Steven C. Harper

Steven C. Harper is a covenant son of God who strives to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. His primary work is to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that help students develop resilient faith in, and become lifelong disciples of, the Savior.

He is a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, editor in chief of BYU Studies, and executive editor of The Wilford Woodruff Papers. From 2012 to 2018 he was the managing historian and a general editor of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. From 2002-2012 he was a volume editor of The Joseph Smith Papers.

Professor Harper is married to Jennifer Sebring. They graduated from BYU in 1994, she in art education and he in history. He earned an MA in American history from Utah State University, where his thesis analyzed determinants of conversion to the restored gospel in the 1830s. He published chapters of his thesis as articles in the Journal of Mormon History and Religion and American Culture that were awarded by the Mormon History Association with the T. Edgar Lyon Award for best article of the year and the Juanita Brooks Award for best graduate student paper. He earned a PhD in early American history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he was Lawrence Henry Gipson Dissertation Fellow.

Professor Harper joined the religion and history faculties at BYU Hawaii in 2000 and the Church history and doctrine faculty at BYU in 2002, when he also became a volume editor for The Joseph Smith Papers. He taught at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in 2011-2012. He has been awarded several research fellowships including a Gest Fellowship by Haverford College Quaker Collection, a Mayers Fellowship by the Huntington Library, and the Eliza R. Snow Fellowship by Brigham Young University.

Professor Harper's books include Promised Land (Lehigh University Press, 2006), Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants (Deseret, 2008, winner of the Harvey B. and Susan Easton Black Award), Joseph Smith's First Vision (Deseret, 2012), First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (Oxford University Press, 2019, winner of the Harvey B. and Susan Easton Black Award and the Smith-Petit Best Book Award), and Let's Talk About the Law of Consecration (Deseret, 2022). He has published dozens of articles and is currently working on a study of The Doctrine and Covenants to be published in the Guides to Sacred Texts series by Oxford University Press.

July 14, 2023 09:19 AM MDT
“I’m a little confused about how the law of consecration is applied in the twenty-first century.” If you share that question, read on.
7 Min Read
May 18, 2023 07:00 AM MDT
The inability to convey his ideas in writing was one of the horns of Joseph’s dilemma. The other was that he had been commanded to convey his ideas in writing.
10 Min Read
May 04, 2023 07:00 AM MDT
A recent article compares Joseph’s experience to some early American conversion narratives and concludes that Joseph’s accounts lack the angst and the typical “transformations of the heart.”
4 Min Read
September 20, 2022 05:00 AM MDT
“It’s overly simplistic to say that the Presbyterian God abhorred people and the Methodist God didn’t, but the contrast helps us see a difference that meant a lot to Joseph.”
4 Min Read
September 06, 2022 04:00 AM MDT
Among the revelators who experienced assurance that restoration was on the way, were women including Sarah Pierrepont Edwards and Lucy Mack Smith.
6 Min Read
August 23, 2022 05:00 AM MDT
How did classical theism’s assumption that God is immaterial obtain its hold on Christianity, and how did the radical, restored truth, revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, challenge this theism?
7 Min Read
December 30, 2019 09:52 AM MST
Books, articles, and numerous Internet websites work to undermine faith in Joseph Smith’s first vision, but historically there have been just three main arguments against it. The minister to whom Joseph reported the event responded that there were no such things these days. More than a century later and in a literary style that masked her weakness in following the historical method, Fawn Brodie wrote that Joseph invented the vision years after he said it happened. A generation later, Wesley Walters charged Joseph with inventing revivalism when, Walters claimed, a lack of historical evidence proved that there was none and therefore there was no subsequent vision as a result. By now it has become a foregone conclusion for some that there are no such things as visions, that Joseph failed to mention his experience for years, and that he then gave conflicting accounts that failed to match historical facts. 1 But these three claims assume much more than they prove.
6 Min Read