Haley Wilson Lemmón

Over the past several decades. credible Mormon-themed scholarship has determined beyond any reasonable doubt that Joseph Smith’s claim have special powers to “translate” ancient languages was not true, and that Joseph often relied on plagiarism to produce his “revelations.”  Up until recently, at least three clear instances of false translation by Joseph Smith were widely known: the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and the Kinderhook Plates.

In the summer of 2015, something truly remarkable happened.  A BYU undergraduate, along with her professor, discovered a fourth example of false translation, and yet another example of plagiarism on the part of Joseph Smith – this time in the canonized “Joseph Smith Translation” of the Holy Bible (found in modern LDS scripture)

Join me and scholar Haley Wilson Lemmón today as we discuss this groundbreaking research she conducted at BYU, along side professor Thomas A. Wayment — as together they discovered literally hundreds of instances where Joseph Smith plagiarized portions of the Joseph Smith “Translation” of the Bible directly from Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary.

BYU Professor Thomas A. Wayment

Today’s story includes:

  • Haley’s early years growing up as a highly devout Mormon girl and young woman who struggled significantly with undiagnosed religious anxiety (possibly scrupulosity).
  • Haley’s LDS mission to Panama.
  • Haley’s discovery of Joseph Smith’s plagiarism, as she was working as a BYU undergraduate research assistant under Dr. Thomas A. Wayment.
  • Haley’s deep struggle with her Mormon faith once she began studying the authenticity of Mormon scripture and other truth claims.
  • Haley’s troubling brush with the BYU Honor Code Office, which almost resulted in her being expelled from BYU.
  • How Haley’s name was almost removed from the publishing of her research with Dr. Wayment.
  • How BYU apologists attempted to get Haley kicked out of her graduate program at Notre Dame, after she graduated from BYU.
  • A review of Haley’s current views on LDS Church truth claims.

Haley and Mitchell Lemmón

As a part of this interview, we will be discussing in-depth the article/chapter “A Recently Recovered Source: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation” that she co-authored with Thomas A. Wayment, which recently appeared in the newly released book “Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity,” edited by Michael MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid.

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  1. josh h July 19, 2020 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    I’d love to buy her book I really would. But $70? What the heck

    • Neal July 20, 2020 at 10:50 am - Reply

      There is a paperback for $35 I think.

    • Kristen C July 21, 2020 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Wonderful interview, thank you so much for sharing! Haley, you are truly a hero and inspiration. I admire your work and your journey so much! I’ve shared your article with several friends and currently reading Producing Ancient Scripture 😊
      The church can redefine translation all they want with regards to producing the Book of Mormon, but it is really hard to get past the Title page of the Book…”written by the hand of Mormon upon plates…” How to explain that? I guess that was inspired too 😂
      Thanks again, loved the discussion!

  2. Go2 July 20, 2020 at 8:22 am - Reply

    Great job Hayley! Thank you John!

    • jake July 26, 2020 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Joseph definitely gets an “F” for his Bible translation project and will have to report to the principal’s office to discuss further punishment……………..

  3. Joe Geisner July 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you Haley and John for the enjoyable podcast.

    I am curious Haley, do you think the John change about God becoming Jesus change is Smith and his Book of Mormon Modalistic theology surfacing?

    Also, have you seen Rick Grunder’s Mormon Parallels? It may be something of interest. Clearly Smith’s environment was saturated with ideas that show up in his writings and speaking. At $10, it is also a steal: https://www.rickgrunder.com/getmp2014.html

  4. Dustin July 20, 2020 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Great interview! Is it possible to link to a PDF of the article itself? I find it easier to track stuff like this in print rather than aurally.

    • David Laughlin August 7, 2020 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Nope, you’ll need to buy the book.

  5. Ricardo Montobon July 20, 2020 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Just came out the mountains from camping. Downloaded the episode for tonight when I go back into the hills. Also – bought the book. I have been itching for this book since first hearing her on Bill Reels podcast. Now back to hang out with the TBM’s.

  6. Bayareaexmo July 20, 2020 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    Thankful for Bishop Paul for being the voice of reason with the honor code office.

    At Ricks I had a similar experience. A picture of me with a wine cooler off campus while on a camping trip between semesters was processed at the Albertsons grocery store photo dept. The guy working the counter took it upon himself to make an additional copy of my non ricks student film he had processed there and turned them into the honor code office. I understand why they have these departments but allowing any person to submit a complaint is not a safe environment for anyone. Regardless of what rule you broke.
    I was given the option to drop out or be expelled after my 2nd semester. I lost a scholarship I gained a fear that any or everywhere I went someone was watching me. As a 18 year old this honor code handling of my issue made me turn far away from the church. I no longer felt welcome in a college ward meeting. It really messed me up. I never did return to full church activity. Luckily my own research of the church history led me away and I was able to let go of the issues that this incident caused me. (Trust in members).

