We’re pleased that Trevor Holyoak, who attended last week’s Symposium on Preserving Church History at BYU, has agreed to share his notes here with all of us. Including notes from the presentation of our own Ben P. Enjoy!
BYU Church History Symposium – 02/27/09
Richard E. Turley, Jr., Assistant Church Historian and Recorder
“Assistant Church Historians and the Publishing of Church History”
Turley became assistant church historian and recorder last year. The
office had not been occupied for some years. He gave brief briographies
of the men that have preceeded him.
George A. Smith – Made use of Wilford Woodruff’s journals
Wilford Woodruff – Became Smith’s replacement, and then became church
historian before becoming church president
Franklin D. Richards – assistant then historian
John Jaques – wrote Catechism for Children – translated into several
languages. Came to Utah with Martin handcarts. Orson Whitney’s History
of Utah was main project in 1890s
Charles W. Penrose – first assigned to compile Journal History. Worked
with Joseph F. Smith in comparing J. Smith’s letter from LibertyJail
with original. “Mormon Doctrine, plain and simple, or leaves from the
tree of life” and “Rays of Living LIght” pamphlets (written in 2 weeks)
Andrew Jensen – requested position, but none was available. Later was
paid for doing some work, but not officially on staff. Worked on history
of stakes, wards, and branches. “Encyclopedic History.” Finally became
Asst. Historian and worked on Journal History. “LDS Biographical
Orson F. Whitney – 1st assistant historian to be born in Utah. Helped
edit Journal of Discourses. “Life of Heber C. Kimball.” Wrote a history
of Utah, which was reviewed by Richards. Finally becoming asst. – “I had
held this position for three years, without ever bearing the
title…busy as ever, I wrote for various publications in and out of the
Amos Milton Musser – assigned to keep track of persecutions of the church.
B. H. Roberts – edited and published Documentary History. At the same
time, worked on Comprehensive History.
Joseph Fielding Smith – compiled information for Smoot trial, wrote
pamphlets about RLDS church
A. William Lund – good at giving information about the church – but only
if it would be used for good purposes
Junius Free Wells – founded The Contributor. Edited MS. Collected
materials for church’s collections, wrote articles about history for
Preston Nibley – produced one volume a year for some time. “The
Presidents of the Church” was one of them.
Earl E. Olson – focused on acquisition, organization, and preservation.
James B. Allen – worked with Arrington. Wrote church history articles
and essays. Also worked with Davis Bitton in historian office. Wrote
“The Story of the Lattter-day Saints,” “Trials of Discipleship, ”
“Studies in Mormon History” bibliography. Mormonhistory. byu.edu.
Davis Bitton – reviewed articles and books prior to publication.
Compiled diaries for volume in 1970s. Also cowrote “The Mormon
Experience” and “Mormons and their Historians” and “New Views of Mormon
———— ——— ——— —
“Joseph Smith’s Journal Keeping and the Creation of His History”
Spoke about the relationship between joseph’s journals and histories.
Histories are structured on backbone of journals. Journals are
contemporaneous day by day accounts. Histories are retrospective account
with narrative quality. [We were shown all 7 journals, including the
Book of the Law of the Lord. The 7th journal is made up of 4 voumes.]
Example of history is Wentworth letter. Olivery Cowdery was apparently
copying revelations into ledger as early as 1829, but they are
apparently not extant. Olivery Cowdery started writing history, which
was picked up later by John Whitmer (Joseph’s 1832 history). Letter to
Phelps gave instructions for Whitmer’s clerk duties in Nov 1832. First
journal was started at same time. Cowdery took over after Zions Camp,
and journal ends when Cowdery became member of First Presidency and
began 1834-1836 history (referred to as “large journal”). Some journal
entries are copied into history and converted from 1st to 3rd person.
Extra care is taken in writing of history. [Erasure techniques are
described, and the effects they have on the paper.] Willard Richards
also copies entries from journals into histories and seems conscious
that the journals will be the backbone of histories. Marks in journals
show that histories are being drafted directly in them.
———— ——— ——— —
Robin S. Jensen
“Ignored and Unknown Clues of Early Mormon Record Keeping”
[done in style of PBS history case file show]
Possible bookkeeping notations – Different symbols appear that may be
archival markings? C-d= 75cs maybe price written before books sold?
Letters grouping volumes – A, D, etc. – indications for missing volumes.
Letters may have been used to indicate volumes no longer in use. Letters
are used to refer to volumes where informatiion goes that was left out,
in notes within the blank pages of revelation book. There is evidence
that not all informatiion was available when histories were written (and
thus they shold not be considered infallible) which also explains wrong
Topical classification of gospel terms – it is important to be aware of
context and not just contents. Some volumes have words on cover and then
a few lines of things relating to the words just inside (faith,
repentance, etc.) this provides evidence of missing volumes – missing
topics. Sections and paragraph notations from genesis mean they were
referring to JST. Volumes were apparently started for topical guide and
then were used for other purposes.
