In the Introduction to this 1985 book, the author writes, "I have chosen to make full use of the documentation and to let the evidence speak for itself... All this material will show that The Book of Mormon was a product of the early nineteenth century rather than a history of Ancient America."
Here are some additional quotations from the book:
"I found, in short, that The Book of Mormon appeared to have had its conceptual origins in 'View of the Hebrews.'" (Pg. 2)
"...these records indicate that the Cowdery family had an association with the same church that Ethan Smith was to become pastor of in 1821... It is reasonable to expect, then, that Oliver Cowdery eventually became acquainted firsthand with Ethan Smith." (Pg. 8)
"The important point about William's statement is that it confirms Lucy's narrative that the revival and the enrollment of the family members in the Presbyterian Church did not take place until after Alvin's death. So despite Joseph's later statement that the family members joined the church as a result of a revival supposedly occurring in 1820, it seems that they actually joined that church because of an 1824 revival." (Pg. 30)
"Oliver Cowdery could have supplied Joseph with a copy (of 'View of the Hebrews'). Oliver had left Poultney for New York State 'about' the year 1825, the same year in which the second edition of Ethan Smith's book was published." (Pg. 57)
"Regardless of what motivated Joseph to try to join the Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church (in 1828), his attempt to do so ... conflicts with his later claims about his first vision." (Pg. 81)
"When Joseph apparently shifted the conceptual setting of his story to Central and South America, he left the remains of the Jaredites in Ohio, which extended the distance that Limhi's expedition had to go to find them---though the text was not changed to reflect the greater distance. The hill Cumorah was also left where it was in New York State, thus causing the Nephites to make their long flight to the place of their final battle with the Lamanites." (Pg. 167)
"In the first place, The Book of Mormon does not appear to have been written by someone trying to make the most of limited writing space, but instead of someone trying to produce a book of impressive proportions." (Pg. 195)
"What exacerbated the situation was that most of the Mormons were Northern immigrants to a slave state. The native Missourians did not want outsiders barging in and putting strange ideas about freedom into the heads of their slaves." (Pg. 212)
"Although according to Joseph the Lord had promised that he would destroy Emma if she did not accept Joseph's other wives, she lived to the age of seventy-five, while Joseph would die in less than a year." (Pg. 226)
on April 23, 2006
I am the author of this book. I am writing this in response to the two reviewers who suggested that the reader visit a web-site review of my book by L. Ara Norwood. The review--which was published by FARMS, a Mormon apologetics group--in fact, ignores or misrepresents much of what I presented in my book, so I feel the need to respond.
Note that the current edition of my book was published in 2000, but the FARMS review is 16 years old and is of the 1985 edition. This is important because the current edition is much expanded over the 1985 edition and presents considerably more documentation, including numerous additional parallels between the Book of Mormon (BM) and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews (VH). It also answers and refutes many of the criticisms found in the FARMS review and other Mormon sources
In referring to the chapters dealing with the early life of Joseph Smith, Norwood states: "All of these chapters are written to paint the particular portrait of Joseph Smith as conceived by Persuitte--that of a deceiver. Consequently, he borrows heavily from anti-Mormon sources for his information." In fact, most of my source documents were contemporaneous with Joseph Smith, and many consist of writings by friends and family of Joseph Smith. Much of this material deals with Joseph's "money-digging" confidence scheme. If Joseph did, in fact, engage in such a scheme, he was a deceiver. And, in fact, it is well established--and even accepted by knowledgeable Mormons--that Joseph did engage in a money-digging confidence scheme and was brought before a justice of the peace for engaging in that activity. Methinks Norwood doth protest too much when I was simply laying out the facts.
Concerning Part Three of my book, Norwood begins: "Here we have eight chapters loaded with comparisons between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon. Much of this work seems to be original with Persuitte.... The comparisons, mostly parallels, deal with the common topics of the voyage to the land of promise, things of a prophetic nature, the division into two camps of people, wars, the cycles between righteousness and wickedness, the visitation of Christ, and the final battles". Norwood fails to mention that Ethan Smith's synopsis of his theory about the history of the ancient Americans is also a brief but accurate summary of the basic story line of the BM. Indeed, Norwood's run-down of the parallels shows that those parallels also follow the BM story line.
