I received word this morning of the death of Richard Lloyd Anderson. My deepest condolences go out to his family and my thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this time.
I had the privilege of acting as his research assistant when I was a student at Brigham Young University. While not the first professor for whom I worked, I consider Richard Anderson my mentor, having worked with him the longest. After having worked for several different professors at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute, I began working for Richard, assisting him in his revised Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, collecting material for the Oliver Cowdery papers, and helping him with his early work on the Joseph Smith Papers. He taught me the importance of primary sources, thoroughness in researching, and a careful interpretation of those sources. More than any graduate seminar I had taken, Richard taught me why history mattered, how it was assembled, and, most importantly, that living a good life mattered more than scholarship.
Richard was a scholar, a deeply faithful man, and a true gentleman. He always asked after my wife and kids, he constantly asked me if I needed a ride home when I told him I was on public transportation (I’m not sure he got my love of reading on the bus), and told me stories of earlier scholars. As I went through his files, completing various tasks, I would come across correspondence between himself and various scholars or representatives from repositories in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I was impressed with how much of Richard came through in his letters. My own correspondence via email paled in comparison to the true art that Richard demonstrated in his correspondence. His thoughtful questions, personal insight, and sincere inquiries left a deep impression on me. While not being able to live up to my own image of Richard in my mind, his actions often prompt me to do better, be kinder, and be gentler in life.
In history, we sometimes forget the people behind the scholarship. Today I’m mindful more than ever not of Richard’s lasting scholarship, but of his discipleship, friendship, and charitable outlook. Rest in peace, my friend.