Joseph Smith’s Response to Skepticism
Robert N. Hullinger

Chapter 5.
The Indians’ Lost Book of God

[p.49]They [the American Indians] have two flat sticks about one foot long, tied together, on which are several characters, which they say, the Great Father gave to their prophet, and mean as much as a large book.
—W. W. Phelps,1 an early Mormon apologist

In 1805, twenty-five years before the founding of the Mormon church, an anglo missionary asked permission of the Six Nations to work among the native Americans in the region. The chiefs meeting in council asked Seneca Chief Red Jacket to speak for them. “You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us,” he told the missionary. “We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us … and to our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the means of understanding it rightly? If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?”2

Thomas Paine had asked similar questions in his critique of Christianity. The Book of Mormon offered answers to such questions in trying to convince the Indians that “Jesus is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.” Why does Mormon scripture cast the ancestors of the Indians in the principal roles? How could they be used to defend God against popular deism? Why were they used to [p.50] project a new theology?

The growth of America has always involved the fate of the original inhabitants, making the Indians of international importance. They wiped out a white force of 1,400 men at a battle on the Wabash River in the Northwest Territory in 1791, exposing the Canadian border. In 1811 the Indian leader Tecumseh led his forces to defeat at the Battle of Tippecanoe. When Tecumseh sought refuge with the British in Canada, many American politicians blamed the British for the uprising. This became one of the factors leading to war with Britain in 1812.

Once a region became U.S. territory, a period of upheaval and relocation set in. Land agents bought land from Indian tribes. Reservations were established for those Indians who wished to remain within U.S. boundaries. White settlements sprang up around the Indians, and cultural contact brought pressure on the Indian way of life. Eventually, if not as soon as the transition began, the majority of tribes moved west of the U.S. borders.

In western New York in the 1820s the process of relocation had almost been completed. Immediately after the Revolutionary War the Phelps and Gorham Purchase carved out the future home of the Joseph Smith, Sr., family.3 The land abounded in relics. This was the country of the Six Nation Federation of the Iroquois tribes: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and the Tuscaroras further south. Centuries before, following a series of battles which failed to determine supremacy, the tribes united to end an almost constant state of warfare. They left in their wake palisaded forts—one chain extended to Pennsylvania fifty miles away.

The Palmyra region also had Indian mounds. Throughout the 1820s such Indian sites were featured in Palmyra newspapers. For example, the papers described the excavation of burial mounds near Cuyahoga River in Ohio, another in Virginia, and still others in Fredonia, New York, and Worthington, Ohio; rock inscriptions found in or near Dighton, Massachusetts, Pompey, New York, and Washington County, Missouri; a tomb in Tennessee and an excavation near Schenectady, New York. Such discoveries provided both concrete knowledge of Indians and room for speculation.4

From the mounds came skeletal remains of a man judged to be seven feet, four inches tall, an embalmed corpse with auburn hair and facial contours which were neither Indian nor Spanish, as well as artifacts which were both Indian and European. Rock inscriptions [p.51] revealed a public edict of Pope Leo X dated in 1520 inscribed in Latin with strange symbols, hieroglyphics, and art work in Missouri which little resembled “the rude sketches made by the Indians of the present day.”5

In 1810 a Mr. Miller opened the mound at Worthington, Ohio. Indians living nearby told Miller that the mounds had been there longer than anyone could remember. The writer of the newspaper article conjectured that the human remains “found in these mounds must have been … of human beings inhabiting the country, of whom the Indians had no knowledge.”6

The reporter who wrote of Pope Leo’s edict speculated about the first settlers of North America. They were probably Asiatics, descendants of Shem, Noah’s son, who crossed the Pacific to settle in North America. The descendants of Japeth, Shem’s brother, settled in Europe and then crossed the Atlantic, driving the Shemites into South America. He supported this theory with the observation that the language, manners, and customs of the South American Indians resembled those of Europeans: “What wonderful catastrophe destroyed at once the first inhabitants, with the species of the mammoth, is beyond the researches of the best scholar and greatest antiquarian.”7

