In the late fall of 1875, Frank M. Derby sent a note to Brigham Young’s office inquiring about Young’s interest in purchasing the latest masterwork of Derby’s client, Hubert H. Bancroft. Young’s reply, sent out over the signature of his secretary, George Reynolds is pithy but telling.
In reply to your favor to Prest. Brigham Young with regard to ?Bancroft?s Native Races of the Pacific States,? he instructed me to say that at present he did not wish to subscribe for that work. He further stated that whilst admiring the energy, enterprise and research manifested by Mr. Bancroft in the production of so elaborate and valuable an addition to the published work of the native races of this continent, yet within the pages of the Book of Mormon could be found more of the true history of the rise, progress, civilization and decay of the nations founded by the aborigines of America than it were possible for Mr. Bancroft to obtain from all other sources of information at his command upon the face of the earth.
I often use short texts like this one when I teach courses on historical methodology. I like to see how creative students can be in their engagement with documents that might be easily passed over during archival research in favor of more obviously detailed traces. What does this letter tell you about nineteenth-century Mormonism? What about power relationships and the center/periphery issues so important to undestanding Mormon history during this period? How about the role of the Book of Mormon in the church at this period? Brigham Young’s personality?
 Letters of Brigham Young: Church Business, Book 14, November 19, 1875. LDS Church Archives MS 2736, Box 14, fd 2, 16. TS prepared by Edythe Romney
 Hubert H. Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, Five Vols. (New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1875-1876).