Church Historian and Recorder

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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.[1]

History[edit]

This office is based on revelations to Joseph Smith calling for keeping records and preparing a church history.[2] Oliver Cowdery, the first in this position, originally recorded meeting minutes, patriarchal blessings, membership information, priesthood ordinations, and a kind of narrative church history.[1] 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.[3] In 2000, this department was merged with the Family History Department to become the Family and Church History Department.[4] On March 12, 2008, the Church Historian separated again from the Family History Department to become the Church History Department.[5]

While the majority of Church Historians and Recorders have been general authorities of the church, there have been some exceptions to the practice.

Assistants[edit]

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 and Recorders[edit]

In the following tables, general authorities are listed in bold. The date ranges span from the sustaining date to the release date unless otherwise indicated.

Church Historian and Church Recorder[edit]

Date range Church Historian Church Recorder Notes
1830-31 Oliver Cowdery
Olivercowdery-sm-cropped.jpg
Although Cowdery did not receive an official call to be Church Historian, he was Joseph Smith's scribe and was appointed to keep minutes and records in an early conference.[6] Therefore, he is widely regarded as the first unofficial Church Historian and Recorder.
1831-35 John Whitmer
John Whitmer.jpg
Whitmer was called to be the Church Historian by a revelation to Smith,[7] which is now Doctrine and Covenants section 47. He was the first official historian of the Latter Day Saint church.
1835-37 John Whitmer
John Whitmer.jpg
Oliver Cowdery
Olivercowdery-sm-cropped.jpg
Beginning in 1835, a new calling of "Recorder for the Church" was created, with Oliver Cowdery being the first appointee.[8]
1837-38 John Whitmer
John Whitmer.jpg
George W. Robinson Robinson was sustained "as General Clerk & recorder of the whole Church" to replace Cowdery.[9]
1838 John Corrill George W. Robinson Corrill and Higbee were both called to this position at the same time.[10] Corrill apostatized from the church later that year and was excommunicated in March 1839.[11]
1838–40 Elias Higbee George W. Robinson It is assumed that Robinson was released on 3 October 1840 since his replacement, Robert B. Thompson, was sustained that day.[12]
1840–41 Elias Higbee Robert B. Thompson
1841–42 Elias Higbee James Sloan When Sloan was sustained his position was given as "General Church Clerk."[13]
1842–43 Willard Richards
Willardrichards.gif
James Sloan Richards was appointed as Joseph Smith's private secretary and Church Historian in late 1842.[14]

Church Historian and Recorder[edit]

No. Date range Church Historian and Recorder Assistant(s) Notes
1 30 July 1843[15] – 11 March 1854[16] Willard Richards
Willardrichards.gif
office not yet created In 1843, the callings of Church Historian and Church Recorder were merged when Richards, already serving as Church Historian, was appointed Church Recorder. Although, he wasn't sustained by the general church membership until 1845.[17] Thomas Bullock was Richards' assistant (as was Charles Wesley Wandell[18]), but the Assistant Church Historian priesthood calling wasn't given until Wilford Woodruff.[19]
2 7 April 1854[20] – 8 October 1870 George A. Smith
GeorgeAlbertSmith.jpg
Wilford Woodruff (1856–1881)
Wilford Woodruff 1889.jpg
Woodruff was the first Assistant Church Historian.[19]
3 8 October 1870[21] – 9 May 1874 Albert Carrington
Albert Carrington2.jpg
4 9 May 1874[22] – 3 October 1881[23] Orson Pratt
OrsonPratt.jpg
1881–83 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.
5 7 October 1883[24] – 7 April 1889 Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff 1889.jpg
Franklin D. Richards (1884–1889)[25]
Franklin D. Richards (Mormon apostle).gif
6 7 April 1889[26] – 9 December 1899[27] Franklin D. Richards
Franklin D. Richards (Mormon apostle).gif
John Jaques (1889–1900)[25][28]
Charles W. Penrose (1896–1904)[25][28]
Andrew Jenson (1897–1941)[29]
Penrose became a general authority when released as an Assistant.
1899–1900 Andrew Jenson and John Jaques (Acting) After the death of Richards on December 9, 1899, no Church Historian was chosen until July 26, 1900.[28]
7 7 October 1900[30] – 2 March 1921[31] Anthon H. Lund
Anthon H. Lund.jpg
Charles W. Penrose (until 1904)
Andrew Jenson
Orson F. Whitney (1902–1906)[28]
A. Milton Musser (1902–1909)
B. H. Roberts (1902–1933)[29]
Joseph Fielding Smith (1906–1921)
A. William Lund (1911–1971)[28][32]
Whitney became a general authority when released as an Assistant.
Smith became a general authority in 1910, during Lund's tenure.
8 6 April 1921[33] – 23 January 1970[34] Joseph Fielding Smith
Joseph Fielding Smith.jpg
Andrew Jenson (until 1941)
B. H. Roberts (until 1933)
A. William Lund
Junius F. Wells (1921–1930)[29]
Preston Nibley (1957–1963)[29]
E. Earl Olson (1965–1972)[29][35]
Smith's tenure as Church Historian and Recorder is by far the longest in church history. He was released when he was called as President of the Church.
9 6 April 1970[36] – 1972 Howard W. Hunter
Howard W. Hunter.JPG
A. William Lund (until 1971)
E. Earl Olson

Church Historical Department[edit]

In 1972, the Church Historian's Office was renamed to become the Historical Department.[3] In 2000, this department was merged with the Family History Department to become the Family and Church History Department.[4] On March 12, 2008, the Church Historian separated again from the Family History Department to become the Church History Department.[5]

No. Date range Church Historian and Recorder Assistant Notes
10 6 April 1972[37] – February 1982[38] Leonard J. Arrington
Leonard Arrington 1950s.jpeg
Davis Bitton[39]
James B. Allen (1972–1979)[40]
Arrington was the first non-general authority Church Historian since 1842 and the first to simply be Church Historian, instead of Church Historian and Recorder, since Willard Richards.[41] He was also the first in the position to be a professional historian. Arrington is reported to have lost the title of Church Historian in 1978,[42] though he was formally released in 1982.[38]
11 February 1982 – 10 January 1985[43] G. Homer Durham Durham became Church Historian without formal public pronouncement by the church nor sustaining by the general church membership.[38] Although, it was mentioned as an aside in General Conference.[44] 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.[45]
12 6 April 1985[46] – 4 October 1997[47] 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[48] and Area Presidencies[49][50] and was not active in any historical role, though technically he was still the Church Historian until his release in 1997.[47]

Executive Director of the Historical Department[edit]

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[48] and Area Presidencies[49][50] and was not active in any historical role, though he was still technically the Church Historian until his release from the Seventy in 1997.[47]

While holding the office of Church Historian, and afterward, others succeeded Larsen as Executive Directors of the Historical Department.[45] During this time, these men stood in for the Church Historian and were sometimes referred to with that title.[51][52]

No. Dates Executive Directors of the Historical Department Notes
12b 1989–91 John K. Carmack Carmack was given the position of the department's Executive Director, but he was not called as the Church Historian.
12c 1991–93 Loren C. Dunn
12c 1993–96 Stephen D. Nadauld
12d 1996–98 Marlin K. Jensen During this time (1997), Larsen was finally officially released as Church Historian, and the office was left unfilled.
12e 1998–99 John K. Carmack
12f 1999–2000 Loren C. Dunn
12g 2000–04 D. Todd Christofferson Organizational changes during this time changed Christofferson's title to the Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department.
12h 2004–05 Marlin K. Jensen Jensen retained his position as Executive Director when he was called to be Church Historian in 2005.[53] Since the office of Church Historian had been revived, after this time the Executive Director was no longer standing in as a substitute.
No. Dates Church Historian and Recorder Assistant Notes
13 2 April 2005[54] – 6 October 2012[53][55] Marlin K. Jensen Richard E. Turley, Jr. (2008–2016)[56][57] In 2005, Jensen 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 L. Larsen was released. Jensen later said he "really [didn't] know why the office went unfilled for a few years."[58] Some of his accomplishments in this position are chronicled at Marlin K. Jensen: Church Historian.
14 6 October 2012[59][60] Steven E. Snow Richard E. Turley, Jr. (2008–2016)[56][57]

Reid L. Neilson (2015-)[61]

