Once the First Vision assumed its predominant place in Mormon writing and preaching, it became much more than Joseph Smith's personal experience—it became a shared community experience. (Del Parson, The First Vision, © 1987 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)
Samuel Alonzo Dodge graduated in April 2010 from Brigham Young University with a BA in history. His essay “Enclosures and Open Land” was published in the BYU student journal Americana (2009). He was a recipient of BYU’s Office of Research and Creative Activities project grant, which led to writing and presenting his essay “The History of the History: Rediscovering Joseph’s First Vision” at the Mormon History Association meeting in 2010. He also coproduced a historical documentary Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Seeking the Accounts (2010) and served a full-time LDS mission to the Dominican Republic. He is currently a graduate student of early United States history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.
James B. Allen received his PhD in history from the University of Southern California in 1963 and was a professor of history at Brigham Young University until 1992. He served in the LDS Church as assistant Church historian (1972–79), was chair of the History Department at BYU (1981–87), and was Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Chair in Western American History at BYU (1987–92). He has authored, coauthored, or coedited fourteen books and around ninety articles on western American and LDS history. He was awarded the Evans Biography Award for Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, A Mormon (1987), was named Distinguished Faculty Lecturer at BYU (1984), was made a Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society (1988), and received the Leonard J. Arrington Award for a Distinctive Contribution to the Cause of Mormon History (2008).
John W. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, where he teaches courses on tax-exempt organizations, ancient laws in the Bible and Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith and the law. He was educated at Brigham Young University with a BA in history and an MA in classical languages. He studied Greek philosophy at Oxford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, earned his law degree at Duke University, and practiced law in the Los Angeles firm of O’Melveny and Myers. He is well known as the founder of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), and since 1991 he has served as the editor in chief of BYU Studies. He was also a director of special projects for the BYU Religious Studies Center, the general editor of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, and a member of the board of editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He has authored a number of publications presenting striking discoveries concerning Joseph Smith and the law, the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the trial of Jesus, King Benjamin’s speech, the Book of Mormon as a handbook of Church administration, and the nature and roles of evidence in law, science, and the nurturing of faith.
Richard Lloyd Anderson is a research historian and a volume editor for The Joseph Smith Papers. He earned a JD from Harvard Law School and a PhD in classics at the University of California, Berkeley. He authored Understanding Paul (1983, 2007 rev. ed.), Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage (1971, 2003 rev. ed.), Investigating the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (1981), and many articles on early Christian history and early Mormonism. He is coeditor of the Documentary History of Oliver Cowdery. He served in World War II in the US Navy as an aviation radioman. He retired as professor emeritus BYU after nearly forty years of teaching history and religion. Awards include Honors Professor of the Year and Phi Kappa Phi Award for Scholarship and Citizenship.
Milton V. Backman Jr. served as an LDS missionary to South Africa and later in the US Air Force during the Korean War. Upon completing his military service, Backman graduated with a degree in history from the University of Utah and went on to receive his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1959. Backman briefly taught American history at West Texas State University before being hired by Brigham Young University in 1960. He has written several important articles and books concerning Mormon history, including American Religions and the Rise of Mormonism (1970), Joseph Smith’s First Vision (1971), and The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (1983). Backman served as president of the Mormon History Association from 1978 to 1979.
Richard Lyman Bushman is a general editor of The Joseph Smith Papers, former Howard W. Hunter Visiting Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, and Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. He earned a PhD in history from Harvard University. He taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the Columbia faculty. He won the Bancroft Prize for From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690–1765 (1967) and also published Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (1984), King and People in Provincial Massachusetts (1985), and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992), Believing History (2004), and Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005).
Dean C. Jessee is a general editor of The Joseph Smith Papers. He earned an MA in LDS Church history from Brigham Young University. He worked 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 of service at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University. His gathering and publishing of Joseph Smith’s papers led to the current Joseph Smith Papers. His publications include Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (1984, 2001 rev. ed.); Papers of Joseph Smith, vols. 1 and 2 (1989, 1991); Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons (1974); and numerous articles regarding early LDS history. He is a past president of the Mormon History Association.
Larry C. Porter is a research and review editor of the The Joseph Smith Papers and professor emeritus of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He received a PhD in history of religion from BYU, where he taught for thirty-one years. His service included chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine and director of the Church history area of the BYU Religious Studies Center. He also held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding. He received the Richard Lloyd Anderson Research Award from Religious Education at BYU and the Leonard J. Arrington Award for a Distinctive Contribution to the Cause of Mormon History from the Mormon History Association. He coauthored or edited several important books, including Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837–1987 (1987), The Prophet Joseph Smith: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith (1988), and Lion of the Lord: Essays on the Life & Service of Brigham Young (1996).
Steven C. Harper is a historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers. He served from 2002 to 2012 as a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He earned a PhD in early American history from Lehigh University. He has been a Gest Fellow at Haverford College and the Lawrence Henry Gipson Dissertation Fellow at Lehigh University, and he received the T. Edgar Lyon and Juanita Brooks Awards from the Mormon History Association and a Brigham Young University Young Scholar Award. He authored Promised Land (2006), Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants (2008), Joseph Smith’s First Vision: A Guide to the Historical Accounts (2012), and numerous articles on Mormonism and the early American republic.