Another reporter concluded from the Latin inscription and other discoveries “that this country was once inhabited by a race of people, at least, partially civilized, & that this race has been exterminated by the forefathers of the present and late tribes of Indians in this country.”8 Dr. Edmund James of the U.S. Army, who reported the inscribed rocks in Missouri, wrote of the “departure of that forgotten race of men who left their emblematic inscriptions to commemorate some event in their history; perhaps, ‘Their own heroic deeds, and hapless fall,’ and the commencement of the flight to the west before the barbarians who have exterminated their arts and remembrance.”9 The life of current tribes did not match what the mounds, tombs, and inscriptions seemed to reveal.

Timothy Dwight’s description of the Iroquois in his four-volume Travels in New England and New York was congruent with this view. According to the information he gleaned, the Mohicans considered themselves the original inhabitants and the Iroquois interlopers. The Iroquois admitted as much, “asserting that they had fought their way to their present possessions, and acquired their county by conquering all who had resisted them.”10 According to Dwight, their [p.52] savage spirit was enough for them to conquer any tribe. This fall to the Iroquois was celebrated by James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 The Last of the Mohicans, which was available in the Wayne Sentinel bookstore in Palmyra.11

As they watched the remnants of once powerful tribes limp westward to relocation areas, the anglo immigrants in western New York compared their pitiful condition to what they assumed the status of the former inhabitants had once been. The Wayne Sentinel reprinted an article from the Batavia Peoples‘ Press which summed up the speculation. It seemed that the former civilization was nearly as developed as that of the colonists. It was pictured as a powerful, civilized, politically advanced nation which God or disease had decimated for some heinous, national sins. But who really knew? “There appears to be a gap in the history of the world, as far as relates to them, which can never be closed up,” opined the paper.12

Thomas Jefferson conjectured that the corpse from the Tennessee tomb was “a relic of a civilized people who formerly inhabited this country—but who, ages since ceased to be. Who they were from whence they sprung—and what was their destiny—remains locked up in the womb of the past, one of those inscrutable events which defy human ken or human examination; which loom up on the far-off ocean of by-gone years, with enough of reality about them to convince us that they are no fiction, but yet clothed with an indistinctiveness which defies investigation. The origin, the history, the destiny of that people, together with the cause of their extinction,” was, Jefferson believed, “‘consigned to the receptacle of things forever lost upon earth.'”13

Civilized Indians had been destroyed by barbarians who remained, and Indians-as-hostile-savages was a familiar motif in the Palmyra press during the period: Indians massacring anglos (Palmyra Register, 3 May 1820); white women falling captive to Indian savages (Wayne Sentinel, 17 Aug. 1824); children captured and raised by Indians (Palmyra Register, 3 July 1822); Indians fighting with each other (Palmyra Register, 19 July 1820). Even the Cherokees, who had long been regarded as one of the most Christianized Indian nations, threatened to kill their own delegates to a peace conference upon their return from Washington because the tribe did not like the treaty the delegates had signed (Wayne Sentinel, 15 Aug. 1828).

Colonial attitudes toward Indians survived into the nineteenth century. There was the desire to get their lands, to kill or drive them [p.53] away. But there coexisted a guilty awareness that this was wrong and with this guilt a sense of obligation: convert and civilize them, or at least civilize them.14

In the early nineteenth century the government tried first to civilize Indians through Christian missions. In 1820 John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, held up to Congress the Cherokees, Choctaws, Wyandots, Senecas, and Shawnees as prime examples of what civilization could do. In 1820-21 Congress granted over $16,000 to establish mission schools in several states and carried that policy through the twenties. By 1824 twenty-one schools were supported in this manner and by 1826 there were thirty-eight.15

