45 years ago today - Dec 19, 1973-Wednesday

[Leonard Arrington]
I asked Brother [Wendell] Ashton if he should have a piece prepared for publication whether he had to clear it through correlation. "Heavens no," he said. "I would never submit anything we prepared to correlation. They would ruin everything," he said. I shook his hand on that proposition, and he said that he had been a member of Church Correlation Committee before and he objected to this reading for subject matter. He said the psychology is all wrong. Correlation makes so many suggested changes and it is so difficult to get certain matters through Correlation that the auxiliary leaders sponsoring manuals give up their responsibility and assume that a task is completed when it has passed Correlation. Brother Ashton said something could pass Correlation and still not be well written or stimulating or instructive or thought provoking or accomplish any of the tasks the auxiliaries wanted to accomplish in their manuals. In short, something could pass Correlation and still be dull. I shook his hand on that proposition too. I talked to him somewhat frankly about the problems we have in writing good biographies and regretted that we had not produced better biography and said that I doubted we could do very much about it as long as family members and Church officials are so sensitive about giving realistic appraisals. Sister Ashton, whom I have tended to regard as one of those in favor of close supervision and censorship, asked me why we want to employ Church people to write biographies and histories-why don't we let them be written by independent persons who can tell the story honestly. She asked me in writing history and biography if we have to consider what the Church will think. I said, "Certainly." She said, "Then your writing can never be as objective and straightforward and honest as that of someone who doesn't have to consider the wishes of the church." She said how much she enjoyed Juanita Brooks. She said if she wanted to get a straightforward account of something, she would read from Juanita instead of from the Church Historian's accounts. I said, "What is wrong with letting our own people have the freedom to write things honestly so that the members of the Church can depend on what they say?" She apparently feels that that is an impossible dream. It is peculiar to find a Church leader's wife preferring Juanita Brooks because she gives an honest account while at the same time her husband and other Church leaders are preventing the rest of us from giving the same honest account. It shows the great need we have to convince Church leaders of the necessity of writing honest history. ...

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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