Junius F. Wells Award - 2017: Richard E. Turley, Jr.
To honor Richard E. Turley, Jr., for his years of service as managing director of the Church History Department and as assistant Church historian and recorder, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation (MHSF) presented to Brother Turley their Junius Wells Award March 2, 2017 at a recognition banquet at the Joseph Smith Memorial building. In attendance was a large group of invited family, friends, and guests including President Russell M. Nelson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder & Sister Quentin L. Cook, and Elder & Sister D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, several members of the Quorum of Seventy, and Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse. Presenting the award was Kim R. Wilson and Jeffrey Walker representing the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
After a short career as an attorney, Rick was invited to redirect his life’s work and accept a full time position with the Church. He abruptly changed from promising young lawyer to Managing Director of the Church History Department, a position he held for 14 years. He also served as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder for eight years, Managing Director of the Family History Department for four years, and several more years as Managing Director of the combined Church History and Family History Departments. He also served on the Editorial Board of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Church Historian’s Press.
His service in those and other capacities has been unexcelled and the scope, reach and influence he has had in these areas of responsibility is unparalleled. His 15 year effort culminated in completion of the state-of-the-art 230,000 sq. ft. Church History Library in 2009 and in major upgrades to the Church History Museum. He made significant contributions to development of the Joseph Smith Farm Historic Site in upstate New York, the Kirtland Historic Site in Ohio, the Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center in San Diego, CA, and the Priesthood Restoration Site along the Susquehanna in northeast Pennsylvania.
He oversaw operations of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the world’s largest and most complete genealogical repository, and had leadership in the development of thousands of local family history centers throughout the world. He was instrumental in creating numerous electronic history resources which have made available to the world such things as the Ellis Island records, the 1880 US Census and 1881 British Census records, Freedman’s Bank records and the like, and he helped launch FamilySearch.org.
Rick has been a goodwill ambassador for the Church. He was instrumental in securing National Landmark status for the Mountain Meadows Massacre site in Southern Utah and became the consensus spokesperson for the diverse groups involved in the site, contributing to the healing process. Rick has traveled throughout the world visiting historical sites and gathering history and perspective from the saints in the worldwide Church. He is a frequent speaker to diverse groups on Church history subjects.
Rick is the author of many books. Among his most notable works are Victims-The LDS Church and the Mark Hoffmann Case (University of Illinois Press) and Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press) written with Glen Leonard and the late Ronald Walker. His credits also include Women of Faith in the Latter Day, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, and of course, the now well advanced Joseph Smith Papers series.
In 2016 Rick accepted a new assignment as Managing Director of Public Affairs representing yet another major career change. The Public Affairs Department is responsible for media relations, community relations, governmental affairs, interfaith relations, area relations around the world, the Church Newsroom site, religious freedom, and Church hosting.
During his tenure in Church history, Rick received many awards and professional recognitions including the prestigious 2013 Herbert Feis Award from the American Historical Association for his distinguished contribution to public history, to which MORMON HISTORIC SITES FOUNDATION adds its 2017 Junius F. Wells Award for his unequalled service in the preservation and telling of the history of the Restoration in these latter days.