James B. Allen (historian) Article

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James B. Allen
Residence Orem, Utah
Nationality American
Education B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History
Alma mater Utah State University
Brigham Young University
University of Southern California
University professor
Employer Brigham Young University
Known for Assistant Church Historian
Author of Mormon histories, such as The Story of the Latter-day Saints
Spouse(s)Renée Jones Allen
Website Personal site

James Brown "Jim" Allen [1] (born 1927) [2] is an American historian of Mormonism and was an official Assistant Church Historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1972–1979.


Allen is a native of Logan, Utah [3] and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In the late 1940s, he was a proselyting missionary in the California Mission under Oscar W. McConkie. [4]

Allen served in his church throughout his life, including as a Bishop of a student ward at Brigham Young University (BYU) in the 1960s [5] and a stake high councilor. In politics, he also served for a time as a District Republican committeeman. [6]

Allen was a significant historian of Mormonism with a strong grasp of its controversies. [7] [8] When his colleague Davis Bitton asked in an article "How many historians who are deeply familiar with the sources on Mormon origins still find it possible to remain in the fold", Bitton listed Allen among the first names he gave of people who fit this description. [9]

Allen lives in Orem, Utah and is married to the former Renée Jones. They have five children and twenty grandchildren. [10] One of his daughters married the writer Orson Scott Card. [7] Allen's younger brother, John H. Allen, was a Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, the commander over the Judge Advocate General units of the 96th Sustainment Brigade, and a Federal Bankruptcy Judge. [11]


As an undergraduate student, Allen attended Utah State University (USU) in Logan, Utah, receiving a B.A. in history in 1954. [10] During a history seminar as a senior, he met Leonard J. Arrington, a new professor who would come to strongly influence Allen's career. Allen's paper from that seminar was published in Utah Historical Quarterly in 1955 and became the basis for his graduate studies. [6]

Allen pursued his M.A. in history at BYU, with Dr. Richard D. Poll as his major professor. In 1956, he completed his thesis, The Development of County Government in the Territory of Utah, 1850-1896, [12] which drew from his earlier published article. [13]

In 1963, Allen received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California (USC). [10] His dissertation, The Company Town in the American West, was later published as a book by the University of Oklahoma Press. [6]


Starting in 1954, Allen worked for the Church Educational System (CES) in a variety of roles. [10] In Kaysville, Utah he was a seminary teacher, as well as in Cowley, Wyoming, [6] where he was also the coordinator of seminaries from 1955-7. [2] He taught at LDS Institutes of Religion for nine years, [5] and was director of the institutes in Long Beach and San Bernardino, California [10] while pursuing his doctorate at USC. [6]

Allen joined the religion faculty at BYU in 1963, and then the history department in 1964. [10] In the early 1970s he was the doctoral major professor and mentor of Ron Esplin, who would become another notable Mormon historian. [14] He was chair of the history department from 1981–1987, and afterward held the Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Chair in Western American History, until his 1992 retirement. From 1992-2005, he was a senior research fellow with BYU's Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, and served on its executive committee for a time. [10]

From 1999-2000, Allen and his wife served as full-time missionaries for the Church Education System at the Boston Institute of Religion. In 2002, he taught in the History Department of Brigham Young University—Hawaii as a volunteer. [10]

Mormon History Association

In 1965, Allen was one of the founders of the Mormon History Association (MHA), along with Leonard J. Arrington. [15] He would go on to serve as its vice-president in 1970 [16] and president in 1972. [17] Representing the MHA, Allen wrote and edited the "Historian's Corner," a semi-annual column in the quarterly BYU Studies from 1970–1982, when he was succeeded by Ronald W. Walker. [18] [19] [20]

Assistant Church Historian

In 1972, Allen was called to be an Assistant Church Historian for the LDS Church, at the request of Leonard J. Arrington. He served half time in that capacity, continuing his BYU professorship at the same time. [10] Arrington had assembled a team of professional historians to engage in new academic research with use of the church archives. Amongst the first major publications to emerge was The Story of the Latter-day Saints, a comprehensive single-volume history of the LDS Church written by Allen and Glen M. Leonard, a Senior Historical Associate in the church's Historical Department, and published in 1976.

The book was well received by the general and academic audiences, but some church leaders were uncomfortable. Allen's philosophy was to directly address historical controversies, while casting them against the context of their own time. [21] Some leaders denounced the book as too secular and it was not republished for years, despite its popularity. In 1979, Allen was honorably released as Assistant Church Historian and returned full-time to BYU. Around this time, the department's History Division came under greater suspicion and scrutiny, and its staff and programs were curtailed before being transferred to BYU in 1982 as the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History.

