The Brigham Young Center Project Team

Members of the Board of the Brigham Young Center Foundation


Gerrit J. Dirkmaat

Member of the Executive Council

Gerrit J. Dirkmaat is an assistant professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. He received his PhD from the University of Colorado in 2010 where he studied nineteenth-century American expansionism and foreign relations. His dissertation was titled “Enemies Foreign and Domestic: US Relations with Mormons in the US Empire in North America, 1844–1854.” He worked as a historian and writer for the Church History Department from 2010 to 2014 with the Joseph Smith Papers Project and served as a volume co-editor/historian for Documents Volume 1, the lead volume editor on Documents Volume 3, and has continued to work as a volunteer editor for the Joseph Smith Papers project on Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846 and Documents Volume 8. He is the co-author, along with Michael Hubbard MacKay, of the award-winning book From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, published by Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University and Deseret Book in 2015. He is also the author of dozens of academic articles as well. In 2015, he published a groundbreaking analysis of the differences between the originally recorded versions of Utah-era sermons of Brigham Young and other church leaders and those later published in the Journal of Discourses. This article, “The Prophets Have Spoken, But What Did They Say?: Examining the Differences Between George D. Watt’s Original Shorthand Notes and the Sermons Published in the Journal of Discourses,” won the 2016 Article of Excellence Award from the Mormon History Association. Prior to his work at the Church History Department, he served as the senior assistant editor of Diplomatic History from 2003 to 2009. He currently serves as editor of the academic journal, Mormon Historical Studies, published by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, and on the Church History editorial board for BYU Studies. He and his wife Angela have four children.

John D. Esplin

Member of the Board

John D. Esplin is the president and co-founder of Centeva, with responsibility for the company’s growth strategy and operational efficacy. He provides executive oversight to business development, product management, and project delivery. He has lead IT projects for over twenty years, including projects for the federal government, Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and healthcare providers. John has an MA in International Relations from the University of San Diego and a BS in Political Science from the University of Utah. He was a vice president at Wells Fargo prior to founding Centeva and has also worked for several international aid organizations including Project HOPE and CHOICE Humanitarian. He has served on the board for the Utah chapter of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and is an active board member for Spy Hop, a digital media education center for youth in downtown Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Jan Quan-Esplin, the CEO and co-founder of Centeva, live in Draper, Utah, with their three children.

Ronald K. Esplin

Member of the Board, Director, General Editor

Ronald K. Esplin is a general editor, along with Matthew J. Grow and Matthew C. Godfrey, of the Joseph Smith Papers. He served as the project’s managing editor until 2012. He received history degrees from the University of Utah, the University of Virginia, and Brigham Young University. From 1972 until 1980, he was part of the History Division of the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with assignments both as a researcher and writer and as an archivist. The latter included assembling the Brigham Young Collection from the extensive manuscript holdings of the old Church Historian’s Office. He moved to Brigham Young University in 1980 when the History Division was transferred there to become the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History. From 1986 through 2002, he served as managing director of that research institute and as a professor of church history and doctrine. From 1988 to 1991, he served as one of the editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Most of his publications have involved Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and early 19th-century Mormon history, including Men with a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837–1841. He is a past president of the Mormon History Association. He is married to the former Judith Mortensen; they have seven children and 24 grandchildren.

Andrew H. Hedges

Member of the Executive Council

Andrew H. Hedges is a professor and associate chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. He received a PhD in American history from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, an MA in Near East studies from Brigham Young University, and a BS in zoology from Weber State College. He was the lead editor of volumes 2 and 3 in the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers and served as managing historian of the project from 2012 to 2013. He has published on a variety of topics in early church history, with an emphasis on the Nauvoo and early Utah periods. His current research interests also includes the history of wetlands in the Salt Lake valley. He enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, and fly fishing, and he and his wife JoAnn have six children.

Dean C. Jessee

General Editor

Dean C. Jessee is a founder of the Joseph Smith Papers and a member of the National Advisory Board. He served as a general editor of the Papers from the project’s founding until 2013. He received an MA degree in LDS church history from Brigham Young University. His career includes working for the Archives and the History Division of the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1964 to 1981, followed by nineteen years’ service at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University, where he was an associate professor of church history and doctrine. His years of gathering and publishing Joseph Smith documents laid the groundwork for the current Joseph Smith Papers. His publications include Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (1984, 2001); Papers of Joseph Smith, vols. 1 and 2 (1989, 1991); Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons (1974); and numerous articles dealing with aspects of nineteenth-century Mormon history. He is a past president of the Mormon History Association.

