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Mormon Historians’ Community (Part 6 of 8)

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….

Curt Bench is the owner of Benchmark Books. He passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Steve.

557: Future of Mormon History

556: Are Faith & Intellect Compatible?

555: Why Start Gospel Tangents?

554: Difference between Evangelicals & Protestants

553:  Background on Rick

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Turley on Mountain Meadows Massacre (Part 2 of 5)

Richard Turley’s book “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” was published in 2011. The book ends at the massacre in 1857. He and Barbara Jones Brown are writing the latest installment of the tragedy and this time they will focus on the trials of John D. Lee and aftermath. Barbara and Rick sat down as part of the 2020 Mormon history Association meetings and talk about their collaborative efforts on the upcoming book.

Richard:  At the time we were working on the book, we were very optimistic about the schedule, as scholars often are. Sometimes we take on a project, and we think, well, this will be done in a few months or a few years. As it turned out that project which we started around 2000 or 2001, it didn’t wrap up until 2008. Because we actually divided the project into two parts, the first part and the second part. It’s actually continued to this day. So, on the first volume, because your skills as an editor were in high demand for this project, you did a tremendous amount on the book. In fact, I’ve got this copy of the book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows that was inscribed to you by Glen and Ron and me. Ron, put this inscription in which I think reflects the feelings of all three of us. It says, “Every page shows our debt to you with warmest appreciation,” Ronald W. Walker. So, you played a major role in that. When the book was published, and I was continuing to work on the next volume of the set, you and I were working together on it in an editorial sort of role, and then ultimately became co-authors of it. We’re still working on it. For those who remain interested in the topic, I will say, for this audience, that the draft of the book is done. But as was the case with the first volume, it’s too large to meet the page count for Oxford. So, Barbara and I are currently working on trimming it down to get it within the page count so that it can be published, which we hope to do by the end of this year.

Barbara:  Great. Well, I for one, I’m really grateful to have that interview, that professional interview with you and grateful for the opportunity I had to work on this project. It led to my going back to graduate school and getting a master’s degree, and really has affected my life. The whole Mountain Meadows project was so meaningful on so many counts. I wonder if you could talk more about the reconciliation process that took place as a result of the book, and about the 150th anniversary when Elder Henry B Eyring, elicited or read an apology. Just talk more about that, and then ultimately achieving National Historic Landmark status for the Mountain Meadows.

Richard:  So, writing about the Mountain Meadows was one part of what I think needed to be done with the topic. But, more than that, I think relationships needed to be built and more needed to be done, particularly to recognize and reflect the pain of the descendants and other relatives of the victims of the massacre, as well as to have a kind of catharsis for many of those who were descendants of participants in the massacre. As I mentioned that sort of relationship had begun in the late 80s, early 90s, and it continued. Ultimately, three groups developed to represent those who had been victims of the massacre. Those three groups worked together at times. At other times they worked independently. But ultimately, one of the groups–the group that was the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, put together a group of proposals that were presented to the Church suggesting that the Church consider having the Mountain Meadows become a National Historic Landmark. That proposal was accepted. All three of the groups worked together with the Church in having that National Historic Landmark recognition occur.

Richard:  When the meeting occurred that you mentioned with then Elder Henry B Eyring, of the Twelve at that time, now of the First Presidency, the purpose of that meeting was in part to read a statement on the part that had been drafted and signed by the First Presidency, expressing several things simultaneously.

Check out our conversation….

Richard Turley and Barbara Jones Brown discuss their work together on the 2 books about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Don’t miss our previous conversation!

475: Hired After Hofmann