View of the Hebrews




The CES Letter seeks to make the case that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from three sources. The argument is flimsy. Let's take a look.


There was a book published in 1823 Vermont entitled View of the Hebrews. Below is a chart comparing the View of the Hebrews to the Book of Mormon:

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There are a significant differences between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith's work.

More Details

Numerous dissimilarities exist. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon.

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. There are no records that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.

Ethan Smith republished View of the Hebrews, revised and enlarged, in 1835. If Ethan Smith suspected or even wished to charge that the Book of Mormon plagiarized or purloined from his work, it is strange that he proceeded as if there was no relationship between the two books. 

Joseph Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon:

If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt., who relates as follows: "Joseph Merrick, Esq., a highly respectable character in the church at Pittsfield, gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood shed, standing on a place of his, situated on (Indian Hill)... [Joseph then discusses the supposed phylacteries found among Amerindians, citing View of the Hebrews p. 220, 223.]

It strains credulity to claim that Joseph drew attention to View of the Hebrews if it was the basis for the Book of Mormon.

None of the early critics of the Book of Mormon mention Ethan Smith or View of the Hebrews. If the parallels are so evident, why weren't they noticed by individuals who were not only acquainted with Ethan Smith's book, but were also existentially interested in its claims? Why wasn't it prominently mentioned as a source for the Book of Mormon until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the book itself had only an antiquarian interest and its contents were no longer so widely a part of popular discussion?

Critics generally ignore the presence of many "unparallels"—these are elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph to use in order to persuade his contemporaries that the Book of Mormon was an ancient history of the American Indians, and that they were descended from Israel. Yet, the Book of Mormon consistently ignores such supposed "bulls-eyes," which is good news for proponents of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, since virtually all of Ethan's "evidences" have been judged to be false or misleading.

B. H. Roberts, a President of Seventy and General Authority, investigated many accusations against the Book of Mormon’s veracity. Between 1921 and 1922 he composed a list of parallels between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon as any good scholar would do. This critical perspective required a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. Many of the issues highlighted by Roberts vanish when a limited geography theory is considered. Other "parallels" are no longer valid based upon current scholarship and the others are insignificant as explanatory observations for the origin of the Book of Mormon.

Many of the "parallels" that are discussed are not actually parallels at all once they are fully examined:

Both speak of... View of the Hebrews Book of Mormon
...the destruction of Jerusalem... the Romans in A.D. 70. the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
...Israelites coming to the American continent... ...via dry land across the Bering Strait. ...via the ocean on board a ship.
...colonists spread out to fill the entire land... ...from the North to the South. ...from the South to the North.
...a great lawgiver (whom some assume to be associated with the legend of Quetzalcoatl)... ...who is identified as Moses. ...who is identified as Jesus Christ. ancient book that was preserved for a long time and then buried... ...because they had lost the knowledge of reading it and it would be of no further use to them. order to preserve the writings of prophets for future generations.
...a buried book taken from the earth... the form of four, dark yellow, folded leaves of old parchment. the form of a set of gold metal plates.
...the Egyptian language, since Egyptian influence is present in hieroglyphic paintings made by native Americans. ...a reformed Egyptian was used to record a sacred history.



38 parallels

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A review of the 38 similarities mentioned shows that many of them are overly general. The lack of specificity diminishes the value of the alleged parallel. Titles like “language,” “pride denounced,” Americas,” and “Ethan/Ether,” are not particularly impressive:

  • Published
  • Location
  • The destruction of Jerusalem
  • The scattering of Israel
  • The restoration of the Ten Tribes
  • Hebrews leave the Old World for the New World
  • Religion a motivating factor
  • Migrations a long journey
  • Encounter "seas" of "many waters"
  • The Americas an uninhabited land
  • Settlers journey northward
  • Encounter a valley of a great river
  • A unity of race (Hebrew) settle the land and are the ancestral origin of American Indians
  • Hebrew the origin of Indian
  • language
  • Egyptian hieroglyphics
  • Lost Indian records
  • Breastplate, Urim & Thummim
  • A man standing on a wall warning the people saying, “Wo, wo to this this people” while subsequently being attacked.
  • Prophets, spiritually gifted men transmit generational records
  • The Gospel preached in the
  • Americas
  • Quotes whole chapters of Isaiah
  • Good and bad are a necessary opposition
  • Pride denounced
  • Polygamy denounced
  • Sacred towers and high places
  • Messiah visits the Americas
  • Idolatry and human sacrifice
  • Hebrews divide into two classes, civilized and barbarous
  • Civilized thrive in art, written language, metallurgy, navigation
  • Government changes from monarchy to republic
  • Civil and ecclesiastical power is united in the same person
  • Long wars break out between the civilized and barbarous
  • Extensive military fortifications, observations, "watch towers"
  • Barbarous exterminate the civilized
  • Discusses the United States
  • Ethan/Ether

