Leonard J. Arrington

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Leonard J. Arrington
Leonard Arrington 1950s.jpeg
Born Leonard James Arrington
(1917-07-02)July 2, 1917
Twin Falls, Idaho, U.S.
Died February 11, 1999(1999-02-11) (aged 81)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Logan City Cemetery
Nationality American
Education Ph.D (Economics)
Alma mater University of Idaho
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation Historian
University professor
Employer Utah State University
Brigham Young University
Known for LDS Church Historian, 1972-1982
Writings in Mormon history
Spouse(s) Grace Fort
Harriett Ann Horne
Children 3
Parent(s) Noah and Edna Arrington

Leonard James Arrington (July 2, 1917 – February 11, 1999) was an American author, academic and the founder of the Mormon History Association. He is known as the "Dean of Mormon History"[1] and "the Father of Mormon History"[2] because of his many influential contributions to the field.

Biographical background

Arrington was born in Twin Falls, Idaho on July 2, 1917. His parents, Noah and Edna, were devout Latter-day Saints and farmers. He grew up as an aspiring farmer and active member and one of the first national officers of the National FFA Organization.[1] Under a scholarship to the University of Idaho, Arrington studied agricultural science in 1935, later changing to agricultural economics.[3] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1939.[4] Arrington then began graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and married Grace Fort in 1942.[1]

From 1943 to 1946, he had to leave his wife Grace to serve in World War II for the United States in North Africa and Italy.[1]

After teaching in Logan, Utah, he returned and completed a doctorate in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in March 1952. In 1958, Harvard University Press published his Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, based on his doctoral dissertation, Mormon Economic Policies and Their Implementation on the Western Frontier, 1847-1900.[1]

Arrington remained an active and devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout his life. In 1982, his wife Grace Fort died, and in 1983 Arrington was remarried to Harriett Ann Horne.[5]

On February 11, 1999 at the age of 81, Arrington died of heart failure at his home in Salt Lake City.[6]

Academic career

Arrington taught at North Carolina State College from 1941 until 1942. He was a professor at Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah (which became Utah State University in 1957) from 1946-1972. For a year leave during 1956-1957, he was a fellow at the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California.[7] From 1958-1959, he was a Fulbright Professor of American Economics at the University of Genoa in Italy, and from 1966-1967 he was a visiting professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.[1] From 1972-87 he was Lemuel H. Redd Jr. Professor of Western American History at Brigham Young University. In 1977, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Idaho (his alma mater), and in 1982 Utah State University awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.[4]


In 2005,[8] in honor of Dr. Arrington, Utah State University created the Leonard J. Arrington Chair in Mormon History and Culture, which was sponsored by more than 45 donors. This chair is the first position at a public institution specifically for the study of Mormon history and culture. In Fall 2007, this chair was first filled by Philip Barlow.[9] The university hosts the Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture Series, in which Arrington himself gave the inaugural lecture in 1996.[10]

Historical associations

Arrington helped establish the Mormon History Association in 1965 and served as its first president in 1966–1967.[7] He also created the Western Historical Quarterly and served as president of the Western History Association (1968–69), the Agricultural History Society (1969–70), and the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association (1981–82).[4]

For his distinction in writing American history he was awarded the Western History Association Prize in 1984[11] and he was made a Fellow of the Society of American Historians in 1986.[5]

In 2002 he was posthumously awarded the first annual Lifetime Achievement Award by the John Whitmer Historical Association.[2] Starting in 1999 after his death, the Mormon History Association created the annual Leonard J. Arrington Award, awarded for distinguished and meritorious service to Mormon history.[12]

LDS Church Historian

In 1972, Arrington was appointed official Church Historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and was simultaneously appointed as "Lemuel H. Redd Professor of Western History" and Founding Director of the "Charles Redd Center for Western Studies" at Brigham Young University (BYU). The "Church Historian's Office" was transformed into the church's "Historical Department", and Arrington was made director of its research-oriented "History Division".[citation needed]

During his time in the office, Arrington embarked on an ambitious program of sponsoring the writing of LDS Church histories in the academic style. Among the best known works from this "New Mormon History" were two general Church histories, one aimed at LDS Church members, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, and one for interested outsiders, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. Arrington also granted liberal access to Church archival material to both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars. This era is sometimes referred to as “Camelot” due to its open and idealistic ethos.[citation needed]


