This is a sad day for Mormon History buffs. I have just learned that Richard Van Wagoner passed away on Saturday night/Sunday morning. He has written several book on Mormon History. I blogged about his Sidney Rigdon book, and he recently completed The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young. Here is a list of some of his books. I’ll try to add more information as it becomes available.
I just spoke with Tom Kimball of Signature Books. Tom knew Richard very well since Richard had published several books through Signature. I understand Richard’s funeral on Saturday in Lehi, Utah. Tom expects Richard’s obituary will be available in the Salt Lake area newspapers in the next few days. I understand Richard was mowing his lawn on Saturday. He didn’t feel well, so he went in the house to rest. He never woke up. It’s really sad. He was just 64.
When he wasn’t writing Mormon history, he worked as a clinical audiologist. Ironically he lost hearing a few years ago. Through technological advances, he regained his hearing. I had the pleasure to meet him at the Mormon History Association meetings this past summer.
He wrote for Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought. Here’s a list of articles he wrote for Dialogue. Tom said Richard coauthored an article with Steven C. Walker on seerstones. Tom said the article was ground-breaking in revealing new information. Van Wagoner also wrote an article in 1995 for Dialogue showing that there were no contemporary accounts of Brigham Young being transfigured into Joseph Smith following the martyrdom.
Van Wagoner had just finished his part of a 3 volume biography of Joseph Smith to be published in the fall of 2011 or early 2012. The Van Wagoner volume is titled, “Joseph Smith, the Life of the Mormon Prophet, Volume 1. The early years, 1805-1831.” (The other authors are Scott Kenney and Martha Sonntag Bradley.)
As I mentioned before, this is a great loss in the Mormon History community. He will be greatly missed.
UPDATE 10/12/2010. The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting he died on Sunday, rather than Saturday. ( wonder if it was the early hours of Sunday morning rather than Saturday night.) Here’s the link to the Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/50454913-80/utah-van-wagoner-mormon.html.csp
I loved this quote from the Tribune.
“I’ve long considered Richard one of the finest historians of my generation and a helluva nice guy to boot,” historian Will Bagley said in an e-mail to the AP. “His contributions to Mormon and Utah studies are beyond measure.”