There are 12 thoughts on “Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke”.

  1. A very comprehensive scholarly piece of work Professor Jackson. Thank You. A Faith worth holding is a Faith worth defending.
    I wonder if there is any connection to “THE NEW TESTAMENT ” A Translation For Latter Day Saints, A Study Bible” By Thomas A. Wayment? It appears (reads) very similar to The English Standard Version published by Crossway?
    How far can one go before there is a potential of being accused of plaguerism?

    • Both are responsible translations into contemporary English from the same Greek text, so it would be amazing if there weren’t many, many similarities. This doesn’t mean that there is any plagiarism involved.

  2. I’m revisiting your fine article due to my recent concern / dismay / shock / surprise to find a positive reference to the Adam / Clarke Commentary, in our official Come Follow Me (CFM) – D&C 37-40. In the JST paper included in CFM it says “As he worked on these [JST] changes, he appears in many instances to have consulted respected commentaries by biblical scholars, studying them out in his mind as a part of the revelatory process.” Then, footnote #3 refers the reader to “Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” Journal of Undergraduate Research, Mar. 2017,
    In the Wilson / Wayment article the LDS audience is treated to the following statements, “… we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary … Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts … This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects… and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text … Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap …” Your article pushes back strongly on these assertions, and for me, rings true in every instance. Maybe I’m missing something substantial in the Wilson / Wayment research.
    The Wilson / Wayment article cites Colossians 2:20–22 as one of the best examples of Smith’s borrowing ….
    Your more detailed evaluation of these verses concludes, “This is manifestly untrue ….” Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the LDS audience to be referred to your article for a more thorough and faith promoting approach to this attack on Jos. Smith’s prophetic gift?
    Continuing in the Wilson / Wayment article we’re advised, “Our overall impression is that Smith was inclined to follow Clarke especially in instances where he drew upon manuscript evidence or language expertise…” and “One of the larger questions raised by this study is whether this new information would alter the reception of Smith’s translation as a canonical or nearly canonical text..” Oh great! Just what I needed to find in the CFM – a “seed of doubt” about Joseph Smith’s prophetic gift.

    Two Questions.
    1) Has Wilson / Wayment responded to your Interpreter article? I may have missed it … but I hope their response would have been printed in the Interpreter journal.
    2) I wonder if anyone that works on the church CFM curriculum has read your article? At the very least I would expect a footnote reference to your article to go along with the Wilson / Wayment footnote.
    3) Is it too late for some lobbying to get your article added to the online CFM material? I don’t have any contacts, but surely you and Daniel Peterson must know someone in the CFM dept.

    Additionally, Haley Wilson is also interviewed on the John Dehlin podcast for two hours. I listened to all two hours a couple of years ago. During these podcasts, Joseph Smith’s prophetic gift is regularly disparaged and apparently Wilson has lost her testimony based on her research. Seeds of doubt and aspersions are showered on Jos. Smith throughout the podcast.
    Don’t we have enough opportunity to be exposed to “seeds of doubt” by our detractors without having a seed of doubt introduced in our CFM official material … presumably this official material is translated in dozens of languages for a worldwide LDS audience.
    I know, most people don’t read the footnotes, but it surprises me that this information about the JST seems to be readily accepted as a valid possibility.
    I’m ranting here because I don’t have any contacts at church headquarters on the CFM curriculum staff …. Is there anyone at the Interpreter that can politely push back on this portion of the JST material?
    On a more positive note, I have loved all the basic CFM material and extra scholarship available at the touch of a button….. but this Adam / Clarke reference surprised me.
    Thank you.

  3. If persons who wish to denigrate the Prophet have to resort to Adam Clarke to advocate plagiarism, then they are desperate people indeed. Thank you for your review.

  4. I was most pleased to find this fine piece which sets the record straight. It seems Wayment’s scholarly reputation is suffering.

