Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Studies of the Book of Mormon/Index/A Book of Mormon Study/Ethan Smith and View of the Hebrews

Response to "Ethan Smith and View of the Hebrews"


A work by author: B.H. Roberts, edited by Brigham D. Madsen

Ethan Smith’s Book, View of the Hebrews, as structural Material for the Book of Mormon; Unity of the American Race; American Language from One Source—The Hebrew

The stage which our task has now reached demands that we shall consider the question, does the book by Ethan Smith furnish any material for the ground plan of the Book of Mormon.


—B.H. Roberts, , “A Book of Mormon Study,” ‘’Studies of the Book of Mormon’’, p. 161

155 - This study supposes that it is more than likely that the Smith family possessed a copy of this book by Ethan Smith

The author(s) of Studies of the Book of Mormon make(s) the following claim:

"This study supposes that it is more than likely that the Smith family possessed a copy of this book by Ethan Smith, that either by reading it, or hearing it read, and its contents frequently discussed, Joseph Smith became acquainted with its contents."

FairMormon Response

  Fact: The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event  
This is correct.

This statement by Roberts is interesting, considering that it isn't simply likely, but is a documented fact that Joseph was aware of View of the Hebrews. 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.]
—Joseph Smith, Jr., "From Priest's American Antiquities," Times and Seasons 3 no. 15 (1 June 1842), 813–815. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)

160 - Both books claim that "that the American Indians are descendants of the Israelites"

The author(s) of Studies of the Book of Mormon make(s) the following claim:

*Roberts: “That the Ethan Smith book held that the American Indians were descendants of ‘the lost tribes of Israel’ and the Book of Mormon theory is built upon the idea that they were descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, through the family of Ishmael and Lehi respectively, with an infusion from the tribe of Judah through the colony of Mulek, is a variation of slight importance, since the main idea is, so far as this particular matter is concerned, that the American Indians are descendants of the Israelites.

FairMormon Response

  Fact: The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event  
This is correct.


View of the Hebrews, and the Ground Plan of the Book of Mormon: Time, Place and Race, Subject Matter—Destruction of Jerusalem and the Scattering of Israel; Restoration of Judah and Israel; Quotations from Isaiah

170 - Both books talk of the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel

The author(s) of Studies of the Book of Mormon make(s) the following claim:

The first chapter of View of the Hebrews talks of the destruction of Jerusalem and scattering of Israel. The first chapter of the Book of Mormon also discusses the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel.

FairMormon Response


View of the Hebrews talks of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, but the Book of Mormon talks of the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

171 - One of the Isaiah passages regarding the gathering of Israel that was quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith is also quoted in View of the Hebrews

The author(s) of Studies of the Book of Mormon make(s) the following claim:

One of the Isaiah passages regarding the gathering of Israel that was quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith is also quoted in View of the Hebrews. “The Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left from Assyria and from Egypt… (Isaiah 11:11-16)

FairMormon Response

  Fact: The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event  
This is correct.


173 - Many of the Isaiah chapters quoted in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon are the same

The author(s) of Studies of the Book of Mormon make(s) the following claim:

Many of the Isaiah chapters quoted in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon are the same.

FairMormon Response


Question: Does the Book of Mormon rely primarily on those chapters from Isaiah mentioned in Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews?

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

Isaiah scriptures in both Isaiah in View of Hebrews only Isaiah in Book of Mormon only
  • Isaiah 11 - all
  • Isaiah 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, 23
  • Isaiah 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

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:

  • the Book of Mormon tends to quote large portions (i.e., complete chapters) of Isaiah and then provide commentary. View of the Hebrews uses short segments of Isaiah (at most a few verses; often only a phrase or few words) to make the argument that the Amerindians are the lost ten tribes. The style and pattern of usage is not analogous—merely claiming that both works quote Isaiah does not accurately reflect how Isaiah is used, and to what extent.
  • The vast majority of the Book of Mormon's Isaiah verses are not found in View of the Hebrews; almost two-thirds of the View of the Hebrews references are not found in the Book of Mormon at all. If anything, the Book of Mormon avoids the texts which View of the Hebrews finds so compelling.
  • Only 30 verses are shared between the two works. The actual text which they share is even less, since View of the Hebrews often cites fragments of the verses, while the Book of Mormon always reproduces the entire verse.
  • The Book of Mormon neglects to use all of the verses which Ethan Smith claims refer to America—a strange omission for the Book of Mormon, which the critics believe represents Joseph's attempt to write a history of the Americas.