Emphasis in Historical Research
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“Emphasis in Historical Research,” Ensign, June 1972, 16

Emphasis in Historical Research

Two new assistant Church historians have been named to serve in the Historical Department, the new name of the former Church Historian’s Office.

The new appointees are Dr. James B. Allen, professor of history at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Davis Bitton, professor of history at the University of Utah. They will serve under the Church Historian, Dr. Leonard J. Arrington. Elder Alvin R. Dyer, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, is managing director of the Historical Department.

The two brethren newly named will teach part time at their respective universities and will spend about half of their time researching and writing Church history at the Historical Department.

Dr. Allen, who specializes in Western American history, says that he is “pleased and excited about recording twentieth century history. However, there is a great need to bring to light, from diaries, journals, and old newspaper accounts, the feelings and perspectives of the average member of the Church. How did he feel about his time and his work? What were his hopes and disappointments? There are many fascinating and valuable stories to be recounted for the public to read,” he said.

Dr. Allen is a member of the BYU Fifth Stake high council. He and his wife, Renee, have five children.

Dr. Bitton, a specialist in Renaissance history, says that he is “pleased with the progressive spirit of the Church in establishing a systematic records management program and with the emphasis on professionalism. One intriguing project is a sesquicentennial history of the Church from 1830 to 1980. Oral history [interviews transcribed from tapes], research grants, and a series of history books that might be published by the Church from much new source material are other exciting projects that we are exploring.”

Of particular interest to Dr. Bitton in the recording of history is the “human aspect.” “The inspiration we can derive from great and good leaders from any period of time is an incalculable legacy,” he said. Dr. Bitton and his wife, Peggy, have five children.

Dr. James B. Allen

Dr. Davis Bitton