Book of Mormon/Authorship theories/View of the Hebrews/Non-parallels

The View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon authorship: Non-parallels

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"Their variety of traditions, historical and religious, do wonderfully accord with the idea, that they descended from the ancient ten tribes. The reader will pardon, if the tax on his patience under this last argument, exceeds that of all the rest."
View of the Hebrews, 59–60

Question: What "non-parallels" are apparent in a comparison of View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon?

There are many elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph Smith, but he didn't use them

Critics generally ignore the presence of many "unparallels"—these are elements of Ethan Smith's book which would have provided a rich source of material for Joseph to use in order to persuade his contemporaries that the Book of Mormon was an ancient history of the American Indians, and that they were descended from Israel. Yet, the Book of Mormon consistently ignores such supposed "bulls-eyes," which is good news for proponents of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, since virtually all of Ethan's "evidences" have been judged to be false or misleading. The lack of such parallels is bad news, however, for anyone wanting to claim that Joseph got his inspiration or information from Ethan Smith. Some examples follow:

Hebrew Evidence View of the Hebrews claim (not present in Book of Mormon)

No revelation?

  • "We are to expect no new revelation from heaven. And the days of miracles are thought to be past" (127).
  • View of the Hebrews denies new revelation or miracles. The Book of Mormon was emphatically a new revelation, and it insists that miracles continue today (Mormon 9꞉7-20).

Ark of the covenant

  • "The Indians have had their imitation of the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel" (68).
  • "we have an account that the Shawano Indians in an excursion captured the Indian warrior called Old Scranny, of the Muskhoge tribe, and condemned him to a fiery torture. He told them the occasion of his falling into their hands was, he had forfeited the protection of the Divine Power by some impurity or other, when carrying the holy ark of war against his devoted enemy" (121).
  • The Book of Mormon never mentions the ark of the covenant, or anything like it. (The only reference to "ark" is to Noah's ark—Ether 6꞉7.)


  • "The American Indians have practised circumcision" (69).
  • The pre-Christian Book of Mormon peoples never mention circumcision, much less emphasize it as a vital rite (Moroni 8꞉8 notes its passing).
  • Why did not Joseph emphasize this supposed parallel with the Amerindians?

Fire god conflated with Israel's god

  • ""The Indians have had much of an apprehension that their one Great Spirit had a great affinity to fire. And the Peruvians, it seems, went so far as to embody him in the sun. Here seems a shred of mixture of the Persian idolatry, with the theocracy of Israel. As the more ancient Israelites caught a degree of the idolatrous distemper of Egypt, as appears in their golden calf; so the ten tribes, the time they resided in Media, and before they set off for America, may have blended some idea of fire with their one God" (72).
  • The Book of Mormon never mentions fire or sun worship, despite it being a known part of pre-Columbian religion.

Indians used Hebrew terms

  • "In their sacred dances, these authors assure us the Indians sing "Halleluyah Yohewah;"—praise to Jah Jehovah. When they return victorious from their wars, they sing, Yo-he-wah; having been by tradition taught to ascribe the praise to God.
"The same authors assure us, the Indians make great use of initials of the mysterious name of God, like the tetragrammaton of the ancient Hebrews; or the four radical letters which form the name of Jehovah; as the Indians pronounce thus, Y-O-He-wah. That like the ancient Hebrews, they are cautious of mentioning these together, or at once. They sing and repeat the syllables of this name in their sacred dances thus; Yo-yo, or ho-ho-he-he-wah-wah. Mr. Adair upon the same, says; "After this they begin again; Hal-hal-le-le-lu-lu-yahyah. And frequently the whole train strike up, hallelu-halleluhalleluyah- halleluyah." They frequently sing the name of Shilu (Shilo, Christ) with the syllables of the name of God added; thus, "Shilu-yo-Shilu-yo-Shilu-he-Shilu-he-Shilu-wah-Shilu-wah." Thus adding to the name of Shilu, the name of Jehovah by its sacred syllables. Things like these have been found among Indians of different regions of America" (72).
"He says the general name of all their priestly [113] order is Ishtoallo. And the name of the high priest's waiter is Sagan. Mr. Faber (remarking upon this) thinks the former word is a corruption of Ish-da-eloah, a man of God; see original of 2 Kings, iv. 21,22, 25, 27, 40, and other places. And of the latter word he says, "Sagan is the very name by which the Hebrews called the deputy of the high priest, who supplied his office, and who performed the functions of it in the absence of the high priest. See Calmet's Dict, vox Sagan.'"
"Here then is evidence to our purpose, that those Indians should call their order of priests, and the high priest's waiter, by those ancient Hebrew names of a man of God, and a deputy of the high priest. How could these events have occurred, had not those natives been Hebrew, and brought down these names by Hebrew tradition?" (112–113)
  • The Book of Mormon never mentions the use of such terms as "Shilo[h]" or "Hallelujah." It gives no names of priests or priestly orders.
  • The name "Jehovah" is only used in the last verse of the Book of Mormon, and in a citation from Isaiah.

