From the Archives: “Star Wars easily the favorite of most”: History Division Staff Favorites, 1978

By June 27, 2017

Among my very favorite parts of archival research is the small and unexpected glimpses into the lives of historical figures that have nothing directly to do with the research at hand.

I was reminded of this last week while going through some of Leonard Arrington’s correspondence to his family at the Arrington Papers at Utah State University. Stashed in between Arrington’s near-weekly typewritten letters to his children was a copy of his diary entry for June 24, 1978 describing a retreat “up the slopes of Ensign Peak” with “all of the persons in the History Division of the Historical Department,” minus the secretaries “and Glen Leonard, who was ill.”[1] As part of the retreat, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher passed out a questionnaire, inviting those assembled “to participate in some self discovery” and “respond to fifteen questions.”

The fifteen questions asked respondents to share with others everything from their favorite restaurant to their favorite scripture and from what each believed to be “the most important turning point in Church history” to “a future event in church history we would most like to see in our lifetimes.” While Arrington’s account only records his specific answers to each question, it also includes a parenthetical note about the opinions of others. I thought the whole thing pretty interesting (and funny, at times). Assuming JI readers might, too, I present it here:

  1. Favorite restaurant: Mrs. Abey?s Kitchen. (most put the Quail Run Lecai)
  2. Favorite day of the week: Saturday (this and Friday and Monday were favorites)
  3. Favorite book: New Testament (most put Book of Mormon)
  4. Favorite play: ?A Man for All Seasons? (a great variety)
  5. Favorite job in the church: Stake presidency (Most put teacher)
  6. Favorite conference speaker: (J. Golden Kimball. Most put Hugh Brown)
  7. Favorite personality in church history: Joseph Smith. (Some had BY, some Spencer Kimball, and several others)
  8. Favorite scripture: ?Man is that he might have joy.? (lots of differences)
  9. Favorite sacred spot: Manti Temple (lots of differences)
  10. Most important turning point in Church history: Woodruff Manifesto (most agreed)
  11. Moment in Church history we would most like to have witnessed: Meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve June 1 when the Priesthood revelation received (most had the First Vision of Joseph Smith)
  12. Favorite physical exercise: Rooster fighting (most put jogging or hiking)
  13. Favorite film: ?Dr. Chivago? (Star Wars easily the favorite of most)
  14. A future event in church history we would most like to see in our lifetimes: A black appointed as general authority (a wide variety)
  15. The person who most influenced you: Grace. I pointed out that she had introduced some refinement and social finesse into this Idaho farm boy. (A wide variety: some mentioned relatives, others stake presidents and bishops, others teachers, some persons they had dated, etc.)[2]


[1] The “thirteen research historians” in attendance were Arrington, Ron Esplin, Ron Walker, Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, James Allen, Davis Bitton, Maureen Beecher, William Hartley, Richard Jensen, Bruce Blumell, and Gordon Irving. See the caption provided by Greg Prince to the photograph included in the post above from Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016). Prince does not identify the partially obscured female in the photo, but it is clear from Arrington’s diary that she was in attendance.

[2]?LJA DIARY SATURDAY MORNING, JUNE 24, 1978,? in Correspondence from LA to his Children, 1978, Box 102, Folder 7, Leonard J. Arrington Papers, Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Modern Mormonism From the Archives Miscellaneous


  1. It’s a fun entry, isn’t it, Christopher. So … what would your answers be to the questions?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — June 27, 2017 @ 8:04 am

  2. Umm…rooster fighting?

    Comment by Ben P — June 27, 2017 @ 11:06 am

  3. Can we talk about the rooster fighting?

    Comment by J Stuart — June 27, 2017 @ 12:11 pm

  4. FM 21-20 [1946], the old physical training manual for the U.S. war department describes rooster fighting as a type of wrestling:
    “Each contestant, with arms folded across chest, hops on right foot. He uses right shoulder and right side of chest to butt his opponent. The object is to make his opponent lose his balance and fall, to unfold his arms, or to touch his free foot to the ground. The contestant who first wins three bouts is the winner.”

    Comment by Sam — June 27, 2017 @ 1:25 pm


Recent Comments

Ben S on CFP at BYU Studies:: “Some clarifying comments here.”

Smb on Reassessing the Classics: Armand: “Armand is a wise and lovely man who deserves these kind words. I absolutely agree that his books were key entries in the scholar’s library…”

J Stuart on Reassessing the Classics: Armand: “Armand, your response made me unexpectedly emotional. Your work has shaped me as a scholar in many important ways, but your legendary willingness to engage…”

Ardis E. Parshall on Reassessing the Classics: Armand: “I've enjoyed these three discussions -- crowned by this response by Armand Mauss himself. It is so representative of his ability and willingness to interact…”

Blair Hodges on Reassessing the Classics: Armand: “Thank you for your lasting contributions to Mormon Studies, Armand.”

Mirror on Reassessing the Classics: Armand: “These have been interesting posts about a major work in Mormon Studies. If I may boil down my understanding of Mauss' thesis to a…”