The readers of the Palmyra papers could follow the progress of the civilizing process. In 1821 a report from the Brainard mission among the Cherokees concluded: “It no longer remains a doubt whether the Indians of America can be civilized—the Cherokees have gone too far in the pleasant path of civilization to return to the rough and unbeaten track of savage life.”16 Another report from the same tribe urged Christians to “pursue the labour of love which we have commended.… and the Indian will become temperate and industrious.”17 As proof of the gospel’s power to civilize, an article reported that the Oneidas had formed an agricultural society.18 A notice that copies of the Bible were being printed in an Indian language and that they were bringing Indians to Christianity was therefore printed with a note of approval.19

The missionary effort was on one level a reparation for the way colonists had mistreated the Indians.20 Another motive prominent in the nineteenth century was that Jesus Christ had ushered in the “millennial morn”: “Why are kings become nursing fathers and queens nursing mothers,—why are the nations flinging away their gods and asking for the True God and the Bible, and why are all civilized nations aroused to relieve the miseries of the heathen, if the set time to favour Zion is not come?”21

Success was at best mixed. Red Jacket opposed missionaries among his people, but others invited them in. He wrote his assessment of the results in a letter in 1821. The introduction of preachers “has created great confusion among us, and is making us a quarrelsome and divided people.” Whenever the Black Coats secured consent to come in, he wrote, “confusion and disorder are sure to follow; & the encroachments of the whites upon our lands, are the invariable consequences.” The preachers “were the forerunners of [p.54] their dispersion.” Indians quarreling, whites plundering, Indian population decreasing—all this happened in “proportion to the number of preachers that came among them.” Red Jacket feared “that these preachers, by, and by, will become poor, and force us to pay them for living among us, and disturbing us.”22

Contact with Indian tribes and antiquities led some to conclude that no one would ever discover the origin of the Indians and the lost race. In fact, many were using the mystery of Indian origins to demonstrate the incompleteness of the Bible. For example, Jedidiah Morse, one of the leading ministers of New England, wrote of the controversy in 1793: “Those who call in question the authority of the sacred writings say, the American [Indians] are not descendants from Adam, that he was the father of the Asiatics only, and that God created other men to be the patriarchs of the Europeans, Africans and Americans. But this is one among the many weak hypotheses of unbelievers, and is wholly unsupported by history.”23

The discovery of Indians in the New World raised a serious theological issue: If the Flood had left only Noah and his family in the Old World, where did the Indians come from? Unbelievers argued that the Indians were racially unrelated to Old World peoples and could not possibly have migrated to the New World thousands of years before nagivation.

Against these theological attacks, believers began proposing theories connecting Indians with the Old World. Some identified the Indians with the legend of the lost ten tribes.24 Catholic priests had made this connection in the sixteenth century, partly as a response to pre-Adamite theories of Indian origins. Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel in the mid-seventeenth century published a book-length treatise on the subject in London.25 James Adair’s 1775 History of the American Indians, which was specifically designed to combat the pre-Adamite theory and defend the Bible, brought ben Israel’s theory to English-speaking readers.26 The Indian-Israelite connection was accepted by some Puritans and prominent American clergy, set forth in a series of books in the early 1800s,27 and debated by members of the New York Historical Society.28

In September 1825 Mordecai M. Noah, prominent in publishing and political circles in New York, dedicated the City of Ararat as a refuge for world Jewry. He issued a proclamation to that effect and delivered a speech setting forth the rationale of his enterprise. He had an explanation for the origin of the Indians and their [p.55] predecessors. Given their manners, customs, and “admitted Asiatic origin,” he proclaimed that the Indians were “in all probability the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.” He added, “Measures will be adopted to make them sensible of their origin, to cultivate their minds, soften their condition and finally re-unite them with their brethren the chosen people.”29 His speech was printed in the two following issues of the Wayne Sentinel along with further comment: “The discovery of the lost tribes of Israel, has never ceased to be a subject of deep interest to the Jews. That divine protection which has been bestowed upon the chosen people … has, without doubt, been equally extended to the missing tribes, and if, as I have reason to believe, our lost brethren were the ancestors of the Indians of the American Continent, the inscrutable decrees of the Almighty have been fulfilled in spreading unity and omnipotence in every quarter of the globe.… It is … probable that from the previous sufferings of the tribes in Egyptian bondage, that they bent their course in a northwest direction, which brought them within a few leagues of the American continent, and which they finally reached. Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites, and my own researches go far to confirm me in the same belief.”

