Appendix 1

Andrew Jenson, Mormon Encyclopedist

Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington

Reid L. Neilson and Riley M. Moffat, eds., Tales from the World Tour: The 1895–1897 Travel Writings of Mormon Historian Andrew Jenson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 402–09.

In November 1876, shortly after the appearance of Edward Tullidge’s Life of Brigham Young; Or, Utah and Her Founders, a twenty-six-year-old Danish settler in Pleasant Grove, Utah, wrote to Daniel H. Wells, a close adviser to Brigham Young. Hopeful that he would not have to spend the rest of his life as a manual laborer, the young man asked if he might have permission to prepare and publish a history of Joseph Smith in the Danish language. Wells replied that he had “no hesitancy” in approving the proposal but doubted that the project, although worthwhile, would be financially remunerative. The young immigrant arranged his affairs at home, began the work of translating and writing, and canvassed for subscribers.

Thus began the historical labors of Andrew Jenson, who for the next sixty-five years worked prodigiously in the cause of Mormon history. He was the author of twenty-seven books, editor of four historical periodicals, compiler of 650 manuscript histories and indexes to nearly every important historical manuscript, publisher of a reference work, zealous collector of historical records, faithful diarist, and author of more than five thousand published biographical sketches. Jenson may have contributed more to preserving the factual details of Latter-day Saint history than any other person; at least for sheer quantity, his projects will likely remain unsurpassed. Jenson’s industry, persistence, and dogged determination in the face of rebuffs and disappointments have caused every subsequent Mormon historian to be indebted to him.

Andreas Jensen was born in 1850 in the country village of Damgren, in Torslev Parish, Hjørring County, Jutland, Denmark, the second son of Danish peasants. [1] When Andreas was four, his parents were visited by Mormon missionaries in Denmark and converted. Andreas and his older brother, Jens, who were subjected to harassment at school because of their religion, were taught at home. Their reading consisted primarily of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Mormon promotional literature, and the Skandinaviens Stjerne, the Latter-day Saint semimonthly periodical published in the Danish-Norwegian language. While Andreas was growing up, the Stjerne published a series of excerpts from the “History of Joseph Smith,” which excited the interest of the youth and helped determine his style of writing.

At the age of thirteen, inspired by the example of a missionary who visited the Jensens, Andreas began to keep a diary or personal history, a task which he continued until his death at the age of ninety-one. At about the same time, he began to travel throughout Denmark, selling lithographs to raise money to help the family immigrate to Utah. In the spring of 1866, when Jensen was fifteen, the family sailed from Denmark to New York, took a train to the Missouri River, acquired an ox team, and in October arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. To use Jensen’s phrase, he “hoofed it” all the way. Anxious to adopt the ways of Zion, Andreas changed his given name to “Andrew” and altered the spelling of his surname to “Jenson.”

After remaining a short time in the Salt Lake Valley, the family moved thirty-six miles southeast to Pleasant Grove, Utah, where they could be near some Danish acquaintances. There Andrew herded cows and worked on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. After the joining of the rails at Promontory in 1869, Andrew bought sixteen acres of farming land but was not a success as a farmer. He resumed work on the extension of the railroad south of Salt Lake City; worked as a cowboy in Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska; and after a year returned to Pleasant Grove with three hundred dollars in cash. He then worked on branch railroad construction, was employed in the Brigham Canyon mine and smelter, clerked in a grocery store, and sold lithographs.

In 1873, when Jenson was twenty-two, he became a United States citizen and was called to be a proselyting missionary in Denmark. Crossing the Great Plains and Atlantic Ocean once more, he began preaching in his native country. In connection with his missionary work, he published occasional articles and letters in Skandinaviens Stjerne and local newspapers. Among other things, he wrote a history of the Aalborg Conference (or District) of the Mormon Church. He found that he enjoyed historical writing.

Two years later he was back in Utah. He married Kirsten Marie (Mary) Pederson, joined the Church’s Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in Pleasant Grove, and tried to support his bride with work on a farm. To finance a home, he helped build a tramway up the Little Cottonwood Canyon, southeast of Salt Lake City. Soon his first son was born.