While 38 may sound impressive, the View of the Hebrews  is roughly a fifth the size of the original Book of Mormon text, so the alleged parallels and influences could never have been quantitatively very great.



CES Letter, Page __


Numerous significant dissimilarities exist between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon.

Hugh Nibley observed: 

The Book of Mormon critics have made an art of explaining a very big whole by a very small part. The game is to look for some mysterious person or document from which Joseph Smith might have got the few simple and obvious ideas and then cry triumphantly, "At last we have it! Now we know where the Book of Mormon came from!"

If someone will only show me how to draw a circle," cries the youthful Joseph Smith, "I will make you a fine Swiss watch!" So Joachim or Anselm or Ethan Smith or Rabelais or somebody takes a stick and draws a circle in the sand, and forthwith the adroit and wily Joseph turns out a beautifully running mechanism that tells perfect time!

This is not an exaggeration. The Book of Mormon in structure and design is every bit as complicated, involved, and ingenious as the works of a Swiss watch, and withal just as smoothly running. With no model to follow and no instruction of any kind (Where was the model? Who could instruct?), the writer of that book brought together thousands of ideas and events and knit them together in a most marvelous unity. Yet the critics like to think they have explained the Book of Mormon completely if they can just discover where Joseph Smith might have got one of his ideas or expressions!

Compare that Ethan Smith, a Dartmouth college graduate in 1790, was 63 when View of the Hebrews was published. It contains around 57,000 words.  In contrast, Joseph had almost no formal schooling and was 24 when the Book of Mormon was printed. It contains almost five times as many words at 268,163.

If Joseph Smith was a plagiarizer, why are the greatest prose and the most inspiring and insightful doctrines in the Book of Mormon never found in other documents like View of the Hebrews? It might be argued that none of the "parallel" texts or other sources that Joseph is accused of plagiarizing contain similar narratives that encourage an elevation in one's desire to accomplish or create something, or to make a positive change in one's life or attitude?

While View of the Hebrews quotes Isaiah, it does not contain anything similar to Abinadi's lengthy sermon explicating some of the deepest and most inspiring doctrines that have ever been written on the atonement (Mosiah 14-16). Did Joseph Smith plagiarize this too?

Isaiah Nonparallel—An analysis of the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews does not suggest that the former relies upon the latter, for the following reasons:

Isaiah scriptures in both Isaiah in View of Hebrews only Isaiah in Book of Mormon only
Isaiah 11 - al lIsaiah 3:18-21, 24-25 Isaiah 5:13, 26 Isaiah 6:11 Isaiah 7:8, 18 Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 10:20-22 Isaiah 11:1, 11, 12, 13, 15 Isaiah 14:1 Isaiah 49:1, 11-13, 18-23 Isaiah 51:11 Isaiah 18 - all Isaiah 60 - all (twice)Isaiah 63 - all Isaiah 18:1-7, 8-9 Isaiah 26:3, 19 Isaiah 28:1,2,3, 5, 8 Isaiah 35:1,5 Isaiah 36:19 Isaiah 40:1-2, 5 Isaiah 41:14, 18-20 Isaiah 42:19-20 Isaiah 43:1-2,4, 16, 19-20 Isaiah 44:3-4 Isaiah 51:3 Isaiah 54:5 Isaiah 56:8 Isaiah 59:19, 21 Isaiah 60:1,3, 8, 9 Isaiah 61:9 Isaiah 63:1-6, 16, 17-18 Isaiah 65:3, 7,8-9, 23Isaiah 66:18-21, 30 Isaiah 48:1-22 [1 Nephi 20]Isaiah 49:2-10, 14-17, 24-46 [1 Nephi 21]Isaiah 50:1-11 [2 Nephi 7]Isaiah 51:1-10, 12-23 [2 Nephi 8:1-10, 12-23]Isaiah 52:1-2 [2 Nephi 8:24-25]Isaiah 2:1-22 [2 Nephi 12]Isaiah 3:1-17, 22-23, 26 [2 Nephi 13]Isaiah 4:1-6 [2 Nephi 14]Isaiah 5:1-12, 14-25, 27-30 [2 Nephi 15]Isaiah 6:1-10, 12-13 [2 Nephi 16]Isaiah 7:1-7, 9-17, 19-25 [2 Nephi 17]Isaiah 8:1-22 [2 Nephi 18]Isaiah 9:1-5, 7-21 [2 Nephi 19]Isaiah 10:1-19, 23-34 [2 Nephi 20]Isaiah 12:1-6 [2 Nephi 22]Isaiah 13:1-22 [2 Nephi 23]Isaiah 14:2-32 [2 Nephi 24]
TOTAL = 30 verses in common; 31.6% of VoH Isaiah verses and 8.3% of BoM Isaiah verses TOTAL = 65 verses only in VoH; 68.4% of VoH Isaiah verses TOTAL = 332 verses only in Book of Mormon; 91.7% of BoM Isaiah verses