It was announced on January 10, 2012, that 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.[53]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "There Shall Be a Record Kept among You". Ensign: 28–33. December 2007. 
  2. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 21:1, 47:1, 69:3, 85:1
  3. ^ a b Leonard J. Arrington (1998). Adventures of a Church Historian. University of Illinois Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-252-02381-1. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  4. ^ a b "Family History, History departments joined". Church News. June 10, 2000. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  5. ^ a b Jared T (March 12, 2008). "Breaking News: Changes in Family and Church History Department Organization". Juvenile Instructor. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  6. ^ Minute Book 2, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=X1F070313-CB05-49BB-A39C-2C6F4776617F#!/paperSummary/minute-book-2&p=3.
  7. ^ Revelation, circa 8 March 1831–B [D&C 47], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=x6506.
  8. ^ Minute Book 1, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=X5DC3AFA7-7FC3-4682-A442-EAA9E3053E51#!/paperSummary/minute-book-1&p=111.
  9. ^ Minute Book 1, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=XDA13C966-4445-489E-A9D2-4D119ED6F002.
  10. ^ Minute Book 2, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=X2AD5F438-886E-4A15-92B7-46B86303B3B0.
  11. ^ History, 1838-1856, volume C-1, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed 30 Dec. 2015, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/?target=X70B3ABDE-E179-47FC-B7F1-CA8D0E460F3E#!/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842&p=80.
  12. ^ “Minutes of the general conference of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…”, Times and Seasons, Oct. 1840, page 185, http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9361.
  13. ^ “Minutes of a Conference,” Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1841, 2:577. http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/9086.
  14. ^ Willard Richards journals and papers: Journals, Journal (volume 9), 1842 July-1844 February. Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE581563 (image 26).
  15. ^ Willard Richards journals and papers: Journals, Journal (volume 9), 1842 July-1844 February. Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE581563 (image 42).
  16. ^ He died in office. Orson Spencer, “Death of Our Beloved Brother Willard Richards,” Deseret News, 16 Mar. 1854, page [2]. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews1/id/178000.
  17. ^ “Historic Men Served as Church Historians,” Church News, 14 Feb 1970, page 15.
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ a b Lund 1917
  20. ^ “Minutes,” Deseret News, 13 Apr 1854, page [2], http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews1/id/174950.
  21. ^ “Fortieth Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” Deseret News, 12 Oct 1870, page 419, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews2/id/43733.
  22. ^ “Forty-Fourth Annual Conference,” Deseret News, 13 May 1874, page 232, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews3/id/193805.
  23. ^ He died in office. “Death of Apostle Orson Pratt,” Deseret News, 5 Oct 1881, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews3/id/196551; “Death of Orson Pratt,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Oct 1881, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/slt5/id/18369.
  24. ^ “Fifty-Third Semi-Annual Conference,” Deseret News, 10 Oct 1883, page 604, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews3/id/2214409
  25. ^ a b c Jenson 1914, p. xx
  26. ^ “General Conference,” Deseret [News] Weekly, 13 Apr 1889, page 487, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/deseretnews4/id/9935
  27. ^ He died in office; “Franklin D. Richards Dead,” Deseret Evening News, 9 Dec 1899, page 1, http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/den1/id/4612.
  28. ^ a b c d e Jenson 1914, p. xxxiv
  29. ^ a b c d e Arrington 1968, p. 66
  30. ^ Conference Report, October 1900, page 42, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1900sa/conferencereport711chur#page/42/mode/2up/.
  31. ^ He died in office. J. M. Sjodahl, “President Anthon H. Lund,” Improvement Era, April 1921, page 499, https://archive.org/stream/improvementera2406unse#page/498/mode/2up.
  32. ^ Zobell, Albert L. (March 1971). "In Memoriam: A. William Lund (1886–1971)". Ensign. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  33. ^ Conference Report, April 1921, page 189, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1921a#page/n189/mode/2up/.
  34. ^ “New First Presidency Called,” Church News, 24 Jan 1970, page 3.
  35. ^ "Church Historian’s Office Appointments". Ensign. March 1972. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  36. ^ Conference Report, April 1970, page 110, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1970a#page/n113/mode/2up.
  37. ^ Conference Report, April 1972, page 9, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1972a#page/n11/mode/2up.
  38. ^ a b c Anderson, Lavina Fielding (July 2005), "A Note on Church Historians", By Common Consent (Salt Lake City: Mormon Alliance) 11 (3), archived from the original on 2014-10-28 
  39. ^ "Noted LDS historian R. Davis Bitton dies", Deseret Morning News, 2007-04-16.
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ He was only sustained as Church Historian, Conference Report, April 1972, page 9, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1972a#page/n11/mode/2up.
  42. ^ Fletcher, Peggy (April 1985). "Church Historian: Evolution of a Calling" (PDF). Sunstone 10 (4): 46–8. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  43. ^ "News of the Church: Elder G. Homer Durham Dies". Ensign. Mar 1985. 
  44. ^ Conference Report, April 1982, page 96, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1982a#page/n99/mode/2up.
  45. ^ a b 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. 
  46. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (May 1985). "The Sustaining of Church Officers". Ensign. 
  47. ^ a b c Faust, James E. (November 1997). "The Sustaining of Church Officers". Ensign. 
  48. ^ a b "Elder Larsen to speak at 18-stake fireside". Deseret News. January 30, 1991. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  49. ^ a b "New General Authority Assignments Announced". Ensign: 74–80. August 1993. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  50. ^ a b "New Area Presidencies". Ensign: 71–73. August 1996. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  51. ^ Anderson, Lavina Fielding (Spring 1993). "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership - A Contemporary Chronology". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 (1): 11. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  52. ^ "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. 
  53. ^ a b c Joseph Walker (October 2, 2012). "Emeritus general authorities welcome the chance to practice what they've preached". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  54. ^ Conference Report, April 2005, page 25, https://archive.org/stream/conferencereport2005a#page/n27/mode/2up.
  55. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (May 28, 2005). "Historian by yearning' collects, preserves: Elder Marlin K. Jensen is historian/recorder". Church News. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  56. ^ a b "Richard E. Turley Jr. Named Assistant Church Historian and Recorder", Newsroom (LDS Church), 2012-03-12 
  57. ^ a b "Richard E. Turley Jr. Appointed as New Managing Director of Church Public Affairs: Michael Otterson to retire after 40 years with department", Newsroom (LDS Church), 2016-04-26 
  58. ^ Jensen, Marlin K.; Boone, David F. (2007). "A Historian by Yearning: A Conversation with Elder Marlin K. Jensen". Religious Educator 8 (3): 6. Archived from the original on 2014-10-22. 
  59. ^ “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” Ensign, November 2012, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/11/the-sustaining-of-church-officers
  60. ^ LDS.org Steven E. Snow Biography
  61. ^ "Reid L. Neilson Named Assistant Church Historian and Recorder", Newsroom (LDS Church), 2015-01-23 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]