Is “View of the Hebrews” a source for the Book of Mormon?

Is “View of the Hebrews” a source for the Book of Mormon?

After reading the information on (a page which has since disappeared), I thought it would be appropriate to take up the “To date, NOT ONE critic has bothered to respond or try and refute this. I find when it comes right down to getting to the sources and analyzing them, that is when the critics fall apart” challenge located at the bottom of the page and post a few things regarding “View of the Hebrews” on the internet.

The Book of Mormon names challenge referred to in the above site is taken up here.

Rather than draw conclusions for you (as the author at the before mentioned site does), I will merely present the facts and let you draw your own conclusions. I sent the owner of the above site an email in July of 1996 and *to date* he has not bothered to link to this site or change the statement at the bottom of his site. He did receive the message because he responded the next day.

  • “View of the Hebrews” was published in 1823 and a second edition was published in 1825.
  • The Book of Mormon was published in 1830.
  • “View of the Hebrews” flooded the area in which Joseph Smith lived.
  • The author (Ethan Smith) was the pastor of the religious congregation in which the (Oliver) Cowdrey family attended.
  • The (Oliver) Cowdrey family was related to the (Joseph) Smith family, and Oliver Cowdrey assisted in the “translation” of the Book of Mormon.
  • On what was probably a promotional tour for his book, Ethan Smith visited the small hometown (Palmyra) of Joseph Smith in late 1826.
  • Josiah Priest’s The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed (1825), which also includes numerous parallels to the Book of Mormon, quotes extensively from Ethan Smith’s book and is known to have been available in the local Manchester Rental Library when Joseph Smith lived in the village.
  • For additional connections and details and references for the above, see Appendix 3 in Sidney Rigdon.

The above facts can be verified by reading Stan Larson’s Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson´┐Żs Archaeological Search for the Book of Mormon and B. H. Roberts’s Studies of the Book of Mormon. FARMS would probably have no problems admitting to (and discounting) the above facts.

Not to draw any conclusions, but contrary to the typical arguments used by Mormon apologists, no critic (that I am aware of) has claimed that “View of the Hebrews” was THE source of the Book of Mormon. What the critics say is that THE source of the Book of Mormon (or rather the ideas) were from a variety of sources (or ideas) of which “View of the Hebrews” was probably a member. If Joseph Smith was to use “View of the Hebrews” in total (as the apologists seem to think the critics are saying) (i.e., use the “lost 10 tribes” idea instead of the Lehi idea) no one would have bought the Book of Mormon when it was published, and we wouldn’t be sitting around discussing Mormonism today. No decent plagiarizer steals 100% of their material from one source and leaves that material completely unchanged–especially when the intended audience may already be somewhat familiar with the source.

The following are a few direct quotes from the 1825 edition of “View of the Hebrews” (which for some reason the LDS Apologists seem to forget to quote in their analysis which always seem to only include the “un-parallels”). (Ask one of the un-parallel theory sites on the net to link back to here and you’ll receive an interesting response or a ‘no response’ as the case may be.) The emphasis added is mine. The misspelled words are from the original. The links take you to some of the Book of Mormon verses that may have been ‘inspired’ by that portion of “View of the Hebrews”.

It should be noted that the portions of Ethan Smith’s work below (with the possible exception of the ‘Great Spirit’ belief) are no longer theorized to be practices, traditions, history, etc. of the American Indians during the so called “Book of Mormon times” by anyone that isn’t LDS. Therefore, an apologist answer that both Joseph Smith and Ethan Smith were accurate in their descriptions of ancient America would be incorrect. That is what Mormon leaders used to think (or at least preach to those who didn’t understand that one came before the other and was likely in Joseph Smith’s possession when he “translated” the Book of Mormon). For instance:

“…remarkable from the fact that [View of the Hebrews] produces such strong evidences in favor of the genuineness of the Book of Mormon. … [the author] in more than one place, refers to a tradition among the various tribes that in former times they possessed a book of great value, which they had lost, but which would at some time be restored to them. … This is exactly the story, from the Lamanites standpoint, which the Book of Mormon records.”
–Elder George Reynolds of the Seventy, 1902

