Writing reviews of scholarly books for professional journals is generally viewed as an important part of one's role in the academic community. As a nonhistorian, however, it was difficult to approach the invitation to prepare a review on a series of historical essays without some degree of trepidation. Fortunately, the activity of reading this book soon became such an enjoyable exercise that other tasks were set aside in order to finish, and anxieties about commenting on it became less burdensome.
New Views of Mormon History is a compilation of twenty essays (including the introduction by coeditor Davis Bitton and the bibliography at the end prepared by David Whittaker) published in honor of Leonard J. Arrington. It would be quite inappropriate to review such an effort without first saying something about the man in whose honor it is written.
Davis Bitton's introduction begins with the statement that "Leonard James Arrington is the single most important Mormon historian of this generation" (vii). I know no one who would dispute that claim. His career has been long and distinguished. As one examines the history of any scientific discipline or field of study, one can generally identify a handful of scholars (often a very small handful) whose impact has been of great magnitude and whose contribution will influence that field far into the future. Arrington is such a scholar. His work provides a model for future generations of historians and others who will continue to attempt to illuminate the Mormon past. Leonard's vigor, productivity, and single-mindedness to the accomplishment of good social science make him a standout.