Noah listed similarities between Indians and Jews which he felt supported the identification. He concluded: “Should we be right in our conjecture, what new scenes are opened to the nation—the first of people in the old world, and the rightful inheritors of the new? Spread from the confines of the northwest coast of Cape Horn, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. If the tribes could be brought together, could be made sensible of their origin, could be civilized, and restored to their long lost brethren, what joy to our people, what glory to our God, how clearly have the prophecies been fulfilled, how certain our dispersion, how miraculous our preservation, how providential our deliverance.”30

The Indian-Israelite connection was almost always tied to some aspect of belief in the Millennium. Ethan Smith’s ministerial career from the late 1700s to the early 1800s was engaged in the struggle against Thomas Paine’s brand of popular deism. View of the Hebrews,31 his major contribution to the defense of biblical revelation, appeared first in 1823 and then, revised and enlarged, in two printings in 1825. It was widely available in New England and New [p.56] York. The book presented the millennial hope that the conversion of the Indians would help usher in the thousand year reign of Jesus. A literalistic approach to the restoration passages of the Old Testament, particularly those of Isaiah and Jeremiah, led Smith to look for their fulfillment just before the impending Millennium. Ethan Smith thought he had discovered the fate of Israel’s lost tribes, where they were, and what had befallen them. By distinguishing between the Jews as dispersed and the ten tribes as outcast, God “surely must have provided a place for their safe keeping as a distinct people, in some part of the world, during that long period.”32

But where were they? Smith found many clues as to their present location in the Old Testament and Apocrypha. Jeremiah 30-31 speaks of Ephraim (the ten tribes) as scattered to the “coasts of the earth” in the “north country.” Ephraim was in the “isles afar off,” which signifies any land over “great waters.” 2 Esdras 13 declares that the ten tribes went north from Palestine past Armenia, bound for a land where no one had dwelt since the Flood. Amos 8:11-12 speaks of the tribes’ wandering from the north to the east, from sea to sea.33 These sounded like descriptions of America.

Smith concluded that the more civilized Israelite tribes separated from those who depended on hunting. Hunters gradually forgot about their common ancestry and waged frightful wars upon the others. After many centuries, civilized tribes were finally overcome and destroyed. This destruction explained the forts, mounds, and vast enclosures which predated Columbus’s discovery—ruins which had no connection with the current Indian population. In this way Smith accounted for abandoned Indian cities along the Ohio to the Mississippi, estimated by Caleb Atwater to be almost 5,000 in number. The ruins and artifacts were eloquent witnesses to the accomplishments of these early inhabitants. “And nothing appears more probable,” Smith wrote, “than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to the continent … while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild. No other hypothesis occurs to mind, which appears by any means so probable.”34

Convinced then of the literal expulsion of the lost tribes, Ethan Smith also argued for their literal restoration. Zechariah 8:7 speaks of the Lord saving his people from the east country and west country. Since no one from a west country was restored to the land of Israel during the return from Babylon, Smith deduced that the west country referred to must be America. In other words, the return [p.57] from Babylon was not the only one referred to by scriptures. Smith awaited a restoration for the lost tribes of Israel—the Indians—which was both “distinct from and future of that event.”35

One of the most important traditions used to prove this theory was that of a lost book. According to Smith, the Indians told of “a book which God gave, was once theirs; and then things went well with them. But other people got it from them, and then they fell under the displeasure of the Great Spirit; but that they shall at some time regain it.”36 He quoted Elias Boudinot, who supposedly followed Indian authority in explaining “that the book which the white people have was once theirs.”37

