Church Historian and Recorder
Church Historian and Recorder (usually shortened to Church Historian) is a priesthood calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The role of the Church Historian and Recorder is to keep an accurate and comprehensive record of the church and its activities. His office gathers history sources and preserves records, ordinances, minutes, revelations, procedures, and other documents. The Church Historian and Recorder also chairs the Historic Sites Committee and Records Management Committee, and may act as an authoritative voice of the church in historical matters.
This office is based on revelations to Joseph Smith calling for keeping records and preparing a church history. Oliver Cowdery, the first in this position, originally recorded meeting minutes, patriarchal blessings, membership information, priesthood ordinations, and a kind of narrative church history. For a time, the callings of Church Historian and Church Recorder were separate, but in 1842 these callings were merged and now the Church Historian also acts as the Church Recorder.
In 1972, the Church Historian's Office was renamed to become the Historical Department. In 2000, this department was merged with the Family History Department to become the Family and Church History Department. On March 12, 2008, the Church Historian separated again from the Family History Department to become the Church History Department.
While the majority of Church Historians and Recorders have been general authorities of the church, there have been some exceptions to the practice.
Church Historians and Recorders have often been assisted by individuals called to the position of Assistant Church Historian. Research assistants and other personnel are also usually employed within the Church Historian's Office, but the Church Historian and Assistant Church Historian(s) are the only ones to hold priesthood callings.
Chronology of Church Historians
In the following tables, general authorities are listed in bold.
|1830–1831||Oliver Cowdery (Acting)||
||office held by Church Historian||Although Cowdery did not receive an official call to be Church Historian, he was Joseph Smith, Jr.'s scribe and is therefore widely regarded as the first unofficial Church Historian and Recorder.|
||office held by Church Historian||Whitmer was called to be the Church Historian by a revelation to Smith, which is now Doctrine and Covenants section 47. He was the first official historian of the Latter Day Saint church.|
||George W. Robinson (1837)||Beginning in 1837, the callings of Church Historian and Church Recorder were separated|
|3||1838||John Corrill||George W. Robinson||Corrill and Higbee were both called to this position at the same time. Corrill apostatized from the church later that year.|
|4||1838–1840||Elias Higbee||George W. Robinson|
|5||1840–1841||Robert B. Thompson||Elias Higbee|
|6||1841–1842||James Sloan||Elias Higbee|
In 1842, the callings of Church Historian and Church Recorder were merged.
|No.||Dates||Church Historian and Recorder||Assistant||Notes|
||office not yet created||Thomas Bullock was Richards' assistant (as was Charles Wesley Wandell), but the Assistant Church Historian priesthood calling wasn't given until Wilford Woodruff.|
|8||1854–1871||George A. Smith||
||Wilford Woodruff (1856–1881)||
||Woodruff was the first Assistant Church Historian.|
|1881–1883||Wilford Woodruff (Acting)||After Pratt's death in 1881, no official Church Historian was chosen, but Pratt's assistant Woodruff acted as Church Historian until he was formally selected as such.|
||Franklin D. Richards (1884–1889)||
|12||1889–1899||Franklin D. Richards||
||John Jaques (1889–1900)
Charles W. Penrose (1896–1904)
Andrew Jenson (1897–1941)
||Penrose became a general authority when released as an Assistant.|
|1899–1900||Andrew Jenson and John Jaques (Acting)||After Richards's death on December 9, 1899, no Church Historian was chosen until July 26, 1900.|
|13||1900–1921||Anthon H. Lund||
||Charles W. Penrose (until 1904)
Orson F. Whitney (1902–1906)
A. Milton Musser (1902–1909)
B. H. Roberts (1902–1933)
Joseph Fielding Smith (1906–1921)
A. William Lund (1911–1971)
||Whitney became a general authority when released as an Assistant.
Smith became a general authority in 1910, during Lund's tenure.