(Modified from

Numerous other nonparallells

View of the Hebrews claim Discussion
No revelation? "We are to expect no new revelation from heaven. And the days of miracles are thought to be past" (127).View of the Hebrews denies new revelation or miracles. The Book of Mormon was emphatically a new revelation, and it insists that miracles continue today (Mormon 9:7-20).
Ark of the covenant "The Indians have had their imitation of the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel" (68)."we have an account that the Shawano Indians in an excursion captured the Indian warrior called Old Scranny, of the Muskhoge tribe, and condemned him to a fiery torture. He told them the occasion of his falling into their hands was, he had forfeited the protection of the Divine Power by some impurity or other, when carrying the holy ark of war against his devoted enemy" (121).The Book of Mormon never mentions the ark of the covenant, or anything like it. (The only reference to "ark" is to Noah's ark—Ether 6:7.)
Circumcision "The American Indians have practised circumcision" (69).The pre-Christian Book of Mormon peoples never mention circumcision, much less emphasize it as a vital rite (Moroni 8:8 notes its passing).Why did not Joseph emphasize this supposed parallel with the Amerindians?
Fire god conflated with Israel's god ""The Indians have had much of an apprehension that their one Great Spirit had a great affinity to fire. And the Peruvians, it seems, went so far as to embody him in the sun. Here seems a shred of mixture of the Persian idolatry, with the theocracy of Israel. As the more ancient Israelites caught a degree of the idolatrous distemper of Egypt, as appears in their golden calf; so the ten tribes, the time they resided in Media, and before they set off for America, may have blended some idea of fire with their one God" (72).The Book of Mormon never mentions fire or sun worship, despite it being a known part of pre-Columbian religion.
Indians used Hebrew terms "In their sacred dances, these authors assure us the Indians sing "Halleluyah Yohewah;"—praise to Jah Jehovah. When they return victorious from their wars, they sing, Yo-he-wah; having been by tradition taught to ascribe the praise to God."The same authors assure us, the Indians make great use of initials of the mysterious name of God, like the tetragrammaton of the ancient Hebrews; or the four radical letters which form the name of Jehovah; as the Indians pronounce thus, Y-O-He-wah. That like the ancient Hebrews, they are cautious of mentioning these together, or at once. They sing and repeat the syllables of this name in their sacred dances thus; Yo-yo, or ho-ho-he-he-wah-wah. Mr. Adair upon the same, says; "After this they begin again; Hal-hal-le-le-lu-lu-yahyah. And frequently the whole train strike up, hallelu-halleluhalleluyah- halleluyah." They frequently sing the name of Shilu (Shilo, Christ) with the syllables of the name of God added; thus, "Shilu-yo-Shilu-yo-Shilu-he-Shilu-he-Shilu-wah-Shilu-wah." Thus adding to the name of Shilu, the name of Jehovah by its sacred syllables. Things like these have been found among Indians of different regions of America" (72)."He says the general name of all their priestly [113] order is Ishtoallo. And the name of the high priest's waiter is Sagan. Mr. Faber (remarking upon this) thinks the former word is a corruption of Ish-da-eloah, a man of God; see original of 2 Kings, iv. 21,22, 25, 27, 40, and other places. And of the latter word he says, "Sagan is the very name by which the Hebrews called the deputy of the high priest, who supplied his office, and who performed the functions of it in the absence of the high priest. See Calmet's Dict, vox Sagan.'""Here then is evidence to our purpose, that those Indians should call their order of priests, and the high priest's waiter, by those ancient Hebrew names of a man of God, and a deputy of the high priest. How could these events have occurred, had not those natives been Hebrew, and brought down these names by Hebrew tradition?" (112–113)The Book of Mormon never mentions the use of such terms as "Shilo[h]" or "Hallelujah." It gives no names of priests or priestly orders.The name "Jehovah" is only used in the last verse of the Book of Mormon, and in a citation from Isaiah.
Language affinities Ethan Smith claimed that a number of Indian words were evidence that their language was connected with Hebrew. The Book of Mormon relies on nothing like this.Click here (bottom) and here (top) to see the language lists.
