Scholarly Inquiry: Introducing a New Series at JI and our First Guest, Mark Ashurst-McGee

By June 8, 2009

The Juvenile Instructor is pleased to announce a new series that will become a regular feature of the blog. The series—Scholarly Inquiry—will consist of a series of questions addressed to a guest scholar and that person’s responses. Visiting scholars will include both Mormons and those from other faith traditions, as well as historians of Mormonism and those whose primary research interests focus on other subjects. The aim of Scholarly Inquiry is to involve a larger community of scholars in attempts to situate the Mormon experience in wider contexts and new and innovative ways.

Occasionally, we will solicit questions from readers. When we do so, we will select 3-5 questions proposed by readers and add 3-5 of our own. We are delighted to announce that such is the case today. Our first “visiting scholar” is Mark Ashurst-McGee:

Mark is a historian and documentary editor with the Joseph Smith Papers Project. He has degrees from BYU (BA), USU (MA), and ASU (PhD), with training in early and modern U.S. history, Latin American history, and religious history. His MA thesis, which won MHA’s distinguished Best Thesis award, treats Joseph Smith’s transition from a village seer to a Judeo-Christian prophet, while his PhD dissertation (which won MHA’s Best Dissertation award recently), examines Joseph Smith’s Zion project in the context of the world’s first modern democracy and republic. Mark has also trained at the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. He has sixteen years of experience in primary research projects in early Mormon history and six years professional documentary editing experience. He is a published editor of early Mormon documents and the author of several peer-reviewed articles. Mark is a devout Latter-day Saint who loves his wife Angela Ashurst-McGee and his five little kids. He desires to summit Windom, Kilimanjaro, Chimborazo, and Mauna Loa before he dies.

We invite you to propose questions you would like to ask Dr. Ashurst-McGee as comments below. Please keep questions generally focused on the scholarly study of Mormonism, Mark’s own research interests and projects, and other related issues. Thanks for your participation!

Article filed under Miscellaneous Scholarly Inquiry


  1. Would you comment on Michael Quinn’s recent on-line article in Dialogue on The First Vision and a comtemporary Methodist Revival in 1820 as a factor that my have influenced Joseph Smith to go to the grove?

    Do you believe that the cannonized 1838 account of the first vision conflates an 1823 and 1824 Palmayra revival with events in the 1819-1820 period ?

    Comment by John Willis — June 8, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  2. Excellent idea for a recurring feature. And Mark is a great pick for the inaugural round. I just recently downloaded his dissy, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

    As for questions…well, it seems to me that magic isn’t particularly controversial anymore among historians of Mormonism. I missed out on the initial splash of the Hoffman years and was too young or not paying attention when Quinn published. But the concept of treasure seeking and seeric translation have, it seems to me, joined the historiographic mainstream. Do you think that there are any subjects left that are destined to shake things up like magic did? What might they be?

    I also understand that Mark’s dissy only goes to MO. There are rumors that Klaus Hansen is revisiting his volume and I know a number of folk who have explicitly asked to see the Nauvoo C50 minutes. With the JSP’s current position of “we hope to get them, but will have to wait and see” what do you think the odds that they will see the light of day in our lifetimes and how important do you personally think they will be? Is all the aspirations regarding the C50 minutes distracting us from the balance of JS’s political thought? What should we be looking for there?

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 8, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  3. I’m interested for frameworks for Zion in a non-agricultural society if Mark has anything to offer.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 8, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  4. Great questions. I only have one. Why exactly do you refuse to serve in Cub Scouts?

    Comment by Steve Fleming — June 8, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  5. What are your thoughts on how best to account for “collaborative authorship” in the Smithian corpus (I have decided that collaborative authorship is a friendlier term for the lay audience than ghostwriting)? What are the thoughts in the JSPP?

    Comment by smb — June 8, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  6. Well, since no one else is pitching, I’ll throw a couple more out for consideration.

    Regarding the JSP, in his presentation at MHA, Mark mentioned a certain time period that he thought the JSP would take to wrap up, then grinning at Elder Jensen, cut that number in half. What does he honestly think the real publishing schedule will be?

    If he weren’t working on the JSP, but were still working with the Church Historian’s Press, what would he like to edit for publication and why.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 9, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

  7. I second most of the questions already asked.

    Comment by BHodges — June 12, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  8. […] six months ago, we announced the creation of what he hoped would (and still plan to) become a regular feature here at the […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Scholarly Inquiry: Mark Ashurt-McGee Responds to Your Questions — November 14, 2009 @ 12:43 am

  9. […] JI is pleased to welcome Mark Staker as the newest participant in the Scholarly Inquiry series. Mark, of course, is the author of the recently released Hearken O Ye People: The Historical […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Scholarly Inquiry: Soliciting Questions for Mark Staker — March 24, 2010 @ 12:02 am


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