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Church History Library (Part 5 of 5)

The Church History Library is one of the most state-of-the-art libraries in the world.  Historian Richard Turley shepherded the construction of the new building, where they moved the treasures of the Church.  Barbara Jones Brown interviewed Rick last summer.

Richard:  When I got to the Church History Department in 1986, it was located in the east wing of the Church Office Building, four floors. Those four floors were filling up very quickly. A lot of the materials that were gathered in there were gathered from various areas around the world. Yet, there was more material coming in. In fact, at one point, we did a little statistical analysis of how much material we had brought in over the previous five years, and we concluded that if you laid the material flat, so pieces of paper, not end to end, but flat on top of each other, the total amount of material we had brought in during the previous five-year period would have towered above the 28 story Church Office Building. So it very quickly became apparent to us that the facilities we had were inadequate. But even more importantly, the more I looked at the facilities, the more worried I grew. At the time, not now, they’ve been retrofitted since the Church History Library was opened and the materials were moved out of them. They’ve been retrofitted to have fire suppression equipment and to be in better controlled than they were, but at the time that I was there in the beginning, there was very little by way of fire suppression.

Richard:  Also, even though while I was there, we put film on the windows to try to decrease the amount of ultraviolet light damage on the spines and box ends, there was still damage from light. So, we took all of that information, and we went upline and we proposed the construction of a new library. It took, essentially, 11 years to get the approvals and ultimately, four years to build the new Church History Library, which is state of the art. It’s a wonderful facility, the best facility we’ve ever had for the historical materials. It’s a great office space for those who work there, as well as a spectacular place for researchers who come to Salt Lake City, in addition to those who will do research online.

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Richard Turley sheparded the construction of a new Church History Library.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Barbara and Richard.

478: Saints

477: Opening Doors for Female Historians

476: Turley on MMM

475: Hired After Hofmann

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Saints (Part 4 of 5)

It’s been about 100 years since the LDS Church published a history of the Church.  Richard Turley thought it was about time to update it and pitched the idea to the brethren.  Volumes 1 and 2 have been released so far, with two more volumes to be published over the next few years.  Barbara Jones Brown talked to Rick about his role in getting these important volumes published.

Richard:  I thought what we really needed was for members of the Church generally, to have a heightened understanding of Church History, to make all ships rise, if you will. So, what I ultimately proposed to our team was that we create a series of volumes that would fit the intersection of three circles that formed a Venn diagram. I drew a circle on the board.  I put an H in it. I said, “First of all, these books have to be absolutely accurate historically.”  We gathered together a group of historians to help us form the content of the books. Then I drew another circle, and I wrote an L in it. I said, “We want these, also, to be literarily interesting. We want them to engage people from a literary standpoint. We want people to want to read them.” What I said, joking about the fact that you know, many historians write things that are read by only a small audience. What I said to the team was, “We’re going to do something extraordinary. We’re going to write a history that people are actually going to want to read.”

Richard:  Everybody laughed at that, because it’s a story that sometimes we write just to our peers. Then I drew a third circle, and I put a big A in it. I said, “The A stands for audience. We want to aim what we’re writing to a ninth-grade reading level, so that it will fit with members of the Church around the world in various cultures.” Then, in addition to all that, we talked about the need for it to be a global history, not just a history of the Church in Utah, but a history of the Church around the world. So that became the basic vision for the Saints volume. My hat is off to all the members of the team, I should say, teams, who helped to bring this about. I was talking to, after I’d gone to the Public Affairs Department, I was talking to a member of the team and I said to him, “How many people ultimately do you think were involved in the production of the first volume of Saints?” He said, “Well, if you take the various teams that wrote, and edited and consulted and translated and reviewed, we’re probably up over 900 people who contributed to that first volume.” So Church history, particularly during the 30 years that I had the privilege of being there was a team sport. I was just grateful to be a member of the team.

Check out our conversation….