Tribal totems VoH claims that the Amerindian tribes use animal emblems which recall Jacob's blessing to his twelve sons:The Indians being in tribes, with their heads and names of tribes, affords further light upon this subject. The Hebrews not only had their tribes, and heads of tribes, as have the Indians; but they had their animal emblems of their tribes. Dan's emblem was a serpent; Issachar's an ass; Benjamin's a wolf; and Judah's a lion. And this trait of character is not wanting among the natives of this land. They have their wolf tribe; their tiger tribe; panther tribe; buffalo tribe; bear tribe; deer tribe; raccoon tribe; eagle tribe; and many others. What other nation on earth bears any resemblance to this? Here, no doubt, is Hebrew tradition.Various of the emblems given in Jacob's last blessing, have been strikingly fulfilled in the American Indians. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that the rider shall fall backwards. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey; and at night he shall divide the spoil" [Gen 49:17, 27]. Had the prophetic eye rested on the American aborigines, it seems as though no picture could have been more accurate" (81, italics removed).The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Jacob's prophecy, such tribal characteristics, or totem or tribal signs of this type. Yet another dramatic evidence, well-known to Americans on the frontier, was ignored.
Cities of refuge "Their having an imitation of the ancient city of refuge, evinces the truth of our subject" (81).No cities of refuge are described in the Book of Mormon, nor does Nephite law mention the right of refuge.
Passover "The Hebrews were commanded to eat their passover with bitter herbs; Exod. xii. 8. The Indians have a notable custom of purifying themselves with bitter herbs and roots. Describing one of their feasts, the writer says, "At the end of the notable dance, the old beloved women return home to hasten the feast. In the mean time every one at the temple drinks plentifully of the Cussena, and other bitter liquids, to cleanse their sinful bodies, as they suppose" (88).The Book of Mormon never uses the term "Passover," or describes the passover meal.
High Priest and garments "The Indian high priest makes his yearly atonement for sin. He appears at their temple, (such as it is) arrayed in his white deer skin garments, seeming to answer to the ancient ephod" (89)."Here, as in Mr. Adair's account, is their high priest's robe and breast plate. On ordinary occasions, they retire secretly (Mr. H. adds) to their sacred places, and invoke the assistance of the Great Spirit, and make the most solemn vows to him, which they never fail to perform, should events correspond to their prayers. But at times more momentous, such as the declaration of war, conclusion of peace, or the prevalence of epidemics, &c. they impose on themselves long fastings, and severe penance, take narcotics and nauseating drugs" (125).The Book of Mormon says nothing of Nephite priesthood's dress, and does not discuss the day of atonement rituals. Any Nephite teaching is focused on Christ as redeemer (e.g., Mosiah 2-5:), not the use of a mortal high priest as intermediary.The term "ephod" is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and there is no mention of narcotics or nauseating drugs.
Indian Ritual = Hebrew "Mr. Adair describes the Indian feasts, and speaks of them as bearing a very near resemblance of the stated feasts in ancient Israel. He gives accounts that when the Indians are about to engage in war, they have their preparatory sacrifices, purifications, and fastings. He speaks of their daily sacrifice, their ablutions, marriages, divorces, burials, mournings for the dead, separations of women, and punishment of various crimes, as being in his opinion manifestly of Hebrew origin" (90).The Book of Mormon never mentions feasts, preparations for war, ritual purification, washings, marriage forms, divorce forms, or separation of women.
War preparations "The purifications, fasting, abstinences, and prayers, to prepare for war, appear to be Hebrew. Adair says; "Before the Indians go to war, they have many preparatory ceremonies of purification and fasting, like what is recorded of the Israelites. When the leader begins to beat up for volunteers, he goes three times round his dark winter house, contrary to the course of the sun, sounding the war-whoop, [90] singing the war song, and beating a drum.