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Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History
Gregory A. Prince
Mormon Studies / Biography
Leonard Arrington, author of Great Basin Kingdom, a book many saw as the most important history of Mormonism, became the principal driver of a dramatic turn towards scholarly truth in the study of Mormon history. His approach gained a temporary foothold in the governing bureaucracy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he became its church historian. That productive period of professional scholarship from inside the LDS Church ended with a controversial closing of the History Division, which had brought too much candor for some church leaders. Arrington and his colleagues had lit a spark, though, that would continue to energize Mormon historiography. The many scholars whom he mentored, encouraged, supported, and collaborated with helped maintain the growth of a newly enriched field of research and publication, bringing the historical record that had always been an essential aspect of Mormon identity into wide examination and discourse.
Gregory Prince follows his well-regarded biography of LDS President David O. McKay with the story of another key figure in the modern history of Mormonism. Leonard Arrington, a gregarious and generous history entrepreneur, used his success to advance the careers of many others and played a key role in the intellectual development of Mormonism by broadening Mormons’ understanding of themselves. Employing Arrington’s massive personal record and dozens of interviews with his associates, Prince provides the most complete account yet of the remarkable successes and failures of this longtime face of Mormon history.
Gregory A. Prince earned doctorate degrees in dentistry (DDS) and pathology (PhD) at UCLA, and then pursued a four-decade career in pediatric infectious disease research. His avocation in history led him to write several dozen articles and book chapters and three books, including Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (1995) and the award-winning David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, coauthored with William Robert Wright (University of Utah Press, 2005).
Table of Contents:
1. Ancestry: Straight from the Soil
2. A Childhood with Chickens
3. Enchanted by Economics: The University of Idaho
4. Idaho Boy in Graduate School
5. A Woman Named Grace
6. World War II: The Volunteer Nobody Wanted
7. Becoming Dr. Arrington
8. Great Basin Kingdom: Saga of a Saga
9. The Academic Years and the Move to Greener Pastures
10. The Church Historian’s Office
11. A Portrait of Leonard
12. Walking a Spiritual Path
13. Promoting Mormon History: The Pre-Church Historian Years
14. Church Historian: The “Camelot” Years
15. The Bureaucracy
16. Promoting Mormon History:
The Church Historian Years
17. Blessed Damozels
18. First Fruits
19. RLDS: Finding Common Ground with the Cousins
20. Storm Clouds
21. The Revelation
23. What Went Wrong?
24. Grace’s Decline
26. Brigham Young: American Moses
27. Controlling the Story
28. Mark Hofmann
29. The September Six
30. Adventures of a Church Historian
Epilogue: The Leonard Arrington Papers
Praise and Reviews:
“This biography breaks your heart a little, stiffens your spine a lot, and makes you fall in love with a man who may be his generation's best human being.”
—Lavina Fielding Anderson, editor, Salt Lake City
"This is a well-written, exceptionally documented biography of arguably the most important figure in twentieth-century Mormon intellectual history. It provides a captivating, highly readable history of Arrington's personal and professional life, almost unmatched in LDS biography. It made me wish I could go back and talk with Leonard again, and deservedly will long be the definitive work on the subject."
—Lester Bush, coeditor of Neither White Nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church
“Prince has used new sources to throw light on some little or unknown parts of Mormon history. His scholarship is unmatchable and flawless. This well-researched and well written book should be a required reading for both students and experts of Mormonism.”
—The Washington Book Review
“A marvelous portrait of the man and his milieu....Read Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History. It's honest history, clear-eyed, well-documented, and a pleasure to read.”
—Association for Mormon Letters