Exaggerated Similarities between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon (Part V)

SIMILARITY #6:  A SACRED BOOK LOST OR BURIED BY THE NATIVE AMERICANS

This similarity, like the others, fails to account for the complexity of the Book of Mormon and the contradictions between the two works. VOTH claims that the Native American tradition about a sacred book that was taken from them is similar to the Lost Tribes of Israel being exiled and fulfilling the prophecy of Amos 8:11-12. The BOM claims that the Nephites had brass plates that contained the writings of the prophets up until the reign of Zedekiah and were used to preserve the commandments of God and preserve the language of the people while in the Americas. I will now give a more in-depth analysis of the differences between the two works to show that Joseph Smith did not copy Ethan Smith’s work.

VOTH states:“Doctor Boudinot gives it as from good authority, that the Indians have a tradition ‘that the book which the white people have was once theirs. That while they had this book things went well with them; they prospered exceedingly; but that other people got it from them; that the Indians lost their credit; offended the Great Spirit, and suffered exceedingly from the neighboring nations; and that the Great Spirit then took pity on them, and directed them to this country” (Smith,1825, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf, p. 47 [p. 115]). This tradition, according to VOTH, is no doubt proof that the Native Americans have a memory of their time in ancient Israel and their being exiled. Because of their wickedness, they lost the word of God and were attacked by the surrounding nations, but God had mercy on them and directed them to the Americas.

This quote comes as an isolated paragraph in a long list of “evidence” proving that Native American traditions have their origin in ancient Israel. He continues by stating that the Native Americans have traditions of the “longevity of the ancients” (p. 47) [p. 115] such as Adam and Methuselah, that there was a great flood and those who survived built “a great canoe” (p. 48) [p. 116], that they built a high place and “lost their language” (p. 48) [p. 116], that their ancestors “had a common father” with “twelve sons”, like the Biblical Jacob (p. 48) [p.116], that they had a “sanctified rod, which budded in one night’s time” like the rod of Moses (p. 48) [p. 116], they have feasts similar to pentecostal feasts (p. 48) [p.116-117], they never eat the “hollow of the thigh” of what they kill (p. 48) [p. 117], they give the first of their harvests to the Great Spirit (p. 49) [p. 119], they offer burnt sacrifices (p. 49) [p. 119-120], they have traditions of Abel being murdered by Cain (p. 49) [p. 120-121], they have a high priest who wears sacred ornaments and is anointed with bear’s oil (p. 49) [p. 121], the high priest makes a yearly atonement for sin (p. 50) [p. 121], they fast, abstain from sex and purify themselves before going to war (p. 50) [p. 122], they bury their dead with their fine belongings (p. 51) [p. 125], etc. Based on these descriptions from VOTH, it seems that Ethan Smith is using a shot-gun approach to find every single Native American tradition that bears any similarity to the traditions of ancient Israel. It is no wonder, then, that the Book of Mormon and VOTH would deal with such similar subject matter, even though they are completely separate and unique works.

Ethan Smith argues that the Native American traditions of a sacred book that was taken from them is in fulfillment of Amos 8:11 about the Lost Tribes of Israel having a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord.” He never argues that the Natives had the Old Testament with them in the Americas, but that these traditions refer to their time spent in ancient Israel (p. 47) [p. 115].

Ethan Smith gives more details about this Native American tradition:

It has been stated that the Indians have a tradition that as they once, away in another country, had the old divine speech, the book of God; they shall at some time have it again, and shall then be happy” (p. 53) [p. 130]. Once again, VOTH argues that the Native Americans believed they had a sacred book in their homeland, and not in the Americas.

Not only does VOTH argue that the Natives are referring to the Bible that was taken away from the Ten Tribes of Israel when they became exiled, but he also argues that the Native Americans may have had Jewish Phylacteries that were worn on the forehead in ancient Israel. He states:

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” (p. 90) [p. 223]. Ethan Smith goes on to argue that this preserved book may have been Phylacteries, or pieces of parchment that were worn on the forehead which contained select verses from the books of Moses. Ethan Smith then goes on to argue that such a phylactery may have been found in his present day, but they somehow were misplaced by those who found it.

