View of The Hebrews

View of the Hebrews was written by minister Ethan Smith in 1823, reprinted in 1825. The book expounded upon a commonly held view of the era, now discredited, that the numerous and distinct American Indian tribes originated from Hebrew stock. The thesis became common knowledge in the region and enjoyed a wide circulation in New England and New York, running through two editions in just a few years. At the time of writing, Ethan Smith was a Minister in Poultney, Vermont. Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith’s 3rd cousin, lived in Poultney for 26 years and his family attended Ethan’s congregation.

Ethan’s work reads nothing like the Book of Mormon, yet provides the entire framework and storyline. The book begins with the destruction of Jerusalem, while suggesting that the Ten Tribes came to America before dividing into two disparate groups, one barbarous, the other civilized. Ethan elaborates on robust military fortifications, forms of government, a hidden book revealed, prophets among ancient Americans, ancient Indians as highly civilized people, while offering copious quotes from King James version Isaiah.

He suggests that it is America’s mission to gather the remnants of the House of Israel, reiterating the legend that the stick of Joseph and Ephraim would one day be united. Ethan described copper breastplates taken from the mounds, with two white buckhorn buttons fastened to the outside of each plate – in resemblance to a Urim & Thummim. His book describes a prophet atop a wall in Jerusalem, exhorting, while the wicked assail him with arrows. Despite the glaring problems his work presents to the Book of Mormon narrative, very few Mormons today have even heard of Ethan’s work, or how perfectly it fit into Joseph Smith’s 19th Century world view.

American Antiquities, Discoveries in the West, published in 1833, reminded readers, “The opinion that the American Indians are descendants of the lost ten Tribes, is now a popular one, and generally believed.” Native Americans represented a fertile mission field to be harvested before Jesus could usher in his glorious return.

THESIS SUMMARY


The following is taken directly from View of The Hebrews, primarily in the order appearing in the original book. Does it not provide the 19th Century ideology and framework for the Book of Mormon story?

  • Rejection of Jesus Christ as our atoning Savior.
  • O Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets – destruction of Jerusalem.
  • A prophet  ascends the walls, in tremendous voice exclaimed, ‘Wo, wo to this city, this temple, and this people!’, while arrows shot at him.
  • The natives of our country are the outcasts of Israel – they have lost their way…bewildered in darkness.
  • The prophet Isaiah to be of deep interest to America.
  • American Indians derive their origin from a foreign stock.
  • Tools of iron not being found in these works, is no sign they did not possess them. For had they been there, they would, no doubt, long since have been dissolved by rust.
  • After they settled in America they became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren…lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family.
  • The more civilized part continued for many centuries; tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.
  • The savage tribes prevailed…annihilated their more civilized brethren. This accounts for their loss of the knowledge of letters, of the art of navigation, and of the use of iron.
  • People of Israel who came into the western continent maintained some degree of civilization for a long time…finally became extinct, at least in North America, under the rage of their more numerous savage brethren.
  • This accounts for the ancient works…centuries before Columbus discovered America…and articles dug from old mounds in and near those fortified places.
  • Situated in the midst of savage tribes from their race…degenerated…intent on the destruction of this better part of their brethren…struggling to maintain their existence and to maintain their religious traditions, they would naturally form many of the very things above enumerated, walled towns, forts, temples, altars, habitations of chieftains, watch towers.
  • An old Indian informed him that his fathers in this country 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.
  • They would preserve these fragments of their better days with the utmost care. Wherever they went then, they would have these with them…keep them with diligence…most precious contents…fearing these precious leaves would get lost.
  • It was buried; and hence was providentially transmitted to us.
  • Some modern Jew left it there in the situation in which it was found…on Indian Hill underground.
  • The account of the old Indian, that his fathers had buried, not long ago, a book which they could not read.
  • The great and generous Christian people, who occupy much of the land of those natives, and who are on the ground of their continent, and hence are the best prepared to ameliorate their condition, and bring them to the knowledge and order of the God of Israel, must of course be the people to whom this work is assigned.
  • Found themselves involved in darkness…that they would take the book which the white people call the word of God, to throw light on their path.
  • They will be fulfilled only in the conversion of these ancient people of God to Christianity.
  • This address of heaven must be to our western continent; or to a hospitable people found here… the two great wings of North and South America meet.
  • Go thou nation highly distinguished in the last days (America), save the remnant of my people.

Joseph Promoted The View

In June 1842, as Editor of the official Church periodical, Smith reprinted a section from Josiah Priest’s 1833 American Antiquities to support the notion that the Ten Tribes came over to America. Priest’s book, in turn, was quoting from and commenting on Ethan’s 1825 View of the Hebrews. (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View p. 269)

WHAT DID B.H. CONCLUDE?


Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews as “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 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.” (B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p. 240)


QUESTIONS


Q: Is Ethan Smith’s book the framework of the Book of Mormon?

Q: Is it mere coincidence that Joseph Smith sent the first missionary efforts to the Indians?

Q: Is it mere coincidence that Oliver Cowdery and his family attended Ethan Smith’s church while living in same town for years?

Q: Do you believe that American or South American Indians are of Hebrew origin, or has such a notion been totally discredited by DNA, linguistics and archaeology?

Q: Is it mere coincidence that during the early years of the Church, nobody heard of the first vision or restoration until 1842, while the Book of Mormon stood alone as a story of Indian history and the restoration of lost tribes?


LEARN MORE


• View a side-by-side comparison of the books
• View of The Hebrews – Electronic Copy
• The View – Original Edition