According to Smith, Indian tradition held that once they lived “away in another country, had the old divine speech, the book of God; they shall at some time have it again, and shall then be happy.” He passed along the report of a conversation between a missionary and the elderly wife of a Cherokee chief, who told him “that when she was a small child, the old people used to say that good people would come to instruct the Cherokees at some future period; and that perhaps she and others of her age would live to see the day. And now she thought that, perhaps, we and the other missionaries had come to give them that instruction.”38

The Pittsfield parchment story was the most important evidence Ethan Smith produced to support the stories of the Indians’ lost book.39 Joseph Merrick of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, owned land on “Indian Hill,” where he allegedly discovered a black leather strap, sewn with sinews and containing dark yellow leaves of an old parchment. In 1815 he brought them to the Rev. Mr. Sylvester Larned of Pittsfield.40 Larned discovered the standard texts of a Jewish phylactery on the leaves. He wrote Merrick a letter with his translation of the Hebrew script and then took the leaves to Cambridge for further examination.41 There he left them with a Dr. Eliot, who died soon after. Smith later tried unsuccessfully to locate the parchment leaves, although he continued to believe in their existence.

A second report of a lost book surfaced soon after the Pittsfield parchment story. An old Indian told the Rev. Mr. Stockbridge “that his fathers in this country had not long since had a book which they had for a long time preserved. But having lost the knowledge of reading it … they buried it with an Indian chief.”42

Smith combined the two accounts of the Pittsfield parchment [p.58] and the Stockbridge book buried with the chief. He concluded that this was the kind of evidence one might expect to connect the Indians with Israel. The parchment leaves seemed obviously Indian, for Jews buried their old or illegible phylacteries and Bible pages in a sheet of paper. They would never have used animal sinews for thread· The whole episode, concluded Smith, “might have been thus safely brought down to a period near to the time when the natives last occupied Indian Hill, in Pittsfield; perhaps in the early part of the last century.”43

The possibility of Israelite identity for American Indians offered America a profound opportunity.·According to Ethan Smith’s view of Isaiah 18, Isaiah was appealing to the future European Christian stock in America to restore the gospel to the outcast Israelite-Indian tribes.44 After such restoration, which included the return of the Bible to the Indians, American Christians would be able to christianize them. Smith had God say through Isaiah: “[W]ere not your fathers sent into that far distant world, not only to be (in their posterity) built up a great protecting nation; but also to be the instruments of gathering, or recovering the miserable remnant of my outcasts there, in the last days?”45 By converting the Indians, Christians could help inaugurate the Millennium.

Smith spelled out the theory’s value in the on going debate with skeptics: “New evidence is hence furnished of the divinity of our holy scriptures … striking characteristics are found of the truth of ancient revelations.”46 Smith had met the infidel on what he considered fair ground and challenged him to explain the phenomena: “Whence their ideas that their ancestors once had the book of God; and then were happy; but that they lost it; and then became miserable; but that they will have this book again at some time?”47

The restoration of the ten tribes would confound infidelity, wrote Ethan Smith. Indian traditions were beginning to exhibit the new evidence, “a powerful evidence of the truth of revelation.” The preservation of the Jews was a “kind of standing miracle in support of the truth of revelation.… But the arguments furnished from the preservation and traditions of the tribes, in the wilds of America from a much longer period, must be viewed as furnishing, if possible, a more commanding testimony.”48 The Indian-Israelite identification confounded popular deism, vindicated God, and proved the Bible true.

The Pittsfield parchment story seemed to prove that the Indians [p.59] had once possessed the Old Testament, and the story may have circulated in the Palmyra region years before Ethan Smith’s second edition of 1825. Sylvester Larned and Elias Boudinot were two men responsible for the story’s getting to Ethan Smith. Larned, a young, well-known preacher in the Congregational church, preached in the Canandaigua Congregational church in 1817 and 1818. Boudinot, long active in Indian affairs before he came to head the American Bible Society in 1816, used the Indian-Israelite identification in his Star in the West to combat deism, and was certainly influential in western New York.

