Question: What are the similarities and differences between ''View of the Hebrews'' and the Book of Mormon?

Table of Contents

Question: What are the similarities and differences between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

Examples of parallels and differences

Some parallels do exist between the two books. For example, View of the Hebrews postulates the existence of a civilized and a barbarous nation who were constantly at war with one another, with the civilized society eventually being destroyed by their uncivilized brethren. This has obvious similarities to the story of the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon.

"Parallels" that actually aren't parallels

Many of the "parallels" that are discussed are not actually parallels at all once they are fully examined:

Both speak of... View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon
...the destruction of Jerusalem... ...by the Romans in A.D. 70. ...by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
...Israelites coming to the American continent... ...via dry land across the Bering Strait. ...via the ocean on board a ship.
...colonists spread out to fill the entire land... ...from the North to the South. ...from the South to the North.
...a great lawgiver (whom some assume to be associated with the legend of Quetzalcoatl)... ...who is identified as Moses. ...who is identified as Jesus Christ.
...an ancient book that was preserved for a long time and then buried... ...because they had lost the knowledge of reading it and it would be of no further use to them. [1] ...in order to preserve the writings of prophets for future generations.
...a buried book taken from the earth... ...in the form of four, dark yellow, folded leaves of old parchment.[2] ...in the form of a set of gold metal plates.
...the Egyptian language, since ...an Egyptian influence is present in hieroglyphic paintings made by native Americans.[3] ...a reformed Egyptian was used to record a sacred history.

Parallels that are everywhere

Some "parallels" between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews are actually parallels with the Bible as well:

The Book of Mormon View of the Hebrews The King James Bible
The Book of Mormon tells the story of inspired seers and prophets. View of the Hebrews talks of Indian traditions that state that their fathers were able to foretell the future and control nature. The Bible tells the story of inspired seers and prophets.
The Book of Mormon was translated by means of the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two stones fastened to a breastplate. View of the Hebrews describes a breastplate with two white buttons fastened to it as resembling the Urim and Thummim. The Bible describes the Urim and Thummim as being fastened to a breastplate (Exodus 28:30).

This highlights the fact that general parallels are likely to be found between works that treat the same types of subjects, such as ancient history. In what ancient conflict did one side not see themselves as representing light and civilization against the dark barbarism of their enemies?

"Unparallels"

Critics generally ignore the presence of many "unparallels"—these are elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph to use in order to persuade his contemporaries that the Book of Mormon was an ancient history of the American Indians, and that they were descended from Israel. Yet, the Book of Mormon consistently ignores such supposed "bulls-eyes," which is good news for proponents of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, since virtually all of Ethan's "evidences" have been judged to be false or misleading.

The lack of such "unparallels" is bad news, however, for anyone wanting to claim that Joseph got his inspiration or information from Ethan Smith.

Scripture use in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

If the View of the Hebrews served as the basis for the Book of Mormon, one would think that the Bible scriptures used by Ethan Smith would be mined by Joseph Smith for the Book of Mormon. Yet, this is not the case.

Why was this only discovered later?

No contemporary critic of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon pointed out the supposedly "obvious" connection to the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. It is only with the failure of the Spaulding theory that critics began seeking a new naturalistic explanation for Joseph's production of a 500+ book of scripture. As Stephen Ricks notes:

Beyond these "unparallels," there is a further question that must be answered by proponents of the View of the Hebrews hypothesis: why do none of the early critics of the Book of Mormon mention Ethan Smith in their attacks on it? If the parallels are so evident, why weren't they noticed by individuals who were not only acquainted with Ethan Smith's book, but were also existentially interested in its claims? Why wasn't it prominently mentioned as a source for the Book of Mormon until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the book itself had only an antiquarian interest and its contents were no longer so widely a part of popular discussion? My suspicion is that what appear today to be "distinctives" of View of the Hebrews, eschatological and otherwise, seemed less so in the early part of the nineteenth century, when these ideas flowed freely in published and unpublished forums.[4]

Notes

  1. View of the Hebrews: 1825 2nd Edition Complete Text by Ethan Smith, edited by Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996), 223. ISBN 1570082472. off-site wikisource
  2. Ethan Smith, 220.
  3. Ethan Smith, 184-185.
  4. Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 235–250. off-site