Alright guys, so a lot of people believe The Book of Mormon is true, and a lot don’t. People who think The Book of Mormon is a hoax have been scrambling for almost 200-years now, trying to figure out how this young farm boy named Joseph Smith, whose own wife said he couldn’t “write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter,” could have possibly produced it.
Some critics propose that Joseph Smith modeled The Book of Mormon after ideas and themes he stole from Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews. Let’s take a closer look.
OK, so in 1823, this guy named Ethan Smith (not related to Joseph Smith) published View of the Hebrews. In it, Ethan argues that ancient Israelites traveled from the Middle East to the Americas, and Native Americans are descendants of these Israelite immigrants. This idea was not exclusive or original to Ethan Smith, a lot of people actually believed this back in the day. But the concept sounds familiar to us because a similar idea is expressed in The Book of Mormon!
And when you look at some of this stuff from 30-thousand feet, sure, they are indeed similar. But when you actually read View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon you see just how different they actually are. For example, Ethan Smith’s Israelites are the lost 10 Tribes of Israel that escape the Assyrian captivity when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered in 721 BC. They travel to the Americas on foot through the Bering Strait. The Israelites in The Book of Mormon are from the Southern Kingdom. They leave Jerusalem just before Babylon conquers around 587 BC. They travel by boat to the Americas. So, sure, they’re similar, but actually very different.
Both books also talk about the destruction of Jerusalem. But View of the Hebrews is referencing the Roman invasion in 70 AD. The Book of Mormon — The Babylonian invasion hundreds of years earlier, both of which actually happened.
Ethan Smith’s native Americans bury an ancient book written on yellow parchment or leaves … because they can’t read and had no use for the book. Book of Mormon native Americans bury the golden plates to preserve them for future use.
Additionally, many of the supposed parallels between the two books share a third common denominator: The Bible. For instance, the scattering and gathering of Israel is a major theme of both. View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon. And also the Bible. The fact that both Ethan Smith and The Book of Mormon are interested in biblical prophecies and quote them isn’t surprising nor concerning.
At the end of the day, the claim that Joseph Smith stole ideas from View of the Hebrews suffers greatly from the False Equivalence fallacy. For example, Luke Skywalker was the chosen one, and Harry Potter was the chosen one, so Harry Potter must be Luke Skywalker. You see the problem? Just because two things are similar in some ways, doesn’t make them the same.
Now, there are lots of other “parallels,” but I don’t want you to get the impression that these books are just a bunch of parallels. There is a TON of stuff that Ethan Smith emphasizes in View of the Hebrews that just doesn’t show up at all in The Book of Mormon. In View of the Hebrews, continuing revelation is nonexistent, Native Americans imitate the Ark of the Covenant, and practice circumcision. The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach any of these things, and in the case of continuing revelation, it teaches the complete opposite throughout its text.
Now, to spice up this conspiracy theory, critics are eager to point out that Ethan Smith was a pastor in the same church that Oliver Cowdery’s family attended. So Oliver must have acquired View of the Hebrews, given it to Joseph Smith, and voila! The Book of Mormon. The only problem is that the latest record we have connecting the Cowdery family with this church is from 1818. Ethan Smith wasn’t pastor until 1821. But even if Oliver did know Ethan, the historical record is clear that Oliver didn’t meet Joseph Smith until 1829, after Joseph’s translation of The Book of Mormon had already begun.
There are several other “parallels” from View of the Hebrews we could discuss, but here’s what I suggest: If you read or watch something online that’s got you concerned about View of the Hebrews, just read View of the Hebrews. Just read it! Find out for yourself if it’s actually as incriminating as some people like to say it is. I’ll put a link to it in the description. Oddly enough, it’s been published online by none other than the Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, which I think shows you how threatened the Church seems to feel about it.
Hope you learned something, and have a great day!