During these months, Andrew became depressed at the prospect of a life devoted to “working with pick and shovel.” He wanted to engage in literary pursuits but did not see how it could be done. During those weeks of hard labor, interspersed with serious thoughts about his future, he made the decision to translate certain parts of the history of Joseph Smith into Danish. Joseph Smiths Levnetsløb (History of Joseph Smith) was at first published in monthly installments, for which a charge of ten cents per month was made. By the time of the first mailing in July 1877, there were nine hundred subscribing customers, all in Utah. With the assistance of Jonah A. Bruun, a missionary companion who had translated for Skandinaviens Stjerne, the 448 pages of the completed book were finally bound and published in 1879 by the Church-owned Deseret News Office in Salt Lake City. This was the first foreign-language book published in Utah, the first publication of a bound book dealing with Joseph Smith, and the first in a series of historical publications prepared by Jenson.

Upon the completion of the Levnetsløb, Jenson was called to leave behind his wife and two young children and journey to Denmark to serve once more as a missionary. Assigned to be president of the Copenhagen Branch of the Church, he studied Danish language and literature and served as a translator and writer for Skandinaviens Stjerne. He later became assistant editor of that publication. Jenson also edited a monthly periodical for young readers entitled Ungdommens Raadgiver (Counselor of Youth) and prepared a new edition of the Book of Mormon in Danish, together with an index. Upon the death of the mission president, he served for a period as acting president.

Upon his return to Utah in the fall of 1881, Jenson began preparations for the publication of a historical magazine in the Danish language. The first issue of Morgenstjernen (Morning Star), appearing early in 1882, included a history of the Scandinavian Mission from 1850 to 1880, a biography of Erastus Snow (a Mormon Apostle who had been president of the Scandinavian Mission of the Church), a summary of events in 1881, and other articles. Jenson used the same method for Morgenstjernen that he had used in selling Levnetsløb: he sold advance subscriptions and mailed the magazine out in sixteen installments of sixteen pages each. Eventually, the number of subscribers exceeded two thousand. One incidental result of his canvassing for subscriptions and looking for material for future articles was the acquisition of many private journals and other personal histories. In order to be centrally located for his publishing efforts, he built a home in Salt Lake City. There he set up a miniature printing office where type could be set for Morgenstjernen. After four years, from 1882 to 1885, he had published four volumes, totaling 960 pages.

As Scandinavian immigrants gradually learned English, Church authorities asked Jenson to change the magazine into an English publication. Thus began in 1886 a Salt Lake monthly “devoted exclusively to historical, biographical, chronological, and statistical matters.” The immediate successor of Morgenstjernen, the Historical Record began with volume 5 and continued through volume 9 (1886–90), reaching a total of 1,135 pages. The publication included narratives and documents of early Church history; biographies of early leaders; histories of settlements, organizations, and missions; and chronologies of important events. Once again Jenson followed his tried and proven format by publishing in monthly installments, this time of thirty-two pages each, evenly divided between historical narrative and chronology. Jenson’s style was factual and simple, emphasizing accuracy in dates and figures. One of Jenson’s daring publications at this time was a short treatise on the history of plural marriage, including a list of all women “sealed” to Joseph Smith. [2]

Having worked closely with persons in the Church Historian’s Office and wishing to have sponsorship for his publications, Jenson wrote to the Church President in 1886, asking for employment in the Historian’s Office. [3] The President replied that it would not be convenient at that time. He also stated that he was reluctant to give any endorsement to Jenson’s publications: they must “stand upon their own merits and the people to be their judges.” [4] Nevertheless, the President was complimentary about Jenson’s work, and the Church-owned Deseret News commented that it was the first time the history of the Mormon people had been written “in a concise and succinct manner for ready reference. . . . Brother Andrew Jenson is particularly gifted with the ability to compile facts of historical interest.” [5] Aware of his contributions and his need for funds, the Church’s First Presidency gave him partial employee status by paying him an allowance of fifty dollars per month. Jenson later said that he thought this “call” came as a result of a history he had written of the Salt Lake Stake, which was published in the Historical Record in 1887. There followed, as we shall see, instructions to write similar histories of all the stakes of the Church.

