45 years ago today - Feb 23, 1979-Friday

[Leonard Arrington]
Yesterday in the meeting for the Utah Endowment for the Humanities, Sterling McMurrin was present and during the intermission in the morning took me aside and said, "Leonard, I want to ask you two very confidential and very serous questions. The first is, I understand they have changed your title. You are no longer Church Historian." I replied that I had never been released as Church Historian, but on my own request they have given me another title, Director of the History Division of the Church. This gives me a title that's better understood and more secular. It also implies that I don't have to be a spokesman for the Church in the same sense as the title "Church Historian" implies. I told him I was pleased with the title and welcomed it, but that I still may be called Church Historian by people who remember that historic title.

He seemed satisfied with that answer but wanted to ask, secondly, "I understand that there is a line-up of pictures in the Historical Department and it does not include your picture but instead has the photo of [G.] Homer Durham." I said this was true and it didn't worry me in the least and I hoped it didn't worry him. I pointed out that the functions exercised by Joseph Fielding Smith and Howard Hunter and others had been divided up among several of us and that the managing director of the department might be seen as the heir to the Church Historian's position in a more accurate sense than myself as Church Historian or Director of the History Division. Sterling did not accept this. He said he thought it was reprehensible and wrong. He said, "Who ordered this, Homer?" I said I did not think so; I thought it was the idea of Earl Olson. But I said the pictures are just outside the offices of Earl and Brother Durham. Sterling said he did not like it one bit; but I tried to
laugh it off by saying it was not at all important and don't fuss over it. ...

Lowell Durham Jr. ... said that one of the most frustrating things in his organization and the discussion of policies and the adoption of policies which they must undertake is that as soon as one member of the Quorum [of Twelve Apostles] makes any statement about any matter, that ends the discussion. Policy, in other words, is set on a rather haphazard basis. As soon as one apostle has made some statement about it, whether positive or negative, nobody wants to say anything further to cross him. ... People should feel free to give reasons why they favor one kind of action or disfavor another, and a decision should be made as the result of full discussionshould not be cut off automatically as the result of one apostle making an offhand comment that wasn't intended to be a "final" decision. He used as an example in our case Elder [Ezra Taft] Benson making a statement about Story of the Latter-day Saints without having read the book himself and then no one else-not even
President [Spencer W.] Kimball-would make any comment about it. As President Kimball told us privately, he had read the book himself and couldn't see anything wrong with it.

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

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