At BYU, Allen was coldly received by some religion faculty who were unhappy with his book. [22] Later, some university trustees had reservations about Allen's 1981 appointment as chair of the history department. [23] However, he retained leadership roles at BYU until his 1992 retirement, when he rejoined the staff and programs from the old History Division, at BYU's Joseph Fielding Smith Institute.


  • 1968 Best Bibliography Award from the Mormon History Association [24]
  • 1980 Morris Rosenblatt award for best popular interest article in Utah Historical Quarterly [25]
  • 1984 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at Brigham Young University [10]
  • 1986 David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans Biography Award [25]
  • 1987 T. Edgar Lyon Award for Best Article from the Mormon History Association [24]
  • 1988 Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society [10]
  • 1991 T. Edgar Lyon Best Article Award from the Mormon History Association [24]
  • 1994 T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence from the Mormon History Association [24]
  • 2000 Special Citation for the book Studies in Mormon History, 1830-1997 from the Mormon History Association [24]
  • 2001 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title from the American Library Association [26]
  • 2007 Leonard J. Arrington Award for meritorious service to Mormon history from the Mormon History Association [27]

Published works

Allen has published over ninety articles, and fourteen books and monographs. [10]


Selected articles


  1. ^ "Research Projects". Brown Family History Library. O. James Brown Klein. May 19, 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  2. ^ a b "James B Allen". Wyoming Authors Wiki. Wyoming Center for the Book. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  3. ^ Arrington, Leonard J. (1976). "Foreword". In James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. pp. vii.
  4. ^ Embry, Jessie L. (Fall 1996). "Without Purse or Scrip". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 29 (3): 84. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  5. ^ a b "Notes on Contributors". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 1 (3): 27. Autumn 1966. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  6. ^ a b c d e Arrington, Leonard J. (1998). Adventures of a Church Historian. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 82. ISBN  0-252-02381-1. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  7. ^ a b Card, Orson Scott (2005). "Why I am Teaching at SVU… And Why SVU is Important". Meridian Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  8. ^ May, Cheryll L. (Winter 1986). "The Document Diggers and Their Discoveries: A Panel". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 19 (4): 46. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  9. ^ Bitton, Davis (2004). "I Don't Have a Testimony of the History of the Church". 2004 Fair Conference. Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Brief Academic biography". James B. Allen. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  11. ^ "Obituary: John H. Allen". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. July 24, 2001. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  12. ^ Allen, James B. (July 1956). "The Development of County Government in the Territory of Utah, 1850-1896". Department of History, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  13. ^ "Table of Contents: Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 21-40". Utah State History. Utah State Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  14. ^ Esplin, Ronald K. (Spring 1999). "Documents and Dusty Tomes: The Adventure of Arrington, Esplin and Young". Journal of Mormon History. 25 (1): 103–4. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  15. ^ Arrington, Leonard J. (1983). "Reflections on the Founding and Purpose of the Mormon History Association, 1965-1983". Journal of Mormon History. 10: 93. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  16. ^ Arrington, Leonard J. (Fall 1992). "The Founding of the LDS Church Historical Department, 1972". 18 (2): 45. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  17. ^ "Past MHA Presidents". Mormon History Association. Archived from the original on 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  18. ^ Allen, James B. (Summer 1070). "The Historians Corner". BYU Studies. 10 (4): 179–80. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  19. ^ Allen, James B. (Summer 1982). "The Historians Corner". BYU Studies. 22 (3): 357–8. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  20. ^ Walker, Ronald W. (Winter 1983). "The Historians Corner". BYU Studies. 23 (1): 93. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  21. ^ Esplin, Ronald K. (March–April 1982). "How Then Should We Write History" (PDF). Sunstone. 7 (2): 41–5. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  22. ^ Anderson, Devery S. (Summer 2000). "A History of Dialogue, Part Two: Struggle Toward Maturity, 1971-1982". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 33 (2): 66–7. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  23. ^ Bergera, Gary James; Priddis, Ronald (1985). "Chapter 2: Integrating Religion & Academics". Brigham Young University: A House of Faith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN  0-941214-34-6. OCLC  12963965.
  24. ^ a b c d e "MHA Awards" (PDF). Mormon History Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  25. ^ a b "James B. Allen: Personal Bibliography". James B. Allen. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  26. ^ "Studies in Mormon History, 1830-1997". University of Illinois Press. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  27. ^ "MHA 2008 Award Winners". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2008-11-04.

External links