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Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Copublished with the Tanner Trust Fund, J. Willard Marriott Library.

Leonard Arrington is considered by many the foremost twentieth-century historian of Mormonism. He played a key role in establishing the Western History Association and the Mormon History Association, and more than a half-century after its publication, his revised doctoral dissertation, Great Basin Kingdom
Hardcover, 588 pages
Published May 30th 2016 by University of Utah Press
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Matthew Kern
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the biography of an honest and academic Mormon man who was put in an impossible position and worked for what he believed was right. This biography is especially timely as the Church is going through a major transition with regards to its history, the internet.

Towards the end of the book this quote by respected church historian Richard Bushman shows this current issue.
“The day has passed when we can keep things private and to ourselves. With the Internet, with the widespread availability
Tyson Stoddard
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been curious for some time about Leonard Arrington, and after seeing a link to an Ensign Article he wrote in the 1970’s, I decided to order this biography. I’m glad I did, because it is a fascinating read and very well researched.

Arrington was an optimistic, hard working historian devoted to his profession. Called to be church historian for the LDS Church, he developed an ambitious plan to publish various books covering different time periods of the church since the founding in 1830.

His a
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Toward the end of the book the author gives the following quote from Leonard Arrington's autobiography:

"Speaking for myself and, I think, for most of the historians who have worked with me, some tension between our professional training and our religious commitments seems inevitable. Our testimonies tell us that the Lord is in this work, and for this we see abundant supporting evidence. But our historical training warns us that the accurate perception of spiritual phenomena is elusive -- not sub
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I came to this biography as a fan of both the subject and the biographer. Even with such high expectations I found myself spell-bound, witnessing the collision of two inexorable forces in the 1970s and 80s: (1) the academic/secular pressure to bring scholarly tools and sensibilities to Mormon history, and (2) the ecclesiastical/hagiographical pressure to resist this secularization and to preserve sacred narratives that bolster faith and reinforce institutional truth claims. I learned that the di ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lotta thoughts here... not sure where to start...

I hope to qualify as an active and dedicated member of the LDS Church, however my preferred LDS books are frequently those that I cannot comfortably recommend to the vast majority of other congregants. Gregory Prince is now responsible for two of the best LDS history books written: "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism," and now this.

In the LDS environment, we interact on a weekly basis with people of different backgrounds, working hand
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not a book for everyone but if you are ok with a slightly flawed historian who tried to bring LDS history to the light while fighting battles with a few apostles and church bureaucracy it’s a great book.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lds-studies
Once again Greg Prince, author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism turns his astute historical eye to a biography of Leonard Arrington, who served as the official church historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1972-1982.

I would have given this book five stars, but alas, Prince has peppered the biography with enough of his own commentary that I must take it down a peg. The section labeled "dramatis personae" was obviously heavy-handed, as if this were som
Devan Jensen
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for those who want to understand the sweep of modern Latter-day Saint history from 1970s to the era preceding the Joseph Smith Papers Project, this book is an impressive biography of an economist who grow into his role as the most influential modern historian of the church, particularly with his book “Great Basin Kingdom.” Leonard J. Arrington optimistically built a strong professional writing team under the direction of apostle Howard W. Hunter, professionalizing the church arc ...more
Samuel Wells
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not every student of history deserves their own biography. Not that historians aren’t worthy of the examined life. It’s just that their influence on society tends to be indirect and few are the readers that appreciate their contributions.

Leonard Arrington is an exception. He was the first and only professional academic to formally occupy the office of Church Historian for the Mormon Church. His biographer, Gregory Prince, has done a commendable job telling the story of how this remarkable man w
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! I truly enjoyed learning about the life of Leonard Arrington. I'll be honest, a few months ago I didn't know much about him or the role he played as historian for the LDS church back in the 70s-80s. I'm now grateful to know more about this man, who was a great mentor to many individuals. As he told a more open history, he laid a foundation and planted many seeds for future scholarship on LDS Church history, even amid the challenges he faced from some general authorities of his da ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. Plenty of frustration associated with how the LDS church dealt, and deals, with its history. Honesty back then would have saved many people today from the tremendous cognitive dissonance many of us struggle with!