|14||1921–1970||Joseph Fielding Smith||
||Andrew Jenson (until 1941)
B. H. Roberts (until 1933)
A. William Lund
Junius F. Wells (1921–1930)
Preston Nibley (1957–1963)
E. Earl Olson (1965–1972)
|Smith's tenure as Church Historian is by far the longest in church history.|
|15||1970–1972||Howard W. Hunter||
||A. William Lund (until 1971)
E. Earl Olson
|16||1972–1982||Leonard J. Arrington||
James B. Allen (1972–1979)
|Arrington was the first non-general authority Church Historian since 1842, and the first to also be a professional historian. Arrington is reported to have lost the title of Church Historian in 1978, though he was formally released in 1982.|
|17||1982–1985||G. Homer Durham||Durham became Church Historian without formal public pronouncement by the church nor sustaining by the general church membership. Some claim his tenure as Historian began when Arrington lost the title in 1978, or when Durham became Managing Director of the church Historical Department.|
|18||1985–1997||Dean L. Larsen||Larsen was also the first Executive Director of the Historical Department, in which he was replaced by John K. Carmack in 1989. Larsen then moved on to other assignments, such as serving in the Temple Department and Area Presidencies and was not active in any historical role, though technically he was still the Church Historian until his release in 1997.|
|1989–2005||Executive Directors of the Historical Department (acting)||While Larsen was still technically Church Historian, and afterward, others succeeded him as Executive Director of the Historical Department, and those men were sometimes referred to as Church Historians. This includes John K. Carmack (1989–1991), Loren C. Dunn (1991–1993), Stephen D. Nadauld (1993–1996), Marlin K. Jensen (1996–1998), John K. Carmack (1998–1999), Loren C. Dunn (1999–2000), D. Todd Christofferson (2000–2004), Marlin K. Jensen (2004–2005).|
|19||2005-2012 ||Marlin K. Jensen||Richard E. Turley Jr. (2008–)||In 2005, Jensen officially became the first Church Historian since 1997. He had been made Executive Director of the Historical Department the previous year, a position he also held in 1997 when Dean Larsen was released. Jensen later said he "really [didn't] know why the office went unfilled for a few years." Some of his accomplishments in this position are chronicled at Marlin K. Jensen: Church Historian.|
|20||2012- ||Steven E. Snow||Richard E. Turley Jr.||It was announced on January 10, 2012, that Elder Steven E. Snow, who was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, would succeed Jensen as Church Historian and Recorder later in the year, that Snow would be released from the Presidency of the Seventy, and that Jensen would be granted Emeritus status in October 2012. The change became effective August 1, 2012, along with other assignment changes among the general authorities.|
- "There Shall Be a Record Kept among You". Ensign: 28–33. December 2007.
- Doctrine and Covenants 21:1, 47:1, 69:3, 85:1
- Leonard J. Arrington (1998). Adventures of a Church Historian. University of Illinois Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-252-02381-1. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- "Family History, History departments joined". Church News. June 10, 2000. Retrieved 2009-07-17.
- Jared T (March 12, 2008). "Breaking News: Changes in Family and Church History Department Organization". Juvenile Instructor. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- Scott G. Kenney, ed. (April 6, 1838). "Minutes of April 6, 1838". Far West Minutes. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- Van Wagoner, Richard S. (Spring/Summer 2001). "The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 34 (1,2): 160. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- (Lund 1917)
- (Jenson 1914, p. xx)
- (Jenson 1914, p. xxxiv)
- (Arrington 1968, p. 66)
- Zobell, Albert L. (March 1971). "In Memoriam: A. William Lund (1886–1971)". Ensign. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- "Church Historian’s Office Appointments". Ensign. March 1972. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- Anderson, Lavina Fielding (July 2005). "A Note on Church Historians". By Common Consent (Salt Lake City: Mormon Alliance) 11 (3).[dead link]
- "Noted LDS historian R. Davis Bitton dies", Deseret Morning News, 2007-04-16.
- Allen, James B.; Esplin, Ronald K.; Whittaker, David J. (1992). "About the Author". Men with a Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve in the British Isles. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. ISBN 0-87579-546-3.
- Fletcher, Peggy (April 1985). "Church Historian: Evolution of a Calling". Sunstone 10 (4): 46–8. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- "News of the Church: Elder G. Homer Durham Dies". Ensign. Mar 1985.
- Turley, Richard E., Jr. (2000). "Historian, Church". In Garr, Arnold K.; Cannon, Donald Q.; Cowan, Richard O.. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. pp. 494–5.
- Hinckley, Gordon B. (May 1985). "The Sustaining of Church Officers". Ensign.
- Faust, James E. (November 1997). "The Sustaining of Church Officers". Ensign.
- "Elder Larsen to speak at 18-stake fireside". Deseret News. January 30, 1991. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- "New General Authority Assignments Announced". Ensign: 74–80. August 1993. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- "New Area Presidencies". Ensign: 71–73. August 1996. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- Anderson, Lavina Fielding (Spring 1993). The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership - A Contemporary Chronology 26 (1). p. 11. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- "History of the fraternity for returned missionaries is presented to Church". Church News (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News). March 30, 1991. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- Lloyd, R. Scott (May 28, 2005). "Historian by yearning' collects, preserves: Elder Marlin K. Jensen is historian/recorder". Church News. Retrieved 2009-07-17.
- "Richard E. Turley Jr. Named Assistant Church Historian and Recorder, lds.org, 2008-03-12.
- Jensen, Marlin K.; David F. Boone (2007). "A Historian by Yearning: A Conversation with Elder Marlin K. Jensen" (PDF). Religious Educator 8 (3): 6. Retrieved 2009-07-20.[dead link]
- LDS.org Steven E. Snow Biography
- Fletcher Stack, Peggy (January 19, 2012). "Changing of the guard in Mormon history". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- Arrington, Leonard J. (Summer 1968). "The Search for Truth and Meaning in Mormon History". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 (2): 56–66.
- Jenson, Andrew (1914). Church Chronology: A Record of Important Events Pertaining to the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News.
- Lund, Anthon H. (1917-10-05). "Remarks". 88th Semi-annual General Conference. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Howard C. Searle (1992). "Historians, Church", Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan) p. 589–592.
- De Groote, Michael (March 3, 2009). "Assisting Mormon history". MormonTimes (Deseret News). —— Summary of the role of the Assistant Church Historian.