Where Did Joseph Smith Get His Ideas
for the Book of Mormon?

By Sandra Tanner


    One of the claims often made by LDS people is that there was no information on the Indian ruins in Mexico and Guatemala available prior to 1830. Actually, numerous books recounting similar ideas as those in Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon had already been published.

    Many of the books published on the American Indians claimed a possible tie to the lost tribes of Israel. The Book of Mormon follows this idea and claims that the main group in the story is Israelites from Jerusalem. Other ideas found in the Book of Mormon that are also found in books of Smith’s time include: two groups warring against each other, a white group destroyed by war, horses, use of the wheel, mammoth bones, Hebrew writings, Egyptian influence, the use of stone boxes, written records, temples, grand ruins, highways, fortifications, etc. These commonly held theories prepared the way for people to more readily believe the Book of Mormon.

    However, current findings and non-LDS scholars now reject these ideas and see no relationship between the American Indians and Hebrews or the civilization depicted in the Book of Mormon.

    Below is a partial list of books published prior to 1830 dealing with the Indians (condensed from Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, Dan Vogel, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1986, pp. 105-132).

Adair, James, The History of the American Indians, London, 1775.

Boudinot, Elias, A Star in the West; or a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, Trenton, 1816.

Burke, Edmund, An Account of the European Settlements in America, 2 vol. 2nd ed., London, 1758 — many editions including one in 1808.

Cusick, David, Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations, Lewistone, NY, 1827.

Flint, Timothy, Recollections of the Last Ten Years, Passed in Occasional Residences and Journeyings in the Valley of the Mississippi, Boston, 1826.

Haywood, John, The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee, Nashville, 1823.

Humboldt, Alexander, three different books on American Indian; one 4 vol. set was titled Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. Baltimore, 1813.

Imlay, George, A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America, London, 1793.

Israel, Manasseh ben, The Hope of Israel, London, 1652 and 1792.

Juarros, Domingo, A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala, London, 1823.

Loudon, Archibald, A Selection of Some of the Most Interesting Narratives of Outrages Committed by the Indians, in Their Wars with the White People, 2 vols. Carlisle, PA, 1811.

McCulloh, James H., Researches on America; Being an Attempt to Settle Some Points Relative to the Aborigines of America &c., Baltimore, 1817.

Mather, Cotton, India Christiana. A Discourse, Delivered unto the Commissioners, for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians, Boston, 1721.

Mather, Samuel, An Attempt to Shew, that America Must Be Known to the Ancients, Boston, 1773.

Mills, Nicholas, History of Mexico, London, 1824.

Moulton, William, A Concise Extract, from the Sea Journal of William Moulton, Utica, NY, 1804.

Niles, John Milton, A View of South America and Mexico, New York, 1825 (various ed. after that).

Parrish, Elijah, A New System of Modern Geography, Newburyport, MA, 1810.

Poinsett, Joel Roberts, Notes on Mexico, Made in the Autumn of 1822, Philadelphia, 1824.

Priest, Josiah, The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed, Albany, 1825 and 1826.

Rio, Antonio del, Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City, Discovered Near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, London, 1822.

Sewall, Samuel, Phaenomena Quaedam Apocalyptica, Boston, 1697 and 1727.

Smith, Ethan, View of the Hebrews; or the Tribes of Israel in America, Poultney, VT, 1823 and 1825.

Sullivan, James, The History of the District of Main, Boston, 1795.

Thorowgood, Thomas, Jews in America, or , Probabilities That the Americans are of that Race, London, 1652.

Walton, William, Present State of the Spanish Colonies, 2 vols. London, 1810.

Williams, Roger, A Key into the Language of America, Boston, 1827.

Williams, Samuel, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, Burlington, VT, 1809.

Worsley, Israel, A View of the American Indians, London, 1828.

Yates, John and Joseph Moulton, History of the State of New York, 1824.

    The claims of Israelite origins, Hebrew and Egyptian writing, knowledge of the wheel, use of the horse, Freemasonry, a white race destroyed by the Indians, etc., have been refuted by current scholars. But the existence and popularity of so many books making these claims prior to the publishing of the Book of Mormon demonstrates that Smith could have gotten his ideas for the Book of Mormon from sources in his community.

Editor's Note: Mr. Vogel's book is now available online here—
Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon

Also see—
Dan Vogel's Reply to Kevin Christensen


Additional Reading:

American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, edited by Vogel & Metcalf
Answering Mormon Scholars, vol. 1, by J. & S. Tanner
Answering Mormon Scholars, vol. 2, by J. & S. Tanner
Ferguson’s Manuscript Unveiled, by J. & S. Tanner
Creation of the Book of Mormon (The), by L. Petersen
Golden Bible, by M. Lamb
Joseph Smith's Plagiarism of the Bible, by J. & S. Tanner
Maya (The), by M. Coe
Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? by J. & S. Tanner
New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, edited by B. Metcalf
Quest for the Gold Plates, by S. Larson
Studies of the Book of Mormon, by B. H. Roberts
Use of the Bible in the Book of Mormon (The), by M. Marquardt
Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon (The), by Walters


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