Two latest in Signature’s Significant Diary Series

By: J. Stapley - March 11, 2008

John P. Hatch, ed., Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 882 pages, clothbound.

Jedediah S. Rogers, ed., In the President’s Office: The Diaries of L. John Nuttall 1879-1892 (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2007), 511 pages, clothbound.

For some time now, Signature Books has published important (to Mormon History) diaries. These transcripts are deftly annotated and hand bound in limited runs. The last two installments in their series were the diaries of Anthon Lund and John Nuttall.

Anthon Lund was a monogamist apostle and then member of the First Presidency from 1901 to 1921. He was born in Denmark, but journalized in English. He was the Manti and Salt Lake Temple Presidents and served as the Church Historian. He was involved in one of the most critical periods of Mormon development and as such his Diaries are a treasure for the researcher. These documents were donated to the Church by the Lund family with the express instruction that they be available to the public. Thomas Alexander was one of the chief historians who wielded his journal in the scholastics of history.

John Nuttall was involved in church governance in southern Utah but because of his bureaucratic skills was brought into be the secretary to the President of the Church (Young, Taylor and Woodruff). Nutall was involved with the Saint George Temple and was privy to a wonderful perspective within the presiding quorums. Nuttal struggled with his health, and being a polygamist, spent time hiding from the Feds. The source materials, as well as a complete typescript are available at the BYU Archives.

Both of these gentlemen left massive diaries. The editors consequently had to scour over the original documents and basically decide what of the text would be most important to include in a single volume edition. Such projects are inherently prone to criticism and I found in my research the need to consult the primary documents themselves, as entries that I knew to be extant and not included were impactful on my theses. This makes me nervous that there are other things that due to my proximity to the archives I am missing. This is without question frustrating, and made more so as the volumes do not indicate when they skip entries or paragraphs. However, outside of a complete work, a la the Woodruff Journals for which Signature will forever be acknowledged, such are the trappings of publication (my dream is that the nascent Church Historian’s Press will bury me with finely edited and complete works of primary sources).

The editors have both successfully produced exemplary volumes. The annotations are helpful and reference cogent accounts and details that enhance the readers experience. One cannot understate the value of these documents. Their expanded availability is without question a boon to Mormon History. Nuttall’s diaries are, however, short shrifted as the Signature volume only includes entries during his life in the President’s office. The remainder of his life was full and held wonderful insights into the nineteenth and early twentieth century church.

The books themselves are beautiful. The typesetting renders the text a joy to read, and when compared to recent offerings from Kofford are contrasted even more illustrious. I understand the market to which Signature renders these products; however, I do wonder if the high end market is truly the only fit for such products.


  1. Hooray! Thanks for spotlighting these two invaluable volumes.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — 3/11/2008 @ 8:52 pm

  2. J, thanks for the review. I concur in your hope that the Church Historian’s Press will pump out important documentary editions in the future, such as a new edition of the WW diaries and WC’s diary.

    Comment by David G. — 3/11/2008 @ 8:57 pm

  3. You’re very welcome!

    I had heard that they will be doing the George Cannon diaries, which will be amazing. I hadn’t thought about a Woodruff volume, which actually is needed. If it weren’t for the New Mormon Studies CD-ROM, it would likely be about as accessible as if it weren’t published (unless you happen to be at the BYU Library). Can’t figure out WC though. Do you have insider info that they are considering these?

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/11/2008 @ 9:10 pm

  4. Hehe. I’m just recycling things that I heard from Ron E. back in 2005. He mentioned to me on a couple of occasions that he would like to do another edition of the WW diaries and that since W. Clayton is for the most part out there he’d like to see a real edition of it get printed. But those were just musings, so I don’t want to give the impression that they’re imminent or even likely at this point. The GQC diaries, on the other hand, are.

    Comment by David G. — 3/11/2008 @ 9:21 pm

  5. grin.

    A real edition of W. Clayton would be invaluable. While I rely on Smith’s edition, and have appreciated it, I admit that I feel bad that it is based on Ehat’s purloined notes and understand that it has less than 50% of the entire diary. I have found at least one entry published by Helen Whitney in UT that was not included in Smith’s edition and which was quite important for my research.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/11/2008 @ 9:30 pm

  6. Thanks for the review of these books, J.

    Comment by Christopher — 3/12/2008 @ 2:00 am

  7. Do you have a specific research project J?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — 3/12/2008 @ 10:50 am

  8. Eric, I am currently working on a study of Mormon healing. My co-author Kris and I have submitted a history of Baptism for Health to JMH, which I am hopeful will be published this year. We are also on the final edits of a history of the ritual healing among the Latter-day Saints to the settlement of the Great Basin. These are part of a broader history, of course that we hope to eventually publish.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/12/2008 @ 11:02 am

  9. Sounds interesting J. Incidently, I was talking with our missionaries about someone getting baptized a second time because of lost records. The missionaries thought this was a really big deal. I shrugged and said something like – in the early days of the church people would sometimes get rebaptized for their health (which I got from you), and they looked at me like I had bugs crawling out of my ears.

    I should have said I got it from Stapley.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — 3/12/2008 @ 4:12 pm

  10. Hee hee.

    You could also tell them that Brigham was probably rebaptized (besides for his health) a good 15 or 20 times in his life.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/12/2008 @ 4:17 pm

  11. Signature published a nine volume set of Wilford Woodruff’s journals several years ago–complete with a key to understanding the drawings he made in the margins. Every effort was made to keep the text as close to Woodruff’s as possible. The only changes were punctuation used at times to clarify. It’s a great set!

    Comment by Joyce E Davis — 3/28/2008 @ 10:37 pm

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