Diary of famed Mormon historian reveals more of the man

The newly opened diary of Leonard J. Arrington, Mormonism’s most influential historian of the late 20th century, reveals a life imbued with the sense that he was chosen by heaven to help the LDS Church and its people truthfully tell the Mormon story.

The diary — or, more precisely, the scrapbook — fills 50 boxes at Utah State University’s Special Collections and Archives, where it was sealed for a decade after Arrington’s death in February 1999.

Thursday’s annual Arrington Mormon History Lecture, to be delivered by two of the late historian’s three children, marks the official opening of the diary.

The diary is not a juicy trove of gossip from the man who presided over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ aborted attempt at a professional church history division in the 1970s. Nor does it dwell on Arrington’s disappointment with the leaders who pulled the plug.

Rather, historian Ronald W. Walker says, the diary is “an annal of the intellectual life.”

“It’s an extremely important historical document in terms of life, letters and thought in the 20th century,” says Walker, who worked in the historian’s office under Arrington.

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