Controversy over Arrington collection is history
Leonard Arrington wanted his 750-box collection of personal papers, books, speeches and research to be archived at Utah State University, where it would be available to researchers in the Special Collections and Archives at Merrill-Cazier Library.
But within three years of his death in 1999, a dispute erupted over ownership of his massive collection, which includes his 50-box diary.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asserted it owned 60 percent of the collection owing to Arrington's eight years as church historian, starting in 1972, and two more as head of the faith's history division.
Arrington's family and USU disagreed. After a tense month of negotiations, the church settled for half a box of documents.
The family said the handful given to the church papers pertaining to temple ceremonies and minutes from Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meetings had been filed mistakenly with Arrington's personal collection.
But even after the resolution, the church continued to ask Arrington's family to excise parts of his diary, which was to be opened to the public 10 years after the historian's death.
Susan Arrington Madsen said a general authority asked her to remove about 40 entries her father had made in his diary. Many of them referred to things Arrington had learned or at least heard about men who potentially could become church president.
For example, a now-deceased apostle used to smoke cigars earlier in his life when he was an inactive Mormon.
Arrington family members, though, believed the church learned of those diary entries only because it broke a contract with their father. He had allowed the church to microfilm his diary covering the years from his youth through 1982, but explicitly said that no one in the church was to read it for 25 years after his death.
Madsen said the church dropped the request after an LDS apostle perused the list of problematic entries. That same apostle told her last year that the church is not bothered by the full diary going public at USU this year, Madsen said. She declined to name the general authority or the apostle.
"Church leaders were concerned about issues such as individual privacy where names were used in private discussion, items of a sacred nature, and, sometimes, the inaccuracy of what was written," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Friday. "After some discussion with the Arrington family and representatives of Utah State University, there was a mutual agreement to withdraw the request to omit the questionable material."
Trotter said the church's relationship with the Arrington family and USU is "one of mutual respect and cooperation."