About Kate Holbrook

Kate Holbrook

Kate Holbrook, PhD is a leading voice in the study of Latter-day Saint women and Latter-day Saint foodways. As managing historian of women’s history at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints history department, she writes, studies, and interprets history full-time. Her major research interests are religion, gender, and food.

A popular public speaker, Kate was voted Harvard College’s Teaching Fellow of the Year for her work as head teaching fellow in a course that enrolled nearly six hundred students, and she co-edited Global Values 101: A Short Course (Beacon Press, 2006), based on that class. In 2012, Kate co-organized a conference entitled “Women and the LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.” She and her co-organizer, Matthew Bowman, have edited a collection of essays that sprang from this conference entitled Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Kate has also published essays and book chapters about Latter-day Saint women and housework, Nation of Islam Muslims, Latter-day Saints and food, religion and sexuality, and . . . religious hunting rituals.

Kate grew up at the feet of the Rocky Mountains and is happy to live there again, among the historic sites, cultural currents, and food environments where her scholarship has its roots. She has a BA in English and Russian literature from Brigham Young University, an MTS from Harvard Divinity School, and a PhD in Religious Studies from Boston University. For her dissertation work on Latter-day Saint and Nation of Islam foodways, she was the first recipient of the Eccles Fellowship in Mormon Studies at the University of Utah. She and her husband, Samuel Brown, are raising three children in Salt Lake City.

47 thoughts on “About Kate Holbrook

  1. I just wanted to say what a marvelous job you did at the face to face. You explained things so we’ll and bore such a beautiful testimony. I appreciate like you who do all the work to find out all of the history–and then allow us to read it and gain a testimony. Thank you!

  2. Pointing out the Prophet’s dictated prose in the original manuscript to his personal journal handwriting style later on just one more great reason to love him.

  3. I join many others in extending thanks and gratitude to you for devoting your life, talents, gifts and soul to the work of the Lord. I did not know of you until the Face to Face devotional with Elder Cook. Your comments/teachings/testimony resonated with me. I rejoice in knowing the kingdom of God has individuals like you who enhance/enlighten us on historical as well as everyday events/issues. May you always be granted the companionship of the Holy Ghost as you do your work.

  4. Thank u so much for your contribution to the face-to-face event. Your articulate insights were so inspirational and educational. Thank you for being such a role model in the Lds community

  5. Hi Dr. Holbrook,

    Thank you for your faith and determination in bringing LDS history to life. I appreciated your words at the face to face event on September 9th. Since you study Mormon foodways, I hope you get to enjoy some raspberry honey butter, either at the lion house or made at home.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve had delicious raspberry whipped honey, but not raspberry honey butter. I’ll have to look into it!

  6. Thank you for your words and testimony at the face to face event. When you spoke of the Book of Mormon translation process, my heart was touched by the spirit bringing me to tears, reminding me of my own testimony of the Book of Mormon and its teachings, the power it has had in my life.

  7. I just wanted to take an opportunity to reach out to you and let you know the lasting positive impact your words at the Face to Face event had on me and my wife. We were both touched deeply. As I read Moroni 7 this morning I was reminded again of your testimony and felt a need to let you know what a difference you make. Thank you!

  8. I just by accident found the recording of Jennie Brimhall Knight including remarks by her brother Mark and sister Sina. The recording were made by my father Richard Knight on the occassion of Grandma’s birthday. I sent edited versions to members of the Groberg family a few months ago. Question: how did the recordings get online? Who is responsible? Could we meet to discuss this and other history relating to Jennie B. Hope to hear back. Newell Boyd Knight grandson of Jesse William and Lucy Jane Brimhall (Jennie)

    1. Hello, Would you like to send me the url for the recordings you’re talking about? I am not familiar with the recordings you mention, so have no idea who might have posted them online.


  9. Hello!
    I’ve really appreciated reading the things you have published and hearing what you had to say at the face to face event last year. I would love some recommendations on books you would recommend so that I can deepen my knowledge of church history.
    Thank you!!

  10. I am writing this WHILE listening to your Women’s Conference talk. I can’t wait til the end to thank you. And I can’t thank you enough. You are real. You have Obviously and beautifully worked hard in your life. Thank you for generously sharing who you have become. Thank you for encouraging us today. I will save and listen to your talk again on those days I feel discouraged.

  11. I loved your talk at the BYU Women’s Conference today (5/1/20). Thanks for the insights to history, and your part in bringing them to light.

  12. Enjoyed your talk at Women’s Conference today. I loved hearing that you like to cook. So do I. I write a murder mystery series in which my heroine is a cookbook author and the books include lots of recipes. I asked Cherry Silver to loan the first book in the series to you. I hope you will enjoy it.

  13. I’ve been a Muslim for over 20 years, but have been intrigued by the concept of Heavenly Mother for quite some time. ‘Caught your talk today and really enjoyed it. Searched up a bit about you and was surprised to find out about your research on NOI and food. Muslim food I tend to make is more Middle Eastern, but I love a good bean pie! Sadly, this Ramadan means no potluck iftar meals (breaking of the fasts.) Thank you for your talk. It touched me.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. I like Bean Pie, too, and many Middle Eastern dishes even more. Best wishes for a particularly spiritual Ramadan season this year, in spite of the sad isolation.