In the fall of 1888 the First Presidency asked Jenson to undertake a special mission to visit the historic sites of the Church in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. There he interviewed a number of people involved in early Mormon history and obtained several important documents. Some of these interviews and documents appeared in subsequent issues of the Historical Record. At the end of 1889 he wrote the First Presidency, offering his services to the Church with or without compensation: “My work ought to be published by authority, or not at all.” [6] The First Presidency said it was not expedient to hire him at that time but that they would continue to send him an allowance of fifty dollars per month.

While working on Morgenstjernen, Jenson had been invited by a Salt Lake publisher to prepare a chronology that was later published in a booklet entitled A Hand-Book of References. It was also published as a series in the Deseret News. In 1886 Jenson distributed five thousand copies of the updated Church Chronology to accompany the first number of the Historical Record. Later in the same year, copies of the Chronology were published in a separate work. This was a volume of 140 pages, with 17 pages of index. Subsequent revisions of an expanded Chronology were published in 1899 and 1914. Perhaps as part of an understanding related to his allowance, all of the earnings of these subsequent editions were turned over to the Church Historian’s Office fund.

In the spring of 1889, Jenson began traveling to the various stakes and missions of the Church. As he visited a stake, sometimes alone and sometimes in association with a General Authority, he perused the private journals of older settlers, examined the Church records such as minutes of meetings, and interviewed old-timers and other Church officials. The original records he would take with him to place in the Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City. Upon his return to Salt Lake City, he arranged his notes and clippings in a kind of scrapbook or expandable binder which could be updated on subsequent visits. As the years progressed, he thus compiled a manuscript history for each ward and stake in the Church.

These trips were often fraught with hardship. On a journey to Sanpete County in 1890, for example, he went by Rio Grande Western Railroad to Thistle, Utah, rode on a flatcar loaded with rails to Indianola, and then walked a mile to a member’s house. He then rode on a lumber wagon toward Milburn; after the driver let him off, he walked three miles into the village. Jenson wrote up the history of Milburn and then walked five miles to Fairview, where he recorded the history of that settlement. He then walked to Mt. Pleasant, and after finishing his “historical labors” there, he was given a ride by the bishop to Ephraim. He then found someone going to Manti, where he found “valuable records kept by the late Rasmus Olsen, deposited on the left of an old house where they served as feed for mice.” [7] Part of the purpose of those trips, which were approved and sometimes assigned by the Church Historian, Franklin D. Richards, was to “enthuse into the presidents and bishops . . . the importance of making up-to-date a correct and faithful history of their stakes and wards,” and to keep a full and accurate account of the current happenings, both secular and religious.

In the midst of these early assignments, the Church Historian, who was also President of the Council of Twelve Apostles, gave Jenson a special blessing to be “historian in Zion.” In 1891, just two years after he offered himself to the Church at no cost, Jenson was ordained as a historian. His allowance was raised to one hundred dollars per month.

At a special meeting held in Salt Lake City in April 1891, all stake presidents and bishops present were notified that Andrew would be visiting them in order to “prepare a correct and complete history of the stakes of Zion, and of the wards which compose them.” [8] Bishops and stake presidents were instructed to “contribute to his personal comfort, and assist him with the proper conveyances,” much as they would a Church General Authority. Visits followed to Box Elder, Sevier, Panguitch, Summit, Morgan, Bear Lake, and Cache stakes.

As a part of his assignment during the 1890s, Jenson perused the records of the Utah Penitentiary to obtain information on the men who, “for conscience’s sake,” had been imprisoned there for the practice of plural marriage. He found that between 1885 and 1892 approximately one thousand Latter-day Saint men had been so confined. A second assignment was to visit southern Utah and gather all the information available concerning the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a lamentable episode in Mormon history in which local Indians and settlers killed about 120 Arkansas and Missouri whites who were on their way to southern California. [9] Jenson did not find this to be a pleasant task. “The information that I received,” he wrote in his diary, “make me suffer mentally and deprived me of my sleep at night; and I felt tired and fatigued, both mentally and physically when I returned home.” [10] Jenson was reassured, however, to find that none of the General Authorities were connected with the horrible affair. [11]

During the next year, he traveled 4,600 miles, most of it by team, and gathered sufficient information to write a history of all the wards and stakes he had visited. After calling on the stake presidency, he would set up a schedule of meetings. At an evening meeting for the general public, he explained his purpose and procedure. He then held a special meeting of all the old settlers, ward clerks, and secretaries of all Church organizations, who were instructed to bring all their records so he could peruse them and make notes. Then he would proceed to the next settlement. His reports to the First Presidency about the results of these visits caused them to establish a Committee on Church Records, which prepared instructions on record keeping that were sent out to each ward and stake.