Joseph Smith in his teens was, according to his mother, a thoughtful youth inclined to ponder life’s issues. He could take current topics of interest and entertain others with them. He recited stories about Indians, their fortifications, customs, and life as if he had lived among them.49 Years later Smith would see the Book of Mormon as a morality play with the ancestors of the American Indians cast in the leading roles. This is particularly evident in the book of Alma. The name of God given there is the Great Spirit, who is identified with the God of the Bible, the world’s creator. There we read of Indians waging endless tribal warfare. They had tremendous battles in which tens of thousands were slain and built fortification mounds topped with palisades and towers with moats in front.

Religious and moral issues were at stake in Book of Mormon warfare, as well as European anxiety. Once a Book of Mormon tribe was converted to Jesus, it had to decide whether to continue fighting or to throw down its arms and risk being slaughtered: “They became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren” (Alma 23:6). “They began to be a very industrious people; yea, and they were friendly” (vv. 17-18). “Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not” (24:6). They repented of their past murderous ways and refused to wage war even in self-defense (w. 7-16).

The Book of Mormon people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi carried out this “no fight” policy when they were attacked by the Lamanites. One thousand of them offered themselves as sacrificial lambs in a passive resistance movement and shamed the slaughtering Lamanites. Re-[p.60]penting Lamanites “threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed” (Alma 24:25). More than one thousand were brought to the Christian faith as a result of this supreme act of love on the part of those who were willing to die to show that war was not the way. Preaching to the Indians led them “to disbelieve the traditions of their fathers, and to believe in the Lord” (25:6). “They were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even to the end” (27:27).

What Book of Mormon Lamanites were to play out was the fulfillment of the government’s dream for an ideal Indian policy. Christian mission efforts among native Americans had had some results, but these were few and slow. The Book of Mormon gave American natives a past and an identity as the people of God and reason to make peace with each other and anglos and to become exemplary Christians.

The Book of Mormon echoed what had appeared in contemporary books and newspapers, and the apologetic value for countering deists and rationalists which Ethan Smith saw in the Indian-Israelite theory was realized in the Book of Mormon as well.50 According to its title page, the Book of Mormon was “to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the LORD hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the LORD, that they are not cast off forever.” It was this book, not the Bible, which Joseph Smith wanted the Indians to accept as their long lost book of God.


1. W. W. Phelps, “Israel Will be Gathered,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1833, 101.

2. Lewis Copeland, ed., The World’s Great Speeches (New York: Garden City Publishing Co., 1941), 266-68.

3. The development of the region is described in Orsamus Turner’s History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase (Rochester: Wm. Alling, 1851).

4. Palmyra Register, 26 May 1819; Western Farmer, 18 Sept. 1821; Palmyra Herald, 14 Nov. 1822, 24 July 1822, 30 Oct. 1822; Wayne Sentinel, 3 Nov. 1824, 24 July 1829. See also Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), 26-27.

[p.61]5. Palmyra Herald, 30 Oct. 1822; Wayne Sentinel, 24July 1829; Western Farmer, 18 Sept. 1821; Palmyra Herald 19 Feb. 1823; Palmyra Register, 2 June 1819; Wayne Sentinel, 3 Nov. 1824.

6. Palmyra Herald, 30 Oct. 1822.

7. Ibid., 19 Feb. 1823.

8. Palmyra Register, 26 May 1819.

9. Wayne Sentinel, 3 Nov. 1824.

10. Timothy Dwight, Travels; in New-England and New York, 4 vols. (New Haven: S. Converse, Printer, 1821-22), 4:131.

11. Wayne Sentinel, 3 Mar. 1826. “It is exclusively an American work—descriptive of American scenery, and American aboriginal character.” Cooper pictured one of the Indian villains as a deist.

12. Ibid., 24 July 1829. American identification with the vanquished Mound Builder race included other assigned traits such as white skin, agricultural civilization, and Christian religion. See Vogel, 53-69.