Language affinities

  • Ethan Smith claimed that a number of Indian words were evidence that their language was connected with Hebrew. The Book of Mormon relies on nothing like this.
  • Click here (bottom) and here (top) to see the language lists.

Tribal totems

  • VoH claims that the Amerindian tribes use animal emblems which recall Jacob's blessing to his twelve sons:
The Indians being in tribes, with their heads and names of tribes, affords further light upon this subject. The Hebrews not only had their tribes, and heads of tribes, as have the Indians; but they had their animal emblems of their tribes. Dan's emblem was a serpent; Issachar's an ass; Benjamin's a wolf; and Judah's a lion. And this trait of character is not wanting among the natives of this land. They have their wolf tribe; their tiger tribe; panther tribe; buffalo tribe; bear tribe; deer tribe; raccoon tribe; eagle tribe; and many others. What other nation on earth bears any resemblance to this? Here, no doubt, is Hebrew tradition.
Various of the emblems given in Jacob's last blessing, have been strikingly fulfilled in the American Indians. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that the rider shall fall backwards. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey; and at night he shall divide the spoil" [Gen 49:17, 27]. Had the prophetic eye rested on the American aborigines, it seems as though no picture could have been more accurate" (81, italics removed).
  • The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Jacob's prophecy, such tribal characteristics, or totem or tribal signs of this type. Yet another dramatic evidence, well-known to Americans on the frontier, was ignored.

Cities of refuge

  • "Their having an imitation of the ancient city of refuge, evinces the truth of our subject" (81).
  • No cities of refuge are described in the Book of Mormon, nor does Nephite law mention the right of refuge.


  • "The Hebrews were commanded to eat their passover with bitter herbs; Exod. xii. 8. The Indians have a notable custom of purifying themselves with bitter herbs and roots. Describing one of their feasts, the writer says, "At the end of the notable dance, the old beloved women return home to hasten the feast. In the mean time every one at the temple drinks plentifully of the Cussena, and other bitter liquids, to cleanse their sinful bodies, as they suppose" (88).
  • The Book of Mormon never uses the term "Passover," or describes the passover meal.

High Priest and garments

  • "The Indian high priest makes his yearly atonement for sin. He appears at their temple, (such as it is) arrayed in his white deer skin garments, seeming to answer to the ancient ephod" (89).
  • "Here, as in Mr. Adair's account, is their high priest's robe and breast plate. On ordinary occasions, they retire secretly (Mr. H. adds) to their sacred places, and invoke the assistance of the Great Spirit, and make the most solemn vows to him, which they never fail to perform, should events correspond to their prayers. But at times more momentous, such as the declaration of war, conclusion of peace, or the prevalence of epidemics, &c. they impose on themselves long fastings, and severe penance, take narcotics and nauseating drugs" (125).
  • The Book of Mormon says nothing of Nephite priesthood's dress, and does not discuss the day of atonement rituals. Any Nephite teaching is focused on Christ as redeemer (e.g., Mosiah 2-5), not the use of a mortal high priest as intermediary.
  • The term "ephod" is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and there is no mention of narcotics or nauseating drugs.

Indian Ritual = Hebrew

  • "Mr. Adair describes the Indian feasts, and speaks of them as bearing a very near resemblance of the stated feasts in ancient Israel. He gives accounts that when the Indians are about to engage in war, they have their preparatory sacrifices, purifications, and fastings. He speaks of their daily sacrifice, their ablutions, marriages, divorces, burials, mournings for the dead, separations of women, and punishment of various crimes, as being in his opinion manifestly of Hebrew origin" (90).
  • The Book of Mormon never mentions feasts, preparations for war, ritual purification, washings, marriage forms, divorce forms, or separation of women.