By 1893, four years from the time he had started these visits, Jenson had visited all Latter-day Saint settlements in Utah except the San Juan Stake and all those in Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming. This left only six stakes to visit. By the end of the next year, he had visited those in Arizona, Mexico, California, and Canada.

The next year, he was assigned to visit the Church missions, that is, to travel to all the countries of the world where organized missions existed. He was to give sermons, examine records, give instructions for the keeping of records, and take back to Salt Lake City all the older records still in the missions. The journey required more than two years and took him, in succession, to Vancouver, British Columbia, the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Tahiti), New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Italy, France, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. He finally arrived in Salt Lake City with 490 books, having traveled approximately 54,000 miles. A detailed account of the trip was later published in Danish in a three-hundred-page volume entitled Jorden Rundt: En Reisebeskrivelse Af Andrew Jenson (Around the World: A Travelogue of Andrew Jenson [Salt Lake City, 1907]).

Shortly after his 1897 return, Jenson was appointed Assistant Church Historian. His work was to continue what he had been doing, visiting stakes and missions and compiling manuscript histories of each ward, stake, and mission. He also now worked on the mammoth Journal History of the Church.

The day-by-day manuscript history originally called “History of Joseph Smith” and its successor for events after 1844, the History of Brigham Young, were described in our first two chapters. Upon the death of Brigham Young in 1877, the project was continued as the “Documentary History of the Church.” The last entry in this series of bound volumes, dated April 30, 1880, contains an excerpt from the private journal of Wilford Woodruff.

No further writing on this history was done until 1896, at a time that Jenson was overseas, when the First Presidency appointed Charles W. Penrose, former editor of the Deseret News, as Assistant Church Historian and gave him the task of “compiling and writing Church history.” More specifically, he was assigned to “keep a daily journal of current events” and for this purpose was furnished duplicate copies of the typewritten minutes of the First Presidency of the Church. [12] Penrose and other employees of the Church Historian’s Office then began the compilation of what Penrose referred to originally as the Historian’s Office Journal but which soon came to be called the Journal History of the Church. Included in the daily entries were excerpts from diaries, minutes of important meetings, newspaper clippings, and occasional letters of instruction. Penrose was soon instructed to write a series of gospel tracts, and in 1898 he was reappointed editor of the Deseret News. Some of the work on the Journal History was given to Andrew Jenson. It was in connection with these duties that Jenson was made Assistant Church Historian.

In 1906 Jenson assumed the complete responsibility for the Journal History. Not satisfied with compiling information on an ongoing basis day by day and year by year, he decided to go back to the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, and compile a documentary record of events from that date forward. A scrapbook arrangement would permit entries to be added as they were found or acquired. Each day’s entry would include information on the weather, meetings, the comings and goings of principal Church personalities, newspaper clippings and magazine commentaries, sermons, letters, excerpts from diaries, and other material of importance. The entries were typed on legal-size sheets, and when they reached two hundred or more pages, they were placed in large loose-leaf binders. For certain days, there might be dozens of pages of material; for others, perhaps an entry of less than half a dozen lines. As pages were inserted, Jenson and his assistants made a card index of every name, episode, place, and organization, so that an item relating to any person or place or unit of organization could be easily located.

By 1913, Jenson had completed the Journal History from 1830 to 1852. Five years later, the Journal History had been compiled through 1875. By 1922, the history had been essentially brought up to date. The massive nature of the compilation is evident from the fact that for the nineteenth century there were 385 large typewritten manuscript volumes. By 1932, Jenson and his assistant had compiled, in addition to 518 volumes of Journal History, 133 volumes of stake histories, 178 volumes of mission histories, and 30 miscellaneous volumes of history, for a total of 859 volumes. [13] By the time of his death in 1941, Jenson had compiled the Journal History from 1830 to the end of 1930, for a total of some 800 volumes.

