The primary responsibility of Brigham Young University’s
Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History is to research,
write, and publish Latter-day Saint history from the perspective of faith
and according to the highest scholarly standards.
In 1972 the Church Historian’s Office was reorganized into the Historical
Department of the Church, and Leonard J. Arrington, a historian from Utah
State University, was called to head the new history division. He gathered
a staff and over the next eight years launched an ambitious program of scholarly
publication, producing numerous books and articles, contributing frequently
to Church publications, and launching an extensive oral history program.
In 1980 it was decided that a university would provide
a better setting for research and publication, so the history division
became the Smith Institute and was moved to BYU. Arrington continued
to serve as director until 1986, when Ronald K. Esplin succeeded him.
In 1999 the Institute’s organization was broadened to include an
executive committee, chaired by Richard L. Bushman, to direct the Institute’s
scholarly program. The Institute became a center with expanded resources
that helped support a network of Latter-day Saint scholars. To promote
the publication and marketing of quality history and biography, the Institute
added a publishing division under John W. Welch of BYU Studies and formalized
an alliance with Deseret Book Company. A revitalized collaboration with
the Historical Department of the Church increased resources available
for documentary editing, one of the Institute’s major emphases.
Although Smith Institute faculty members teach history
and Church history courses, their principal assignment remains the scholarly
research and writing of the Latter-day Saint past. From time to time,
other faculty members serve with the Institute on a temporary basis.