From 1988 to 1990, Ashurst-McGee served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in New Jersey. His wife Angela was a fellow of Western American Literature (an academic journal), a teacher of college English, a freelance editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, and currently runs the résumé writing service Red Rocket Résumé. They have five children.
Ashurst-McGee received a B.A. and B.S. from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1994, and an M.A. in History from Utah State University (USU) in 2000. His master's thesis on Joseph Smith's religious development won the Reese History Award from the Mormon History Association. He then pursued his doctorate in history at Arizona State University (ASU), where he also worked on a project for American Indian history and culture. His dissertation was on Joseph Smith's early social and political thought, and won the Gerald E. Jones Dissertation Award from the Mormon History Association. Through this training, he became a "specialist in documentary editing conventions and transcription methodology." A BYU professor of religious education and colleague in the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Steven C. Harper, stated Ashurst-McGee "probably knows the field of documentary editing better than anybody that I know."
In 1999, Ashurst-McGee was an intern in the Church Archives of the LDS Church. After his time at ASU, he joined the staff of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University. He also worked as an editor for Deseret Book and published articles with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and the Mormon History Association.
When FARMS printed a coordinated critique of Grant Palmer's controversial 2002 book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, Ashurst-McGee wrote one of the five critiques published in the FARMS Review. The other reviewers were James B. Allen, Davis Bitton, Louis Midgley, and Steven C. Harper.
Ashurst-McGee is a member of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Along with Richard L. Jensen and Dean C. Jessee, he co-edited the first volume to be published from the series, which was on the early journals of Joseph Smith. Released in 2008, the book became very popular and sold very quickly, prompting expanded additional printings. In 2009, it received the Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary Award (Mormon History Association) and a Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography (Association for Mormon Letters). Ashurst-McGee is expected to edit future volumes of Smith's papers.
- Ashurst-McGee, Mark (1999). "The Josiah Stowell Jr.-John S. Fullmer Correspondence". BYU Studies 38 (3): 108–117.
- —— (2000). A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet. [master's thesis]. Utah State University..
- —— (Fall 2001). "Moroni: Angel or Treasure Guardian?" (PDF). Mormon Historical Studies 2 (2): 39–75.
- —— (2001). "Mormonism's Encounter with the Michigan Relics" (PDF). BYU Studies 40 (3): 174–209.
- —— (2003). "A One-sided View of Mormon Origins". FARMS Review 15 (2).
- —— (2006). "Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian". FARMS Review 18 (1).
- ——; Smith, Alex (December 2007). "The Joseph Smith Journals". Ensign.
- Smith, Joseph, Jr. (2008). Jessee, Dean C.; Ashurst-McGee, Mark; Jensen, Richard L., eds. Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839. The Joseph Smith Papers. Salt Lake City: Church Historian's Press. ISBN 1-57008-849-7..
- Ashurst-McGee, Mark (2008). Zion Rising: Joseph Smith’s Early Social and Political Thought. [doctoral dissertation]. Arizona State University..
- "Zion rising : Joseph Smith's early social and political thought". Copyright Catalog (1978 to present). United States Copyright Office. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
- "The Mark R. Ashurst-McGee Papers". Marriott Library Special Collections. Salt Lake City: University of Utah. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- "Meet Former WAL Fellows". Western Literature Association. Utah State University. June 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
- "Alumni Updates: Profiles". BYU Magazine. Spring 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
- "About the Contributors". FARMS Review 18 (1). 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "H-AmIndian Staff". Department of History. Arizona State University. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- Lloyd, R. Scott (May 23, 2009). "'Massacre' receives honors from Mormon History Association". MormonTimes (Deseret News). Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- "Contributor Bios". The Joseph Smith Papers. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- Harper, Steven C. (August 18, 2008). The Joseph Smith Papers (mp3). BYU Education Week (Provo, Utah: BYU Broadcasting). Retrieved 2009-08-24.. 42:55 minutes in.
- Ashurst-McGee, Mark (1999). "The Josiah Stowell Jr.-John S. Fullmer Correspondence". BYU Studies 38 (3): 108–117. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- "Mark Ashurst-McGee". Authors. Maxwell Institute. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- Ashurst-McGee, Mark (2003). "A One-sided View of Mormon Origins". FARMS Review (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) 15 (2). Retrieved 2009-02-27.
- "News, Reviews, and Endorsements". The Joseph Smith Papers. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
- Biography at Joseph Smith Papers Project website (accessed May 4, 2012)
- Maxwell Institute listing
- University of Utah papers listing