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I've heard mixed things about this. Some are arguing that the whole move to BYU originally was more a kind of suppression after the Hoffman situation. This could be seen as a way of actually opening things up more. (Whether that is actually the case is an other matter - but it's a spin I've heard a few times the past few days)

Clark, yes that thought occurred to me as well. However, when the operation was moved from SLC to BYU, what moved was (as I recall) a big chunk of the research staff associated with the LDS Archives or the Church Historian's office (although I am unclear as to the formal organizational assignment of that research function). On the return, the research historians or staff members are being assigned, it seems, to a single project -- a large project, but a restricted one. Time for me to dig up a copy of "Adventures of a Church Historian" and read it.

Wouldn't it be really, really cool if this move was a preparatory step to real openness in church history? Not that the staff will be more closely supervised, but the opposite.

"Here's the vault - have it it. You're faithful believers. Tell the truth. The truth will stand the light of day, and the church will be stronger for it."

That might be enough to make me a believer again.

Ann: If it is any consolation there are indications that there is a move towards more openness in Church history. Some indications are the massive dump of documents onto DVD recently, the increased participation of BYU and Church employees at MHA, the fact the Church is pushing to get the Joseph Smith papers published, the money they are pouring into the new Church History library etc. There are still places where the Church draws the line on the availability of archival holdings (some of these, I think, are justified; some are not), but the stereotype of the Church archives as largely off limits to researchers is inaccurate and I think that the momentum is toward greater not lesser availability.

Ann, I'd have to agree with Nate's general position. "Openness" has several meanings, of course. If you mean moving documents (or copies of documents) out of the archives into public view, there is some cause for optimism. I think LDS leaders felt burned by events in the 70s and 80s; if the short-term response was to limit access and reassert control, I think the long-term response has moved toward "managed disclosure." A lot of documents are being released.

"Openness" might also refer to the extent to which dissenting historians are tolerated, either within LDS organizations (BYU, CES, or other LDS employers) or simply as active members of the LDS Church. I'm not sure how to assess the present status of that issue. In any case, there are plenty of LDS historians and many of them work at LDS employers. Most LDS historians don't feel particularly oppressed or harrassed.

I should note that this response is based on general media stories over the years and on comments I have read by LDS historians in books or essays. I don't have any particular inside information on these issues.

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