While collecting all the other material for the Historical Record, Jenson also collected material for a biographical encyclopedia of Church officials. Some two hundred biographical sketches were written, arranged alphabetically, and published in 1888 as a ninety-six-page supplement to the Historical Record. In 1900, Jenson began work on the first of a four-volume set to be published as the Latter-day Saints’ Biographical Encyclopedia. The first volume, which came off the press in 1902, consisted of 828 pages and contained 690 biographical sketches.

The Biographical Encyclopedia was innovative in several respects. First, it contained sketches and photos not only of central LDS leaders but also of local leaders, recent immigrants, and ordinary members. Letters were sent to thousands of local bishops, early settlers, women, and other local leaders with instructions to complete the accompanying sketch forms asking for genealogical and ecclesiastical information and short biographical sketches of their lives. Many of these sketches, rewritten by Jenson in the third person, are several pages in length. Second, by publishing the biographies of hundreds of Scandinavians and other nationals along with those of Britons and Americans, he gave them a sense of pride in their own heritage and helped them to realize that they were not second-class Latter-day Saints. As Louis Reinwand has said:

He [Jenson] inserted information about the English miner, the New York farmer, and the Scandinavian craftsman alongside information about the highest Church or government official. His works celebrate the dreams, goals, activities, and accomplishments of the ordinary members of the Church. Latter-day Saint history was far more to him than the notable movements of the general and local authorities. In his unremitting effort to help the different nationalities retain pride in their national culture, Jenson played a vital role in keeping alive the ideal of a universal Church. He was the first to insist that Mormon history include Germans, Britons, Scandinavians, Tongans, Tahitians, and other national and cultural groups. [14]

A second volume containing 1,180 biographical sketches was published in 1914, a third volume with some 1,130 additional sketches in 1920, and a fourth volume with more than 2,000 shorter sketches in 1936. The Church History Library also possesses several thousand sketches collected or written by Jenson that were not published during his lifetime.

Recognizing that he was doing good for the Church and that the purpose of urging these volumes on the people was to pay for the printing costs, Jenson did not hesitate to use his position and letters of approval from the First Presidency in promoting his books. His Church Chronology, the Historical Record, the various volumes of the Biographical Encyclopedia, and indeed all his publications were published on a subscription basis or in the expectation that he would sell them as he traveled from stake to stake. Some local officials felt they were being pressured into buying or urging others to buy books they could not afford or were not always pleased with. Jenson’s son Harold later wrote of this tendency to attach blame to his father’s promotional activities:

Only one criticism can be made of father’s determination, and that is his over-ambition to accomplish what he thought was for the best good of all. Those who are best acquainted with him know that his activities are not based on selfish motives. He never made money on his books, and anyone who has had anything to do with printing and publishing will realize the hard task he has had to raise the necessary funds to pay for printing and binding. His solicitations sometimes may have been misconstrued by some, but his books will live on to benefit future generations and to be appreciated by those who as subscribers contributed a little towards making the publication of them possible. [15]

Apparently, some local leaders complained to general Church officials about Jenson’s pushiness, and in the October 1900 general conference, Jenson’s name, for whatever reason, was not presented to be sustained as Assistant Church Historian. This continued during the general conferences in April and October 1901. Jenson became depressed and took a “lonely walk into the mountains” north of Salt Lake City, and he “spent some time in secret prayer and private meditations.” He said, “I laid before my Creator the feelings of my heart sincerely and openly and awaited the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” Jenson received in response—or so he later wrote—a heavenly manifestation assuring him that, despite his zeal, God had not rejected him, that he should be of good cheer, that he had not lost his position in the Church as a historian, and that he need not fear that he would go blind—a frequent anxiety. [16] Finally, in the April 1902 general conference, his name was once more presented as Assistant Church Historian, a practice that continued until his death in 1941.

Jenson spent the last thirty years of his life following up the various projects he had initiated in the nineteenth century: translations of Mormon scripture and historical works into Danish; revisions and amplifications of Church Chronology; further work on the Journal History of the Church; manuscript histories of the stakes and missions; journal histories of various Church enterprises such as the Mormon Battalion, emigration companies, and colonizing missions; further volumes of the Biographical Encyclopedia; and occasional articles in historical periodicals, Church magazines, and newspapers. [17] His publications included History of the Scandinavian Mission (Salt Lake City, 1927); Autobiography of Andrew Jenson (Salt Lake City, 1938); Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1941); “Day By Day with the Utah Pioneers,” a series of articles in the Salt Lake Tribune, 1934; and “The Building of Utah and Her Neighbors,” a series of articles in the Deseret News, 1934. He also gave thousands of historical talks in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and in Mormon communities and stakes and missions throughout the world.

