, this will not change Olsen’s role dramatically, since he has been the de facto managing director for some time now.

    Comment by David G. — March 12, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  9. Ben S., that’s funny. Though it may not be a boon to Bible students, it’s closer to the history section (floor 1), Special Collections (floor 1), and historical microfilms, so as a History student, I’ve learned to appreciate it. Plus, it’s only up and down one flight of stairs now instead of two.

    Randy, you raise a good question about the pragmatic change. Thanks David for elaborating some on that. Other past Assistants have been the likes of B. H. Roberts, Joseph Fielding Smith, Andrew Jenson, Franklin D. Richards, and Wilford Woodruff, so Bro. Turley is in good company.

    A question:

    Was Davis Bitton the last Assistant Church Historian that we’ve had?

    Comment by Jared — March 12, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  10. I seem to recall that the Church History and Family History departments were merged around 5-10 years ago. Interesting (and wise, IMO) that they’ve chosen to reverse that now.

    Comment by Nick Literski — March 12, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  11. Here’s a story from the Church News (June 10, 2000):

    Family History, History departments joined

    The Church’s Family History and Historical Departments have been consolidated into the Family and Church History Department, effective June 1, the First Presidency announced.

    “We are confident that this organizational change will optimize Church resources and result in other positive benefits to the Church and its members and friends,” the announcement letter stated. Richard E. Turley Jr., who has served as managing director of both departments, will become the managing director of the new department. The consolidation will “slowly weave the two departments together,” he said.

    Brother Turley explained that “these two departments have a history of growing side by side. The Church Historian’s office, predecessor of the Historical Department, developed out of the office of Church Historian, which actually goes back to the very first day on which the Church was formally organized on April 6, 1830.

    “On that day the Lord gave a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that begins, ‘Behold, there shall be a record kept among you.’ (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1). From that day until the present, we have been keeping records about the growth and development of the Church.

    “The Family History Department was organized in the Church Historian’s office, so this is really a return to the beginning.”

    He said the two departments “have a lot of complementary functions already. Both gather historical material, both catalog it or organize it in some way, both store it for long-term preservation, and both make it accessible to the public in some form or another. The professional staff members who work to accomplish those tasks do so in essentially the same way, even though the subject matter differs.”

    He said the new department will allow members to research not only the names and dates of their ancestors, but also add “some biographical detail about their own ancestors.”

    Comment by Justin — March 12, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

  12. I just got word that an official announcement is expected some time today or tomorrow to be posted on the LDS Newsroom site.

    Comment by Jared — March 12, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  13. Nick, your memory is correct, as Justin has now shown. The two departments were merged eight years ago, and are now being separated. The construction of the new Church History Library and the re-creation of the Church History Department will do wonders, in my opinion, to help…I was going to say solidify, but let’s say create…a real identity for the department. If nothing else, we’ll no longer have to explain to people questioning the FCH on ID badges that no, we really won’t be of much use finding their ancestor (j/k I’m sure we’ll all try to help in any way possible).

    Re #9, James Allen and Davis Bitton served as Assistant Church Historians at the same time, so the answer to your question is yes and no. 🙂

    What a wonderful change this will be.

    Comment by Alex — March 12, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  14. Thank you, Alex, I had forgotten about James Allen.

    Comment by Jared — March 12, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  15. Perhaps this opens the gate for Elder Jensen to receive a new calling at our April Conference?

    Comment by leroy — March 12, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  16. Formal announcement of Rick Turley’s appointment has been posted here.

    Comment by Jared — March 12, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  17. #15 – I’m torn. I want him to stay where he is, and I want a Latino apostle, but if a white guy is called I would love it to be Elder Jensen.

    Comment by Ray — March 12, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  18. To be sure, it would be neat to have an apostle of the background of an Elder Marlin K. Jensen as Church Historian.

    Comment by Jared — March 12, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  19. Good news. I will be interested to see how it all shakes out.

    Comment by JonW — March 12, 2008 @ 4:56 pm


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