Norwood continues: "It is not my desire to present an exhaustive analysis of Persuitte's work. To do so would run several hundred pages.... I will, however, present a few of my findings on his comparison of View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon." So Norwood admits that it would take several hundred pages to properly analyze my "eight chapters loaded with comparisons between" the two books. If my comparisons were as insignificant as he makes them out to be, why would it take several hundred pages to analyze them? Can only "a few" of his selective "findings" demonstrate that the remaining parallels are insignificant?
Norwood begins his analysis with the following: "A careful examination of the passages in the Book of Mormon treated by Persuitte reveals that most of them deal with one or two broad themes: the land of promise (i.e., America) or the gathering of Israel. This is interesting because much of the Book of Mormon deals with additional Christian doctrine, yet few of these doctrinal passages were accused of being the result of pilfering from View of the Hebrews." Here Norwood grossly misrepresents the content of the comparisons. There is much more than "one or two broad themes." For example, in passage after passage I present a considerable number of similarities that Ethan Smith's "savage" and "civilized" tribes have with the BM's Lamanites and Nephites, as well as descriptions of the wars that were fought between the respective factions. As for the additional Christian doctrines found in the BM but not in VH, how does that prove that Joseph Smith did not get his ideas for the BM from VH? After having been "inspired" by what he found in Ethan Smith's book, Joseph was perfectly free to expand on that material and bring in ideas from other sources--including, quite understandably, the Bible.
The following exemplifies Norwood's misrepresentations of the parallels: "Both [books] mention the idea of Lamanites/Indians being kind and loving to their wives and children. None can dispute that a parallel does exist. But what of it? Is anything so unusual about that? Would Joseph Smith need to rely on Ethan Smith to dream up such a concept?" Norwood fails to mention that this parallel is but one in a series of related, closely connected parallels about the character of the Lamanites/Indians, so that parallel was hardly as isolated as he makes it out to be.
Norwood continues by presenting his analysis of the percentage of verses in the individual books in the BM that would appear to have their source in VH. The percentages presented are small. But even if they are accurate, so what? The point is that Ethan Smith's book provided Joseph Smith with the inspiration for producing the BM. Again, once having got that inspiration, he was not obligated to use VH as his sole source of material. He was free to expand on that material by incorporating material from other sources (many of which I show in my book), including his own imagination.
Norwood states there is "mountains of evidence" to connect the BM with the ancient world. If that is so, why do professional non-Mormon archaeologists not accept the validity of the BM? In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that the BM has no basis whatsoever in the history of ancient America.
I could provide more refutations of Norwood's criticisms of my book, but I have reached Amazon's word limit. Read the book and make your own judgment.
on April 10, 2008
I read the first edition and really liked it. It goes into detail about how much of The Book of Mormon was directly lifted from the book "View of the Hebrew." There are some pretty slanderous things said about Joseph Smith, and the overall tone reminds me of Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason," but I doubt that someone who's already a firm believer in the Mormon faith will be swayed by it. The overall theme of "how can anyone believe this?" can be grating, but the evidence itself is hard to deny.
on September 23, 2005
It will come as a shock to many members of the LDS church that there are quite a number of very good reasons to doubt that young Joseph Smith was as careful with the truth as we, as members, always were led to believe he was. For those members wishing to understand how even a fanatically devout Mormon could ever come to view Joseph as more of a charismatic and talented storyteller than a conscientious truth-teller, Persuitte's book is a pretty good starting point. He goes over just about every problem there is in the many (often fundamentally contradictory) versions of Joseph's accounts of his experiences, with particular emphasis on the parallels between Joseph's book, and Pastor Ethan Smith's book (Oliver Cowdery's family's pastor), "View of the Hebrews". (Persuitte believes that the latter book served as a sort of template for Joseph's Book of Mormon).
I think Persuitte might have done with a bit less of his own personal speculation; for example, his suggestion that Joseph might have used cheat notes in his hat comes off as a bit fanciful (not that it's impossible). What I mean is, the evidence that Persuitte marshals in showing that Joseph didn't tell the truth about his experiences is so overwhelming, that his occasional speculative attempts at fleshing out every last little corner of the story almost seems to detract a bit from it all.
