Richard E. Turley Jr.

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Richard Eyring Turley Jr. is an American genealogist and historian. He served as assistant Church historian and recorder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2008 to 2016. He also served for eight years as managing director of the Family and Church History Department, overseeing the Church Archives and Records Center, the Church History Library and the Museum of Church History and Art.

On September 15, 2023, President Dallin H. Oaks announced that The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has commissioned Turley to write a new biography of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The book will be called “Joseph the Prophet.”[1]

The Church announced in April 2016 that the First Presidency had appointed Turley as the new managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, effective September 1, 2016. He served until 2020.

As a Spencer W. Kimball Scholar, he earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and his juris doctorate degree in 1985 from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. He was editor of the law review, elected to the Order of the Coif, and received the Hugh B. Brown Barrister’s Award for top classroom performance. After passing the Utah State Bar Examination, he practiced law for less than a year before he was hired by the Church of Jesus Christ and appointed Assistant Managing Director of the Historical Department. He came into the department at the height of the Mark Hofmann investigation and applied his legal training to help. He also wrote Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case to tell the story of the case through the perspectives of the Church and the murder victims.

Three years after his hire to the Historical Department, he was appointed managing director. He took on the responsibilities of managing director of the Family History Department in 1996 and became managing director of the merged departments in 2000 (Family and Church History Department). In his role, he oversaw the Church History Library, the Museum of Church History and Art, the Family History Library, the FamilySearch Center and the thousands of branch family history centers, the Granite Mountain Records Vault. For his work with genealogical databases and restoring Church historic sites, he was presented with the Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal in 2004. He was lauded for the release of Selected Collections From the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he edited.

On March 12, 2008, the consolidated Family and Church History Department split into two again: the Family History Department and the Church History Department. Turley was called as the Assistant Church Historian.

Turley served on The Joseph Smith Papers editorial board and has co-written and edited several books, chapters, and articles. In 2013, Turley was awarded the Herbert Feis Award from the American Historical Association for his contributions to public history.

In 2017, Turley was given the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation Junius Wells Award.

In 2023, Turley and Barbara Jones Brown published their new book, Vengeance Is Mine: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Its Aftermath. The volume is a sequel to 2008’s groundbreaking book, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, which Turley coauthored (with Glen M. Leonard and Ronald W. Walker), and Brown edited.

Turley and Brown and their colleagues were given unprecedented access to sources by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for this project, making its contribution unique and allowing the authors to move beyond established narratives.

“I think that our digging deeper than anyone else has ever dug before on this topic and finding the truth of what happened leading up to the massacre and what happened after the massacre, as this new book tells, has helped and will continue to help people become freed from the emotional prisons in which they found themselves,” Turley said. [2]

In the last few decades, efforts have been made by the residents of southern Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to understand the Mountain Meadows Massacre and foster reconciliation between the descendants of the victims and the descendants of the perpetrators.[3]

Turley was born on February 18, 1956, in Fort Worth, Texas. His father, Richard E. Turley Sr., was a nuclear engineer, scientist, and emeritus general authority. Turley and his wife, Shirley, are the parents of six children.