When we first considered doing a special issue on the presidents of the Church to go along with our rare record (enclosed in this issue) featuring the voices of six presidents of the Church, the staff’s thoughts turned to the known writers, scholars, and students of Church history.
Many names came to mind, but the two that persisted and best fit our needs were those of Arthur R. Bassett and Leon R. Hartshorn.
Normally, the New Era does not give much biographical data about its authors. We prefer to let the articles speak for themselves and for their authors. But in this instance, so much has depended upon Brother Bassett and Brother Hartshorn—and they have done such an excellent job in a relatively short period of time—that we believe readers would appreciate knowing more about them.
Arthur Bassett could easily be characterized as a scholar’s scholar. He seems happiest with a musty old book in hand as he endlessly searches for new facts and new ways of looking at what we think we know. It was while he taught seminary in Heber City (Utah) that his extraordinary gifts for research and writing were discovered by the Department of Seminaries and Institutes.
Consequently, for four years he served in the Provo head office as a curriculum writer, during which time he wrote three complete courses of study, including a very successful course on the presidents of the Church. Since that time he has completed studies for a doctorate at Syracuse University in New York and presently is an instructor at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah.
Leon Hartshorn might well be characterized as a teachers’ teacher, and he seems happiest with a piece of chalk in hand or counseling with students. In 1967 the studentbody of Brigham Young University voted him “Professor of the Year.” Students at four different colleges have been enriched by his wisdom: Boise State College (Idaho) and Stanford University (California) where he taught in the institutes of religion; Church College of Hawaii and BYU, where he presently teaches religion.
Sometime during his teaching experience, he discovered the power of true anecdotes and stories about the presidents. Consequently, he has written several best-selling Latter-day Saint books containing stories about the General Authorities and presidents of the Church.
It is obvious that both these men were naturals for this assignment—both could bring new information, insight, judgment, and experience into what youth have long found to be inspiring and character-changing in the lives of the presidents.
Brother Bassett authored five articles: The Prophet of the Lord, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, and George Albert Smith. Brother Hartshorn authored or provided information for six articles: Joseph Smith, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, and Joseph Fielding Smith.
Next month we return to our regular New Era format. We hope that this one-month diversion will be interesting to you and that you will enjoy and preserve for longtime use this special booklet on the lives of ten prophets of the Lord.—Jay M. Todd, managing editor