Persuitte's prose might also have done with a bit more dash; as it is, it is straightforward and fairly colourless, almost rather technical-sounding.
But as I said, Persuitte does a good job of covering just about every base there is: Joseph's early career in confidence scheming, his early trial, the contradictory versions of the stories, etc. He is also very good when occasionally dealing with LDS apologetic arguments, which I think without exception are far more embarrassing than helpful to their cause, so bad are they.
One particularly interesting portion of the book is Persuitte's discussion of LDS General Authority B.H. Roberts' struggle with the Book of Mormon. (One can only wonder what Roberts might say these days, now that so much more is known about the identity of the Native Americans).
Anyway, whether you come from a skeptical or believing position, you'll appreciate Persuitte's comprehensive presentation of many of the controversial issues in Mormon history. Worth the money, for sure.
on December 4, 2005
For people who think that all anti-Mormon literature is written by prejuduiced evil people out to ruin the church's reputation this book proves that it is not so. This book is level headed, extremely well researched document of the origins of the Book of Mormon. Most of the evidence against Joseph Smith presented in the book are not from antagonistic parties, rather they are from sympathizers. Figures such as Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph's Mother), Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, the Smith's families neighbors in Palmyra, and even Joseph Smith's own diary provide first person accounts of Joseph's character and the origins of the church that contradict the official line given by the church.
on February 6, 2012
This is an excellent book to read for those who want know a counterpoint of view to LDS belief.
However, I belive it is import to state to those who are reading the reviews posted by LDS apologists, Bobby Boylan and L.Ara Norwood should put their criticisms in hypocritcal context.
Bobby Boylan & L. Norwood like many other LDS apologists criticise authors like Pursuitte for using 'parallels' between View of the Hebrews and Book of Mormon to support the point that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. Norwood criticises Pursuitte for using alot of "anit-mormon" sources for his book, such as ED Howe and Fawn Brody. However, she doesn't explain why that's such a bad thing to do. Norwood implies that such sources like ED Howe, Brody etc, are not reliable. Really? Can she prove this?
Hypocritically, ALL LDS apologists and BYU experts use 'parallels', 'plausibilities', 'similarities' (could be, might be, should be) in their publications and articles to justify the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. In fact, neither the LDS church nor BYU or any LDS apologist has ANY DNA, Archeology, Linguistic or any other historical proof that CONCLUSIVELY validates the Book of Mormon. They can't even agree on the geographical location! Is it North America or Central America? or how about the whole 'western hemisphere' as stated by the LDS church?
If the Book of Mormon is really God's gospel for those of us in the 'Latter Days' then why would God suposedly take the plates back to heaven where no independant authority or common individual searching for phyiscal proof could validate His writings? However, God provided the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyone can validate His words in the Bible. there are only 11 Book of Mormon witnesses, and all of whom but 1 were related to Joseph Smith. All the witnesses had questionable credibility and is not enough to authenticate the Book of Mormon. The witnesses' testimonies are not worth the paper they're printed on. LDS church history will demonstrate this.
In the words of LDS Seventy and renowned church historian, BH Roberts in his unintended but post-death published manuscript.
"..... the evidence I sorrowfully submit, points to Joseph Smith as their creator." (Studies in the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts, University of Illinois Press, 1985, page 243)
In the words of Apostle Paul-
Test all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
on June 22, 2003
This book shows the author's extensive research in the subject. He has fully documented his material and presents it in a informative manner. The parallels he presents between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews are very extensive and quite convincing. That, along with the revealing and documented material he presents on the early years of Joseph Smith, can result in but one conclusion: the Book of Mormon is a product of the early nineteenth century. One of the reviewers said there is much wrong with the book but she did not say what it is. Despite what she says, religion is a subject for critical analysis.
