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Posted 07 Dec 2001   For week ended November 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 27Nov01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Church, USU Resolve Dispute over Arrington Papers

LOGAN, UTAH -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Utah State University Saturday resolved their dispute over the ownership of papers donated to the University by the late LDS Church historian Leonard Arrington. Saturday Arrington family attorney George Daines claimed that a few documents transferred last week to the LDS Church were among the Arrington papers in error. "We concluded that these documents were never part of Dr. Arrington's collection, nor did he know these were part of the collection," Daines said. The agreement leaves the vast bulk of the collection, which might be called the 'Archives of Camelot,' at USU and open to researchers.

The agreement, reached Wednesday and announced on Saturday, resolves a dispute that arose in mid October after the USU Library opened the Arrington papers to the general public on October 11th. The papers, which include thousands of documents in 658 boxes, were examined by a team of employees within the week, and by the end of the week lawyer Berne S. Broadbent, of law firm Kirton and McConkie which often represents the LDS Church, had sent a letter to the University claiming ownership of documents in 148 of the boxes, and asking that they be sequestered. Eventually, the lawyers provided the university with a six-page long list of documents they believed belonged to the Church, which was later published in Utah newspapers as a list of 92 items.

USU's response to the letter was cautious, "We are taking a cautious, deliberate approach, analyzing each individual document that the LDS Church has asked us to sequester," said F. Ross Peterson, professor emeritus of American history at USU. "In order to do that with competence and thoroughness, it will take quite a bit of time." The university claimed that it had an obligation to Arrington's estate and heirs to follow his wishes. Hoping to avoid legal conflict, the university sought to negotiate with the Church.

The question of ownership and access to historical documents was a difficult one in this case, both because it isn't always clear where and when Arrington obtained his documents and because of the history of access to documents at the LDS Church's archives. In addition, the Church and USU had opposing moral reasons for their positions. Richard Turley, managing director of the Church's Department of Family and Church History said, "We consider [the documents] are of a sacred, private and confessional nature. We have a moral obligation to keep them private." USU, on the other hand, said it had a moral obligation to Arrington's wishes and to historians, who want the documents accessible for research.

Behind USU's position and the support of academics is their experience with getting access to the LDS Church's archives before, during and after Arrington's tenure as LDS Church historian. Named Church Historian in 1972, the first and only time a professional historian had been named to the post, Arrington's tenure was marked by a new open policy and accelerated publication of Church history. Researchers got access to documents previously closed and Arrington and his staff launched an ambitious publishing program meant to publish a multiple volumes on aspects of the history of the Church. But this era, still known among Mormon historians as "Camelot," lasted just ten years, ending when the Church released and transferred Arrington and much of his staff to the newly formed Joseph Fielding Smith Institute at BYU. Historians claim that following Arrington's transfer, access to some of the Church's archives was restricted.

During his tenure, Arrington apparently had an agreement with the Church allowing him to make copies of documents, borrow other documents from the archives, and to transcribe others. At least some of this activity was covered by a June 8th, 1980 agreement, a copy of which the Church provided to USU during the dispute, under which Arrington agreed to return any documents he borrowed and to not make copies of those documents. But USU points out that this document doesn't make clear which documents are covered, and the Church was apparently not able to come up with an original copy of the agreement. Historians claim that the arrangement is somewhat unusual, because institutions generally permit them to copy documents at will, and the copies then belong to the researchers.

At least some historians and even church members were bothered by the Church's claim on part of the collection. John Hatch, a "lifelong believing and faithful Mormon" who was a supervisor at Church-owned Deseret Book, even went so far as to write a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune saying he was "appalled" at the Church's claim and adding "The Church should be ashamed of itself," he wrote. According to a later report in that newspaper, Hatch was fired by Deseret Book after the letter was printed, although the company won't say why.

