View of the Hebrews

View of the Hebrews

View of the Hebrews is an 1823 book written by Ethan Smith (December 19, 1762August 29, 1849) which argues that native Americans were descended from the Hebrews. Numerous commentators on Mormon doctrine, from LDS Church general authority B. H. Roberts to biographer Fawn M. Brodie, have discussed the possibility that "View of the Hebrews" may have provided source material for the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe was translated from ancient golden plates by Joseph Smith, Jr. [Grant H. Palmer, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 58; B. H. Roberts, "Studies of the Book of Mormon" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 28-29; 151-54. Roberts wrote, "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 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."(240)]

Biography of Ethan Smith

Ethan Smith, unrelated to Joseph Smith, was a New England Congregationalist clergyman. Born into a pious home in Belchertown, Massachusetts, Smith abandoned religion after the early deaths of his parents.William B. Sprague,"Annals of the American Pulpit" (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1866), II, 296–300.] After a prolonged inner struggle he joined the Congregational Church in 1781, and shortly thereafter began training for the ministry, graduating from Dartmouth College in 1790, though finding "but little of the spirit of religion there."William B. Sprague,"Annals of the American Pulpit" (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1866), II, 296–300.]

After serving congregations in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, Smith accepted an appointment as "City Missionary" in Boston and also served as a supply pastor for vacant pulpits. "He was a warm friend of what he accounted pure revivals of religion; though he was careful to distinguish the precious from the vile" in matters of religious experience. Smith enjoyed a "robust constitution and vigorous health" and continued to preach until within two weeks of his death. At eighty his sight "became very dim, and he was no longer able to read, though he never became totally blind. So familiar was he with the Bible and Watts, that it was his uniform custom to open the book in the pulpit, and give out the chapter and hymn, and seem to read them; and he very rarely made a mistake, to awaken a suspicion that he was repeating from memory."

Besides "View of the Hebrews", Smith published "A Dissertation on the Prophecies" (1809), "A Key to the Figurative Language of the Prophecies" (1814), "A View of the Trinity, designed as an answer to Noah Webster's Bible News" (1821), "Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey", "Four Lectures on the Subjects and Mode of Baptism", "A Key to the Revelation" (1833), and "Prophetic Catechism to Lead to the Study of the Prophetic Scriptures" (1839). Ethan Smith died in Royalston, Massachusetts in 1849.

Smith lived in Poultney, Vermont, the same town as Oliver Cowdery, who later acted as Joseph Smith's scribe for the Book of Mormon. Ethan Smith also pastored the Congregational church that Cowdery's family attended from 1821 to 1826 while he was writing "View of the Hebrews". [Palmer, 59-60.]

Thesis of "View of the Hebrews"

The first edition of Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews" was published in 1823, and a second expanded edition appeared in 1825. [See [ "Views of the Hebrews"] (1825).] Ethan Smith's theory, relatively common among both theologians and laymen of his day, was that Native Americans were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who had disappeared after being taken captive by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE. Terryl Givens calls the work "an inelegant blend of history, excerpts, exhortation, and theorizing." [Terryl L. Givens, "By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 161.]

Smith's speculation took flight from a verse in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 13:41, which says that the Ten Tribes traveled to a far country, "where never mankind dwelt" [From [] ] — which Smith interpreted to mean America. During Smith's day speculation about the Ten Lost Tribes was heightened both by a renewed interest in biblical prophecy and by the belief that the aboriginal peoples who had been swept aside by Europeans settlers could not have created the sophisticated burial mounds found in North America. Smith attempted to rescue Indians from the contemporary mound builder myth by making native Americans "potential converts worthy of salvation." [Dan Vogel, "Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2004), 123.] "If our natives be indeed from the tribes of Israel", Smith wrote, "American Christians may well feel, that one great object of their inheritance here, is, that they may have a primary agency in restoring those 'lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" [ [ View of the Hebrews] , 248.]

Parallels between "View of the Hebrews" and the "Book of Mormon"

It has been argued that there are significant parallels between "View of the Hebrews" and the Book of Mormon. In 1922 B.H. Roberts (1857–1933), a prominent LDS apologist and historian, [Roberts was ranked the greatest intellectual in Mormon history in surveys by LDS scholars Leonard Arrington in 1969 and Stan Larson in 1993. Leonard J. Arrington, "The Intellectual Tradition of the Latter-day Saints", ' 4 (Spring 1969), 13-26; Stan Larson, "Intellectuals in Mormonism: An Update", ' 26 (Fall 1993), 187-89.] was asked to answer non-believer's five critical questions by LDS Apostle James E. Talmage. It is unclear when Roberts first learned of the "View of the Hebrews" or what motivated him to make the comparison, but he produced a confidential report that summarized eighteen points of similarity between the two works. [According to LDS scholars, Roberts' study was intended to "preempt criticisms that could be leveled at the Book of Mormon." cite journal| last =Ashurst-McGee| first =Mark| title =A One-sided View of Mormon Origins| journal =FARMS Review| volume =15| issue =2| pages =pp. 309–364| publisher =Maxwell Institute| date =2003| url =| accessdate =2006-12-22. After Roberts' death, copies were made of the parallels, which "circulated among a limited circle in Utah." (Fawn Brodie, "No Man Knows My History", 47fn.) Part of Roberts manuscript was published in 1956 in the "Rocky Mountain Mason" and the complete text was published in 1980 by noted anti-Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner. In 1985 a scholarly edition of the work was published by University of Illinois Press, and a second edition was published by Signature Books in 1992. [ FARMS book review] .]