    If I might compare and contrast the conclusions of this item with that found in one of Terryl Givens’ (since he has been mentioned by someone else):

    Givens’ first:

    “His [Joseph Smith’s] task would involve not just innovation, or ex
    nihilo oracular pronouncements upon lost doctrines, but the salvaging, collecting, and assimilating of much that was mislaid, obscured, or neglected. . . .
    ” Smith’s prophetic vocation included inspired borrowings,
    reworkings, collaborations, incorporations, and modifications of what he found about him, with many false starts, second-guessings, and self-revisions.”

    From Kent Jackson’s piece:
    “Joseph Smith had supreme confidence in his prophetic calling and believed that his authority even exceeded that of the Bible. That is why he so freely revised it and reinterpreted it. He was not prone to care what other religions taught, and we have no record of him turning to others to obtain ideas on doctrinal or scriptural matters. His Bible-based sermons, like the revisions he made to the Old and New Testaments, show that he and the religion God founded through him truly stood “independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14). While it is not impossible that he learned from books about textual issues such as those examples I have listed, it does not fit his life’s pattern for him to seek outside of his own prophetic instincts to try to find answers to scriptural questions.
    “Consider the following: Before Joseph Smith started revising the Bible, he had already produced a new volume of ancient scripture — the Book of Mormon — with thousands of words that correct, reinterpret, and redefine almost every aspect of how we view the teachings and text of the Old and New Testaments. As for his Bible revision specifically, prior to arriving at the point at which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe he started using Adam Clarke, Joseph Smith had already reinvented the Bible itself. He had announced that Christianity was revealed from the beginning of the world, and he had identified Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses as Christians. He had redefined the nature of God. He had announced the scope of God’s work to cover the universe, with myriad worlds throughout the cosmos inhabited by God’s children. He had explained God’s plan for human salvation in terms better than any found in the New Testament. He had revealed the nature and motives of Satan. He had explained the fall of Adam and Eve in ways that far eclipse any understanding of the topic in the Bible. And he had redefined the purpose of animal sacrifice. It does not seem likely to me that someone as confident of his prophetic calling as Joseph Smith was, who had already revised the biblical text so dramatically, would be inclined to search for suggestions in someone else’s book.”

    I think the conclusion overwhelmingly self-evident–Joseph was no borrower from the (apostate) religious world around him. He was a prophet of God; the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and Translator (or transmitter with the JST).

    • Dennis, you, Jackson and Givens make the best points of all for Latter-day Saint apologetics. In applying scholarly attention to writings about Joseph Smith must be considered as a prophet prepared by the Lord in his teen years to be THE prophet of the restoration. That is central. Without that perspective, there is no apologetics worthy of Paul’s description as “being ready to give an answer to the faith that is in you.” The late Harold Bloom understood this from his academic perch at Yale not our of faith: Bloom who died a year ago this week said “Smith is not just ‘a’ prophet, another prophet, but he is the essential prophet of these latter days, leading into the end time, whenever it comes.”
      “Professor Bloom has written about the power and future of the Church. He extols Joseph Smith as “an authentic religious genius, unique in our … history,” and praises “the sureness of his instincts, his uncanny knowing precisely what [was] needful for the inauguration of a new faith” (The American Religion, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, pp. 82–83). Joseph Smith and Mormonism, he says, have contributed to the world “a more human God and a more divine man”” –Elder V. Dallas Merrell Would such a prophet need Adam Clarke’s help? That is the long shot requiring more than ordinary evidence to support assumptions and claims of plausibility.

  5. Thank you for this excellent article … I read one of the Wayment / Wilson-Lemmon articles regarding JS alleged JST plagiarism. I also listened to Wilson-Lemmon being interviewed on the Mormon Stories podcast. Your article is very important and appreciated by me. It is so refreshing to read expert analysis of a complicated topic. I can only imagine the countless hours of analysis. It amazes me how easy it is for some to denigrate the Prophet JS and his prophetic gift then present their “findings” with an overwhelming sense of certitude. I have recommended your article to my friends. Your article is somewhat of a classic example showing how easy it is to expose weak scholarship. There were so many items exposed as “simply not true”. I especially enjoyed your final example regarding the Nathanial Lewis confusion. Thanks for including that detailed analysis.

