August 2007 has seen the passing of two fine Mormon historians whose names may not be instantly recognizable to newcomers to Mormon studies, but whose contributions as writers and especially as teachers shaped my generation. They will both be missed.
LaMar C. Berrett died on the 25th. He taught church history and doctrine at BYU for 29 years and was heavily involved in Semester Abroad programs throughout the world. A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge and a missionary in the Southern States Mission, Lamar’s scholarly work focused on the Mormon trail from Vermont to Utah. His Sacred Places series have been popular guidebooks to church history sites for many tour groups and traveling families. See here for his obituary.
Leland Gentry died on the 6th; tomorrow would have been his 75th birthday. He was heavily involved in the seminary and institute programs, and he organized the first seminary in the eastern United States. His historical specialty was the Missouri period. Although MS kept him from an active life for many, many years, his early work is still frequently cited by scholars. My favorite memory of Leland is of watching him cross a parking lot, unsteady on his own feet but gallantly lending an arm to his frail and elderly mother-in-law. His obituary can be read here.
I feel nostalgic when senior scholars pass on — younger scholars, at least as fine as the older ladies and gentlemen, are rising to take their places, but until we recognize them for who they are, our world seems thinner and colder for a time. I hear the bells tolling.