    Thank you for telling us your story! Fascinating!

  7. John Crane July 20, 2020 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    I am glad she got the therapy she needed. When speaking about her mission, I was worried that she was still having anxiety issues, but when she started talking about her work, she seemed a lot more calm and confident. Good thing she has a supporting husband that she can open up to.

    The word translate from the 1828 Webster’s dictionary: “To interpret; to render into another language; to express the sense of one language in the words of another. The Old Testament was translated into the Greek language more than two hundred years before Christ. The Scriptures are now translated into most of the languages of Europe and Asia.”

    You said that apologists change the meaning of words to fit their intentions. True, but so do other people. This definition of “translation”, leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

    This is an interesting topic, but I’m not completely convinced unless you can prove a 1:1 correspondence between the JST and Clarke’s commentary. How do you account for the additions concerned with Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, for example?

    This is crap the way she was treated over her blog. Writing is a great way to sort things out in your mind.

    • Haley Wilson-Lemmon July 21, 2020 at 7:59 am - Reply

      Thanks for the concern!

      It’s always interesting to see what feelings come up when I talk about my time in Mormonism. I was honestly not expecting my discussion of my mission to get as intense as it did.

      Like I said in the interview, there are still aspects of the JST that are unexplained. Clarke is a source for the JST. Not the only source.

  8. Angela July 20, 2020 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    “This was a job hazard of your research” – excellent point, John.

  9. Jared Call July 20, 2020 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Is it possible it was priced so high to deter people from buying it?

    • Walter July 23, 2020 at 1:48 am - Reply

      I doubt any publisher – especially the University of Utah Press – would intentionally deter people from buying their books. In reality, most edited academic volumes such as this are super expensive.

  10. Annoyed at a prophet July 20, 2020 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    The very height of Mormonism is in the temple rites it isn’t hard to see that Joseph and Oliver and Sidney did a lot of research and put a lot of the ideas of the day into the doctrines that became Mormonism in the early 1830s it’s not at all surprising to see these come out with a little bit of academic perspective. As a lifelong believer and as a follower of Christian principles. A person must ask himself like Gordon b hinkley did late in his presidency we either believe it or we don’t he ( Joseph Smith) was either a prophet or a phony . Now take a very hard look at how well he kept the Ten Commandments . It is earth shattering that the best Mormon idea to emerge from all the trauma that would have been everyone s to endure post polygamy and Pre polygamy is that we can somehow become as god is if we keep these commandments that Joseph spent 14 years of his life trying to bend into one great circle of truth. Truth is that deception is was and always will be a big part of the religion that is still practiced in tiny backwoods places like short creek and the colony’s. Modern Mormonism will not survive this onslaught of history it will morph just like the church did in the 1920s after all everyone has a level playing field in this quest for truth These are hard episodes to listen to it’s very disappointing to have the need for essays and apologetics Christ’s warnings to beware of false prophets just keeps ringing in my itchy little ears he co opted the Masonic rites why is it so hard to believe that he wouldn’t study the best information he could find and call it his own inspiration. Joseph wouldn’t last 2 minutes in any gospel doctrine class I’ve attended in the past 30 years he would be sent right to the hallway and rightfully so. If there is hell somewhere out there joe must be enjoying the fire . It’s tough to admit it but didn’t we all come here seeking the truth?????

  11. Travis McKinnon July 22, 2020 at 11:19 am - Reply


    I’m a longtime listener. Usually a big fan. But…bro. You GOTTA tame the super dicksish rhetoric when it comes to your snotty dismissals of the ‘neo apologists.’ I listened to much of the USU symposium on ‘translation’ that you openly mocked in this episode as ’16 hours of incomprehensible’ something. John, you can do better than that. I often try to listen to your podcasts with TBM ears, always hoping that the engagement with topics can be well reasoned, thought out, and respectful. You’ve really slipped on that lately. If you’re trying to reach these folks, you GOTTA drop the smug arrogance, and be more respectful of ACTUAL scholars, even if you disagree with their approaches or conclusions. It belies your intellect and experience to do otherwise, and I fear makes is super easy for many (most?) traditional members to quickly categorize you as an angry, smarmy exMo.

