Similarity #5: The Great White Bearded Leader (Quetzalcoatl)
The similarity here is that VOTH goes into great detail in describing a legend that the Native Americans have about a white, bearded legislature who brought in a golden age of plenty and happiness, and had a somewhat supernatural origin. The BOM makes a similar suggestion, saying that the resurrected Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D. to teach a portion of the Native Americans his gospel.
While there exist generic similarities between the two works, the conclusion that they come to about who the legend is about, when it occurred, and how it occurred are very different. I will give descriptions of the Legend of Quetzalcoatl as described in VOTH and a description of the coming of Jesus Christ to the Americas in the BOM. Quotes are take from the 1825 version of View of the Hebrews (EthanSmith, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf) and from the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
1. The Description of Quetzalcoatl in VOTH:
1. The name Quetzalcoatl means “the serpent of green feathers” (Ethan Smith, p. 83)[p. 204]. This, according to Ethan Smith, refers to Moses and the Brazen serpent. “The name of the serpent of green plumage being given to this legislator, leads the mind to Moses’ brazen serpent in the wilderness.” (pg. 84)[p. 207]
2. He was a white, bearded man who was the leader of a religious sect that would punish themselves physically. “[He] was at the same time (in their own description) “a white and bearded man.” “He was high priest of Tula, legislator, chief of a religious sect who inflicted on themselves the most cruel penance.” (p. 83)[p. 205]
3. He made them pierce their ears and lacerate their bodies, which represent some Mosaic rituals. “Introducing the custom of ‘piercing the ears;’—reminds of the noted law of Moses, of boring the ear of the servant who was unwilling to leave his master. This teaching to lacerate the body with prickles and thorns, is a striking Hebrew figure of the many self-denying services demanded in the Mosaic rituals” (p. 84)[p. 207]
4. He led them to this country and taught them. “Though their ancient ‘legislator’ is called by a name importing the serpent of green feathers; yet he was an ancient man, a white man and bearded; called by Montezuma, a saint, who led them to this country, and taught them many things. Who could this be but Moses, the ancient legislator of Israel?” (p. 83)[p. 206]
5. His reign brought on a golden age of plenty and happiness. “The golden age with spontaneous harvests, naturally suggests the seven years of plenty in Egypt; and may include also and especially) the happy period during the theocracy in Israel.” (p. 84)[p. 208]. This golden age eventually ended. “The close of this golden age strikingly exhibits the expulsion of Israel from that happy land.” (p. 84)[p. 208]
6. He preached peace and offering the first fruits of the harvest as a sacrifice. “He preached peace to men, and would permit no other offerings to the Divinity than the first fruits of the harvests.” (p. 83)[p. 205] “alludes to the preaching of the gospel under the Old Testament; and to the signal institution of the offerings of the first ripe fruits” (p. 84)[p. 208]
7. He retired to a volcano and walked bare foot. “This legislator’s retiring to the place of a volcano, and a speaking mountain, most naturally leads to the mind to Moses retiring, in the land of Midian, to the back side of the wilderness, to the mount of God, where God spake to him in the burning bush, and in after days made the same mountain appear like a tremendous volcano indeed, as well as like a speaking mountain;–when from the midst of the terrible fire, and sound of thetrumpet, God commanded his people in the giving of the law. This legislator’s walking barefoot, naturally alludes to Moses’ ‘putting his shoes from his feet,’ at the divine direction, before the burning bush” (p. 84)[p. 207-208]
8. He disappeared and would return again one day. “He disappeared, after he had declared to the Cholulans that he would return and govern them again, and renew their happiness.”(p. 83)[p. 205-206]
9. The Leader was given a drink by the Great Spirit and gave him the desire to travel and made him immortal. ““The Great Spirit offered Quetzalcotl beverage, which in rendering him immortal,
inspired him with a taste of travelling [sic], and with an irresistible desire of visiting a distant country called Tlapallan.” (p. 83)[p. 205]
10. The figure taught the people in the arts, sciences, and fasting. “He dwelt twenty years among them, taught them to cast metals, ordered fasts, and regulated the intercalations of the Taltic year.” (p. 83)[p. 205]
2. The Description of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon
1. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the Americas in 34 A.D. after a great destruction in the land “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.” (3 Nephi 9:15)
2. He taught that sacrifices should end, and instead offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit. “your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20)
3. He descended out of heaven and was wearing a white robe. “They saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them.” (3 Nephi 11:8)
4. The people felt the prints of the wounds in his nails, feet, and side. “And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet.” (3 Nephi 11:15)
5. He gave the people the power to baptize and commanded them to be baptized. “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.” (3 Nephi 11:21).
