The Bible and the Book of Mormon

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Home Scripture CRITICISM View of the Hebrew

View of the Hebrew

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Another interesting charge against Joseph Smith is the Book "View of the Hebrews". Before to analyze it I'd like to put togheter the information regarding this book.

By the early 1900s Elder Roberts evidently had become the chief Church spokesman in defending the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.Roberts’s interest in the origins of the book and his prompt and eager acceptance of almost any opportunity to debate its virtues led him into written conflict with Theodore Schroeder, a former lawyer in Utah who had been disbarred by the state supreme court for unprofessional conduct. Theodore Schroeder
wrote a series of four articles for the American Historical Magazine, attacking Book of Mormon claims by resurrecting the “old exploded Spaulding story” of its origins. The anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune was reproducing the articles, and Roberts wrote the editor, Colonel William Nelson, asking the privilege of answering Schroeder, who was claiming to have found a second Spaulding manuscript. At Nelson’s suggestion Roberts corresponded with David I. Nelke, the editor of American Historical Magazine, who indicated he would consider publishing a response to Schroeder if it met the literary and professional standards of his journal. The first Roberts reply was so satisfactory that eventually all four of his responses were printed, along with Schroeder’s attacks.
I will jump the "spaulding manuscript story" because I have another page talking about it.
Woodbridge Riley in 1902 was the first author to suggest a relationship between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon (The Founder of Mormonism, New York, 1902, pp. 124-26)
Schroeder claimed that the Book of Mormon was based upon a second Spaulding manuscript, allegedly a story written in scriptural style and asserting that native Americans were descended from Israelites. It was this second manuscript which Roberts spent 114 large printed pages destroying; he never lacked for words or thoroughness in his polemical writing.

The last of Roberts’s four articles on the subject was particularly germane in view of his later questions about the Book of Mormon. He first declared that when the twenty-two-year-old Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon he did not need the assistance of a Solomon Spaulding, a Sidney Rigdon, or any other man—that Smith was “superior in talents…[and] in literary power of expression” to any of the supposed authors of the book. Second, he wrote, if the book had been produced as explained by Schroeder “it would not have been so full of petty errors in grammar and the faulty use of words as is found in the first edition of the Book of Mormon.…They are ingrained in it; they are constitutional faults” as expressed by the uneducated but brilliant boy prophet. Roberts concluded his four articles with the somewhat immodest but perhaps accurate claim that they constituted “a successful rejoinder.[which] exhibits how inherently weak, and foolish this Spaulding theory”27
Roberts first tackled the problem of whether the Book of Mormon was produced after the publication, in English, of works on ancient American civilizations that would have been available to Smith. As Roberts explained, “Was it possible for Joseph Smith…to have possessed such a knowledge of American antiquities and traditions that they [Smith and his associates] could make their book’s alleged historical incidents, and the customs of its peoples, conform to the antiquities and traditions of the native Americans?” He answered the question by arguing that to become acquainted with the vast knowledge of American antiquities and traditions and then make them conform to the story in the Book of Mormon was an insurmountable task for a youthful prophet who was “not a student of books.” Roberts then listed the only works which “so far as I can ascertain” might have been accessible to Joseph Smith: the publications of the American Antiquarian Society, 1823; Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews, second edition, 1825; The History of the American Indians, by James Adair, 1775; and Alexander Humboldt’s books on New Spain, 1811. Roberts discusses these works more fully in his “A Book of Mormon Study” presented in this volume, but it is interesting how easily he brushed them aside in 1909. This list also revealed how little he knew of the extensive literature on the subject of American antiquities. He was to spend several years in study to rectify that omission.

Roberts authored a document based on his investigations of the Ethan Smith book. This quite brief analysis of Roberts’s conclusions about a possible relationship between the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon was apparently written during the 1920s and given the title “A Parallel.”

After the death of Roberts, his oldest son, Ben E. Roberts, and perhaps others, informed friends about the document, and soon it was public knowledge that the parallel of the Book of Mormon with Ethan Smith’s work seemed to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Mormon scripture. To correct this misapprehension, Ben E. Roberts in a letter of July 22, 1939, declared that his father had “found nothing in his study which reflected upon the integrity of Joseph Smith’s account of the Book of Mormon.” On October 10, 1946, Ben E. Roberts discussed his father s work on the Book of Mormon before the Timpanogos Club in Salt Lake City and, after the meeting, distributed mimeographed copies of “A Parallel” to members of the audience. Dr. Mervin B. Hogan, of the faculty of the University of Utah, obtained a copy and had it published in January 1956 in the Rocky Mountain Mason. The parallel is composed of eighteen typed pages concerned with eighteen items and with notes and quotations from both the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews arranged in parallel columns on each page. This short review, since its publication in 1946, has been the object of many evaluations by both supporters and detractors of the theory. “A Parallel,” as originally written by B. H. Roberts, including handwritten additions and corrections, is included in this volume. The much longer and more comprehensive “Study,” presented here, will now probably take the place of the 1946 publication for argument and debate.

