Exaggerated Similarities between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon (Part I)

The View of the Hebrews is a rather thin volume written by the minister Ethan Smith, and was first published in 1823, with a subsequent re-release in 1825 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_the_Hebrews). It is written in an essay format and sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. He attempts to prove this by making a case for the Ten Tribe’s literal outcast state and subsequent restoration by appealing to the Bible. In addition, the book is comprised of the experiences of several individuals and institutions who had close contact with Native Americans and argue that their traditions are remarkably similar to Hebrew traditions. There are those who claim that because of the extensive similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews, that Joseph Smith must have used View of the Hebrews as inspiration for inventing the story of the Book of Mormon. I will set out to prove that the similarities between the two works are exaggerated and details are often contradictory. For the meantime, I will assume that the reader has a basic understanding of what is contained in both The View of the Hebrews (VOTH) and the Book of Mormon (BOM). For Part I of my study of the similarities between the BOM and VOTH, I would like to provide a summary of several differences between the two works. A more in-depth analysis of each of the supposed similarities between the two works will follow in future posts.

A summary of major differences:

  1. VOTH claims that the Native Americans are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whereas the Book of Mormon claims they are descendants of Joseph living in Jerusalem after the scattering of the ten tribes. (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10&keyword=view%20of%20the%20hebrews)
  2. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes were taken out of the Land of Canaan by the Assyrians in 725 B.C. and these Ten Tribes are the ancestors of the Native Americans. The BOM claims that those who came to the Americas came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid the destruction caused by the Babylonians. In addition, the Book of Mormon argues that a separate group of people came to the Americas shortly after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  3. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes came to the Americas by way of the Bering Strait, whereas the BOM asserts that they came by boat through the Arabian Sea.
  4. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes of Israel were led to the Americas for their wickedness, while the BOM says that those who are led to the Americas are led for their righteousness.
  5. VOTH claims that those who came to the Americas traveled in a north-east direction from Canaan. The BOM states that Lehi’s family traveled in a south-east direction from Jerusalem.
  6. VOTH claims that Ten Tribes traveled from a frozen land. The BOM claims that Lehi’s family left from “Bountiful,” a land of wild honey and fruit.
  7. VOTH claims that the legend of Quetzalquatl is based on the Ten Tribes’ early traditions and experiences of Moses as their lawgiver, over 900 years before being taken from Canaan. The BOM claims that Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D.
  8. VOTH claims that the tradition of the Urim and Thummim can be found in Native American breastplates made of conch shells, elk beads and straps of otter skin. The BOM never once mentions the name “Urim and Thummim” nor does it describe a breast plate.
  9. VOTH claims that Native Americans kept sacred items in bags or boxes like the Ark of the Covenant. The BOM never mentions the Ark of the Covenant or its likeness.
  10. VOTH claims that the Natives would bring this “ark of the covenant” with them every time they went to war. The peoples in the BOM never do anything like this.
  11. VOTH speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans to show Christ’s prophecies being fulfilled about Jerusalem’s destruction. The BOM speaks of Lehi escaping the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians just after 600 B.C.
  12. VOTH claims that the Native Americans lost the word of God according to the prophecy of Amos 7:11,12. The BOM asserts that Nephites had the Bible and preached the Law of Moses and Christianity.
  13. VOTH claims that there may be evidence of Phylacteries like those used in Jerusalem in the Americas, and they were written in Hebrew. The BOM argues that the Brass Plates and the Golden Plates contained the fullness of the Gospel and were written in “reformed Egyptian.”
  14. VOTH claims that the Native Americans became savage and wicked because Providence was punishing them for the idolatry of the Ten Tribes of Israel. The BOM claims that the savage Native Americans (Lamanites) rebelled against God and were jealous that their younger brother Nephi was a ruler over them. They would serve as a way to stir up the Nephites to remembrance of the Lord.
  15. VOTH claims that the Americas were uninhabited since the great flood. The BOM argues that the Americas were inhabited by the Jaredites after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  16. VOTH describes animals known to Native Americans, such as the buffalo, deer, porcupine, rattlesnake, bear, otter, beaver, elk, etc. The BOM, instead, references animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, cureloms, cumoms, and elephants.
  17. VOTH claims that the ancient Israelites could have built the pyramids found in the Americas today. The BOM never mentions pyramids.
  18. VOTH claims that the Native Americans commonly use the word “Hallelujah,” a Hebrew word. The BOM uses the word “Hosanna” instead, on three occasions.
  19. VOTH claims that when grieving the Native Americans will touch their hands to their mouths, then their mouths to the ground. “It is well known that laying the hand on the mouth, and the mouth in the dust, is a distinguished Hebraism.” The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  20. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans abstain from matrimonial intercourse three days prior to going to war. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  21. VOTH asserts that several Indian words are similar to Hebrew words, and the comparisons are presented in table format. The BOM never mentions these words or their likeness.
  22. VOTH asserts that like the Hebrews, the Native Americans have cities of refuge where blood cannot be spilt. The BOM never mentions cities of refuge or their likeness.
  23. VOTH asserts that Native Americans hold certain tribes in reverence like the Tribe of Levi. This is not found in the BOM and Levi is only mentioned in 3 Nephi 24:3 when Jesus quotes Malachi 3.
  24. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans believe the name of God is “Yohewah, Aleh, or Yah.” The BOM never mentions these words.
  25. VOTH says that the Native Americans must appear three times annually at the temples. The BOM never mentions this.
  26. VOTH says the Native Americans purified themselves with bitter vegetables. The BOM never mentions this.
  27. VOTH says that the Native Americans separated their women. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  28. VOTH says that an old Jewish Phylactery was written on dark yellow “leaves” of parchment, preserved much like ancient Arabian parchment. The BOM argues that parchment must decay, so they wrote on plates (or leaves, described by Joseph Smith) of gold and brass.
  29. VOTH asserts that the Natives believe they had a book of “the old divine speech” (which was Hebrew). The BOM asserts that the Brass Plates, a sacred book like the Bible, was written in reformed Egyptian and not the “divine speech.”
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