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January 12 , 2010

What's True in Mormon Folklore?: The Contribution of Folklore to Mormon Studies


The first ten lectures in Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History LectureSeries are here collected in one volume. The series, established by oneof the twentieth-century West's most distinguished historians, LeonardArrington, has become a leading forum for prominent historians toaddress topics related to Mormon history. The first lecturer wasArrington himself. He was followed by Richard Lyman Bushman, Richard E.Bennett, Howard R. Lamar, Claudia L. Bushman, Kenneth W. Godfrey, JanShipps, Donald Worster, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and F. Ross Peterson.Utah State University hosts the Leonard J. Arrington Mormon HistoryLecture Series. The University Libraries' Special Collections andArchives houses the Arrington collection. The state's land grantuniversity began collecting records very early, and in the 1960s became amajor depository for Utah and Mormon records. Leonard and his wifeGrace joined the USU faculty and family in 1946, and the Arringtons andtheir colleagues worked to collect original diaries, journals, letters,and photographs.

Although trained as an economist at the University of North Carolina,Arrington became a Mormon historian of international repute. Workingwith numerous colleagues, the Twin Falls, Idaho, native produced theclassic Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saintsin 1958. Utilizing available collections at USU, Arrington embarked on aprolific publishing and editing career. He and his close ally, Dr. S.George Ellsworth helped organize the Western History Association, andthey created the Western Historical Quarterly as the scholarlyvoice of the WHA. While serving with Ellsworth as editor of the newjournal, Arr ington also helped both the Mormon History Association andthe independent journal Dialogue get established.

One of Arrington's great talents was to encourage and inspire otherscholars or writers. While he worked on biographies or institutionalhistories, he employed many young scholars as researchers. He fosteredmany careers as well as arranged for the publication of numerous booksand articles.

In 1973, Arrington accepted the appointment as the official historianof the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as theLemuel Redd Chair of Western History at Brigham Young University. Moreand more Arrington focused on Mormon, rather than economic, historicaltopics. His own career flourished by the publication of The Mormon Experience, co-authored with Davis Bitton, and American Moses: A Biography of Brigham Young.He and his staff produced many research papers and position papers forthe LDS Church as well. Nevertheless, tension developed over thehistorical process, and Arrington chose to move full time to BYU withhis entire staff. The Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of History wasestablished, and Leonard continued to mentor new scholars as well aspublish biographies. He also produced a very significant two-volumestudy, The History of Idaho.

After Grace Arrington passed away, Leonard married Harriet Horne ofSalt Lake City. They made the decision to deposit the vast Arringtoncollection of research documents, letters, files, books, and journals atUtah State University. The Leonard J. Arrington Historical Archives ispart of the university's Special Collections. The Arrington LectureCommittee works with Special Collections to sponsor the annual lecture.

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