  14. Kate,
    Your talk at Women’s Conference validated some of my own thoughts on revelation, presented new ideas, sparked inspiration for more than one of my projects, and brought the Spirit. In short, I felt renewed and hopeful. The experiences you shared of women who have worked through challenges to accomplish goals, impacting both programs and people, motivated me in my current projects as co-editor-in-chief at Segullah. I could continue (and have in notes and thoughts since viewing your talk) but mostly I want to thank you for your insights and your example. I appreciate you!

  15. I really loved your talk on Friday! Do you happen to know the name or artists name of the art that you shared? The one of the flying woman holding a candle? I have been searching for it everywhere online, but can’t find it.

    1. Thank you. The painting is “The Responsible Woman” by James Christensen.

  16. thank you for your words at the women’s conference.
    but I would like to know where the scriptures on the Israel coalition you mentioned are located. I have been studying this for some time!

    especially when the Lord says: I know my sheep and they are numbered. could you share where are those scriptures you quoted ??

    Thank you very much in advance.

    1. Thanks Claudia. This one is in the Book of Mormon: “he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.” (1 Nephi 22:24–25)


      1. Sister Holbrook. I really like your answer in the July 2020 Ensign to questions about church history. I am wondering if you could please tell me what sources I can find more info on plural marriage and what our church leaders have taught specifically how “plural marriage is not necessary for exaltation”. Thank you so much!

        1. Thanks for writing, Carla. Here are some statements that might help:

          • James E. Talmage in the October 1901 Improvement Era:
          “What the Latter-day Saints call celestial marriage, plurality of wives was an incident, never an essential.”
          • Charles W. Penrose in the September 1912 Improvement Era:
          “Question 4: Is plural or celestial marriage essential to a fulness of glory in the world to come?
          Answer: Celestial marriage is essential to a fulness of glory in the world to come, as explained in the revelation concerning it; but it is not stated that plural marriage is thus essential.”
          • Bruce R. McConkie (1966) Mormon Doctrine, pg. 578.
          “Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman. (D. & C. 132:1-28.) Thereafter he added the principles relative to plurality of wives with the express stipulation that any such marriages would be valid only if authorized by the President of the Church (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7, 29-66).”

          • From the Gospel Topics Essay on Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

          “During the years that plural marriage was publicly taught, not all Latter-day Saints were expected to live the principle, though all were expected to accept it as a revelation from God. Indeed, this system of marriage could not have been universal due to the ratio of men to women. Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or a monogamous union, or whether to marry at all. Some men entered plural marriage because they were asked to do so by Church leaders, while others initiated the process themselves; all were required to obtain the approval of Church leaders before entering a plural marriage.”

          • From the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Chapter 51 – Doctrine and Covenants 131; 132:1–33:

          Elder Marcus B. Nash clarified that the doctrine of eternal marriage taught in Doctrine and Covenants 132:4 is not plural marriage: “Some people, including some Church members, inaccurately read Doctrine and Covenants 132:4 to mean that plural marriage is necessary for exaltation, leading them to believe that plural marriage is a necessary prerequisite for exaltation in the eternal realm. This, however, is not supported in the revelations. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 131 and 132, the Lord introduced the law of eternal marriage by expressly referring to the sealing of one man and one woman (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:4–7, 15–25). By setting forth the law of eternal marriage in the context of a monogamous marriage, the Lord makes plain that the blessings of exaltation, extended to each man and each woman who worthily enters into the covenant of eternal marriage performed by proper priesthood authority, are independent of whether that marriage is plural or monogamous [see D&C 132:15–25]” (“The New and Everlasting Covenant,” 44).

          • From the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Chapter 52 – Doctrine and Covenants 132:34–66; Official Declaration 1:

          “Many of the early Church leaders and members did not distinguish between celestial marriage and plural marriage when discussing the requirements for exaltation. In the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, the Lord taught that “if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed,” they will receive “exaltation and glory in all things,” and “then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:19–20). Thus, “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:2) is the eternal, or celestial, marriage of one man and one woman. The Lord extended the same promised blessings of “exaltation in the eternal worlds” to faithful Saints who lived the principle of plural marriage (D&C 132:63; see also D&C 132:55), but celestial marriage—not plural marriage—is required for exaltation.”

          “In 1933, President Heber J. Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency explained that the term “celestial marriage” does not imply plural marriage: “Celestial marriage—that is, marriage for time and eternity—and polygamous or plural marriage are not synonymous terms. Monogamous marriages for time and eternity, solemnized in our temples in accordance with the word of the Lord and the laws of the Church, are Celestial marriages” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1971], 5:329).”