13. Ibid.

14. This ambivalence is traced by R. Pierce Beaver, Church, State, and the American Indians (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), 7-52. Colonial and early American justification for taking Indian lands is discussed in Vogel, 53-56.

15. Ibid., 73, 76.

16. Western Farmer, 4 Apr. 1821.

17. Palmyra Herald, 30 Oct. 1822.

18. Palmyra Register, 7 July 1818.

19. Ibid., 4 Oct. 1820.

20. Ibid., 25 Aug. 1818.

21. Palmyra Herald, 30 Oct. 1822.

22. Western Farmer, 4 Apr. 1821.

23. Jedidiah Morse, The American Universal Geography, 2 vols. (Boston, 1793), 1:75. Morris’s book was on sale at Pomeroy Tucker’s bookstore in Palmyra, New York. See Wayne Sentinel, 5 May-7 July 1824. For a discussion and other sources dealing with the pre-Adamite theory of Indian origins and its use by unbelievers, see Vogel, 35-39.

24. While the Indian-Israelite theory was one among many, it nevertheless had a significant following. See Vogel, 35-69, for a detailed discussion, and 103-44, for an extensive annotated bibliography of numerous pre-1830 sources. Lynn Glaser, Indians or Jews? An Introduction to a Reprint of Manasseh ben Israel’s The Hope of Israel (Gilroy, CA: Roy V. Boswell, 1973), surveys the changing shape of that belief over the centuries. Robert Wauchope, “Lost Tribes and the Mormons,” in Lost Tribes & Sunken Continents: Myth and Method in the Study of American Indians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 50-68, gives a broader and more scholarly survey. Robert Silverberg presents the archaeological evidence and evaluates the Indian-[p.62]Israelite theory within developing archaeological understanding from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries in Mound Builders of Ancient America: The Archaeology of a Myth (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968).

25. See Manasseh ben Israel’s The Hope of Israel.

26. James Adair, The History of the American Indians (London, 1775), 3, 11; see Vogel, 41-42.

27. Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews; or the Ten Tribes of Israel in America, 2d ed. (Poultney, VT: Smith & Shute, 1825), was only one of many.

28. Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or A Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel Preparatory to the Return to their Beloved City, Jerusalem (Trenton, NJ: Fenton, S. Hutchinson, and J. Dunham, 1816) made the identification. Samuel Latham Mitchill spoke for an Asiatic origin in his “The Original Inhabitants of America Shown to Be of the Same Family with Those of Asia,” American Antiquarian Society Transactions, 1 (1820).

Samuel Farmer Jarvis challenged James Adair and Elias Boudinot in “A Discourse on the Relations of the Indian Tribes of North America: Delivered Before the New-York Historical Society, December 20, 1819,” in Collections of the New York Historical Society, for the Year 1821 (New York: Bliss & White, 1821), 183. After citing Boudinot’s book and judging James Adair’s The History of the American Indians (London: Edward and Charles Dilly, 1775) of “little use,” Jarvis acknowledged Boudinot’s advocacy, saying that his “exalted character renders every opinion he may defend a subject of respectful attention.” Boudinot, Mitchill, M. M. Noah, and Jarvis are listed as historical society members in the Collections (pp. 11, 17).

29. Wayne Sentinel, 27 Sept. 1825.

30. Ibid.

31. His 1811 book on millennialism also spoke against deism.

32. E. Smith, 70-71, 78. This distinction is found throughout the work. He cites Isaiah 49:18-22; 56:8; 63:1-6 as proof passages.

33. E. Smith, 230-31, 74-75, 81. 2 Esdras 13:40-42 reads: ”Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanesar the king of Assyria led captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt. That they might there keep their statutes, which they never kept in their own land.” Joseph Smith used the Book of Mormon passage in Ether 2:4: “the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.”

34. E. Smith, 198-99, 173. Vogel has pointed out that most other versions of the Mound Builder myth postulated the migration of two separate groups and that Ethan Smith was perhaps original in suggesting [p.63]that a single migratory group divided into two distinct groups. See Vogel, 98-99.

