BH is a hero of mine.
Mine, too! I tried desperately to come up with a name for our last son with the initials B.H., but it just wouldn’t work (all of my sons’ names stem from my line of authority).
After reading his Autobiography (Edited by Gary James Bergera) many years back, I was shocked at the other Brethren's treatment of him. This was my first exposure to the concept that the FP and GA's were not always up on a pedestal of consistent theology, of the one and only true church, filled with nothing but brotherly love for each other.
Roberts’ autobiography is one of my favorite books, and when read, it should squarely put to rest any doubt about his testimony of the Book of Mormon or the Church in his last decade of life (just look at when it was dictated to one of his missionaries relative to when he died relative to the whole Book of Mormon studies timeframe --- it, and “The Truth, the Way, the Life” were the last things he wrote).
I think people sometimes run into trouble when their romanticized, cardboard cutout notions about what prophets and apostles must be like are dispelled. It’s always good when people can learn that prophets and apostles put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else without losing their faith. This means that they, too, can have a bad day or have character traits/flaws they need to work on.
Unlike his favored peer, Talmage, it seemed to me that BH was shunned by the others. I gather much of this was based on differing theology more so than personality traits. My take is that Talmage helped steer the ship in the direction Smith wanted, while BH held true to that which he had learned from the journals and his official position as the Church Historian.
I’ve never thought of it quite this way before, but I think there might be something to this as you lay it out here.
I don't believe your portraying BH's aggressive personal traits as the reason he was disliked and remained virtually unknown to even 1970's TBM's is all together accurate or fair. BH was shut down and silenced, at that time and in history for reasons well beyond his personality.
I don't think it's accurate at all to say that Roberts was virtually unknown to TBMS until the 1970s. He edited DHC, with its lengthy introductions to each volume, and he wrote CHC, which used to be ubiquitous in LDS homes (I have my grandparents set).
I don’t think he was silenced so much as his abrasive manner and lack of patience with people, (Madsen and McMurrin describe him as a “buzz saw” in the introductory material in SotBoM, which fits him perfectly, I think) create this impression. One of the essays at the back of “TWL” puts things in good perspective: Roberts’ life was really a series of major conflicts, one after another. The rough and tumble tussles with anti-Mormons, his loner position against women’s suffrage in Utah (contrary to most of the Church and all of the Brethren), arrest for polygamy, the fight to be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. He was the right man with the right native talent at the right time for the Church, and we feel his effects and influence today. He also was isolated mainly due to these special talents and abilities. Geniuses and eigenartig
people usually are.
I’m glad you reminded me about Roberts’ autobiography, because the part right at the end of it illustrates pretty well what I’m getting at. Roberts includes an exchange with President Heber J. Grant about a point of doctrine regarding the seventies (he was one of the seven general presidents of the quorums of the seventy) near the time of the dictation of his autobiography. Roberts is, as always, pugnacious, aggressive, and arrogant. I found him very persuasive about his position, and it was not a position President Grant ultimately went with. The thing to note in the exchange is that President Grant was calm, gracious, and classy, and Roberts was not. That wasn’t his personality or character, and never was, although he would have been furious to hear anyone disparage President Grant or the prophets. Yet, he didn’t shrink from frankness that bordered on rudeness in arguing for his position and against others’ --- even the President of the Church. And this has an important bearing on his reported statement to Wesley Lloyd that the Brethren simply bore their testimonies in response to the issues he wanted them to take seriously. Roberts could and did, simultaneously, respect their position while being extremely impatient and dismissive of their (to him) lack of concern or seeing eye-to-eye about the importance of being able to effectively answer more sophisticated attacks than the Church was used to. In other words, he wasn’t mocking the Brethren bearing their testimonies in response, he was expressing his frustration that they didn’t share his temperament and outlook. And I think he would be shocked and furious at the use critics and malcontents attempt to make of him and his manner.