My marked-up hard copy of “View of the Hebrews” is currently on loan to a friend. When I get it back, I will add more quotes to those below as there are dozens more that are applicable and should be examined.

page 88. “Mr. Adair expresses the same opinion; and the Indians have their tradition, that in the nation from which they originally came, all were one colour. According to all accounts given of the Indians, there are certain things which all agree. This appears in the journals of Mr. Giddings, of his exploring tour. The most distant and barbarious Indians agree in a variety of things with all other tribes. They have their Great Spirit; their high priests; their sacrificing, when going to or returning from war; their religious dance; and their sacred little enclosure, containg their most sacred things, though it be but a sack, instead of an ark.–Messrs. Lack and Escarbotus both assert that they have often heard the Indians of South America sing “Hallelujah.” For thousands of miles the North American Indians have been abundant in this.”

page 89. “Their language appears clearly to be Hebrew. In this, Doctor Edwards, Mr. Adair, and others were agreed. Doctor Edwards, after having a good acquaintance with their language, gave his reasons for believing it to have been originally Hebrew. Both, he remarks, are found without prepositions, and are formed with prefixes and suffixes; a thing probably known to no other language. And he shows that not only the words, but the construction of phrases, in both, have been the same. Their pronouns, as well as their nouns, Doctor Edwards remarks, are manifestly from the Hebrew. Mr. Adair is confident of the fact, that their language is Hebrew. And their laconic, bold and commanding figures of speech, he notes as exactly agreeing with the genius of the Hebrew language. He says, that after living forty years among them, he obtained such knowledge of the Hebrew idiom of their language, that he viewed the event of their having for more than two millenaries, and without the aid of literature, preserved their Hebrew language so pure, to be but little short of a miracle.

page 98. “The native Americans have acknowledged one and only one God; and they have generally views concerning the one Great Spirit, of which no account can be given, but that they derived them from ancient revelation in Israel.”

page 172. “It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.

This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient, and from centuries before Columbus discovered America. These maginificent works have been found, one near Newark in Licking county, Ohio; one in Perry county, Ohio; one at Marietta; one at Circleville; one at Paint Creek; one on the eastern bank of the Little Miami river, Earren county; one on Paint Creek near Chillcothe; one on the Scioto river; and other places.

These works have evinced great wars, a good degree of civilization, and great skill fortification. And articles dug from old mounds in and near those fortified places, clearly evince that their authors possessed no small degree of refinement in the knowledge of the mechanic arts.

These partially civilized people became extinct. What account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them, after long and dismal wars? And nothing appears more probable than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to this continent, who for a long time retained their knowledge of the mechanic and civil arts; while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild.–No other hypothesis occurs to mind, which appears by any means so probable. The degrees of improvement, demonstarted to have existed among the authors of those works, and relics, who have ceased to exist, far exceed all that could have been furnished from the north-east of Asia, in those ancient times.”

page 217. “Suppose a leading character in Israel – where ever they are – should found to have in his possession some Biblical fragments of ancient Hebrew writing. This man dies and it is buried with him in such a manner as to be preserved. Some people afterwards removing the earth, discover this fragment, and ascertain that it is an article of ancient Israel. Would such an incident be esteemed of weight?”

page 223. “An old Indian informed him that his fathers in this country had not long since had a book which they had for a long time preserved. But having lost the knowledge of reading it, they concluded it would be of no further use to them; and they buried it with an Indian chief.”

Finally, if you really want to get an accurate picture of what “View of the Hebrews” contains, you should read the entire book in context, and let the facts speak for themselves. Don’t rely on the few quotes I have listed above or something FARMS or other LDS Apologists put out. Go to the source. Read the “Book of Mormon” and the KJV of the Bible. Read “View of the Hebrews”. Then use your own head to think.

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