The sixteenth annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture was dedicated to knowing the man in the history. In researching and recording history, Arrington contributed to our honestly understanding the past. In keeping his own diary, Arrington contributed to the understanding of what is now history to us. Many of the anecdotes revealed in the lecture, such as the story of his original prize hens and rooster, what he paid for them and his eventual return, record a time little likely to occur again. The common practices of the day become surprising customs to future generations.
Leonard Arrington’s diaries are true to life in their diversity, their scope, and their honesty. They subtly teach the attitudes of a time while unfolding an account unlike any other. Newspaper clippings he read are preserved among his papers, comments like “yes” or “me too” found under the headlines. Personal letters reveal interactions with family and friends. Diary entries record observations of common, but non-textbook, historical practices.
These papers stunningly illustrate that life includes so much more than what one writes in a journal or preserves in a picture. It is that newspaper article that made one think, and those anecdotes to start a talk. It is more than just the quality of penmanship or the academic essays. Arrington’s collection shows that a man can think so much more than he ever writes. As he argued in “Marrow in the Bones of History”, diaries reveal new qualities of the people written about. After a lifetime of writing about these qualities in other people and the church, perhaps there is no more fitting honor for this historian than to remember his life and its history.
Draper, Genevieve, "Knowing the Man in History" (2010). Arrington Student Writing Award Winners. Paper 4.