With newspaper stories on the dispute, starting October 25th, discussing the possibility of lawsuits, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley sought compromise, calling USU President Kermit L. Hall to ask for some way to resolve the issue. On November 9th the Church and USU jointly announced that a committee had been formed to review the documents and recommend a resolution. The committee was headed jointly by President Hinckley and USU President Hall and included, for the LDS Church, General Authorities W. Rolfe Kerr and Quentin L. Cooke, Richard E. Turley and Berne S. Broadbent. USU's representatives included USU provost and LDS academic Stan Albrecht, USU attorney Craig Simper and Arrington family lawyer, N. George Daines.

After the committee met three times in person, and once by phone, it was Daines, in the end, who proposed the resolution to the dispute. He noticed that the disputed documents included temple-related materials and minutes of the meetings of LDS Church leaders, and concluded that since Dr. Arrington was a faithful, temple-recommend-carrying LDS Church member, he wouldn't have included in his papers documents on aspects of the temple that members are asked not to disclose outside the temple. He also concluded that the minutes of the meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve had been collected in response to a specific research assignment from the Church, and were therefore clearly in the collection in error, "Members of these quorums are assured that their recorded comments and deliberations will forever be regarded as confidential," Daines wrote in a letter to both the Church and USU. He said that Arrington was "intimately familiar with the policy and reasons for it. There is no record that Dr. Arrington ever disputed this church policy, or, in any manner, encouraged or participated in its violation."

Using this logic, Daines asked USU to return three documents to the Arrington family: a copy of the Book of Anointings, which describe temple rituals, portions of the diaries of LDS Apostle Heber C. Kimball covering 1845 and 1846, which discuss temple rituals, and partial copies of minutes from meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve including selected meetings from 1877 through 1950. Of the list of 92 items published by Utah newspapers, these make up portions of three items. After receiving the documents back from USU, the family then returned them to the LDS Church.

Both Daines and USU President Hall appeared in a news conference Saturday to answer questions about the agreement. The university announced that the collection would be open to the public on Monday.


USU Gives LDS Church Some of Historian's Papers
Salt Lake Tribune 25Nov01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

LDS and USU end tiff over papers
Deseret News 25Nov01 N1
By Linda Thomson: Deseret News staff writer

Church to reclaim papers
Logan UT Herald Journal 25Nov01 N1
By Arrin Brunson
USU, family agree small part of donation 'a mistake'

LDS Faith Protective Of Its Past
Salt Lake Tribune 11Nov01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

Board Seeks Truce in Document Fight
Salt Lake Tribune 10Nov01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

A step forward for USU, church
Deseret News 10Nov01 N1
By Lynn Arave: Deseret News staff writer
Board to help decide how to handle papers

USU-LDS board to review collection
Logan UT Herald Journal 10Nov01 N1
By Arrin Brunson

Rolly &Wells: Ags Demand 'Ransom' for Documents
Salt Lake Tribune 9Nov01 N1
By Paul Rolly and JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells: Tribune Columnists

Documents Debate May Go to Court
Salt Lake Tribune 2Nov01 N1
By Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

Control of LDS History at Heart of USU Flap
Salt Lake Tribune 28Oct01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

BAGLEY: LDS Historian Was Faithful, Mentor to Many
Salt Lake Tribune -28Oct01 P2
By Will Bagley

USU Caught in Paper Chase
Salt Lake Tribune 27Oct01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

Church Calls Its Claim to Papers Of Late USU Professor 'Ironclad'
Salt Lake Tribune 26Oct01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

Church gives 'proof' to USU
Deseret News 26Oct01 N1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor

Arrington Documents Under Dispute
Salt Lake Tribune 26Oct01 N1

List of documents: Quorum of the Twelve Apostles minutes
Deseret News 26Oct01 N1

LDS Church, USU Bicker Over Papers
Salt Lake Tribune 25Oct01 N1
By Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kirsten Stewart: Salt Lake Tribune

USU and church are at odds over historical papers
Deseret News 25Oct01 N1
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor


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