View of the Hebrews
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.
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...||...by the Romans in A.D. 70.||...by 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.|
|...an 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.||...in order to preserve the writings of prophets for future generations.|
|...a buried book taken from the earth...||...in the form of four, dark yellow, folded leaves of old parchment.||...in the form of a set of gold metal plates.|
|...the Egyptian language, since||...an Egyptian influence is present in hieroglyphic paintings made by native Americans.||...a reformed Egyptian was used to record a sacred history.|