Here’s Nate’s bio:
I began a serious study of church history first because I was paid ten bucks an hour to do so. After finishing a BA in History Teaching at BYU in 2004, I was hired at the Education in Zion Exhibit as a researcher/writer. Up until that point in time, my research interests had been limited to the Spanish Armada and antebellum U.S. slavery. But C. Terry Warner, then the exhibit director, explained to me that I would be doing a lot of research on not just LDS educational efforts, but on church history in general. So I had to brush up on all things Mormon. My assignments included early morning seminaries, religion classes, territorial schools, education in Polynesia, and the life of Joseph F. Smith (the exhibit is permanently housedin the JFSB at BYU). I found out that I loved church history, and vowed to keep it—as a hobby—throughout my life.
I meant it to be a hobby only because I intended to study American slavery with Matthew Mason (Patrick’s brother) in BYU’s MA History program (where fellow JIer David G. and I became fast friends). But two things happened early on in the program that brought me back to church history: somebody wrote a book—an entire book—on my planned thesis topic; and my wife’s second pregnancy ran into severe complications, culminating in the premature birth of our daughter. I needed a new thesis topic, and I needed it to be one with which I already had some familiarity.
I had recently completed a paper, on slavery in Utah, for Jay Buckley’s American West class. Dr. Mason was open to me exploring that further in a thesis, with one caveat: I had to make it more than just a regional history, establishing the context of Mormon slavery within the larger American culture. Luckily I was able to secure an internship at the Utah State Historical Society, where I could examine the roles that various LDS and national politicians played in establishing the Utah Territory. My resulting thesis, “A Peculiar Place for thePeculiar Institution: Slavery andSovereignty in Early Territorial Utah,” (BYU, 2007) was well received and won the MHA’s best thesis award.
For the last five years, my time has been divided between my teaching responsibilities as a Colorado middle school and community college instructor (and father, and husband, and Elders Quorum President, and musician, and myriad other things), leaving relatively little time for my own history projects. Still, I was able to finish my edition of Joseph F. Smith’s Hawaiian mission diaries in 2011. I’ve presented papers on various topics at several conferences, most recently the 2012 Church History Symposium on Joseph F. Smith. And with a recent family move toTaylorsville, Utah, I’m a lot closer to the “essential” archives and libraries for researching the Mormon past.
You can look for posts from me relating to race and Mormonism, the life and times of Joseph F. Smith, and whatever else strikes me. I appreciate what this blog has become: a great, friendly forum for exchanging dialogue, research, sources, and stories from the Mormon past. I hope, as always, that I can contribute to the discussions.
For Nate’s contributions as a guest blogger, see: