Steve Pynakker, evangelical host of Mormon Book Reviews and I got together again on August 27 to celebrate his 50th video on his podcast. Steve attended his first Mormon History Association meetings in June, and he discusses his experiences at the recent meetings in Park City, Utah. Steve and Rick Bennett discussed the recent loss of Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books. Curt was an unheralded giant in the Mormon historian’s community, and his death marks a great loss in the community.
Steve: Rick, when you first started, what was it like, at the very beginning, approaching authors and getting guests on? Did it come relatively easy? Did it take some time for your channel to gain traction?
GT: So, one of the differences between me and you is I’ve been attending Mormon History Association. I had made a few contacts. I remember Paul Reeve and Margaret Young. Margaret’s technically not [a historian.] She’s an [English] professor at BYU, but she’s not a history scholar or anything. I picked Margaret because I thought she would say yes. I picked Paul because I thought he would say yes. I picked Curt Bench because I thought he would say, [yes.]
GT: By the way, I’m so sad. I don’t know if people know, but Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books, passed away about a week ago. Apparently he had an aneurysm and it was just sudden. It was awful, just totally awful. My heart goes out to the family. The funeral was a day or two ago. He is one of the unsung heroes, and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You just say Curt Bench’s name and a smile comes to your face, because he’s such a friendly guy. He’s friendly to everybody. I don’t know anybody that didn’t like Curt Bench. I mean, he’s just [so friendly.] If you went to his bookstore, and you’d say, “Hey, I’m looking on a book for this subject or this author.” He knew what you were talking about, and he would go right to the place, and he’d say, “I think this is what you want.” The knowledge that he had was just so vast. He’s been doing–his bookstore is 25 years old, 30 years old, something like that. Plus, he was at Deseret Book before that. The knowledge that we lost when Curt Bench died is just [immense.] I remember what was his name? Darren Parry said, “When a when a Native American elder dies, a library burns.” That’s kind of what it is to lose Curt Bench. We’ve lost, and I think he’s kind of an unsung hero. Everybody knows him, but we’ve lost a giant in Mormon History, and I’m so sad for his family.
GT: But, like I said, going back to your question, I picked Curt because I thought he would say yes. That was such a fun interview, because I knew that he had something to do with the Mark Hofmann saga, but I didn’t know what it was. Then, when I said, “Can you tell me what happened?” Curt says, “Well, after the third bombing,” No, after the second bombing, “I called Mark” and said, “Mark, you’ve got to be careful. There’s a bomber out there.”
GT: And I was like “You called?” It was just so crazy. Those first few guests that I kind of had a personal acquaintance with, I thought they would say yes. Then I started reaching out to strangers.
Curt was a staple at the meetings and is one of the most friendly, funny, and cordial professionals you’ll ever meet. The MHA also accepts all people; you don’t have to be a professional historian to attend! All you have to do is like Mormon history. Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Steve.
553: Background on Rick