Ethan Smith, the author of View of the Hebrews, was a New England minister who was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, December 19, 1762, and died in Pompey, New York, on August 29, 1849. During his long life he was prominent enough to have a number of his sermons printed, and he also authored or edited several books, including A Dissertation on the Prophecies relative to Anti-Christ and the Last Times; Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey; and his most famous work, View of the Hebrews. At the time he was writing this latter book, he was the minister of the Congregational Church at Poultney, Vermont, where he served from November 21, 1821, to December 1826.67 Early in 1827 the Reverend Smith apparently visited Palmyra, because by December 31, 1826, the Wayne Sentinel posted his name for letters remaining in the Palmyra Post Office (Wayne Sentinel, January 5, 1827). As some critics who relate Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon to Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews have pointed out, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph’s cousin and his scribe during the writing of the Mormon scripture, had lived in Poultney for twenty-two years until 1825. In fact, Cowdery’s stepmother and three of his sisters were members of Ethan Smith’s congregation, according to the Poultney Church Records, Book 3 (August 3, 1818).68 Poultney is just a half-mile from the border separating the states of Vermont and New York and about seventy miles from Albany, which marked the eastern end of the Erie Canal, completed as far west as Brockfort in 1823, about forty miles beyond the village of Palmyra. Today it is difficult to measure the importance of the Grand Canal as the preeminent thoroughfare to the interior of the northern United States during the 1820s and until the 1850s, when the railroad became the carrier of people and freight. To be situated on the canal meant that the inhabitants of a village could receive freight from New York City, about 335 miles away, on boats that traveled forty miles a day; passengers and mail could move eighty to ninety miles in twenty-four hours. Thus, in about a week’s time, news and goods could be delivered to families and businesses in the town from the great metropolitan city at the mouth of the Hudson, and a constant stream of freighters and packet boats made Palmyra a bustling and busy stop on the Erie Canal.

Furthermore, a reading of the town’s weekly newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel, indicates that there were at least three bookstores which advertised wares to the citizens of Palmyra: The Canandaigua Bookstore, and two local establishments, J. D. Evernghim & Co. and the Wayne Bookstore, the latter run by Tucker & Gilbert, the publishers of the newspaper. In at least two issues the Wayne Bookstore listed the titles of books just received for sale, a four-column spread in the December 17, 1823, issue, and a similar listing of new books in the November 24, 1826, issue. But usually Tucker & Gilbert merely noted almost weekly “have this day received, several boxes of Books” or “More New Books” at their bookstore, later renamed the Palmyra Book Store. Occasionally, an entrepreneur would import a stock of books to be auctioned off, as did one who advertised on August 30, 1825, “18 Cases of Books, recently received from New York and Philadelphia, being the largest and most varied collection of Books…ever offered at public or private sale in this village.…The books are fresh and new.” With such opportunities to acquire books, it would be unusual if the Joseph Smith family were not aware of Ethan Smith’s work.

In addition, Josiah Priest’s The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed was in the local Manchester Rental Library, just five miles from Joseph Smith’s home, and the membership records, now located in the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua, show that it was checked out repeatedly during the years 1826 to 1828. Priest’s book included a long selection from Ethan Smith’s work and attempted to establish that the Indians were of Hebrew descent. Very early in this century I. Woodbridge Riley in his book, The Founder of Mormonism, had noted that Ethan Smith’s “work was published in Poultney, Vermont, next to Windsor County, where Joseph’s parents once lived, and by 1825 had circulated to westernmost New York.” But as Fawn M. Brodie, another of the writers to hypothesize a connection between the two books by the two Smiths, has pointed out, “It may never be proved that Joseph saw View of the Hebrews before writing the Book of Mormon.” Yet at the same time she insisted that the parallel features could not be “mere coincidence.”