* He addresses the crowd, who come about him, and after much ceremony, he proceeds to whoop again for the warriors to come and join him, and sanctify themselves for success against the common enemy, according to their ancient religious law. A number soon join him in his winter house, where they live separate from all others, and purify themselves for the space of three days and three nights, exclusive of the first broken day. On each day they observe a strict fast till sunset, watching the young men very narrowly (who have not been initiated in war titles) lest unusual hunger should tempt them to violate it, to the supposed danger of all their lives in the war, by destroying the power of their purifying, beloved physic, which they drink plentifully during that time. They are such strict observers of their law of purification, and think it so essential in obtaining health and success in war, as not to allow the best beloved trader that ever lived among them, knowingly, to enter the beloved ground appropriated to the duty of being sanctified for war, much less to associate with the camp in the woods, at such a time, though he is united with them in the same war design. They oblige him to walk and encamp separately by himself, as an impure, dangerous animal, till the leader hath purified him, according to the usual time and method, with the consecrated things of the ark" (90).This vivid material would have resonated deeply with nineteenth century Americans, who were either fascinated or fearful of warlike Amerindians. Yet, no such dramatic or picturesque material graces the Book of Mormon accounts of war—its descriptions are pedestrian, describing only the making of weapons, or the preparations of supplies. The Book of Mormon view of warfare is pragmatic, not romantic or exotic.
Burial rites "The Indians, when one dies, wash and anoint the body. The Hebrews did the same" (92).Burial rites are rarely described in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 19:43Alma 20:1-5). Generally all we are told is that the dead were buried (Alma 3:1Alma 30:1-2Alma 53:1-3) or (on rare occasions) cast into a river because of the number of the dead (Alma 44:21-22).No discussion of washing or anointing the body of the dead appears.
Widowhood laws "A widow among them is bound by a strict Indian custom, to mourn the death of her husband for three years or more, unless the brother of her deceased husband wishes to take her. In that case, she is released from this law, as soon as it is known that the brother makes love to her. She may then throw off her [93] mourning habits, and dress and paint like others. Certainly this appears to have originated in that Mosaic law" (92–93).No laws or regulations are discussed in the matter of widows. The one widow discussed deviates from the pattern which Ethan Smith assures us is a clear sign of Hebrew behavior (Alma 47:32-35)—another lost opportunity for Joseph's forgery!
Medicine bag "This tribe of Chippeways, (Mr. Herman informs,) call their sacred sack, their "medicine bag." The contents appear to be essentially the same, and for the same end, with the contents of the sacred ark in other tribes" (105).No medicine bag or parallel to the ark of the covenant is discussed in the Book of Mormon.
Kosher "Eagles of every kind they esteem unclean food; likewise ravens, crows, bats, buzzards, swallows, and every species of owl." This he considers as precisely Hebrew; as also their purifications of their priests; and purification for having touched a dead body, or any other unclean thing" (114).The Book of Mormon never mentions kosher laws, or describes the animals to be avoided.
Architecture Extensive descriptions of pyramids are given as impressive evidence (136, 154–156).Geometry in architecture is stressed: "They have left us perfect specimens of circles, squares, octagons, and parallel lines, on a grand and noble scale" (144, see also 147).The Book of Mormon ignores geometry, and does not indulge in descriptions of buildings intended to impress or awe the audience.
Phylacteries 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, as their nation formerly kept the holy law in the ark. Here such a phylactery would be safe through ever so many centuries. This is so far from being improbable, that it is almost a moral certainty" (italics in original) (172).Once again, Joseph Smith ignores a supposed "home run" bit of evidence—there are no phylacteries in the Book of Mormon.
Quetzalcoatl View of the Hebrews associates Quetzalcoatl with Moses and discusses this figure at length (156–160).The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Quetzalcoatl, even though later Latter-day Saints would find the legends compelling descriptions of Christ. Once again, however, Joseph Smith ignores the rich vein of material that Ethan Smith provided.