As befits a person who sacrifices much and works indefatigably, Andrew expected some recognition and appreciation. Having worked on history projects and having been personally responsible for most of the official or semiofficial history gathering and writing of the Mormons since he began in 1876, he supposed that he might be appointed Church Historian when a vacancy occurred. But instead, upon the death of Franklin D. Richards in 1899, Anthon H. Lund, a fellow Dane who had served as an Apostle since 1889, was chosen as historian. Urbane, intelligent, and broadminded, Lund was a wise administrator of the Historian’s Office, though he did not write any history or develop any new programs. Lund’s death in 1921 genuinely saddened Jenson, who had developed a real fondness and respect for him. Jenson was on one of his periodic visits, this time to Texas and Missouri, when he heard of the death, and he had good reason to suppose he would receive the appointment as Church Historian. Offering prayers that he would be worthy, he put things in order to make a return trip to Salt Lake City.

Then, in the St. Louis Public Library, he read a news dispatch that Joseph Fielding Smith had been appointed historian. The son of President of the Church Joseph F. Smith (1901–18), Joseph Fielding Smith had gone to work for the Historian’s Office in 1901 as an assistant to Andrew. He had just returned from a proselyting mission to England and was twenty-five years of age. Smith worked on the Journal History, on manuscript histories of the various stakes and missions, and on other projects, but his principal assignment seems to have been helping his father and other Church authorities respond to the writings of anti-Mormons. The anti-Mormon movement was particularly virulent in the early years of the twentieth century. Smith wrote three pamphlets: Asahel Smith of Topsfield, Massachusetts, with some Account of the Smith Family (Salt Lake City, 1901); Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage (Salt Lake City, 1905); and Origin of the Reorganized Church (Salt Lake City, 1907, 1909). In 1906 he was sustained as an Assistant Church Historian. He was regarded more as a polemicist and scripturist than as a historian. Jenson was astounded that his former clerk could have been appointed Church Historian. His diary demonstrates the intensity of his feeling of disappointment:

I ask myself if I have done anything wrong whereby the Lord should be displeased with me, or why with my increased ability and diligence I should lose out instead of gaining with my brethren in the Priesthood. Yet, here I am, sidetracked . . . , after a lifelong struggle, during which I have given my best to Church work and have reserved nothing. . . . Is it wrong in the sight of the Lord for a man to expect reward or recognizance for real merit? Is there no such a thing as appreciation when a man puts his whole soul into a work which is aimed at doing good and to benefit the cause of God and mankind generally? [18]

It was a bitter pill. Jenson was even more melancholy when he returned to Salt Lake City, talked with the new historian, and contemplated his uncertain position. “Depressed in feeling,” certain that the Church President, Heber J. Grant, “takes no interest in my labors,” he had a dream which he interpreted to mean “that I had better remain in line, loyal and true as hitherto.” [19] Later, with old age slowly creeping up, he wrote, “I am driving no stakes, laying no plans, and having no expectations, so I look for no disappointments.” [20]

However great his personal disappointment, Jenson continued to make important contributions to Mormon historiography. In 1921 he went on another tour of the missions and stakes in the United States and Mexico to gather historical information. In 1923 he went to Central and South America for the same purpose. He did a detailed study of the pioneer emigrant company of 1847 and of Mormon colonization of the Great Basin from 1847 to 1850.

