Who better to give an overview of assistant church historians than the current assistant church historian? Richard E. Turley, Jr. spoke on Friday afternoon to BYU's Church History Symposium. The theme for this year's symposium was \"Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints.\" Turley explained the role of assistant church historians and what they contributed to Mormon history.Wilford Woodruff, who later became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was baptized in 1833 and ordained an apostle in 1839. He became assistant church historian in the 1850s. His personal journal was a primary source for much of compilation of the Documentary History of the Church project. Turley quoted B. H. Roberts on how \"no one will surpass in excellence and permanence or largeness the service which Wilford Woodruff has given to the Church of Jesus Christ\" by keeping a journal for 63 years. Wilford Woodruff became church historian in 1883 and served until he became president of the church in 1889.Franklin D. Richards worked for his uncle, former church historian Willard Richards, in Nauvoo. Franklin D. Richards, who became an apostle in 1849, wrote what Turley called \"one of the key doctrinal works of the nineteenth century, \"Compendium of the Faith and Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.\" Years later, in 1884, he became Assistant Church Historian and, in 1889, Church Historian.John Jaques joined the LDS Church in England where he wrote \"Catechism for Children.\" He emigrated in 1856 and was part of the Martin handcart company. He became assistant church historian in 1889 and worked on Orson F. Whitney's \"History of Utah.\" He died in 1900.Charles W. Penrose was an editor of the Deseret News and other papers. He became an assistant church historian in 1896 and compiled a scrapbook of church history called the \"Journal History of the Church.\" He also wrote a popular series of missionary pamphlets before being released in 1899. He became an apostle in 1904.Andrew Jenson was born in Denmark and came to Utah as a child. He was sent by the First Presidency in 1888 to tour church history sites and, beginning in 1889, to document the history of every church unit in the world. When he returned he was appointed assistant church historian. He wrote many books and articles on church history. \"His legacy of narrative history has benefited many who have studied the history of the church,\" Turley said.Orson F. Whitney was one of the editors of the \"Journal of Discourses.\" He wrote a biography of his grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, and was sustained as assistant church historian in 1902 but released when he became an apostle four years later.Amos Milton Musser received a special commission from the First Presidency in 1876 to work in the historian's office to \"keep track of all the persecutions of the church,\" according to Turley. He became an assistant church historian in 1902 and died in 1909.Brigham H. Roberts, better known as B.H. Roberts, was called to the First Council of the Seventy at age 31 and as assistant church historian in 1902 where he worked on the \"History of the Church.\" He published many books including his own \"A Comprehensive History of the Church.\"Joseph Fielding Smith worked in the historian's office at the turn of the century. He traveled to many church history sites. He defended the church against politicians and engaged in debates with members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ). He became assistant church historian in 1906. He continued in that role after becoming an apostle in 1910. In 1921 he became church historian until he became president of the church in 1970.A. William Lund became assistant church historian in 1911. His main work was not in publishing books and articles, but \"answering questions and helping people do research,\" according to Turley. \"(A)nd he was less helpful if he felt the information would be used to the church's detriment.\"Junius Free Wells, son of Daniel H. Wells, helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth by buying the birth site on behalf of the church and overseeing the construction of a granite monument. He became assistant church historian in 1921. Turley remarked on his special talent of acquiring historical data and photographs for the church's collections.Preston Nibley wrote articles in church magazines from 1909 to 1963. He became assistant church historian in 1957. Turley believes his greatest contribution is the many books he published. Nibley died in 1966.Earl E. Olson began as a typist for his grandfather, Andrew Jenson, in 1933 in the church historian's office. He stayed there until his retirement in 1986. He became assistant church historian in 1965, church archivist in 1972 and assistant managing director in 1974. He lives in Bountiful, Utah.James B. Allen became assistant church historian under Leonard J. Arrington in 1972. He worked with Glen M. Leonard to publish \"The Story of the Latter-day Saints\" in 1976. After seven years he returned to teach at BYU.Davis Bitton was also called in 1972 as assistant church historian. Bitton worked with Arrington on the volume \"The Mormon Experience\" which was published in 1979. When the history division of the church historical department was transferred to BYU he returned to teaching at the University of Utah. He died in 2007.Turley became assistant church historian on March 12, 2008. He said it was a quarter century since anyone had held that title. His focus in his presentation, however, was not on himself but on those who had \"performed invaluable service in laying the foundations for church history.\"
Assisting Mormon history
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