John A. Peterson

Associate Director

John A. Peterson has been a Church Educator for 37 years, 25 of which have been at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah. John has three degrees in History. A BA from USU, an MA from BYU, and a PhD from ASU. For several years he worked as an archivist and the 19th Century acquisitions specialist for the Church Historical Department. He worked as tour guide of American and European History Sites for Brigham Young University Travel Study and received the Excellence in Teaching award from Brigham Young University’s Department of Continuing Education in 2001. He has also served as a tour guide for commercial travel companies. He was the director of Education for SeaTrek 2001, a recreation of Mormon maritime emigration on antique tall ships that sailed across the Atlantic that served as a “curtain opener” for the 2002 Olympics. He has given many historical lectures including the Juanita Brooks Lecture for 2016. He received the Mormon History Association’s “Best First Book Award” in 1999 for Utah’s Black Hawk War. He has also written a historical resource study for the National Park Service entitled “Brigham’s Bastion: Winsor Castle at Pipe Springs and its Place on the Mormon Frontier.” He is married to the former Linda Israelsen. They have raised 5 children and have 11 grandchildren.

Brent M. Rogers

Member of the Executive Council

Brent M. Rogers is an associate managing historian for The Joseph Smith Papers. He earned a BA with honors in history from San Diego State University, an MA in public history from California State University, Sacramento, and a PhD with emphasis in nineteenth-century United States history from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Brent’s dissertation “Managing Popular Sovereignty: Federalism and Empire in Utah Territory, 1847-1862,” won the 2014 Best Dissertation Award from the Mormon History Association and was the basis for his first monograph, Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory published in 2017 by the University of Nebraska Press. Rogers has served as lead editor or coeditor for four Joseph Smith Papers volumes including Journals, Volume 3 and Documents, Volume 5. Outside of his work on Joseph Smith, Brent’s research and writing has focused on the nineteenth-century American West, Utah Territory, and topics that intersect with understanding the history of Brigham Young. For example, in 2014 he published “A ‘distinction between Mormons and Americans’: Mormon Indian Missionaries, Federal Indian Policy, and the Utah War,” in the Utah Historical Quarterly, which won the Western History Association’s 2015 Arrington-Prucha Prize for Best Article on the History of Religion in the West. Brent has published other award-winning research, including “The Fascinating Life of Vienna Jaques,” an article featured in Mormon Historical Studies which won the Mormon History Association’s Best Article on Women’s History in 2016. Among other professional service, Rogers serves on the Church History Department Editorial Board; he is also a member of the board for Mormon Historical Studies. Brent is fortunate to be married to Ashley Tiner with whom he parents three extraordinary little people.

Richard E. Turley, Jr.

Member of the Board

Richard E. Turley, Jr. was appointed assistant church historian and recorder for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 12 March 2008. Prior to this appointment, he served as managing director of the Family and Church History Department, four years as managing director of the Family History Department, and fourteen years as managing director of the Church Historical Department. His book Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (University of Illinois Press, 1992) is an oft-cited history of the famous Hofmann forgery-murder case of the 1980s. He serves as a member of the editorial board for the Joseph Smith Papers, and as general editor of the Journals of George Q. Cannon. He is the coauthor, with Ronald W. Walker and Glen M. Leonard, of Massacre at Mountain Meadows, published in 2008 by Oxford University Press. He coedited the second volume in the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers (published 2011).

Jeffrey N. Walker

Member of the Board

Jeffrey N. Walker served as associate managing editor and member of the editorial board of the Joseph Smith Papers, as well as was the series manager and coeditor of the Legal and Business series of the Papers. He completed a JD from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was an articles editor for the Brigham Young University Law Review. He currently serves as adjunct professor at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. He has been in private practice since 1988 and has developed various businesses, including a manufacturing company and national watch company. He has written and spoken widely on 19th century legal practice, Joseph Smith’s legal affairs, and is currently preparing a multivolume work on Oliver Cowdery. He is a trustee and treasurer for the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and the managing editor of Mormon Historical Studies. Jeff is married to Elizabeth Hepburn and they have four children and 10 grandchildren.

John W. Welch

Member of the Board

source: self

John W. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, where he teaches a variety of courses including Jewish, Greek and Roman laws in the New Testament. He earned a B.A. and M.A. at BYU, filled a mission in South Germany (when he discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon), studied at Oxford, and received a J.D. Duke University and practiced law in the Los Angeles before joining the law faculty at BYU in 1980. He is known as the founder of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), and since 1991, as the editor-in-chief of the BYU Studies Quarterly. He also has served as the general editor of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, as a member of the Jewish Law Association and the SBL section on Biblical Law, and on board of editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He was honored as the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at BYU in 2010, and as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2016. He has authored or edited a number of books and articles, including The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple (London: Ashgate, 2009); The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 2008), and other notable works on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the trial of Jesus. He is married to Jeannie Sutton, who recently retired from the French Department at Brigham Young University. They have four children and seventeen grandchildren. Together they enjoy traveling, teaching, family activities, the arts, as well as church and temple service.