  6. A correction is in order. The charge of “plagiarism” did not come from Professor Wayment but from his coauthor and her anti-Mormon enablers. I think that the Adam Clarke-JST idea began as a good-faith effort on Wayment’s part to explain some JST revisions, though I disagree with it entirely. But like you I’m not impressed with the effort to provide “cover” for Joseph Smith by saying, as you summarized so well, “the JST was never published, so plagiarism was ipso facto impossible.” This argument seems to suggest that the Prophet needs us to make apologies for his efforts.

    • Thanks for the clarification, Professor Jackson. I actually di hear Wayment in an interview on LDS Perspectives in which he made the point about the JST never having been published. My error. Thanks again for such an exemplary apologetic peer review. It was truly apologetics of the second kind which Terryl Givens held up. Detailed, scholarly, and even-handed.

  7. In the Summer of 1984, after following the initial release of the “Salamander Letter” I was at Simi Valley, California watching my kids play in the pool when an answer for the “salamander of light” occur to me. I knew of two salamanders one an amphibian and another was a “salamander furnaces” or simply, “salamanders” we used to warm potato cellars in frozen Southeast Idaho winters. Of course, I thought, salamander must have meant flame. No big deal. Of course, before the year was out, the “Salamander Letter” proved to be an elaborate hoax.
    The apologetic response the hoax was all over the board and mine was no better—the real problem was simply forgery.
    Like many Latter-day Saints, I have been of two minds on apologetic writings. On the one hand I am concerned about contentiousness and on the other hand I am convinced that real criticism needs to be answered. Since Terryl Givens address to the Maxwell Institute last fall about apologetics of the second kind, I am convinced that well-researched and logical cases must be prepared to answer serious criticism. Often when supposed serious scholarly criticisms are posed, apologists first reach to explain them away with simple explanations by changing the subject.
    Such was the case with the “plagiarism of the JST” as charged in by Thomas A. Wayment, professor of classics at Brigham Young University, published an article, “A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” co-authored with his former research assistant, Haley Wilson-Lemmon. The study was accepted collegially at face value as scholarly and it was simply noted that the JST was never published, so plagiarism was ipso facto impossible. But this first response was just like my salamander answer—only slightly satisfying.
    Thanks for your satisfying and well-researched answer. This is apologetics at its best!

  8. Thanks so much for this well researched article! I wasn’t aware of Wayment’s article, and I don’t think I would have necessarily been bothered if JS had consulted a (or some) commentary to help make the Bible more accessible, but you have clearly spent an incredible amount of time double checking their claims. The result for me is a much greater respect for JS as a man and as a prophet, and a sense that God’s hand was indeed upon him in this process.

  9. It is simply amazing that the handful of weak parallels to Adam Clarke are being billed as evidence of “plagiarism” by the most prominent voices of anti-Mormonism. Even if every case raised by Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon really were cases of Joseph being influenced directly by Clarke, they would represent little more than occasional minor influence. Since the JST was never published by Joseph, there isn’t even a case for actual plagiarism for that incomplete work in progress (requires publication without attribution). But the reality is that among the alleged instances of borrowing from Clarke published by Wayment and Lemmon, not a single one withstands scrutiny. Their best examples are sometimes completely erroneous, far-fetched, or have much more credible explanations rather than borrowing from Clarke. But some of our critics bill this as an amazing find of historical importance that cuts to the heart of LDS claims.

    Thanks for doing the homework required to show what an empty, even ridiculous case this is against the JST.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged. Individual authors are given the option to disallow commenting or end commenting after a certain period at their discretion.

Close this window

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This