Ethan Smith describes the phylacteries further: “The writer conversed with Rev. Mr. Frey (the celebrated Jewish preacher in this country) upon this subject; who could give no account of the incident from any Jewish custom. He in formed that the Jew s have a custom of burying their leaves of phylacteries when  worn out and illegible; as they had also any old leaf of a Hebrew bible. They would
roll it up in some paper, and put it under ground from respect. But these leaves were w hole and good, and w ere sewed up (as has been stated) in thick raw hide, and with the sinews of some animal; a thing which no Jew in Christendom would have done.” (p. 90) [p. 222]. The description bears no resemblance to the origin of the Book of Mormon or the Brass Plates, nor any of the other records mentioned in the Book of Mormon or LDS history.

We conclude then the wearing of these phylacteries was a noted custom in Israel at the time of their final expulsion from Canaan. And it is natural to believe that Israel, being in exilement, would preserve these fragments of their better days with the utmost care. Wherever they went then, they would have these phylacteries with them. If they brought them to this country, they would keep them with diligence. They would most naturally become some of the most precious contents in their holy ark…old Indian in Stockbridge to Dr. West, that his fathers had buried, not long ago, a book which they could not read. And it may give a striking view of the vigilant care of the Watchman of Israel, who never slumbers…to bring to light that outcast people, who were to be exhibited to the world in the last days” (p. 90-91) [p. 223-225]. The fact that the Lost Tribes of Israel had the writings of Moses before being exiled, and that the Native Americans may have had Jewish Phylacteries shows that this similarity is nothing like the sacred records spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

The Brass Plates most resemble the supposed ancient Native American traditions, but the similarities are very broad and do not suggest that ideas had to have been stolen from VOTH in order to write the BOM. The Brass Plates found in the BOM are a complicated record different from anything described by VOTH. The two accounts of sacred books differ significantly in time, location, content, and purpose.

Lehi was commanded to get the Brass Plates from Jerusalem. “For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.” (1 Nephi 3:3). This occurred around 600 B.C. which was after the expulsion of the Ten Tribes.

Plates of Brass contain (1 Nephi 5:10-16):

  1. The “five books of Moses,” gave an account of creation, Adam, and is a record of the Jews to the reign of Zedekiah
  2. The prophecies of Jeremiah
  3. A genealogy of Lehi’s and Laban’s fathers
  4. Lehi prophesies that the Brass Plates will go to all the nations of his seed: “These plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindred, tongues, and people who were of his seed. Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time…insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.” (1 Nephi 5)
  5. The Brass Plates are similar to the Bible but the Brass Plates have more records. (1 Nephi 13:23) “The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews…and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many
  6. Nephi took the sacred records with him when his people fled from the Lamanites: (2 Nephi 5:12)= “And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass…
  7. The Brass Plates were important in preserving the language of the people. (Omni 1:14)= “And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly, because the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.
  8. They were written in the language of the Egyptians. (Mosiah 1:4)= “For he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings…

The Brass Plates refers to many scriptures and prophets that are not found in Bible: (1 Nephi 19)

  1. Prophecies of Joseph: There will be a remnant of his seed that will be preserved. A seer will be raised with the same name.
  2. 3 Nephi 10:17= “Behold, our father Jacob also testified concerning a remnant of the seed of Joseph. And behold, are not we a remnant of the seed of Joseph? And these things which testify of us, are they not written upon the plates of brass which our father Lehi brought out of Jerusalem?
  3. Prophecies of Jacob: Saw a ripped portion of Joseph’s coat, which had been preserved, and prophesied that a righteous branch would be preserved while the rest would be destroyed.
  4. Prophecies of Zenos: Christ will be buried in a sepulcher/three days of darkness which would be a sign of his death to those on the Isles of the sea. (Alma 33:13) “Ye must believe what Zenos said; for, behold he said: Thou has turned away they judgments because of they Son.”
  5. (Alma 33:3-11) Prophecies of Zenock: God will come to earth and will be killed by wicked and will be raised up/ (Alma 33:16) “For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou has bestowed upon them because of thy Son…and because the people would not understand his words they stoned him to death.
  6. Prophecies of Neum: Jesus will be crucified.
  7. Ezias: Prophesied of Christ, along with Zenos, Zenock, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

