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Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon$
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Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190221928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190221928.001.0001

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Nephites and Israelites

Nephites and Israelites

The Book of Mormon and the Hebraic Indian Theory

(p.277) 11 Nephites and Israelites
Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon

Elizabeth Fenton

Oxford University Press

This essay reads The Book of Mormon within the context of a popular early American discourse: the Hebraic Indian theory. Theories about the origins of Native peoples emerged as soon as Europeans realized that Columbus had not made port in Southeast Asia, and one hypothesis held that indigenous Americans descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. This theory possessed an elegance that others lacked, as it explained the origin of Americans and solved the riddle of the location of the tribes. For two centuries, English and Anglo-American writers sought to prove that Europeans had located Israel in the Americas. Although it posits a biblical origin for America, The Book of Mormon rejects the lost tribes theory. This essay contends that, through its revisions of the Hebraic Indian theory, The Book of Mormon disrupts its own chronology and resists the collapsing of sacred and national histories into a uniform line.

Keywords:   The Book of Mormon, eschatology, Hebraic Indian theory, indigeneity, Israelites, lost tribes of Israel, Jaredites, Native Americans, Nephites, millennium

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