Life on Gold Plates posted extensive notes of the 2010 Arrington Lecture at USU, which was a presentation celebrating the official opening of Arrington's very lengthy diary. Arrington was the LDS Church Historian from 1972-1982, and was responsible for expanding and professionalizing the staff, opening up the LDS archives to scholarly research, and promoting a 16-volume treatment of LDS history which, while not published in its originally envisioned form, did lead to the eventual publication of most of the volumes by the individual researchers involved. The post at LOGP offers several nuggets from Arrington's life and career.
In 2005 I posted a review of Arrington's Adventures of a Church Historian. Here are the two paragraphs covering his tenure as LDS Church Historian.
The "adventure" in the title refers in a rather playful manner to the perils of practicing history in the shadow of the Church Office Building. Two themes emerge from Arrington's honest account of his activities as Church Historian and his interaction with LDS leaders. First, the First Presidency was quite supportive of his activities and program: opening up the archives to scholars doing research, publishing books and articles making the content of some of those documents available to the LDS public, and bringing "officially published" LDS history up to professional standards. N. Eldon Tanner, Spencer W. Kimball, and Howard W. Hunter were all very supportive of Arrington's goals.
On the other hand, there were some LDS leaders among the Quorum of the Twelve who viewed the whole project with suspicion rather than support. It seems to be the case that some rank-and-file Mormons can't handle an adult dose of LDS history. Those leaders who opposed the Arrington project seemed to feel the proper response to the LDS sensitivity to forthright history was to perpetuate "traditional history" of the sort typified by Essentials in Church History. Those who supported the project seemed to feel that the history could stand on its own if accurately and fairly presented by faithful scholars of the type assembled by Arrington. That debate continues to this day, but a fair summary might be that the traditionalists (led by Elders Ezra Taft Benson and Mark E. Peterson) won the battle but the progressives won the war. Surprisingly, Bruce R. McConkie (who at one point was one of two designated Apostles supervising the Historical Department) made no serious objections and seemed to fall into the progressive camp.