50 years ago today - Jan 14, 1972

The First Presidency organizes the church's historical department and for the first time appoints a professional historian, Leonard J. Arrington, as church historian, to which he is sustained by church conferences from 1972 to 1977. Church archives had been open for unrestricted research by scholars of all religious backgrounds since the appointment in 1970 of Arrington's predecessor, Apostle Howard W. Hunter. Arrington continues as Church Historian until 1980, during which time the First Presidency encourages research and publication. From 1972 to 1980, the historical department has a Church History Division, Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington and his staff of trained historians publish articles and books of interpretive history which seek to provide a balanced view of Mormonism's controversial past. In 1980 the First Presidency eliminates the Church History Division and transfers former Church Historian and his staff to Brigham Young University. Open access to the archives gradually declines from 1980 to 1986, when the historical department begins to claim the right of ex post facto censorship of previous research. By 1986 the historical department has created a "public access" computer catalog which omits previously available manuscripts now judged too sensitive for research "patrons." Only the staff of the historical department has access to the uncensored catalog of manuscripts. Procedurally, archival research is further impeded by requiring approval from the historical department committee or even from the committee of apostles for research access to previously unrestricted manuscripts. By 1990, researchers having signed form since 1986 are required to obtain pre-publication approval from the church's Correlation Committee. Efforts at pre-publication censorship prove counterproductive and are officially abandoned in 1992, yet researchers at LDS archives continue to be a small fraction of their numbers during the years in which people of all backgrounds knew they were welcome there.

[The Mormon Hierarchy - Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn, [New Mormon History database (http://bit.ly/NMHdatabase)]]

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