Alumnus works on the Joseph Smith Papers project

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Kristie Lam | University Relations | 8 September 2015

Spencer McBride, an alumnus of BYU–Hawaii, has recently been involved with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, a project that aims to publish and preserve documents created by Joseph Smith. He attributes the launching of his career to his experience at BYU–Hawaii.

McBride earned his B.A. in history from BYU–Hawaii in 2007. He continued his studies in history at Louisiana State University, and obtained his Ph.D. in 2014. His main interest is the culture and politics of early United States history. He did not specialize in Mormon history, but he was hired to begin working on the Joseph Smith Papers Project as a volume editor, fresh out of graduate school.

“BYU-Hawaii served as a tremendous launching pad for my career as a historian,” says McBride, “My professors worked closely with me and were as much mentors to me as they were my teachers. I saw them as top-notch scholars in their own right and sought to emulate them as they taught me the historian’s craft. Professors such as Matthew Kester and James Tueller spent a great deal of time outside their normal teaching loads to field my questions and to guide me in my research. As a result, when I entered graduate school, I found myself ahead of the curve and able to hit the ground running.”

“He [McBride] was always eager to learn,” recalls History Professor James Tueller, “and he was always well prepared.”

The Joseph Smith Papers is a project that publishes, according to specific standards, documents created by Joseph Smith or by staff whose work he directed. The project has published journals, revelations and translations, contemporary reports of discourses, minutes, business and legal records, editorials, and notices.

“I was thrilled to join the project,” shares McBride. “My expertise in the history of religion and American politics has, I think, lent itself well to the subject matter as Joseph Smith was consistently working in the American political system from 1839 until his death in 1844 seeking redress for the persecution of church members in Missouri.”

McBride mentioned that preparing the volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers with a great deal of care and still meeting a stringent set of deadlines can be quite a challenge sometimes To meet this challenge, he reminds himself to be a professional historian, and to rely on the expertise of those around him.

“The Joseph Smith Papers project has been doing a great job with publishing documents about often controversial gospel topics,” remarked Tueller, “I am impressed and joyous to see that the project is not only being the defender of the church, but also tries to be part of the wider world of professional historians. It pleases me to see that Spencer is working in a place that is very professional and organized.”

When asked about his most treasured memories regarding handling archival materials, he said, “There is a certain thrill that comes from working with really old documents. I remember the excitement I felt when I first worked with archival materials as a student at BYU-Hawaii, and the excitement has endured to this date. This is particularly the case when I work with the documents created by the generation of men and women who helped establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Going back to the original sources gives me a greater understanding of the process by which the church came to be and insights into the hopes, aspirations, and anxieties of early church members.”

What advice would Spencer McBride give to students and recent graduates of BYU–Hawaii? “Study hard and chase your goals and do not simply wait for opportunities to arrive on your doorstep.” He also encouraged students to “continue to foster the ability to think critically,” as it is a critical key to professional success. 

Click here ( learn more about the Joseph Smith Papers Project. To read more about Spencer McBride and his work, visit