The Miller-Eccles Study Group was established in 1979 by Steve Eccles and Ron Miller.
At the time, Ron was Stake Mission President in the Arcadia California Stake and Steve was a member of the mission presidency. Steve had been attending the Mormon History Association annual meetings, having been introduced to that organization by Gary Smith, a local attorney.
After inviting Leonard Arrington, who was then the Church Historian, to a stake missionary fireside, Steve commented to Ron that it would be wonderful if Arrington could speak in a more personal setting, such as a private home, where questions might be taken after the presentation in format similar to the Mormon History Association meetings. Ron agreed, and so the first meeting was set up at Ron’s home in Arcadia. Both Ron and Steve invited friends and acquaintances and Arrington was invited back to talk in this setting. He gave a brief overview of the Church Historical Department organization and scope, then opened the meeting up to questions. The meeting commenced at 7.00 p.m. and people were still asking questions after 10.00 p.m. Those who attended donated money to cover the cost of bringing Arrington to Southern California.
That initial meeting was so successful that three additional meetings were held that first year.
The group was formally organized as a non-profit entity on January 1, 1982. The original Board of Directors consisted of Steve Eccles, Ron Miller, E. Gary Smith, Robert McKenny and Gordon H. Moffat. Biographies of the current Board of Directors of Miller Eccles Study Group Texas can be found at the link above.
The group continued to meet at the Millers’ Arcadia home until 2000, when it moved to the home of Russ & Christie Frandsen in La Canada-Flintridge. The Miller Eccles Study Group in Southern California is a vibrant and growing organization that now meets in two locations. (To learn more about the Miller Eccles Study Group in Southern California, click here.)
Steve and Daryl Eccles, who were both natives of Southern California, had a major change in their lives in 2002 — because of a company transfer, Steve and Daryl moved to the Dallas area. They first moved to Frisco, where they resided for two years. The Miller Eccles Study Group Texas began there in 2003. Because both Steve and Daryl had been called as temple ordinance workers, many of the early attendees were also temple workers.
In 2004, they moved to Plano, bringing MESG TX with them. The study group continued to draw a small but interested audience. For a few years after the move, the Plano Stake sponsored firesides featuring the speakers invited by MESG TX. Over time, other stakes in the area and the local chapters of the BYU Management Society also co-sponsored many firesides as well. In 2012, MESG TX began meeting in Arlington, in addition to the Plano location. In the summer of 2013, Steve retired from his job and moved with Daryl to the Pacific Northwest. MESG TX is now hosted by Cris and Janae Baird in Arlington and Adam and Gwen Miller in McKinney.
At about the same time as the Miller Eccles Study Group was getting started in Southern California, there was concern in some Church corners about academic freedom, the propriety of scholars speaking on controversial issues, and the advisability of study groups. On September 22, 1981, not long after Leonard Arrington’s appearance, he wrote an interesting letter to Steve Eccles in which he acknowledged the importance of groups such as Miller Eccles, especially in “outlying areas,” and noted that “it is probably easier for people in [Utah] to keep up to date on these matters, partly because of coverage in the local press, and partly because it is so easy for them to give a telephone call to one of our staff or to the General Authorities or to other Church employees, and of course, many of us speak every Sunday at Sacrament meetings, firesides, and other groups.”
Brother Arrington then went on with a fascinating discussion of study groups in Utah:
“I might say that the [Miller Eccles group] resembles in many respects a study group that Grace and I were invited to join when I was appointed Church Historian in 1972. It is called the Cannon-Hinckley Church History Study Club, which was organized originally in 1930 by members of the Cannon and Hinckley families to study the six volume Comprehensive History of the Church just published by B. H. Roberts. They spent several years studying that book, studied other books in Church history, and then began to have talks on aspects of Church History by invited speakers—General Authoritiies, Church administrators, and professional Church historians. Several General Authorities belong to this group, which meets once a month, including President and Sister Kimball, President and Sister Tanner, President and Sister Romney, President and Sister Hinckley…. Obviously General Authorities are very busy but there are always some of them present at every monthly meeting…. Recent talks have included, History of our Missions in Latin America, History of the Saints in the South Sea Islands, History of the Granting of Statehood to Utah, The Church and Education, Adam and the Dinosaurs, and Law and Religion.
I hope your group is doing well. As I think I mentioned to you when we were there, there are literally hundreds of these groups in Utah…. Before 1972 Grace and I lived in Logan and belonged to a study group there of Church people called “Solere,” which stood for social, learning, and religion. We felt great pride in that group which has met monthly since 1936, because from that group have emerged three General Authorities, two Temple Presidents, and several mission presidents besides Stake Presidents, Bishops, High Councilors and Relief Society Presidents. Oh yes, also a member of the Relief Society General Board.”