Conspiracy Theory: Oliver Cowdery & View of the Hebrews

CES Letter Core Question

Did Oliver Cowdery learn about The View of the Hebrews from Ethan Smith and then collude with Joseph Smith in writing the Book of Mormon?

Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation during this time and before he went to New York to join his distant cousin Joseph Smith. As you know, Oliver Cowdery played an instrumental role in the production of the Book of Mormon.

This direct link between Joseph and Oliver and View of the Hebrews demonstrates that Joseph is very likely to have been aware of the theme and content of that book. It gives weight to all the similarities described in the preceding comparison chart. Apologists may point out that the Book of Mormon is not a direct, word-for-word plagiarism of View of the Hebrews, and indeed that is not the claim. Rather, the similarities should give any reader pause that two books so similar in theme and content would coincidentally be connected by Oliver Cowdery.


CES Letter, Page 20

Theories of an Ethan Smith–Cowdery association are not supported by any available documentation. There is no evidence Oliver knew of or ever read View of the Hebrews.

Both Ethan Smith (1762–1849) and Oliver Cowdery (1806 –1850) lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended. Forty-six years his senior, there is no support that Ethan had any special relationship with Oliver or even knew his name.

View of the Hebrews was published when Oliver was seventeen years old. The CES Letter provides no theories or additional information regarding how it might have come into Oliver’s hands.

Multiple accounts describe how the Book of Mormon was translated through a seer stone with a hat or with the Urim and Thumim and breastplate. How a manuscript based upon A View of the Hebrews might have been involved is not described in The CES Letter.

The CES Letter does not supply any evidence that Oliver with or without help from Ethan Smith or A View of the Hebrews wrote the Book of Mormon. No such evidence exists.

In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon. The CES Letter fails to provide a theory why Oliver would have stayed silent if he, with our without A View of the Hebrews, were actually responsible.  

The View of the Hebrews has been reprinted many times, recently by Brigham Young University in 1996.


Additional Resources:

Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonismby Larry E. Morris

A One-sided View of Mormon Origins by Mark Ashurst-McGee

How valid are theories linking Oliver Cowdery to questionable people or groups during his early years?