The Church transferred its History Division to BYU in 1982, bringing the era of open Church Archives to a close. Working in a new Brigham Young University division, the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, brought Arrington into a more static situation, as he no longer divided his time between Church Headquarters and BYU. In February 1982, he was privately released as Church Historian and director of the History Division. These positions were assumed by the Historical Department's Managing Director G. Homer Durham, who was also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. At the April 1982 General Conference, the change was not formally announced and Arrington did not receive the traditional vote of thanks for his service.[13]

Arrington continued on as director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History until his retirement in 1987. In 2005, the Institute was closed and the department's historians were returned to Church Headquarters.


Arrington was a prolific writer and throughout his career he published numerous books and articles on Utah, Mormon, and western U.S. history, with a variety of publishers and journals. His first book, Great Basin Kingdom (1958), is still considered one of the significant books in Mormon history.[1]

Published works

The following is only a partial list of Arrington's published works:

  • Arrington, Leonard J. (1958). Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900. Harvard University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1966). Beet Sugar in the West: A History of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1891-1966. University of Washington Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Thomas G. Alexander (1974). Dean L. May, ed. A Dependent Commonwealth: Utah's Economy from Statehood to the Great Depression. BYU Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1974). Charles C. Rich, Mormon General and Western Frontiersman. BYU Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1975). David Eccles: Pioneer Western Industrialist. Utah State University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; May, Dean; Fox, Feramorz Y. (1976). Building the City of God: Community & Cooperation Among the Mormons. Deseret Book.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1976). From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley. Deseret Book.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Bitton, Davis (1979). The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. Alfred A. Knopf.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Bartholomew, Rebecca (1981). Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies. BYU Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Bitton, Davis (1981). Saints without Halos: The Human Side of Mormon History. Signature Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Madsen, Susan Arrington (1984). Sunbonnet Sisters. Bookcraft.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1985). Brigham Young: American Moses. Alfred A. Knopf.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Madsen, Susan Arrington (1987). Mothers of the Prophets. Deseret Book.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • ——; Bitton, Davis (1988). Mormons and Their Historians. University of Utah Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1994). History of Idaho (2 vols.). University of Idaho Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • —— (1998). Adventures of a Church Historian. University of Illinois Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Great Basin Kingdom (1958)
Award of Merit (American Association for State and Local History)
Best First Book (Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association)
Best Article Award (Mormon History Association)
  • "Intolerable Zion: The Image of Mormonism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature" (1968), article in Western Humanities Review
Best Article Award (Mormon History Association)
  • Building the City of God (1976)
Best Book Award (Mormon History Association)
  • The Mormon Experience (1979)
Best Book Award (Mormon History Association)
  • Brigham Young: American Moses (1985)
Best Book Award (Mormon History Association)
Evans Biography Award (Utah State University)
Nominated, National Book Critics Circle Award
  • Adventures of a Church Historian (1998)
Special citation (Mormon History Association)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Biography". Leonard J. Arrington Papers. Utah State University Libraries. Retrieved 2008-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "2002 Lifetime Achievement Award". John Whitmer Historical Association. 2002. Retrieved 2008-07-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Walker, Ronald W. (2004-12-01). "Introduction to the Illinois Edition". Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900; New Edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. xii. ISBN 978-0-252-07283-3. Retrieved 2008-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Leonard J. Arrington". UI Alumni Association Hall of Fame - 1984. University of Idaho Alumni & Friends.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  6. Saxon, Wolfgang (February 13, 1999). "Leonard J. Arrington, 81, Mormon Historian". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Leonard James Arrington Chronology". Leonard J. Arrington Papers. Utah State University Libraries. Retrieved 2008-07-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Mormon History Association Newsletter" (PDF). 40 (1). Mormon History Association: 6. Retrieved 2008-07-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Welcome". Program in Religious Studies. Utah State University. Retrieved 2008-07-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The Collected Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lectures". Books. Utah State University Press. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  12. "MHA Awards". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2008-07-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Anderson, Lavina Fielding (July 2005). "A Note on Church Historians". By Common Consent (newsletter). Salt Lake City: Mormon Alliance. 11 (3). Archived from the original on 2008-08-20<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[unreliable source?]


External links