In a letter to LDS Church president Heber J. Grant and other church officials, Roberts urged "all the brethren herein addressed becoming familiar with these Book of Mormon problems, and finding the answer for them, as it is a matter that will concern the faith of the Youth of the Church now as also in the future, as well as such casual inquirers as may come to us from the outside world." [December 29, 1921 in "Studies of the Book of Mormon", 47. See Brigham D. Madsen, "Reflections on LDS Disbelief in the "Book of Mormon" as History", "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought" 30 (Fall 1997), 87-89. Concerning the Book of Mormon accounts of three anti-Christs in Nephite America, Roberts wrote that they "are all of one breed and brand; so nearly alike that one mind is the author of them, and that a young and undeveloped, but piously inclined mind. The evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator." Roberts, "Studies of the Book of Mormon", 271.] Roberts' list of parallels included:
* extensive quotation from the prophecies of Isaiah in the Old Testament
* the Israelite origin of the American Indian
* the future gathering of Israel and restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes
* the peopling of the New World from the Old via a long journey northward which encountered "seas" of "many waters"
* a religious motive for the migration
* the division of the migrants into civilized and uncivilized groups with long wars between them and the eventual destruction of the civilized by the uncivilized
* the assumption that all native peoples were descended from Israelites and their languages from Hebrew
* the burial of a "lost book" with "yellow leaves"
* the description of extensive military fortifications with military observatories or "watch towers" overlooking them
* a change from monarchy to republican forms of government
*the preaching of the gospel in ancient America. [Grant H. Palmer, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2002), 60–64.]

Roberts continued to affirm his faith in the divine origins of the Book of Mormon until his death in 1933, but as Terryl Givens has written, "a lively debate has emerged over whether his personal conviction really remained intact in the aftermath of his academic investigations." [Terryl L. Givens, "By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 110–111. For the view that Roberts found View of the Hebrews so disturbing that he abandoned his faith, see Brigham D. Madsen, "B. H. Roberts' 'Studies of the Book of Mormon,'" "Dialogue" 26 (Fall 1993), 77-86; and "Reflections of LDS Disbelief in the Book of Mormon as History", "Dialogue" 30 (Fall 1997), 87-97.]

Fawn Brodie, the first important historian to write a non-hagiographic biography of Joseph Smith, ["Bernard DeVoto considered it Brodie's distinction 'that she has raised writing about Mormonism to the dignity of history for the first time.'" Terryl L. Givens, "By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 162.] believed that Joseph Smith's theory of the Hebraic origin of the American Indians came "chiefly" from "View of the Hebrews". "It may never be proved that Joseph saw "View of the Hebrews" before writing the Book of Mormon", wrote Brodie in 1945, "but the striking parallelisms between the two books hardly leave a case for mere coincidence." [Fawn Brodie, "No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet", 2nd. ed.,(New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 46-47.] On the other hand, Mormon apologists argue that the parallels between the works are weak, over-emphasized, or non-existent. [ Welch, "Reexploring the Book of Mormon", 83-7, and n.a., "A Sure Foundation: Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1988), 69-71. John W. Welch, "An Unparallel" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1985) is an essay listing 84 differences. Spencer J. Palmer and William L. Knecht, "View of the Hebrews: Substitute for Inspiration?" "BYU Studies" 5/2 (1964): 105-13.] [ [ Did Joseph Smith plagiarize from View of the Hebrews when writing the Book of Mormon?] by Jeff Lindsay.]

Modern publication

Brigham Young University published a modern edition of the book in 1996. [ Ethan Smith, [,6303 "View of the Hebrews"] , ed. Charles D. Tate Jr., 2nd ed. (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1996).]

ee also

*Solomon Spalding
*Criticism of Mormonism



*cite book| last =Smith| first =Ethan| title =View of the Hebrews 1825| publisher =Hayriver Press| date =2002| location =Colfax, Wisconsin| id =ISBN 1-930679-61-0

* [ View of the Hebrews, 1823 first edition]
* [ View of the Hebrews, 1825 edition]
* [ Biography of Ethan Smith]

External links

* [ The FARMS Review of "View of the Hebrews"]

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