  17. Hello Kate
    This is a belated fan email for your very informative and impressive face to face presentation with Elder Quentin Cook who is a friend from our CA days. You don’t know me but I knew you as a young child. I knew your mother when she was single in the University Ward in Berkeley and your father when he was in law school and they were married.
    I was practicing law on SF at the time
    I’m prompted to write because yesterday I had a zoom meeting with Matt Heiss regarding an article I wrote about my personal experiences as a missionary in Berlin in the early months of the Wall. Apparently you and he have worked together on committees
    I hope Kathleen is well.
    She used to teach at the school across the street from Three Fountains where my parents lived after they retired.
    Our oldest son Dave would see her at a Valentine’s lunch co hosted by him for the clients of his financial advisor client.
    Congratulations on the wonderful work you are doing!
    David Owens

  18. Hello Kate,
    It’s been wonderful to hear talks you’ve given in the last couple of years on LDS women in history. One that comes to mind is your talk at Womens’ Conference this year-thank you!

    I am a 1st-year graduate student at Utah State University studying History with plans to focus on LDS Church history. This semester, one of my classes is a “Special Topics-Christianity” survey class taught by Dr. Patrick Mason. It’s been incredibly enlightening.

    This week, I’m writing a Book Response to the book “History and Presence” by Robert A. Orsi. Perhaps you are familiar with this fascinating book about the history of Catholicism and God’s “presence”, angels, unexplained healings, etc.

    My professor Dr. Patrick Mason asks us to consider this question, “How do we make sense of the supernatural as scholars and historians?” I plan to write about this in my book response.

    I am very curious about your thoughts on this question. As a believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am still formulating my thoughts on positivism vs. sectularism (I think that’s what it’s called) and feel like this relates to the question Patrick raises.

    If I am lucky enough to get a response here before I need to finish the paper on Thursday morning, Oct. 22, I will be sure to credit you in the paper for whatever I use of your thoughts (if you give permission).

    No worries if you don’t see this in time or are not prepared to answer- I know it’s a short fuse!

    Thank you,
    Diane Livingston

    1. I hope your report went well, Diane. History and Presence is a stimulating read.


  19. Sister Holbrook,

    I have recently been reading “At the Pulpit” and I wanted to say thank you! Thank you for putting that volume together (along with Sister Reeder). Thank you for your positive testimony that you share each time I have heard an interview with you (Face to Face, LDS Women Podcast, MI Podcast). I am grateful for all that you have been involved in. I think your contribution to women’s history in the church as been invaluable for our current day. It has made a difference to me.

    Thanks again!
    Sarah Paulsen

  20. Hi Kate,
    When I saw you on the event with Elder Cook, I recognized your name but I just realized a couple of days ago that I knew you at Timpview (or at least knew who you were — your yearbook photo is very familiar). Although it’s been a long time and I’ve lost contact with many from high school, it’s great to see the positive impact being made by a Timpview alumna.
    Andrew Lofthouse

    1. How kind of you to write, Andrew. Thank you. I’m glad to hear you’re spending time with church–I find it to be such a good source of direction and happiness. I hope all is well with you. Best, Kate

  21. Dear Dr. Holbrook, Thank you for your inspiring presentation on the Follow Him podcast. I wonder if anyone has considered another aspect of the purpose of polygamy (so much has been said lately): that it was the final straw in ejecting the Saints from the United States altogether, so that the Church could grow up as a cohesive unit in a very isolated place. It occurred to me when I was teaching Genealogy and Family History at our community college: There was a woman in my class who was a Wendish descendant. I learned that Wends had immigrated from Lusatia (now Germany) to central Texas where they hoped to live their persecuted religion isolated from outside influences. But that did not last and eventually they were absorbed into the larger culture, descendants having only modest success in commemorating their unique cultural heritage. Their church became part of the Lutheran Missouri Synod. It occurred to me then, (when I first considered it) and continues to seem plausible that the same thing could have happened to our Restoration — that the early Saints may have become just another sect to be eventually absorbed into the larger culture had they stayed in Illinois. We actually see it happening in today’s Church, with many young (and not-so-young) people taking on “the ways of the world.” However, we are still distinct enough because of our history that what happened to the Wends (and other unique groups) is unlikely to happen to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Did the Lord actually use polygamy to accomplish His purposes in helping the Church to grow up to become a cohesive unit in relative isolation in the west?
    E.C. Shaeffer (descendant of polygamists on both sides of my family)

  22. Sister Holbrook,
    Loved your BYU Women’s Conference address last year (or so)! Listened to it several times. Today, I am troubled in the readings I have come across regarding Fanny Algar. Don’t want to elaborate. Could you please share what your opinion and findings are. You are welcome to email me privately. Thank you

  23. Hi Kate, I enjoyed your inaugural Committed Conversations podcast with your husband! I think you are familiar with my writings about the pressing need for the men of Nauvoo to be relieved of any presumption they had a right to care for the widowed and indigent. But the way your husband and you discussed some of the driving forces behind the founding meeting of Relief Society seemed to paint the matter as hopeful Christian charity rather than an urgent need for Saintly salvation. In case you hadn’t been familiar with Catherine Laur Fuller Warren’s statements to the High Council in May 1842, I recommend her version of 1841-1842 events as background for why there was such an urgent need for all the institutions Joseph stood up in the Church in spring of 1842. Again, delightful to hear the two of you discuss these things!

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