Richard E. Turley Jr.

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Richard E. Turley Jr.
Born (1956-02-18) February 18, 1956 (age 61)
Fort Worth, Texas
Nationality American
Education English (B.A. 1982) (J.D. 1985)
Alma mater Brigham Young University
J. Reuben Clark Law School
Occupation Assistant Church Historian
Years active 20
Employer The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Known for Writings on LDS history
LDS Church historical program
Spouse(s) Shirley Swensen Turley
Children 6
Parent(s) Richard E. Turley Sr.
Relatives Theodore Turley

Richard Eyring "Rick" Turley Jr. (born February 18, 1956)[1] is an American historian and genealogist, and an Assistant Church Historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). On April 26, 2016, the church announced that he would succeed Michael Otterson as the managing director of the church's Public Affairs Department, effective September 1, 2016.[2]


Turley was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Richard and Betty Jean Nickle Turley.[1] His father, a nuclear engineer, scientist and professor, would later become a mission president and general authority of the LDS Church.[3]

Turley attended high school in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he met Shirley Swensen. They would later marry in the Salt Lake Temple and have six children. Turley aspired to be a lawyer, by his father's urging, and an Institute of Religion teacher, by his deep personal interest in LDS Church history. From 1975 to 1977, Turley served as an LDS missionary to the Japan Tokyo Mission.[1]

After returning from Japan, Turley studied at Brigham Young University (BYU) as a Spencer W. Kimball Scholar, receiving a B. A. in English in 1982.[4] Then, at BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School, he was editor of the law review and elected to the Order of the Coif. Upon graduation in April 1985, Turley received the Hugh B. Brown Barrister's Award for top classroom performance.[1][5]

Church employment[edit]

After passing the Utah State Bar examination, Turley practiced law briefly before being hired by the LDS Church in January 1986. He was appointed Assistant Managing Director of the Historical Department, to replace the retiring Earl Olson.[1][6]

At this time, the department was already heavily involved in the investigation of Mark Hofmann, the historical documents forger who attempted to hide his fraud by murder during the previous October.[1] Turley's legal training helped the department which had examined and acquired several Hoffman forgeries (though some argued it was to hide their controversy).[6]

Watching the case unfold in the press and in books, Turley felt misconceptions lingered from the media frenzy. To tell the story from the perspectives of the murder victims and the LDS Church (which Turley believed had been misrepresented) he published Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case in 1992 through the University of Illinois Press. Though he wrote the book without church direction, his trusted position granted him church leaders' support and access to interviews, diaries, journals, memoranda, and other records.[1]

Expanded role[edit]

Turley was appointed Managing Director of the Historical Department in 1989,[7] and in 1996 he also became Managing Director of the Family History Department. In 2000, the two departments merged into the Family and Church History Department, over which Turley remained as Managing Director.[8]

In these roles, Turley oversaw the Church Archives, the Church History Library, and the Museum of Church History and Art, the Family History Library, the FamilySearch Center, the Granite Mountain Records Vault, and over 4,000 branch family history centers. These comprise one of the largest collections of Mormon history, western history, and genealogy in the world.[5] As a person of authority in LDS history and past defender of the church in the Hofmann controversy, Turley later became one of three official LDS Church respondents to a popular 2003 book critical of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.[9]

Digital projects[edit]

In the department, Turley managed several notable electronic projects. FamilySearch, a massive genealogical database website, was launched in 1999. Other records were also released on CD-ROM, including the Freedman’s Bank (of African-American records), the Mormon Immigration Index, European Vital Records Indexes, and 1880s censuses, including the 1881 British Census, which won the Besterman/McColvin Award from the Library Association of Great Britain.[5] For these efforts, and restoring several LDS historic sites, Turley received the Historic Preservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2004.[10]

In 2002, BYU Press published Selected Collections From the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Turley edited. On 74 DVDs, this released numerous important and rare early documents of the church, which some scholars and historians called "the most important event in modern Mormon publishing,"[11] and "an achievement of such significance that no praise, no matter how effusive, seems sufficiently laudatory."[12]

Assistant Church Historian[edit]

More changes came to the department after Marlin K. Jensen became Church Historian in 2005. The department again staffed professional researchers, the Joseph Smith Papers Project sharply expanded, and a new Church History Library was announced.

