LEHI — Richard S. Van Wagoner, author of many works on early Mormon history, has died. He was 64.
His daughter, Jenny Woods, said Van Wagoner died unexpectedly Sunday evening at home. She said he didn't feel well after doing some yard work and had gone to bed early.
"He was passionate about all types of learning," Woods said. "He loved music and he especially loved his family."
Van Wagoner was a clinical audiologist by profession and ironically lost his hearing due to otosclerosis about 30 years ago. His hearing was partially restored in 2001 with a cochlear implant.
He was best known for his books on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His book, "Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess," won awards from the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association. Other works include "Mormon Polygamy: A History," "A Book of Mormons" (co-authored with Steven C. Walker), and the five-volume "The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young" all of which were published by Signature Books.
He also wrote "Lehi: Portraits of a Utah Town" and was the city's historical archivist.
Van Wagoner recently finished writing the first book of a planned three-volume biography of Joseph Smith tentatively titled "Joseph Smith, the Life of a Mormon Prophet" to be published late next year by Signature Books. The other two volumes are by Scott Kenney and Martha Sonntag Bradley.
Bradley, who is a professor of architecture and the dean of the honors college at the University of Utah said, "He was such an amazing and wonderful man. He was the most meticulous researcher I've ever met. The search was always something exciting for him."1 comment on this story
In a prepared statement by Signature Books, Van Wagoner — a member of Signature's editorial board — was called a "trailblazer in Mormon studies" and described as "engaging, caring, inquisitive and a beautiful individual and we will miss him dearly."
Funeral services will be held at the Lehi 2nd Ward LDS chapel at 435 E 300 North in Lehi, Saturday at Noon. A viewing will be held at Wing Mortuary, 118 E. Main in Lehi, Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. and also one hour before the funeral begins on Saturday. Interment is at the Lehi City Cemetery.