Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Arrington Lecture: September 23, 2010, at Logan, Utah

Arrington Lecture: September 23, 2010, at Logan, Utah

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 09, 2010

Sixteenth Annual


Susan Arrington Madsen and Carl Arrington


“A Paper Mountain: The Extraordinary Diary of Leonard James Arrington”

Thursday, September 23, 2010, at 7 p.m.
Logan LDS Tabernacle
50 N. Main, Logan, Utah

The lecture is free and open to the public.
Call 435-797-2663 with questions

The people of the Great Basin Kingdom are not often likely to witness a scholar, father, friend, mentor and Latter-day Saint of the stature of Leonard James Arrington. Along the way, Leonard Arrington was writing about all of these experiences in a diary – a diary that would eventually occupy 26 linear feet on the shelf at USU Special Collections. The record includes some 60,000 pages – roughly two pages per day for all of his eighty-three years until his death in 1999. The diary reveals in gritty detail not just his adventures as a church historian, but the history of many Cache Valley characters. It also provides a treasure-trove of information on his personal trials, triumphs, and disappointments, along with his joys as a friend, father, and scholar. This presentation provides a sampler of stories, hidden deeds, private opinions about public controversies, and insights into a man who was hailed variously as a genius, a dangerous menace, a valiant friend, and a wise father.

Susan Arrington Madsen grew up in Logan where she graduated from Utah State University with a degree in journalism. During her years at USU, she was awarded an internship with the LDS Church Magazines, wrote for the USU student newspaper as a senior staff writer, and wrote more than 40 articles for Collier’s Encyclopedia Yearbooks. Susan currently lives in Hyde Park, Utah.

Carl Arrington, the second son (middle child) of Leonard and Grace Arrington, was born in Logan, Utah, in 1951. He grew up in Cache Valley attending Adams Elementary, Logan Junior High, Logan High and Utah State University. Carl currently works as a freelance writer and media consultant. He lives in New York City.

All college students are invited to participate in a writing competition
in connection with this lecture.
Cash awards will be given.

sponsored by

Special Collections & Archives; Merrill-Cazier Library;
The Leonard J. Arrington Lecture and Archives Foundation;
College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and
Utah State University



  1. Well that is fascinating. I hadn’t realized his diary was so voluminous. Will it be the Woodruff Journal of the Twentieth Century?

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 9, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

  2. Susan has got to make a compilation of this diary. She certainly has the skill to do it correctly. I knew her during my USU days when she – along with Pauline Summers and Carol Harmer – made up a wonderful female writing staff for “Student Life” and I was a studentbody officer. What a treat it would be to own something to go hand-in-hand with Br. Arrington’s wonderful books.

    Comment by larryco_ — August 10, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  3. Looking forward to it.

    Comment by BHodges — September 8, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  4. This presentation, given in tandem, by Carl Arrington and his sister, Susan Arrington Madsen, was both informative and entertaining. Brother Leonard J. Arrington’s diaries are indeed extensive, 30,000 typewritten pages which, when bound and placed in chronological order, cover about 26 linear feet of shelf space in the Special Collections department of the U.S.U. library. The children of the late Church Historian, gave the listeners some warm insights into the character and nature of their esteemed father. Brother Arrington was a man without pretention, a warm, compassionate, empathetic, non-judgemental listener who counted among his friends innumerable faithful Latter-day Saints, closet doubters, RLDS (now Community of Christ) historians and members, non-Mormons, as well as some anti-Mormons. Brother Arrington was a kind, caring man with a great sense of humor. His humor was never at the expense of others. As a young soldier, he showed a mischevious side of his youthful zeal when, on a tour of the church of St. John Lateran in Rome, traditional site of the coronation of Roman Catholic Popes, he waited for an opportune moment when the guards weren’t looking and bounded over the velvet rope, ran up the staircase, and briefly seated himself on the bronze throne of the Popes. No doubt, Brother Arrington is the only Latter-day Saint ever to occupy that august seat. He had a merciless work ethic and set for himself the highest, non-negotiable standards of scholarship. His fame as an historian began with the publican of his “Great Basin Kingdom” by the Harvard University Press, which after a half century is still in print today. This volume is now universally recognised as the definitive work on the economic history of the pioneer Latter-day Saints and of the settlement of the American southwest.
    Well deserved credit was also given to Brother Arrington’s wife, Grace, who with boundless energy and elegance, fulfilled her role as beloved wife, caring mother, and moral support for her scholar husband and their gifted children. Her loss late in his life left him at the mercy of his own cooking, which led him to the discovery of how ‘imprecise’ the directions on prepared foods can be. Carl and Susan didn’t dwell on the challenges which their father faced as Church Historian. They did affirm, and the audience concurred, that the recent publication by the Church of the volume on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Joseph Smith Papers were a vindication of the standards of highest scholarship that he tried so vigorously to establish during his tenure as L.D.S. Church Historian. Finally, Carl and Susan told of the family’s decision that the dairies should remain full and un-edited, just as they were written and stand as a reference for future historians. I am sure that if the spirit of Brother Arrington had been granted a visitation to the Logan Tabernacle he would have been much gratified by the presence of so many assembled to celebrate his life and work. If those in the balcony had joined those seated on the main floor, the pews would have been full, or very nearly so. Many listeners lingered afterwards to speak to Carl and Susan who remained to greet and visit with anyone caring to do so. The lecture was well worth the time and the drive to Logan and I would encourage anyone to attend in the future.

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — September 24, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  5. Transcript up at logp.

    Comment by BHodges — September 24, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  6. Thank you for that summary and review, Velikye. (Good thing LJA was a soldier when he was briefly pope — if he’d been a missionary, we’d never hear the end of it!) I wish I could have been there.

    And BHodges, what can anybody say? After all the mock squabble elsewhere over who was first or best or most complete with the announcement, we’re all hares left in the dust by the speed of your transcription. Thanks. (In case anyone doesn’t recognize it, logp = Life on Gold Plates, with a link on BHodges’ signature).

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 24, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

  7. Interesting notes, V. K. It sounds like a fascinating lecture. And I’ll have to go read BHodges’ notes when I have some time over the weekend. Thanks to both of you.

    Comment by Researcher — September 24, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  8. I think that it is interesting that Karl and Susan did not mention his second marriage to Harriet. Leonard did not have to cook for himself very long. Harriet is still living, but was not there last night.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — September 24, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

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