Source:Echoes:Ch10:2:View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

Ethan Smith and View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

Ethan Smith and View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

[It is worth thinking about] Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews because some people believe it inspired or influenced Joseph Smith in writing the Book of Mormon.7 If people of the nineteenth century expected a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas to be a work like Ethan Smith's, it would be strange indeed, since Ethan Smith's work, unlike the Book of Mormon, is not a narrative but an essay. Environmentalists who argue that Joseph Smith somehow got the idea for the Book of Mormon by reading View of the Hebrews (there is no indication that Joseph had read that book) are no closer to explaining the Book of Mormon than if they were arguing that government technical manuals explain Tom Clancy's books.8 This is because the germ of an idea is not the story or narrative itself, but merely the spark that can precede the tremendous creative effort that gives life to that idea through the writing process....

Beyond the issue of the unexplained narrative, environmentalists need to explain why Joseph Smith, if he had read Ethan Smith's work, got so many details wrong for his own day (as compared with Ethan Smith)—details that work out so well with the ancient setting of the Book of Mormon.[1]


  1. John Gee, "The Wrong Type of Book," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 10, references silently removed—consult original for citations.