In Summary:

VOTH lost book:

  1. Identified as possibly referring to the Phylacteries used by ancient Israelites.
  2. Identified as the Bible, but it was lost after the expulsion of the Ten Tribes from Canaan because of their wickedness.
  3. The ten tribes may have brought phylacteries to the new world.
  4. They forgot how to read them and then sealed them up in leather bags and buried them.
  5. They were written in Hebrew.
  6. They were most likely carried in small sacks, which is similar to the Ark of the Covenant.
  7. They were possibly written on old dark yellow parchment similar to Arab parchment (p. 91).

BOM Plates of Brass:

  1. 5 books of Moses
  2. Prophecies from Moses to Jeremiah and reign of King Zedekiah
  3. Genealogy of Lehi’s fathers
  4. Written on brass plates
  5. Written in Egyptian
  6. Additional prophecies from unknown prophets Zenos, Zenock, Neum, Ezias, and unknown prophecies from Joseph and Jacob.
  7. Prophets prophesied of Jesus Christ, his death, and his Resurrection.
  8. Brought from Jerusalem to the Americas.

Exaggerated Similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews (Part IV)

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.

Exaggerated Similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews (Part II)

Similarity #1: THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

I will now examine specific similarities that are cited most often by critics. The first supposed similarity is the fact that both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon reference Jerusalem being destroyed. This is described in the first chapter of VOTH and Lehi is warned of Jerusalem’s destruction in the first chapter of 1 Nephi. As I will show, however, the only similarity between the two works is that they both say that at one point in time Jerusalem has been destroyed. This is not a significant similarity because the destructions referenced in the two works refer to two completely different events. I will be comparing the 1825 Edition of View of the Hebrews (Ethan Smith, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf) and the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem referenced in VOTH is the destruction that occurred in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
  2. In VOTH, Ethan Smith states the reason that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. “Here were the city and the temple to be destroyed, for the infidelity, malice, hypocrisy, and persecution of the Lord of glory” (pg. 8).
  3. VOTH goes into explicit detail of Jerusalem being destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D. This is to illustrate that the predictions of Jesus about the future of Jerusalem came true, proving that he was the Son of God. See the first page of the chapter, which states “And the Messiah uttered against them, in consequence of their rejecting him, a new edition of these fatal denunciations, which we find in Matt. 24, Luke 19:41-44, chapter 21, and 23:27-30.” (pg. 7)
  4. The only reference in VOTH to the Babylonian destruction is a single sentence that states “that it [Jerusalem] should be consumed on the same month, on the same day of the month, on which the Babylonians had before destroyed it by fire.”
  5. In the BOM, however, Lehi’s family escaped the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 600 B.C. The Book of Mormon never mentions the destruction of Jerusalem by Romans, nor the prophecies of Jesus concerning its destruction in 70 A.D.
  6. This is not a significant parallel because the destruction referred to in both sources is hundreds of years apart, caused by different invaders, and serves a different purpose in the narrative of the BOM and VOTH.

 

Similarity #2: The Scattering of Israel/The lost ten tribes

This parallel is based on the fact that both the BOM and VOTH argue that Israelites were led to the Americas. However, many differences exist between the two works. The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Native Americans are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, whereas View of the Hebrews states explicitly that the Native Americans are the ten lost tribes of Israel who were preserved by the Lord in an outcast and a savage state.

VOTH:

  1. The Native Americans are the lost ten tribes of Israel. “The ten tribes of Israel must now have, somewhere on earth, a distinct existence in an outcast state.” (pg. 30)
  2. They were expelled from Canaan in 725 B.C., living  in “an outcast state for thousands of years” (pg. 20) after they were carried out by Shalmanezer of Assyria.
  3. Expelled and outcast from the promised land because of their iniquity and idolatry (Amos 8:11,12)
  4. They became a savage people as vindictive Providence punished them for their idolatry in 725 B.C. (pg. 70)

BOM:

  1. This is not a record of the lost ten tribes of Israel. Lehi was a descendant of Joseph and Manasseh. (Alma 10:3)
  2. Two families (Lehi and Ishmael) were led out of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid destruction from the Babylonians as well as the Jews for preaching heresy. Mulek, a son of Zedekiah, was also led out of Jerusalem during its destruction. (1 Nephi 2:1-2/Helaman 8:21)
  3. Lehi’s family was led from Jerusalem because of their righteousness and to avoid death. “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 2:2)
  4. Three separate peoples come to the Americas by way of boats (Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites)
  5. BOM prophets acknowledge that they do not know where the lost ten tribes of Israel are. “But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.” (3 Nephi 17:4)
  6. Lehi’s family was led out of Jerusalem to be preserved as a righteous branch, according to the prophecies of Joseph and Jacob: “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom” (2 Nephi 3:5).
  7. “The words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.” (Alma 46:23)

VOTH: 1. The lost tribes of Israel will be outcast and will travel in a north-east direction, and will cross the frozen ocean to the Americas. They will not have the word of God among them. “There is a prophecy is Amos viii. 11, 12, relative to the ten tribes of Israel while in their state of banishment from the promised land, which appears exactly to accord with the account by Esdras…As an event to be accomplished in their outcast state, the prophet gives this striking descriptive prediction. Verse 11, 12; ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, (or upon the tribes of Israel,) not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water; but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.’…The prediction implies that Israel in their exilement should know that they had been blessed with the word of God, but had wickedly lost it; as a man in a famine knows he has had bread, but now has it not. They shall feel something what they have lost, and shall wander…shall wander in a north-east direction as far as they can wander, from sea to sea…from the northern frozen ocean, to the southern ocean at Cape Horn.” (Ethan Smith, pg. 33)

2. The lost tribes were outcast because of their idolatry: “Amos was a prophet to the ten tribes of Israel…The symbol is thus explained; ‘Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.’ The prophet in this chapter announces that ‘they that swear by the sins of Samaria, and say, Thy God, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall.’ Here is a description of the idolatry of the ten tribes, and their utter banishment then just about to take place; from which they have never been recovered to this day.” (Ethan Smith, p. 33)

VOTH and the BOM refer to separate people’s in separate centuries, being led by different paths to a distant land for different purposes. Critics of the BOM try to overgeneralize this similarity by saying that ‘both works say the Israelites come to Americas for religious reasons,’ and ignore all other details/differences.

Exaggerated Similarities between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon (Part I)

The View of the Hebrews is a rather thin volume written by the minister Ethan Smith, and was first published in 1823, with a subsequent re-release in 1825 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_the_Hebrews). It is written in an essay format and sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. He attempts to prove this by making a case for the Ten Tribe’s literal outcast state and subsequent restoration by appealing to the Bible. In addition, the book is comprised of the experiences of several individuals and institutions who had close contact with Native Americans and argue that their traditions are remarkably similar to Hebrew traditions. There are those who claim that because of the extensive similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews, that Joseph Smith must have used View of the Hebrews as inspiration for inventing the story of the Book of Mormon. I will set out to prove that the similarities between the two works are exaggerated and details are often contradictory. For the meantime, I will assume that the reader has a basic understanding of what is contained in both The View of the Hebrews (VOTH) and the Book of Mormon (BOM). For Part I of my study of the similarities between the BOM and VOTH, I would like to provide a summary of several differences between the two works. A more in-depth analysis of each of the supposed similarities between the two works will follow in future posts.

A summary of major differences:

  1. VOTH claims that the Native Americans are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whereas the Book of Mormon claims they are descendants of Joseph living in Jerusalem after the scattering of the ten tribes. (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10&keyword=view%20of%20the%20hebrews)
  2. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes were taken out of the Land of Canaan by the Assyrians in 725 B.C. and these Ten Tribes are the ancestors of the Native Americans. The BOM claims that those who came to the Americas came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid the destruction caused by the Babylonians. In addition, the Book of Mormon argues that a separate group of people came to the Americas shortly after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  3. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes came to the Americas by way of the Bering Strait, whereas the BOM asserts that they came by boat through the Arabian Sea.
  4. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes of Israel were led to the Americas for their wickedness, while the BOM says that those who are led to the Americas are led for their righteousness.
  5. VOTH claims that those who came to the Americas traveled in a north-east direction from Canaan. The BOM states that Lehi’s family traveled in a south-east direction from Jerusalem.
  6. VOTH claims that Ten Tribes traveled from a frozen land. The BOM claims that Lehi’s family left from “Bountiful,” a land of wild honey and fruit.
  7. VOTH claims that the legend of Quetzalquatl is based on the Ten Tribes’ early traditions and experiences of Moses as their lawgiver, over 900 years before being taken from Canaan. The BOM claims that Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D.
  8. VOTH claims that the tradition of the Urim and Thummim can be found in Native American breastplates made of conch shells, elk beads and straps of otter skin. The BOM never once mentions the name “Urim and Thummim” nor does it describe a breast plate.
  9. VOTH claims that Native Americans kept sacred items in bags or boxes like the Ark of the Covenant. The BOM never mentions the Ark of the Covenant or its likeness.
  10. VOTH claims that the Natives would bring this “ark of the covenant” with them every time they went to war. The peoples in the BOM never do anything like this.
  11. VOTH speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans to show Christ’s prophecies being fulfilled about Jerusalem’s destruction. The BOM speaks of Lehi escaping the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians just after 600 B.C.
  12. VOTH claims that the Native Americans lost the word of God according to the prophecy of Amos 7:11,12. The BOM asserts that Nephites had the Bible and preached the Law of Moses and Christianity.
  13. VOTH claims that there may be evidence of Phylacteries like those used in Jerusalem in the Americas, and they were written in Hebrew. The BOM argues that the Brass Plates and the Golden Plates contained the fullness of the Gospel and were written in “reformed Egyptian.”
  14. VOTH claims that the Native Americans became savage and wicked because Providence was punishing them for the idolatry of the Ten Tribes of Israel. The BOM claims that the savage Native Americans (Lamanites) rebelled against God and were jealous that their younger brother Nephi was a ruler over them. They would serve as a way to stir up the Nephites to remembrance of the Lord.
  15. VOTH claims that the Americas were uninhabited since the great flood. The BOM argues that the Americas were inhabited by the Jaredites after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  16. VOTH describes animals known to Native Americans, such as the buffalo, deer, porcupine, rattlesnake, bear, otter, beaver, elk, etc. The BOM, instead, references animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, cureloms, cumoms, and elephants.
  17. VOTH claims that the ancient Israelites could have built the pyramids found in the Americas today. The BOM never mentions pyramids.
  18. VOTH claims that the Native Americans commonly use the word “Hallelujah,” a Hebrew word. The BOM uses the word “Hosanna” instead, on three occasions.
  19. VOTH claims that when grieving the Native Americans will touch their hands to their mouths, then their mouths to the ground. “It is well known that laying the hand on the mouth, and the mouth in the dust, is a distinguished Hebraism.” The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  20. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans abstain from matrimonial intercourse three days prior to going to war. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  21. VOTH asserts that several Indian words are similar to Hebrew words, and the comparisons are presented in table format. The BOM never mentions these words or their likeness.
  22. VOTH asserts that like the Hebrews, the Native Americans have cities of refuge where blood cannot be spilt. The BOM never mentions cities of refuge or their likeness.
  23. VOTH asserts that Native Americans hold certain tribes in reverence like the Tribe of Levi. This is not found in the BOM and Levi is only mentioned in 3 Nephi 24:3 when Jesus quotes Malachi 3.
  24. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans believe the name of God is “Yohewah, Aleh, or Yah.” The BOM never mentions these words.
  25. VOTH says that the Native Americans must appear three times annually at the temples. The BOM never mentions this.
  26. VOTH says the Native Americans purified themselves with bitter vegetables. The BOM never mentions this.
  27. VOTH says that the Native Americans separated their women. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  28. VOTH says that an old Jewish Phylactery was written on dark yellow “leaves” of parchment, preserved much like ancient Arabian parchment. The BOM argues that parchment must decay, so they wrote on plates (or leaves, described by Joseph Smith) of gold and brass.
  29. VOTH asserts that the Natives believe they had a book of “the old divine speech” (which was Hebrew). The BOM asserts that the Brass Plates, a sacred book like the Bible, was written in reformed Egyptian and not the “divine speech.”