6. He preached peace among the people. “And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been…” (3 Nephi 11:28).
7. Jesus quotes Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, Malachi 3-4, and Isaiah 54. (3 Nephi 12-14)
8. Jesus’ coming fulfills the words he spake saying that he would bring other sheep not of the fold in Israel. “And verily, I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” (3 Nephi 15:21).
9. The people no longer followed the law of Moses. “And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God…” (4 Nephi 1:12).
10. The people had a reign of peace that lasted almost 200 years. “And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride…and from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.” (4 Nephi 1:24-25).
Similarities between the two works:
1. This figure taught them peace and gave them laws.
2. He was white (BOM only describes a white robe, VOTH says white skin and white beard)
3. There was a time of great plenty and happiness among the people, or a golden age.
4. This figure would come again in some future day
In summary, the similarities between these two works are very generic. If VOTH never existed, people could still argue that Joseph Smith plagiarized from the well-known legends of Quetzalcoatl, or Messianic prophecies in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianism). The Savior archetype is also found in countless works of literature spanning centuries of human civilization. Such Messianic doctrine of a great ruler who ruled people in peace and then would return at some future date are shared by many different religions and theologies, which makes the generic similarities between these two works inconsequential.
Differences between the two works:
1. VOTH claims that these legends are hearkening back to memories of Moses in ancient Israel. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ visited the Americas after his resurrection.
2. VOTH claims that the golden age was the 7 years of plenty in Egypt and during the theocracy of Israel. The BOM says that the people in the Americas lived in righteousness and had all things in common for 200 years.
3. VOTH claims that the figure told them to offer the first fruits as sacrifices. The BOM claims that Jesus forbade the people to sacrifice anymore.
4. VOTH claims that the figure taught the people to pierce their ears and lacerate their bodies. The BOM makes no such claim.
5. VOTH claims that the figure retired to a volcano. The BOM makes no reference to Jesus retiring to a volcano.
6. VOTH claims that preaching peace and offering the first fruits is a reference to the gospel in the Old Testament. The BOM argues that the Law of Moses was done away and Jesus taught his Gospel instead.
7. The BOM says Christ established baptism, organized a quorum of twelve disciples, gave them the proper name of their church, and granted immortality to three Nephite disciples. The VOTH makes no references to any such events.
8. VOTH claims that the legislator was a man who was granted immortality by the great spirit after drinking a sacred beverage. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ was the resurrected Son of God and offered the sacrament of wine and bread to the people.
9. VOTH argues that the ending of the golden age was the expulsion of Israel from their lands. The BOM argues that their time of peace ended because of pride, the division of the people into classes, and wickedness.
10. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ’s coming to the Americas fulfilled a New Testament prophecy that he would gather in sheep that were not of the people in Israel. VOTH makes no such references to Christ’s New Testament prophecies in this chapter.
11. There is no record of Jesus teaching the people to cast metals or other scientific endeavors.
In summary, the differences between VOTH and the BOM outweigh the similarities. The generic similarities can be found across many sacred texts and religions, and nothing of uniqueness is found in VOTH that cannot be found in some other sacred work, tradition, or savior archetype. The BOM contradicts VOTH on most key points describing the nature and purpose of this sacred figure. This amount and nature of the differences suggests that VOTH was not a source of inspiration in concocting the BOM, but is rather a document that contradicts the claims of the BOM.