Monday, October 12, 2020

Kent P. Jackson’s Article on Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary, and the JST at The Interpreter


by Dennis B. Horne

             The Interpreter online journal recently posted a strong and sound article by retired BYU Religious Instruction professor Kent P. Jackson. For some time now critics of the Church have been trying to use the (false) conclusions of Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon to weaken or destroy the credibility of the Joseph Smith Translation (or Inspired Version) of the Bible. Their conclusions are that Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from Adam Clarke’s bible commentary in creating the JST, with Haley Wilson-Lemmon (who is now an apostate) declaring that the Prophet plagiarized much of the JST.

            Kent Jackson has now thoroughly studied their conclusions and finds them to be nonsense. The Prophet Joseph Smith did not use the Clarke commentary in producing the JST and did not even have the book. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon are simply wrong about most everything. In other words, the anti-Mormons have latched onto an illusion (that should not have been created) for comfort in their disbelief; a puff of smoke that is now blowing away in the wind and leaving them looking as foolish as ever.

            In connection with this, FairMormon also posted an audiofile with one of the Church’s History Department Employees (Mark Ashurst-McGee) also speaking to this issue. It seems that much of what he said is also now shown to be erroneous as well, the major item being his number of 5 percent of the JST being taken from Clarke’s commentary, when it is actually none. (I encourage people to read and listen to these items themselves.)

            Speaking for myself, I think Jackson’s piece to be the finest kind of defensive (or “apologetic”) scholarship. I commend The Interpreter website for publishing it and Brother Jackson for doing the necessary homework.

            On a side note, sometimes when reading up on one subject, we run into information that touches on another. Such was the case with me here. Long ago I skimmed a piece by Terryl Givens that I found to be full of false and misleading doctrine. (Such is why I rarely read his material, it is hard to find anything accurate.) Givens’ pontificating on the apostasy of the Christian church and Joseph Smith’s involvement with the restoration made me ill with its ineptness and incorrectness. Terryl Givens wrote: “The grand project of restoration, then, relied upon a vision of apostasy as retreat and admixture, rather than absence. 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.”

            One has to work hard to twist and bend this vain babble into anything resembling church doctrine and it isn’t worth trying. This is why I was delighted to find Jackson’s clear and simple conclusions at the end of his fine article in Interpreter that contradict Givens. From Kent P. 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.

             Givens evidently has no clue what the great Seer of the Latter days was really doing under the inspiration of the Lord; he certainly hasn’t respected the prophets and apostles’ teachings on the subject. The revelations of the restoration came line upon line and precept upon precept, not by Joseph Smith going to the Catholic and Protestant churches of his day and borrowing everything but the temple ordinances from them.

            I recently came across this beautiful explanation of true doctrine from President Wilford Woodruff: 

            How was it in that day in reference to many things that were taught and practiced? All was not revealed at once, but the Lord showed the Prophet a principle, and the people acted upon it according to the light which they had. All the perfection and glory of it was not revealed at first; but, as fast as it was revealed, the people endeavored to obey.

            I will bring up one thing which will show that the position I take is correct,—viz., baptism for the dead. When that was first revealed, we rejoiced in it; and, as soon as we had an opportunity, we began to be baptized for our dead. A man would be baptized for both male and female. The moment I heard of it, my soul leaped with joy; for it was a subject in which I felt deeply interested. I went forward and was baptized for all my dead relatives I could think of, both male and female, as did others; but, afterwards, we obtained more light upon the subject, and President Young taught the people that men should attend to those ordinances for the male portion of their dead friends, and females for females. This showed the order in which those ordinances should be administered, which ordinances had before been revealed, and shows us that we are in a school where we shall be constantly learning. (Journal of Discourses 5:84).

             I again plead and warn: Let us not get our doctrine from mistaken academics at BYU, but from prophets and apostles, and then we will be armed with the correct information necessary to see the flaws and errors of those who can mislead us. BYU has real fault in the messes they have created with some hires; some housecleaning is needed again. I am grateful I can discern the difference between a Jackson and a Givens, a Nibley and a Spencer (either of them), a Muhlestein (or Gee) and a Hauglid, a McConkie and a Wayment. Even Steven Harper published the views of anti-Christs (on the first vision and gold plates) in a recent number of BYU Studies Quarterly and will publish more false doctrine there in the January 2021 issue promoting evolution. Let us be wary of the unsuspecting channels the devil uses to confuse and weaken faith and doctrinal knowledge.


  1. God bless you, Brother Horne. I know that the road may seem lonely, but there are those of us here and there who read your words with eagerness and thankfulness.

    I've been troubled by much that has come from BYU and the Maxwell Institute over the years. I knew that Wayment's conclusions were garbage when the paper was first publicly announced, having some familiarity with both the JST and Clarke's Commentary myself. I'm very happy to know that I'm not some solitary crackpot sitting on the extreme fringe of the LDS Church.

    Let us not give more grease to the squeaky wheels. Let us study the doctrine as taught by the General Authorities. The doctrine is clear, it is consistent, and it is true.

  2. Dan, Amen and well said. Most of BYU is great, but a few of their faculty are unorthodox liberal activists that do so much more harm than good. And NAMI is the hotbed of bad doctrine there.