War preparations

  • "The purifications, fasting, abstinences, and prayers, to prepare for war, appear to be Hebrew. Adair says; "Before the Indians go to war, they have many preparatory ceremonies of purification and fasting, like what is recorded of the Israelites. When the leader begins to beat up for volunteers, he goes three times round his dark winter house, contrary to the course of the sun, sounding the war-whoop, [90] singing the war song, and beating a drum.* He addresses the crowd, who come about him, and after much ceremony, he proceeds to whoop again for the warriors to come and join him, and sanctify themselves for success against the common enemy, according to their ancient religious law. A number soon join him in his winter house, where they live separate from all others, and purify themselves for the space of three days and three nights, exclusive of the first broken day. On each day they observe a strict fast till sunset, watching the young men very narrowly (who have not been initiated in war titles) lest unusual hunger should tempt them to violate it, to the supposed danger of all their lives in the war, by destroying the power of their purifying, beloved physic, which they drink plentifully during that time. They are such strict observers of their law of purification, and think it so essential in obtaining health and success in war, as not to allow the best beloved trader that ever lived among them, knowingly, to enter the beloved ground appropriated to the duty of being sanctified for war, much less to associate with the camp in the woods, at such a time, though he is united with them in the same war design. They oblige him to walk and encamp separately by himself, as an impure, dangerous animal, till the leader hath purified him, according to the usual time and method, with the consecrated things of the ark" (90).
  • This vivid material would have resonated deeply with nineteenth century Americans, who were either fascinated or fearful of warlike Amerindians. Yet, no such dramatic or picturesque material graces the Book of Mormon accounts of war—its descriptions are pedestrian, describing only the making of weapons, or the preparations of supplies. The Book of Mormon view of warfare is pragmatic, not romantic or exotic.

Burial rites

  • "The Indians, when one dies, wash and anoint the body. The Hebrews did the same" (92).
  • Burial rites are rarely described in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 19꞉43, Alma 20꞉1-5). Generally all we are told is that the dead were buried (Alma 3꞉1, Alma 30꞉1-2, Alma 53꞉1-3) or (on rare occasions) cast into a river because of the number of the dead (Alma 44꞉21-22).
  • No discussion of washing or anointing the body of the dead appears.

Widowhood laws

  • "A widow among them is bound by a strict Indian custom, to mourn the death of her husband for three years or more, unless the brother of her deceased husband wishes to take her. In that case, she is released from this law, as soon as it is known that the brother makes love to her. She may then throw off her [93] mourning habits, and dress and paint like others. Certainly this appears to have originated in that Mosaic law" (92–93).
  • No laws or regulations are discussed in the matter of widows. The one widow discussed deviates from the pattern which Ethan Smith assures us is a clear sign of Hebrew behavior (Alma 47꞉32-35)—another lost opportunity for Joseph's forgery!

Medicine bag

  • "This tribe of Chippeways, (Mr. Herman informs,) call their sacred sack, their "medicine bag." The contents appear to be essentially the same, and for the same end, with the contents of the sacred ark in other tribes" (105).
  • No medicine bag or parallel to the ark of the covenant is discussed in the Book of Mormon.


  • "Eagles of every kind they esteem unclean food; likewise ravens, crows, bats, buzzards, swallows, and every species of owl." This he considers as precisely Hebrew; as also their purifications of their priests; and purification for having touched a dead body, or any other unclean thing" (114).
  • The Book of Mormon never mentions kosher laws, or describes the animals to be avoided.


  • Extensive descriptions of pyramids are given as impressive evidence (136, 154–156).
  • Geometry in architecture is stressed: "They have left us perfect specimens of circles, squares, octagons, and parallel lines, on a grand and noble scale" (144, see also 147).
  • The Book of Mormon ignores geometry, and does not indulge in descriptions of buildings intended to impress or awe the audience.


  • Wherever they went then, they would have these phylacteries with them. If they brought them to this country, they would keep them with diligence. They would most naturally become some of the most precious contents in their holy ark, as their nation formerly kept the holy law in the ark. Here such a phylactery would be safe through ever so many centuries. This is so far from being improbable, that it is almost a moral certainty" (italics in original) (172).
  • Once again, Joseph Smith ignores a supposed "home run" bit of evidence—there are no phylacteries in the Book of Mormon.


  • View of the Hebrews associates Quetzalcoatl with Moses and discusses this figure at length (156–160).
  • The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Quetzalcoatl, even though later Latter-day Saints would find the legends compelling descriptions of Christ. Once again, however, Joseph Smith ignores the rich vein of material that Ethan Smith provided.