Richard Turley describes his role in the first LDS Church history in 100 years: Saints!

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

477: Opening Doors for Female Historians

476: Turley on MMM

475: Hired After Hofmann


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Opening Doors for LDS Female Historians (Part 3 of 5)

Over the past 30+ years, Richard Turley has worked hard to promote women in the Mormon History field.  Barbara Jones Brown sat down with Rick last summer and they share their collaborations together and how Rick has helped promote women.

Barbara: I owe so much to you, because you opened doors for me in terms of my career, to help me achieve the things that I wanted to work on and wanted to achieve, both in first hiring me to be content editor for book one, and then also asking me to join you as your co-author for book two.  I know that it’s not just me that you’ve opened those doors for and extended those opportunities to. I’ve seen so many women for whom you’ve done the same thing. Our MHA President-Elect Jenny Lund, for example, other women who worked on Mountain Meadows: Janiece Johnson, LaJean Carruth. I wonder if you could talk about all that you have done to help promote women in Mormon History and to promote the field of women in Mormon History, as well.

Richard:  Sure. Let’s talk first of all about women working in what was in the Church Historical Department, what is now the Church History Department. We wanted women and men both to be participants in all of the historical endeavors that we had in the Church Historical Department. At the time I arrived at church headquarters, there were very few women who were in the position of being a director. To understand the Church structure, you have the General Authorities, then you have managing directors, then you have directors of divisions. Then you have managers and supervisors and so forth. There were a number of women in some of those positions as supervisors and managers, but there were very few in director level positions. During the 30 years that I was privileged to be in the Church Historical Department, later called the Church History Department, my colleagues and I were able to promote women to the point where we ended up with five women total during that 30 years that I was there who were in director level positions. In addition to that, we wanted women to be reflected in the History of the Church.

Richard:  Traditionally, in the United States, and in many parts of the world, history had been written from a male perspective. We wanted history to be written from a women’s perspective. So that led, over time, to the creation of Women’s History part of the Church History Department and women who were hired to write that. I can think of, you know, many who fit into that: Kate Holbrook, Jenny Reader, Lisa Tate and others. In addition to that, I had a meeting at one point with Sheri Dew and with Kathy Chamberlain of Deseret Book and suggested to them that we needed to have more women’s history as part of what was offered to Church members in particular. We got together for dinner at a restaurant in the Joseph Smith Memorial building.  We talked it through, and at the end, I was expecting them to sort of take on that project and go do something about it. At the end, they nodded their heads and said, “Yes, we agree with you, 100%. Now, what are you going to do about it?” So I thought, “Well, if the ball is back in my court, then let’s see if we can launch something.”

Richard:  So I thought to myself, if I’m going to do this, I don’t want to do this alone. This ought to be a project that a woman is participating actively in. So I thought about our staff. We had a young, recent hire Brittany Chapman, now Brittany Chapman Nash. So, I approached Brittany and asked her if she’d be interested in this kind of a project. Brittany and I worked together on a series.  We ultimately produced four books on the subject.[1] She was new at the beginning, and so my name went on to the book first with hers after mine. I ultimately suggested that we maybe reverse that. At a certain point, she came to me and said, “I’m ready for that.” So if you look at the first volume, and the last volume and compare them, the first volume was my name first, her name second. The reality is, she did the majority of the work on those volumes, all four of them. At the end, her name is on top and mine’s underneath, and that’s more appropriate.

[1] The books are titled, “Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume 1-4.” Volume 1 can be purchased at  . Volume 2 can be purchased at . Volume 3 can be purchased at . Volume 4 can be purchased at  .


Were you aware of Richard’s promotion of women?  We also talk about how Richard set up the Church Historian’s Press.

Barbara Jones Brown talks with Richard Turley about how he has promoted LDS female historians.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Barbara and Rick!

476: Turley on MMM

475: Hired After Hofmann

Check out our conversation….