    • Walter July 23, 2020 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      I don’t agree with everything Travis said, but I do agree with him on this issue of ‘translation’. Not to say that Bushman and company are correct, but the point of such discussion is to ensure that we are not being anachronistic in our usage of the term ‘translation’. A similar point could probably be made about using the term ‘plagiarism’ in this context. I personally don’t see this exercise as being inherently apologetics. I think most people would be surprised to find out the debates that take place at academic conferences, especially among humanists. I once attended a week-long conference where we spent most of the time debating how to define the terms ‘digital’, ‘technology’, and ‘science’. The point is that the meaning of words varies significantly over time and between different people. The basis of historical research is understanding these variations and ensuring that we don’t automatically project our 21st-century language onto the past. Hence, understanding what Smith meant when using the term ‘translation’ is as much a historical question as it is one of apologetics. Again, my point isn’t to say that the ‘neo-apologists’ are correct, just to say that the context in which they think and write is much more complicated than discussed in this podcast.

      I’m also a bit shocked, John, that your response to criticisms from Travis and Derlin was to ask whether or not they are donors. I certainly hope that you have more integrity than what this response implies…

      That being said, thank you Haley for your story and outstanding research! I can’t wait to read the article. And thanks, John, for all of your hard work on the podcast.

    • Grumpy Mormon July 28, 2020 at 10:11 am - Reply

      I fully agree with Travis McKinnon. As a new listener to Mormon Stories, I am more accustomed to scholarly information, respectful disagreement, and solid argument. The condescending, dismissive, and insulting jabs from John are off-putting. Trying to dismiss Lemmón’s faithful period and anxiety as religious scrupulosity was unwarranted and insulting. Her story is strong without the Dehlin-derision.

      As one who is well into (15+ years) of deconstruction, I love good sources of information that can continue to pull down false paradigms and help me build a more inclusive foundation. It is unfortunate that so many exMormon and postMormon sources intermix good, verifiable information with snide remarks and insults. Unfortunately, Mormon Stories is not a source that I can reference when interacting with those in my circle that are still “all in.”

      • John Dehlin July 28, 2020 at 10:43 am - Reply

        I will work to do better. Thank you for the feedback.

    • Darrin July 28, 2020 at 12:25 pm - Reply


      “You GOTTA tame the super dicksish rhetoric when it comes to your snotty dismissals of the ‘neo apologists.” (???) It sounds, Travis, like you should take some of your own advise! I’m sympathetic to your concern, but John deserves the same respect as the neo apologists.

      • Danielle Hill October 30, 2020 at 10:47 pm - Reply

        You ARE a hero! I so appreciate your courage and honesty.
        I connected with your story on several points, including anxiety and especially anxiety within the context of being an active Mormon. I’m so happy you have received the help you needed and deserve, and that you are finding peace and joy in your journey!
        Thank you for your work and for being willing to share. It is so important. I am deeply grateful.

    • Coriantumr August 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      That happens to good, bad and run of the mill people whose life foundations gets blown to smithereens. If you were born within the covenant that is ALL the life you knew. If you’re off Utah and Idaho that helps but it is still a great loss. A guys that is different is RFM who [according to him] was a convert. I’m a convert myself but I swear….I did ask about the facsimile. My missionaries said that I should ask the usual suspect or otherwise study and put my nose to the grind. Even if I was to become a Larsenite and go to Sunstone and the rest I honestly would not have an ax to grind with the Church personally. I married inside the Church and unlike other folks here my youth was cool and exciting.

  12. Derin July 22, 2020 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Another amazing podcast John but Travis nailed it in his comment above. You are starting to undermine your own work with the venom that is increasingly noticeable in your opinions and commentary. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years (and still am) but there is a tangibly different vibe coming from you of late. It is 100% your right take on this more “attacking” approach, and maybe that is what most of your listeners want, but I very much prefer your former approach for what it’s worth. The aggressive and condescending tone is hurting the cause in my opinion. Like I said, still a huge fan and admirer of your work over the last 15 years. Just some honest feedback that I wanted to send your way.

    • Derin July 22, 2020 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      Fair question for sure. I feel guilty to admit I have not donated (how Mormon of me right?). I do get the struggle though I think. I donate hundreds and hundreds of hours a year to youth programs without a penny of compensation. I get more complaints than I do thanks for my time. The last thing I want is to come across that way (as an ungrateful complainer). I have benefited greatly from your work. I am extremely grateful for your efforts and wish I was in a little better financial position to support your foundation. I guess my only point was that 15 years ago what endeared me to you was your kindness and open mindedness about the whole complex struggle of the individual faith crisis. It just seems that lately your approach has been more of an attacking, aggressive one. If that had been the case 15 years ago I would have never given you a chance. It was your soft and kind approach that allowed me to hear you out on some stuff and then embrace it. I just think that is the key to engaging people in reasonable dialogue. The more aggressive approach seems to only create barriers. You’re a brilliant guy. You know what you’re doing. I’ll remain a loyal listener (and hopefully financial contributor soon). Like I said earlier, just an observation I wanted to pass along.