on February 11, 2001
David Persuitte provides an excellent introduction to the historical and literary issues raised by the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Using primary and secondary sources with skill he presents in detail the argument that the Book of Mormon is a work of creative literature that draws on and reflects in myriad details the cultural and literary milieu of its period. In doing so he reviews and confronts the claims of Joseph Smith and his defenders that the book was translated from buried plates containing the history of the descendants of a family of Jews who immigrated to America centuries before Christ. This is not, however, an anti-Mormon book, except insofar that any criticism of Mormon origins can be regarded as an attack. Persuitte has no interest in defaming Mormons or their founders, although he does not hesitate to point out the not infrequent troubles with the law they encountered (through shady financial dealings, not from "religious persecution" as Mormons usually claim). His point is to understand how the Book of Mormon came to be as a product of early nineteenth-century American creativity, and he marshals an overwhelming body of evidence showing how the book reflects early American culture, and notably fails to reflect anything which we have subsequently learned about pre-Columbian American history. While much of the book covers ground familiar from other critical works, Persuitte's traversal of the material can be recommended as lively, accessible, and very entertainingly written. He quotes frequently and at length from the primary sources which serve both to establish his argument and add a great deal of color to the narrative. His main "original" contribution to the topic is the most detailed discussion yet published of the similarities between Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews (1823) and the Book of Mormon. But while the Smith book is given the most attention, Persuitte is also thorough in pointing out the many other literary and historical influences behind the Book of Mormon, including the King James Bible and numerous long-forgotten but once popular works of popular and speculative history. It's a fascinating detective story, well told, and with something both for the scholar and for the general reader curious about the origins of one of the world's fastest-growing religions. Highly recommended.
on December 26, 2007
Despite an interest for years in the Mormon Church and its doctrines, I have been quite ignorant about the story of Joseph Smith's life- or theories about the origin of his Book- that are not officially endorsed by the LDS Church. Mormon rebuttals to this book I have found online seem to focus almost exclusively on Persuitte's persual of what is called the "View of the Hebrews Theory." (According to this theory, Smith was inspired by a work called "A View of the Hebrews", an argument written by a Congregationalist minister for the American Indians being the lost tribes of Israel.) However, Persuitte's most interesting (and damning) material comes in the first half of the book, where "A View of the Hebrews" is hardly mentioned.
Persuitte's book is heavily documented- to the point where the information is distracting to the argument at times. Most interesting is his careful biography of the young Joseph Smith, including his activities as a treasure digger who claimed to divine buried gold with a stone in his hat and his 1826 trial for "juggling" (conning). The "Golden Plates" story, as it turns out, predates his discovery of the Book of Mormon. In fact, the events leading up to the Book's eventual unveiling (and many of the events afterwards) are a mixture of ever-escalating con-manship and comedy of errors. The number of documented facts- many from official Mormon sources- that show Smith's duplicity and showmanship are what really undermine the LDS-version of the story; the "View of the Hebrews Theory" will be just a topping for most readers, even though Persuitte finds it fascinating. What the "View of the Hebrews Theory" does do- along with much of the rest of the book's evidence- is place Joseph Smith and his Book firmly within their time and place.
If you are interested in Mormon origins, Persuitte's book is definitely worth a read.
on May 13, 2004
David Persuitte, a technical writer from Virginia, wrote the first edition of this book in 1985. Now, a decade and a half later, Persuitte has added many more facts in this, the 325-page second edition. This is extremely worthwhile reading for any serious student of Joseph Smith and the religion he founded in 1830.
Persuitte's premise is that Smith had few original bones in his body. Of course, it is obvious that Smith knew how to plagiarize because about a fifth of the Book of Mormon is copied straight out of the King James Version Bible, including the errors made by the English translators. Anyone who is honest would have to admit that Smith really didn't translate these words from the Book of Mormon "plates." But Persuitte believes that Smith also stole his ideas from the sources available to him in his day, especially from Vermont minister Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews (first published in 1823), which had been published only a few years before. Using numerous side-by-side comparisons throughout much of the book and tying in other 19th century works and ideas, Persuitte is able to write, "Considered as a whole, this material makes it quite clear that The Book of Mormon was a product of the early nineteenth century rather than being a 'history' of ancient America" (p. 3).
All in all, this is a book fully worthy of reading and marking up before putting it back on the shelf for future reference. Persuitte has done a valuable service for all who want to show that Joseph Smith's story was not his own.