Favorite quote in the book is from Boyd Packer: “We are required to tell the truth but we are not required to tell the whole truth.”

Total gut punch! Enjoy! ;-)
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very dense history of Leonard Arrington and his journey with the church and trying to compile its history. I really liked his idea that history shouldn’t be feared, it should be known. This book painted a picture of regular men leading a church and the rival between church leadership and scholars. Interesting read.
Greg Danklef
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. It took me a while to get through this, but partly that was because I wanted to digest it as I went. This is an interesting look into a slice of Mormon history. I didn't know much about Arrington before and am now very impressed with what he was able to accomplish.
Francis Bezooyen
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow - this is one truly revealing look into the inner workings of Mormonism during the latter half of the 20th century. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in that subject matter.
Nathan Hoyt
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting if you are into Mormon history and some big events about opening up that history in the 1980's.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredible biography of an incredible man. Full review at: ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for anyone interested in the changes in the presentation in LDS history. It covers key events in modern LDS history as well with more of an insider's point of view.
Mike Day
Wow, how to write a review for this book? I will probably add to the review over time, as there are so many nuggets in this book that I will use in my teaching and writing over the course of my career. This book was just simply amazing. Gregory Prince nailed it, I love the way he writes biographies. He has to be my favorite biographer of all time.

Add to this that Leonard "Jimmie" Arrington had such a rich life, filled with all kinds of challenges, and this makes for my kind of book. Simply brill
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lds-history
The book to read to see how far the Church has come in writing its history, and how Leonard Arrington, Church historian, was foundational in that change. In the past, and even today among many Church members, Church history has been apologetic in nature. Don't ask difficult questions, just use it to strengthen faith if you're going to talk history. This attitude is perhaps summed up best in the words of Boyd K. Packer: "It may be true, but it isn't always useful."

In an age of the Internet, this
Greg Diehl
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Prince is a scientific researcher, and at times, he allows some data to masquerade as valuable information (this work could have been 200 pages shorter). That said, while it doesn't quite reach the bar he set with his McKay book, this is still an excellent biography about a very interesting and compelling figure in Church History.

In the face of a Church bureaucracy, and orthodoxy, that refused to see anything but a literal interpretation of scripture and apologetic presentation of history as ac
Roo Phillips
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! Prince does a wonderful job at summarizing not only Arrington’s interesting life, but pulling you behind the scenes of the LDS church bureaucracy in the process. Arrington, the only professionally trained historian to hold the office of LDS Church Historian, was ahead of his time in propounding honest Mormon history. He believed that history could be told while retaining academic integrity and spiritual faith. There are many interesting examples given that show how the top religious ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Greg Prince's books are reliably researched and reliably large. For every journal entry revealing a delicious tidbit, there are two or three paragraphs I wish he had omitted. I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the points Prince develops because he overwhelms the reader with data. I really like Arrington; I met him once shortly before his death at BYU during a conference on the Brigham Young manuals printed by the Mormon Church.

That said, this biography demonstrated both how supportive a
Stephen Cranney
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Overall a fun read on the heady days of Mormon intelligentsia martyrdom when the GAs actually cared about what came out of Sunstone and Dialogue. Preserves important details and information about the era that has relevance today.

That being said, I felt like he went a bit overboard at times. His snide references to Arrington’s “coreligionists” bugged me, and the book occasionally read like some morality play about insular religious institutions with its cast of caricature characters and classic
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Book

This is a well written and very interesting book giving insight on an intelligent, faithful and dedicated man and his efforts to move toward a more open and honest presentation of our Church history. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Mormon history
Mitch Warner
rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2017
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellently written, Greg Prince weaves the narrative of the life of Leonard Arrington into the broader important historical events of Mormonism in an extremely readable and interesting composition. I learned to appreciate the life of this man much better than when reading his earlier published autobiography. One of the best biographies I've read and a gem of a book, I highly recommend this work!
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Jan 22, 2018
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Feb 10, 2019
Shelley Whiting
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Jun 25, 2017
Ron Madsen
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Mar 21, 2018
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