35. E. Smith, 234. In support of his notion that the restoration would be a literal one (just as the expulsion had been), he cites Isa. 14; 18; 49:18-23; 60; 65; 66:20; Jer. 16:14-15; 23:6, 8; 30:3; Deut. 30; Hos. 2-3; Zeph. 3:10.

36. E. Smith, 77.

37. Ibid., 115.

38. Ibid., 130, 131.

39. The Pittsfield Parchment story is found in E. Smith (pp. 217-25) in the 1825 edition. That year Josiah Priest, The Wonders of Nature and Providence (Albany, 1825), 290, began a chapter “extracted from the Rev. E. Smith’s View of the Hebrews, with some additional remarks.” In 1837 Parley P. Pratt cited parts of the story in A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People (Independence, MO: Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1943), 79. Mormon historian B. H. Roberts pointed to the Pittsfield Parchment story as proof for the Book of Mormon in New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1926), 2:49-50.

40. Larned had just finished Andover and was preparing to enter Cambridge. By the time he preached in Canandaigua in 1817 and 1818, he had known the story for several years. See William Sprague, Annals of the Congregational Pulpit, Vol. 2, Annals of the American Pulpit (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1869), 556-71.

41. The letter in E. Smith (p. 220) reads as follows: “Sir, I have examined the parchment manuscripts which you had the goodness to give me. After some time and with much difficulty and assistance I have ascertained their meaning, which is as follows; (I have numbered the manuscripts.) No. I is translated by Deut. vi. 4-9 inclusive. No. 2, by Deut xi. 13-21 verses inclusive. No 3, Exod. xiii, 11-16 verses inclusive. I am &c. SYLVESTER LARNED”

42. E. Smith, 223.

43. Ibid., 224. For evidence that the Pittsfield phylacteries probably came from contemporary Jews, see Lee M. Friedman, ”The Phylacteries Found at Pittsfield, Mass.,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, No. 25 (1917): 81-85, and I. Herold Sharfman, Jews on the Frontier (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1977), 210-11, in Vogel, 92n88.

44. Ibid., 229-30, 127. Boudinot in A Star in the West wrote in the same vein: “Who knows but God has raised up these United States in these latter days, for the very purpose of accomplishing his will in bringing his beloved people [the Israelites] to their own land” (p. 297). Boudinot (1740-1820) was an attorney active in the Revolutionary War. He served in Congress from 1777-84 and was a strong Federalist supporter of Washington. His three books before A Star in the West involved the deistic controversy.

45. E. Smith, 246-55.

46. Ibid., 253. Boudinot (pp. 279-80) appreciated this earlier than Ethan [p.64]Smith. He wrote: “What could possibly bring greater declarative glory to God, or tend more essentially to affect and rouse the nations of earth, with a deeper sense of the certainty of the prophetic declarations of the holy scriptures, and thus call their attention to the truth of divine revelation, than a full discovery, that, these wandering nations of Indians are the long lost tribes of Israel …?”

47. E. Smith, 264.

48. Ibid., 266-67.

49. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 84, 90.

50. See Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2d ed. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1971), 44-49, and Vogel, for the way Indian lore is woven into the Book of Mormon. David Marks, The Life of David Marks to the 26th Year of His Age (Limerick, ME: Office of the Morning Star, 1831), demonstrated that the impression created by the Book of Mormon on those who had heard it seemed to offer insights into Indian antiquities. “When I was in Ohio, I had quite a curiosity to know the origin of the numerous mounds and remains of ancient fortifications that abound in that section of the country; but could not find that any thing satisfactory was known on the subject. Having been told, that the ‘Book of Mormon’ gave a history of them, and of their authors, some desire was created in my mind to see the book, that I might learn the above particulars” (p. 341). See David Marks, The Life of David Marks to the 26th Year of His Age (Limerick, ME: Office of the Morning Star, 1831), chap. 1, n12, who thought that the Book of Mormon might offer insight into Indian mounds and fortifications.