———— ——— ——— —
Benjamin E. Park
“Developing an Historical Conscience – Wilford Woodruff and the
Preservation of Church History”
Willard Richards in Winter Quarters, 1846, thought his historical duties
should be 1st priority (journal history, 17 dec. 1846). Woodruff’s
journals are most important covering 19th century history of the church
– 31 hand-written volumes covering 63 years. [we are shown really
fancily-decorated pages from the entry about his wedding]
Served as asst. or church historian from 1856 – 1889. Woodruff was
already interested in history before conversion, so knew its importance.
He made a point of recording everything that church leaders did or said
unless someone else was doing it (journal, 12 feb. 1862). Many things
were only recorded in his journals (journal, 17 march 1857). Felt it was
a spiritual obligation to keep a faithful record. Stated he was just
following counsel of J. Smith to keep accurate history. Should we not
have enough respect for God to record blessings and acts we do in His
name? Was criticized on mission for spending so much time on his
journal. In 1851 was called to keep record of the Quorum of 12. Was able
to reconstruct record of past for G. A. Smith by referring to his
journals when called in 1856 as Asst. Church Historian. Dedicated the
new church historian’s office, sept. 1856, asked that may keep true and
faithful history, kept in way and manner accceptable to God. Writing
history was his way of showing devotion. Strove to embody every act and
word in the history of the last days of the prophet (30 june 1856).
History is compiled from records of day-to-day events (12 feb 1862). If
we count our experiences worth recording for children and future
generations to read, then we should do it, and it is required by the
Lord (18 nov 1855). Outlined what every man should write as his history
Problems documenting the martyrdom. Not a very good record had been
kept, and there were conflicting accounts (30 june 1856). (Richards
wrote in code and shorthand and never expanded on them.) Had to rely on
John Taylor’s memory. Statements regarding Emma were not trustworthy
because she had fallen out of favor and people were making up damaging
material or trying to delete her. G. A. Smith and Woodruff were so
confident of final accuracy that they put a testimony to the effect at
the end of the history. Did a very commendable job in comparison to
other histories of the time period.
Writing the history of Brigham Young – asked Phineas for information,
included info about Brigham’s family and pre-convert life. Also wanted
to write histories of the Twelve – (28 feb 1857) apostles reviewed their
histories, made contributions and criticisms (drawbacks of doing
histories of involved subjects). Asked apostate Woodruff Wight for help
(1 july 1857) as well. Wight submitted information, but not in time to
be published. [presenter has looked for Wight’s stuff but not been able
to find it.] It seems Wight’s history was slanted towards his own goals.
G. A. Smith said Woodruff had done more to preserve history than any man
on earth. E. R. Snow wrote poem (dec. 1857) about him.
Thomas Alexander’s book recommended as good biography (“Things of Heaven
———— ——— ——— —
Ronald K. Esplin
“Preserving the History of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young”
They are thinking of doing a Brigham Young papers project as well.
Willard Richards was the scribe for much of the Nauvoo period. He was
also instrumental in boxing up the papers and bringing them to Utah,
where he worked on them in the historians office (along with other
things). History of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor done.
Holdings were organized chronologically for that reason. They have now
been rearranged by subject.
Brigham Young had 35,000 letters that had to be filed. Keeping of papers
has been professionalized, beginning with Joseph Smith and Brigham
Young. “10 years in Camelot” has perpetuated myths about historical
department. They now have more encouragement and support than ever
before. Jeff Johnson came on in 1969 – beginning of professionalization
of archives. Jeff gives credit for this to Dean Jessee in 1964.
Dean was first who had professional training when he came, but not in
archiving. Was over-qualified so had hard time getting job, but spent
time in archives and so knew people there when job came up. Had
interview with JFS and was told no opening. Went back and told he could
work, but no room for him. Dean was given space in “the cage” – where
most important records were kept – which is what he had wanted to study
anyway. Many of these people are now back together working on the JSP.
Provenance would have been helpful in avoiding being taken in by Hofmann
forgeries (where content and quality made them look legitimate). They
are now being very careful with what it part of JSP (and BYP).
Stories told about going through BY’s papers in the basement of admin
building. 100 page document found answering claims to U.S. president
that was amusing but probably not actually sent.
Move to new building starts in April (Bailey Moving and Storage doing
it). In 1972 stuff was moved by staff on book carts.
Every president had a “crank” file. BY’s was labelled “balderdash – see
trash.’ (Had letters from “Elijah”).
Papers of Joseph Smith got stalled on vol. 3 before being replaced by
Joseph Smith Papers project. Larry H. Miller was asked for 125,000,
offered that much per year, and ended up providing endowment that
“dwarfed” that amount per year.
———— ——— ——— —
Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder
“Making a Case for Church History
The lord regards church history as somethig of great value. What the
Lord and His leaders regard as important we should regard as important.
(d&c ). The BOM may have been an example of record keeping for Joseph.
[At this point my Palm announced it was low on power and was shutting
down. See the Mormon Times write up.]