Similarity #3: Both Works Refer to the Urim and Thummim
This parallel between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews is particularly weak because the Book of Mormon never mentions the name Urim and Thummim, neither does it describe an object similar to the one discussed in VOTH. Apparently the term “Urim and Thummim” was never used by Joseph or anyone associated with the translation process until 1833, when W.W. Phelps speculated in “The Evening and the Morning Star” which said ““through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles — (known perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim). Phelps words, “known perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummin” (Jan. 1833, see http://mormonbookshelf.com/wiki/Book_of_Mormon_Translation_Method). This same source and others speculate that the term Urim and Thummim was used to refer to both the Nephite Interpreters and the original Seer Stone found by Joseph years earlier. To avoid further discussion on this blog about the actual translation process used by Joseph Smith, I will now focus on what is contained in both the BOM and VOTH and why there is no parallel between the two works. Here is a list of the differences between the two works with regards to this “similarity:”
Different Descriptions/Different Names/Different Purposes: The Urim and Thummim described in VOTH is not the same as the Nephite Interpreters referenced in the Book of Mormon. VOTH sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel by showing that their priests would wear a breastplate bearing some resemblance to the Urim and Thummim worn by priests in the Bible.
Ethan Smith describes the Native American breastplate as follows: “In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch-shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim,” (Smith, View of the Hebrews, 1825, p.61, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf)
The “Interpreters” in the Book of Mormon are described differently:
a)”and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord” (Ether 4:5, 1981 edition)
b) “And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer” (Mosiah 8:13, 1981)
c) “And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow. Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages” (Mosiah 28:13,14)
d) “And now, my son, these interpreters [“directors” (1830 edition)] were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying: I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works…” (Alma 37:24,25).
The Book of Mormon makes no mention of a white breastplate, stone embedded in the breastplate, or the fact that the two stones are in similitude of the Urim and Thummim. Ethan Smith does not make any reference to the ability of the Urim and Thummim to interpret languages. It is once again important to note that Joseph Smith never referred to the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim, until W.W. Phelps suggested that the interpreters could be compared to the Biblical Urim and Thummim in 1833. If Joseph Smith had received inspiration to write the BOM from VOTH concerning the Urim and Thummim, why is it not mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon? why do the Urim and Thummim and the Interpreters have different descriptions? Why are the interpreters used for interpreting languages, while the Urim and Thummim was used for religious ceremony? Why did Joseph never refer to the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim? This is powerful evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith did not read VOTH prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, and if he did, it is evidence that he did not use it as a substantial source of inspiration in the Book of Mormon.
Similarity #4: Extensive Quotes of Isaiah
Some argue that the BOM and VOTH are similar because they both quote Isaiah in order to prove the Biblical basis for the literal gathering of Israel in the last days. This is a very broad similarity and does not suggest that Joseph Smith plagiarized VOTH for the following reasons:
1. Only very few of the chapters of Isaiah quoted in the BOM are the same chapters used in VOTH.
2. Both VOTH and the BOM quote a variety of other scriptures, many of them not found in the other source.
3. Only one chapter of Isaiah is quoted in its entirety in VOTH.
4. Isaiah is one of the most important prophets in Jewish and Christian religion. Any religious work which refers to prophecies of the Messiah or the Gathering of Israel would have to quote Isaiah as the definitive source on these subjects.
Which chapters of Isaiah are quoted in VOTH and BOM?