On March 12, 2008, the Family and Church History Department announced it was becoming two departments again: the Family History Department and the Church History Department.[13] In addition, Turley became the Assistant Church Historian,[14] an ecclesiastical position that was unfilled for over 25 years. Steven L. Olsen, the department's Associate Managing Director, took Turley's old position of Managing Director.[15]

For his contributions to public history while overseeing the church's archives, records, museums, and historic sites, Turley was awarded the 2013 Herbert Feis Award from the American Historical Association.[16][17]


Turley has been involved with several genealogical and historical organizations.

Historical philosophy[edit]

In 1992, Turley commented on how Mormon history can affect the faith of LDS Church members:

Some people may wish to base their faith on historical evidence. While historical information can be useful, interesting and can provide insights to individuals, I don't think that it's the sure foundation of faith. The sure foundation of faith is spiritual and not physical. ... [T]he more an individual learns about the history of the Church, the greater that individual's understanding will be of the overall picture. Thus, every piece of evidence will be viewed against the total picture. Otherwise, people who do not have much knowledge of Church history may find themselves being tossed to and fro by tidbits from the past.[1]



Edited volumes[edit]

Articles and chapters[edit]

In addition to the following, Turley contributed seven articles to the Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (2000).


  • Turley, Theodore (1982). Turley, Richard E. Jr., ed. Theodore Turley: Mission Journal, 1839-1840. Honor's thesis. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University. 
  • Turley, Ida Elizabeth Eyring (1997). Turley, Richard E. Jr., ed. The Diary of Ida Elizabeth Eyring Turley: 1874-1952. Salt Lake City: s.n. 
  • Turley, Richard E. Jr., ed. (2002). Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [electronic resource], 2 volumes. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press. 
  • —— (2006). Why Can't I Forget My Sins?. [sound recording]. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. ISBN 1-59038-553-5. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lloyd, R. Scott (October 17, 1992). "History devotee has Church's chronicles under his watchcare". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  2. ^ Tribune, Peggy Fletcher Stack The Salt Lake. "Assistant church historian to oversee Mormon public affairs". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2016-04-26. 
  3. ^ Lewis, William O. "Richard Eyring Turley, Sr.". Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  4. ^ Cracroft, Richard H. (Fall 2008). "Historical Miscellanea". BYU Magazine. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Biography - Richard E. Turley Jr.". Newsroom. Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church. March 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  6. ^ a b Turley, Richard E., Jr. (1992). Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-252-01885-5. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  7. ^ John K. Carmack was Managing Director until 1989 (see this article from Encyclopedia of Mormonism), which is when Turley was referred to as Managing Director in Thompson, Jan (May 27, 1989). "Historian Pursuing 'Untold' Side of Hofmann Tale". Deseret News. pp. B1. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  8. ^ "Family History, History departments joined". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. June 10, 2000. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  9. ^ "Church Response to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven". Newsroom. LDS Church. June 27, 2003. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  10. ^ Hart, John L. (May 1, 2004). "Preserve roots to protect collective memory". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  11. ^ Kenney, Scott. "Selected Collections Review". Saints Without Halos. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  12. ^ Bergera, Gary James. "MHA 2003 Book Reviews Published in the Journal of Mormon History". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  13. ^ Jared T. (March 12, 2008). "Breaking News: Changes in Family and Church History Department Organization". Juvenile Instructor (blog). Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  14. ^ a b c "Richard E. Turley Jr. Named Assistant Church Historian and Recorder". Newsroom. Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church. March 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  15. ^ "U.S. landmark". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. April 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  16. ^ "Herbert Feis Award Recipients". American Historical Association. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  17. ^ Tad Walch (January 10, 2014). "LDS Church historian wins major award, credits church employees and missionaries". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  18. ^ a b "Editorial Board Bios". The Joseph Smith Papers. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  19. ^ "About the Contributors". The BYU Family Historian. Provo, Utah: Center for Family History and Genealogy, Brigham Young University. 1 (1): 54. Fall 2002. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  20. ^ Llyod, R. Scott (July 21, 1990). "Seeking to identify pioneers". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  21. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (May 14, 2005). "Prophet's worlds: Joseph Smith conference at Library of Congress". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 

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