On a drab Monday in 1882, B. H. Roberts, then laboring on a mission in Tennessee, confided to his journal: “I am twenty-five years old today: perhaps one-half of my life has passed away—and what have I done? But little of anything, either of good or evil; my misdeeds are like my talents—on the small order. I have made attempts to accomplish something in various directions, but ‘miserable failure’ is written across the face of each of them.” Roberts then detailed the shortcomings in his career, marriage, and church work. The irony for modern readers is what we know of his future accomplishments. In the half century left to him, he would play a preeminent role in the LDS church as a writer, historian, theologian, and politician.
These diaries cover a decade, 1880-1898, in which Roberts was active in Utah as a young church leader. They are his apprenticeship years when he developed the skills that would characterize the rest of his career. Besides illuminating the character of the man himself, they also add much to our knowledge of this pivotal time in history.
John Sillito is Archivist, Curator of Special Collections, and Professor of Libraries at Weber State University (Ogden, Utah), where he was named the Nye Honors Professor for 2001-02. He is the co-editor of A World We Thought We Knew: Readings in Utah History, Letters from Exile: The Correspondence of Martha Hughes Cannon, Mormon Mavericks and other volumes.