The VOTH quotes or asks the reader to refer to the following from Isaiah (disclaimer: Ethan Smith is difficult to cite because he will often quote passages of scripture without providing the verse number and often quotes verses out of order without letting the reader know. This list is the best I could do in identifying chapters of Isaiah quoted in VOTH):
Isaiah 1:1/ Isaiah 3:18-22/ Isaiah 5:13,26/ Isaiah 7:8,18/ Isaiah 9:13/ Isaiah 10:20-22/ Isaiah 11:11-13/ Isaiah 18:1-7(full chapter)/ Isaiah 26:3,19/ Isaiah 28:1,3,8/ Isaiah 35:1,5/ Isaiah 36:19/ Isaiah 40:3,9/ Isaiah 41:14/ Isaiah 42:19,20/ Isaiah 43: 1,2,4,5,16,19/ Isaiah 44:3,4/ Isaiah 49:1,11-13,18-23/ Isaiah 56:8/ Isaiah 59:3,21/ Isaiah 60:1-3,8,9/ Isaiah 63:1-6/ Isaiah 65:8,9/ Isaiah 66:18-21
It should be noted that the chapters listed here do not appear in this order, and the individual verses cited in each chapter do not always appear in the same order either (for example: Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:11-13, and Isaiah 49:18-23 are all verses from the same chapter of Isaiah but are quoted in different points in VOTH)
The BOM quotes the following from Isaiah (it should be noted that the BOM often makes isolated references Biblical scriptures without any indication in the chapter headings, so I may have missed some references to Isaiah if they are a single verse or phrase found in otherwise original writings from BOM prophets. The following chapters are taken from 1 Nephi 20,21/ 2 Nephi 7,8,12-24,27,30/ Mosiah 12/ 3 Nephi 20,22):
Isaiah 2-14/ Isaiah 29 (significantly modified)/ Isaiah 48/ Isaiah 49/ Isaiah 50/ Isaiah 51/ Isaiah 52:1-2,7-10,11-15/ Isaiah 53/ Isaiah 54
Chapters found in both BOM and VOTH: 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 49
Chapters in BOM not found in VOTH: 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 29, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54
Chapters in VOTH not found in BOM: 18, 26, 28, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 56, 59, 60, 63, 65, 66
VOTH only quotes one chapter of Isaiah in its entirety, which is Isaiah 18. Ethan Smith quotes this to prove to the reader that Christians in the United States are responsible for gathering the Lost Tribes of Israel (pg. 96-98). This chapter is not found in the BOM. Most of the Isaiah chapters cited in the BOM are cited in their entirety with some grammatical/content changes, while VOTH cites isolated verses and phrases from Isaiah along with other prophets and books such as Jeremiah, Zechariah, Hosea, 2 Samuel, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Romans, and Revelation. There is little reason to believe that Joseph Smith was inspired by VOTH to quote Isaiah because the BOM for the most part cites different chapters and verses of Isaiah, use them for different purposes, and both works cite an abundance of scripture references that are not in common.
Other scriptures quoted in VOTH: Zephaniah 3:6-10,19,20/ Zechariah 2:6,8,10,11,13/ Zechariah 10:6-9/ Zechariah 1:16/ Zechariah 8:7/ Zechariah 9:9/ Zechariah 10:6-9/ Zechariah 11:1/ Joel 3:1,9-17/ Jeremiah 3:14/ Jeremiah 23:6,8/ Jeremiah 24:9/ Jeremiah 16:14,15,16/ Jeremiah 24:9/ Jeremiah 30:3/ Jeremiah 9:17/ Jeremiah 23:6-8/ Jeremiah 31:20,21 (author tells reader to read the whole chapter)/ Hosea 1:10,11/ Hosea 4:16/ Hosea 14:5,6 Ezekiel 30:7/ Ezekiel 36/ Ezekiel 37:1-13,15,24-27/ Ezekiel 38/ Ezekiel 39:17-20/ Ezekiel 47/ 2 Kings 17:1/ 1 Kings 4:21,22,25,27,40/ Romans 11:15/ Revelation 16:14,19/ Revelation 10:7/ Revelation 19:17-18/ Leviticus 2:14/ Leviticus 23:10-11/ Exodus 12:8/ Exodus 22:29/ Exodus 23:17,19/ Exodus 25:10/ Deuteronomy 16:16/ Genesis 32:25,31,32/ Genesis 15:18/ Genesis 17:8/ Micah 7:16/ Lamentations 3:29/ Proverbs 30:32/ 2 Samuel 23:4/ 2 Samuel 11:11/ 1 Samuel 16:40/ 1 Samuel 6:19/ Leviticus 23:27/ Leviticus 6:30/ Amos 8:11,12