“McLellin Papers Available for Research,” Ensign, Feb. 1993, 74
In 1908, the Church acquired some papers written by William E. McLellin, one of the first Apostles in this dispensation. The records were stored away in the Church Historical Department and eventually forgotten. Those papers—several journals and four small manuscript books—have now been catalogued and are available for study by qualified researchers.
The papers written by McLellin, who was excommunicated in 1838 and eventually became an enemy to the Church, contain significant information about what was happening in the Church during the 1830s, said Richard E. Turley, Jr., managing director of the Church Historical Department. Brother Turley is the author of a new book, Victims, an account of the Church’s victimization in the Mark Hofmann forgery and murder case. (During the late 1980s, Hofmann claimed to have materials written by McLellin. That material never existed.)
According to Brother Turley, McLellin collected information about the Church before and after his excommunication. “At one time or another,” wrote Brother Turley in his book, “he reportedly owned the original record of the Quorum of the Twelve, two copies of A Book of Commandments, manuscript revelations, certificates from early Church members, and various books, pamphlets, and periodicals containing Church information. McLellin was also a writer. Late in his life he worked on a book about Mormonism that he nearly finished but never published.”
The materials currently located in the Historical Department were obtained in 1908 by Samuel O. Bennion, president of the Central States Mission, under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency. The material was in the possession of a descendant of J. L. Traughber of Texas. Traughber was an associate of McLellin.
The journals in this collection, “spanning most of the period when McLellin was active in the Church, revealed a man deeply dedicated to his religion. McLellin endured hardship and persecution as he preached the gospel revealed through Joseph Smith,” Brother Turley wrote. “The little manuscript books, on the other hand, typified the later McLellin, an avowed enemy of the Church.”