  13. Shari July 23, 2020 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Great job Haley- true hero for sure !Thank you for your hard work and sharing the truth with everyone. Wishing you all the best and glad you got professional help with your anxieties.
    John- thank you for interveiwing these incredible people so we know about their research and discoveries regarding how J. Smith used others’ work in his ” translations” and what the church is trying to hide from us. It is very frustrating to see all this manipulation, lies and cover ups.

  14. Andi July 23, 2020 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    I am struggling how any person could believe that Mormonism is “real”. The LDS Church is a wonderful place to make friends, socialize, serve, get to know your neighbors… but the “Church” is it’s doctrine, and the doctrine is a novel. For me, it’s like being a member of the Jedi religion after watching Star Wars.

  15. RobG July 24, 2020 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    There’s no good reason to believe that sources won’t also eventually show up for other scriptural inventions by Joseph Smith. It’s hard to believe they won’t. Including for his Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham.

    There’s absolutely nothing in or about Mormonism that requires a god for explantation. As far as “inspiration,” no more is needed than the inspiration of Joseph Smith’s own authentic religious genius.

  16. Nick July 26, 2020 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I like the Jedi comment. I’ve had similar thoughts about how I used to discuss the church doctrines in Sunday school or seminary. Now it seems no different than discussing finer Klingon grammar and vocabulary—made up and without purpose.

  17. Bill July 30, 2020 at 4:38 am - Reply

    John I’ve been a follower of your podcast for 3 years now . Not too long ago , I would have felt that I had unshakable faith. In my life of 55 years I have had so many miracles And so many unexplainable experiences . I have truly been blessed by my membership in the church with an amazing wife and family. That’s the very reason why I’m not at all put off by your jabs it’s only natural when you come to realize how much we have invested in our faith. I’m a blue collar person no education after high school but I have spent much of my life from 12 on in leadership and teaching in the church . In other words I’m a typical basic everything on the line Mormon dad and husband I’m also the go to dude in every ward I’ve been in. You know the type . Every ward has person like me in Idaho Utah Oregon Washington California , I am a non educated construction worker the perfect candidate for the corporate church to use and abuse for most of his life . If Joseph f Smith hid an account of the three versions of the first vision and Russell m Nelson blames the lord for the reversal on gays and their children it sounds like historical rhetoric is the least of the churches problems . I understand your anger Joseph Smith was never a victim and the gunfight at Carthage jail really should have been the end of it . John what I’m getting at is that is it’s ok to feel the way you do ,these podcasts are not meant to ease our troubled feelings after all eternity is on the line here and to me you wouldn’t be authentic if you didn’t respond the way you have since your excommunication this is not an academic pursuit for many of us for some their very lives are at stake I think that with billions of dollars in the corporate holding company and the history of cover ups the church as we know it is about to implode. It’s obviously one big conspiracy and the ah ha moments are being exposed by the likes of you, r f m And Lindsey good work !!you are entitled to your reactions ,we as your listeners are also feeling the same way . Leave the revelations on Star Wars and lord of the rings to Dieter uchdorf he will take care of your detractors in the above posts in the meantime like my friend who is a farmer says you can’t raise good beef without enduring the smell of bull sh Well you get the point . The simple faith of the average member of the church. Is the beauty of the church. The ugly part is the fact there needs to be reversals on doctrines there needs to be apologetics there needs to be drawn out explanations. Your authenticity is what brings many of us back to listen to your podcast Joseph Smith’s lack of authenticity is fast becoming the downfall of modern Mormonism. And the hate that brings on excommunications of ounce proud members is appalling . Enough said B S is not a degree from a university it’s what it takes to raise a good beef John you’ve raised a herd with Mormon stories . Look at thee green stuff as fertilizer. And don’t apologize for your authenticity . You were a human long before you became a psychologist

    • Robert M Hodge July 31, 2020 at 10:36 am - Reply

      You may not have a lot of advanced education, but you do have a lot of common sense and honesty. Honesty that I had found lacking with many members when I was a member. Also the clarity of your writing style is remarkable for one that has not had the advantages of a university education.

  18. David Laughlin August 7, 2020 at 10:45 am - Reply

    I have the book and unfortunately there is no appendices.
    John, perhaps you could post it for her??

  19. KS August 13, 2020 at 10:20 am - Reply
  20. LH August 17, 2020 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    What a brave, intelligent and awesome woman you are! YOU are making a change for the better. Congrats on your success another nail in the coffin.

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