Clearly, on my view, the main point to clarify in this matter is the key question? Had Joseph Smith knowledge of this document, or better Did he own it? If yes all the debate above have a reasoning otherwise is perfectly useless.  Without any proof the debate is build on assuming and gossips.
Having said this I will try to arise some more questions. If this book was well known in Palmyra at the time of the publishing of the Book of Mormon, why nobody and specially Ethan Smith didn't claim the fraud?
For me this is an important evidence that at that particular time no one related theses 2 books togheter, in fact only after 1834 the Spaulding theory arose and no one was mentioning "View of the Hebrews", was this book more famous the "View of Hebrews" certainly not because it was never published and was only a manuscript, so my question is: Was "View of the Hebrews" real popular at that time? The evidence is saying no because every enemy of the church at that time didn't pay any attention to this book and never was mentioned until the twentieth century. So it seems strange that an illiterate boy had a book that very few people had.
On the other hand when the book of Mormon was published the media gave immediately the news to the people, many newspapers were referring to it like "the golden Bible", it would seem strange, on my opinion, that Ethan Smith never heard about it and never claimed to be a copy of his book. It seems strange that no one of the critics of the church, never, at that particular time were referring to "view of Hebrew" like a main source for the book of Mormon.The critics are maintaining that this book was "hugely" known in the Palmyra area, they are trying to make easy to say that Joseph "Probably" had it. Well that is good for several reasons. If the Book was hugely known in that area thatit was  clearly an aerea against the church (They had to move from there) Why nobody made any relationship between the 2 books? Ethan Smith was a pastor of a Protestant church why didn't do any claim about the Book of Mormon? Probably the book "view of the Hebrew" was not so hugely known and probably Joseph never heard about it. Somebody maintains that Joseph Smith had several source not just one: The Spaulding, view of Hebrew, the same King James version. Would have had the need of a scribe to copy from other books? Other people maintain that Oliver Cowdery, probably, I like this word because our critics use it so frequently: probably, was the atuthor, after a while Sidney Rigdon was presumed to be the writer. Unfortunately for them is only a guess surely not a proof, probably Oliver Cowdery had "view of the Hebrew". This could be a very good point if Oliver Cowdery took the copyright of the book of Mormon because it sounds strange to me that one person furnish the material for a book and another person take the copyright. Anyway another interesting thing to take a note is that Oliver was excommunicated from the church, if everything was a fraud it would have been the best moment to bring up the problem, but it was no the case. I am pretty sure that if Joseph and Oliver were guilty both of fraud, I am pretty confident that Joseph would have thought a lot before to excommunicate his accomplice, make sense?
Another interesting thing to note is that Joseph went in Pennsylvania for a while to translate the Book of Mormon so he should have already the copy with him, he started to translate the book of Mormon having Emma as scribe and later Oliver became the scribe, after this there was the incident of the 116 lost pages from Martin Harris and he should start again the translation taking the story from other plates. It is clear to me that Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris when they were excommunicated from the church could have had a goo reason to team up and reveal his fraud, if that was the case.. Take on mind that Martin Harris was able to sell part of his property to collect the amount to publish the book of Mormon if he was aware that the Book of Mormon was a copy from another book or books would he have done what he did?
I have on my possession the spaulding manuscript and everybody could buy it in every deseret book store, there is nothing to resemble the book of Mormon story. regarding the "view of Hebrews" it is important to say that the link between that book and View of the Hebrews is, at best, weak. There are many, many differences between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews-one widely available essay comments upon 84 striking and fundamental disagreements between the two texts-and the similarities are vague and unimpressive.
Anyway the critics are unable to show no proof if Joseph Smith owned that book, so everything is only a guess. On the other hand Ethan Smith and other contemporary made any claims regarding a fraud by Joseph Smith and that is very important.

I have a personal opinion about this.
The Book of Mormon, or at least a story or book, is prophesied in the Bible to come forth in the last days, please take a look at my study "The Bible and the Book of Mormon". The Devil saw Moronih when he buried the golden plates. He knew that they would have been discovered in the last days. For that reason when Joseph was praying he tried to stop him, surely he tried to prepare something to obscure the minds of the people. Assuming are not the right way to judge. The critics always assume something but proofs are the real need.
In this debate the key questions to answer are: Had Joseph in his possession this Book? and after this if you are able to prove it:
The Book of Mormon is the same story of the "view of Hebrew"? in this case I have the answer :"Not at all!!!"

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 13:09  

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