Donald G. Godfrey and Kenneth W. Godfrey, The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Utah Years, 1871-1886 (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006), 604 pgs.
The first thing you realize when you heft The Utah Years is that they are massive. Sure, the volume isn’t bound in cloth (though my copy has held up pretty well) and the paper isn’t the whitest in the world; but for less than $30, it is an absolute bargain.
Without question, The Utah Years is a highly significant volume. Charles Ora Card was very much involved in the doings of Cache Valley. As well as working with several civic organizations, he was the superintendant of construction for the Logan Tabernacle and Logan Temple. During much of these diaries, Card also acted as a presidency member then President of the Cache Stake.
The bulk of the entries start in 1877 after the cornerstone of the Temple was laid. Card was a regular diarist and transcribed the outlines of his business and civic affairs. Most importantly, Card recorded the content of the various Church meetings he attended…and they are legion. As they travel across the territory, one sees the content of meeting after meeting of the stake officers and General Authorities. Quite a number of patterns arise in the frank proceedings. The diaries are consequently an invaluable resource for understanding the dynamics of the age. While not introspective, there are moments of deep poignancy (e.g., when a Bishop of 17 years is released and forgiven by the body of saints for struggling with whiskey).
Among the various topics outlined (hardly exhaustive) are the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, the role of women in the Church, education, debt, priesthood structure (e.g., the transition of the Aaronic priesthood to boys and the function of the Seventy), temple building and city building. This volume is an important source for all of these research topics, and before its printing was rarely consulted.
I have always remembered Kenneth Godfrey’s review of George D. Smith’s An Intimate Chronicle (Journal of Mormon History 18 [Fall 1992]: 222-227). Godfrey pointed to what he considered deficiencies in the text and wrote:
The standard for Mormon diary editors for me is Juanita Brooks’s exhaustive footnoting in the Hosea Stout diaries, which includes background, additional documentation on the diarist’s life, and full explanations of associates, activities, mission, geography, and cultural milieu. I must admit, however, that few editors could satisfy me completely.
He further added, when considering accuracy of typescripts:
Only through close scrutiny of the originals can a documentary editor produce a manuscript with some confidence that it is error free. Dean C. Jesse, an editor of legendary meticulousness, told me that he reads his typescript at least five times against the original manuscript before it is published.
I think it is fair to judge his work by the same standard. From the perspective of annotation, I found The Utah Years rather lacking. Like Brooks, Godfrey and Godfrey do an excellent job with identifying individuals and including brief background sketches. I was, however, left significantly wanting in the rest of the annotation. The editors like to cite encyclopedias (e.g., the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and Deseret Book’s  Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History). There is a tremendous body of Mormon Studies that was simply not engaged. Moreover, significant events were never cross referenced to other significant diaries or primary sources of the age.
Though the editors do not explicitly state how many times they checked their transcript against the original, it is obvious that they have spent a tremendous amount of time in their travail. They admit to having checked the text “several times” and the editors include descriptions of every holograph transcribed, including the miscellanea that appears in margins and on the covers.
The last entry of the volume is incongruous with the rest of the diaries, but it is exhilarating. In true western fashion, the Marshals appear while Card takes his breakfast to arrest him for cohabitation. Card reaches for his pistol, but chooses to give up and ride with them to jail. When the opportunity arises on the moving train, Card leaps and appropriates a half-broken horse with which he absconds. He rides, then swims and then hides in the willows while the train curls away.
Recommendation Level: Very High. I’m not sure how large the printing was, but Amazon no longer carries it. As The Canadian Years is not to be found on the used market, I recommend picking up a copy while you can.