As he grew older, Jenson was the recipient of honors and distinctions that must have assured him that his lifetime of labor in the cause of Mormon history had been worthwhile. One of these satisfying experiences was in 1935. The Rebild National Park in Denmark had asked Utah’s governor, Henry H. Blood, to send a pioneer covered wagon to celebrate the journey of many Danes to Utah in the 1850s. Governor Blood appointed Jenson as his representative to convey the wagon to Copenhagen. Jenson’s wife Bertha and daughter Eva Olson accompanied him to Rebild to represent the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, donors of the wagon. Once there, Jenson was greeted by the prime minister of Denmark, the mayor of Copenhagen, the American ambassador, and other distinguished political and historical figures. Jenson wrote in his diary, “This was certainly a remarkable day in the history of our lives—a day never to be forgotten.” [21]

All told, Jenson traveled an incredible one million miles in his lifetime—twice around the world, crossing the Pacific Ocean four times and the Atlantic thirteen times. He visited every Latter-day Saint mission except that in South Africa. He served ten missions for the Church, including a three-year term as president of the Scandinavian Mission (1909–12). In addition to collecting historical data, he gave an estimated six thousand historical addresses during a forty-two-year period, thus educating a whole generation in historical matters.

But his greatest contribution was in gathering and publishing historical data. More than any other person—more than any group of persons—he organized materials of Mormon history; catalogued and indexed them; prepared reference helps; and wrote twenty-seven volumes of biography, chronicle, and narrative and documentary history based upon them. He also wrote more than two thousand historical newspaper articles. His was not great interpretive history, but it was factual, honest history. Without his carefully written chronicles, prodigious compilations, and time-saving indexes, modern historians could produce their monographs and interpretive histories of Mormonism only with much greater difficulty. [22]


This essay originally appeared as “Andrew Jenson: Mormon Encyclopedist,” in Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), 41–55

[1] Especially helpful in the preparation of this essay were the diaries of Andrew Jenson, housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University Library, Provo, Utah, and in the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Autobiography of Andrew Jenson (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1938); Keith W. Perkins, “Andrew Jenson: Zealous Chronologist” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974); Louis Reinwand, “Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Historian,” BYU Studies 14, no. 1 (Autumn 1973): 1–15; and Dean C. Jessee, “Andrew Jenson: Itinerant Crusader for Historical Records,” unpublished paper prepared for delivery to the Mormon History Association, 1973.

[2] Andrew Jenson, “Plural Marriage,” Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 219–34.

[3] On the functioning of the LDS Church Historian’s Office, see Charles P. Adams and Gustive O. Larson, “A Study of the LDS Church Historian’s Office, 1830–1900,” Utah Historical Quarterly 40, no. 4 (Fall 1972): 370–89; and T. Edgar Lyon, “Church Historians I Have Known,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 11, no. 4 (Winter 1978): 14–22.

[4] John Taylor to Andrew Jenson, February 20, 1887, John Taylor’s Letterbook, January 31–April 15, 1887, 196, Church History Library.

[5] Deseret Evening News, March 2, 1886, and January 30, 1888.

[6] Jenson, Journal E, 1897–98, Church History Library.

[7] See particularly Jenson, Journal E, 281–83.

[8] Jenson, Journal E, 324–25.

[9] Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1950).

[10] Jenson, Journal E, 412. These notes cannot be located in the Church History Library.

[11] Jenson, Autobiography, 198.

[12] Diary of Charles W. Penrose, December 16, 1895; January 8 and 10, 1896.

[13] Jenson, Autobiography, 623, 673.

[14] Reinwand, “Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Historian,” 44–45.

[15] Harold H. Jenson, “Addenda,” in Jenson, Autobiography, 671.

[16] Jenson, Autobiography, 403–4.

[17] Among his articles in refereed professional journals were “The Founding of Mormon Settlements in the San Luis Valley, Colorado,” Colorado Magazine 17 (September 1940): 174–80; History of the Las Vegas Mission, vol. 5 of Nevada State Historical Society Papers (Reno, 1925–26): 117–284; “The Mormon Trail Across Nebraska,” Nebraska History 7, no. 2 (April–June 1924): 62–63; “Latter-day Saints Emigration from Wyoming, Nebraska, 1864–1866,” Nebraska History 17, no. 2 (April–June 1936): 113–27.

[18] Jenson, Journal L, May 23, 1921, Church History Library.

[19] Jenson, Journal L, 125, October 7, 1921, Church History Library; Jenson Autobiography, 541.

[20] Jenson Autobiography, 581.

[21] Jenson, Journal N, 329, July 4, 1935, Church History Library.

[22] See also Reinwand, “Andrew Jenson,” 46.