(Modified from


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.



LDS General Authority and scholar Elder B.H. Roberts privately researched the link between the Book of Mormon and the View of the HebrewsJoseph’s father having the same dream in 1811 as Lehi’s dream, and other sources that were available to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and others before the publication of the Book of Mormon.

CES Letter, Page 20


In 1811, Joseph smith Sr. apparently had a dream that was similar to the dream described by Lehi. His dream (1 Ne. 8:4-28) comprises 789 words out of the total Book of Mormon word count of 268,163. 

Lehi's dream comprises a very small portion of the Book of Mormon text.

The details of the dream were written long after the Book of Mormon was published Lucy's manuscript for Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations, which she dictated to Martha Jane Coray in the winter of 1844–45.

There are many obvious connections between this dream and Lehi's vision of the tree of life recorded in 1 Nephi 8:

  • A desolate field representing the world (8:4).
  • A narrow path (8:20).
  • A river of water (8:13).
  • A rope running along the bank of the river (similar in function to the rod of iron in 8:19, 24).
  • A tree with dazzling white fruit (8:10–11).
  • Joseph, Sr. desires that his family should partake of the fruit also (8:12).
  • A spacious building filled with people who are mocking those who eat the fruit (8:26–27).
  • Joseph, Sr. and his family ignore the mocking (8:33).
  • The fruit represents the love of God (11:22).
  • The building represents the world (11:36; 12:18).

Dissimilarities are also present supporting that, rather than plagiarism, God could teach similar principles through dreams to worthy recipients across generations and continents.

None of Joseph's family regarded the similarities as evidence that Joseph Jr. was engaging in a forgery.

It is possible that Lucy's late recollection was influenced by what she read in the Book of Mormon. Her memory would have been affected by what she learned in the more detailed Book of Mormon account (even as it stands, the Book of Mormon account is far more detailed and lengthy than the material from 1844-45).



Elder Roberts’ private research was meant only for the eyes of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and was never intended to be available to the public. However, Roberts’ work was later published in 1985 as Studies of the Book of Mormon. Based upon his research, Elder B.H. Roberts came to the following conclusion on the View of the Hebrews:

Did Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews furnish structural material for Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon? It has been pointed out in these pages that there are many things in the former book that might well have suggested many major things in the other. Not a few things merely, one or two, or a half dozen, but many; and it is this fact of many things of similarity and the cumulative force of them that makes them so serious a menace to Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon’s origin.


While this does not prove that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from the View of the Hebrews, it does demonstrate that key elements of the story of the Book of Mormon – i.e. Native Americans as Hebrew descendants, ancient records of natives preserved, scattering and gathering of Israel, Hebrew origin of Native American language, etc. pre-dated the Book of Mormon and were already among the ideas circulating among New England protestant Americans.

With these ideas already existing and the previously cited issues with KJV plagiarism, errors, anachronisms, geography problems, and more issues to come, is it unreasonable to question Joseph Smith’s story of the Book of Mormon origins as Church Historian B.H. Roberts did?

CES Letter, Page 20-21


By selectively quoting B. H. Roberts’ writings, The CES Letter creates an illusion that B. H. Roberts’ lost faith in its authenticity, but multiple sources demonstrate that he never did.

Just before his death in September 1933, Elder Roberts was visited at his office by a long-time friend, Jack Christensen. During the conversation, B. H. Roberts spoke of his Book of Mormon studies and then gave Christensen his considered judgment: “Ethan Smith played no part in the formation of the Book of Mormon.”  

Elder Roberts had sent the entire 435 pages to President Heber J. Grant and the Quorum of the Twelve on March 15, 1923. In a cover letter, he wrote:

“This report herewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a ‘study of Book of Mormon origins,’ for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.”

In B. H. Roberts manuscript entitled, “The Truth, the Way, and the Life,” his doctrinal magnum opus, written in 1927–1928:

He quotes verses from the Book of Mormon over 130 times.

He goes out of his way to identify the Book of Mormon as an ancient record written by prophets who lived long ago.

He writes that “Joseph Smith was commanded to translate, and was given the power and means by which he could translate the unknown language of these ancient American peoples.”

He repeatedly reaffirms the divine origin and antiquity of the Book of Mormon.

He added scriptures from the Book of Mormon in later drafts, which would be unexpected if he had doubts about the books authenticity.

A favorite description for the Book of Mormon and especially for 3 Nephi was “a fifth gospel.”

In his own notebook B. H. Roberts wrote “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by Book of Mormon precepts than by any other book.”

Given these quotes from a study B. H. Roberts’ writings, and are vital to understanding what B. H. Roberts thought, it's curious the The CES Letter conveniently fails to mention them.