THE LDS RESTORATIONIST MOVEMENT,
INCLUDING THE MORMON CHURCHES
Conflicting results of computer
analyses of the Book of Mormon
Computer analysis of the Book of Mormon:
At least three computer analyses have been completed to date in an effort to
determine who wrote the Book of Mormon, and whether it was a single individual
or a group.
1979 study by Mormon researchers indicates multiple authors:
Statisticians at Brigham Young University completed a computer
analysis of the Book of Mormon.
"Three different types of 'wordprints' or stylometry were used in
examining the authors of the Book of Mormon: (1) frequency of letters, (2)
frequency of commonly occurring non-contextual words, (3) frequency of
rarely occurring noncontextual words. Three types of statistical methods
will be used with this data: Multivariate Analysis of Variance
(MANOVA)Cluster Analysis, and Discriminant or Classification Analysis. ...
Writing of Joseph Smith and his contemporaries was also included. Ninety
blocks of words were used from Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery,
Parley P. Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, and Solomon Spaulding."
They concluded that the book was written by
at least 24 individual authors, apparently including God and the author of the
book of Isaiah. That would support the belief that the book was
definitely not written by Joseph Smith or by any other single individual
who lived in the 1830s.
A 1979 article in the Provo Herald allegedly stated:
"Statisticians, using modern computer techniques to digest and
analyze the Book of Mormon word by word, are debunking the 150-year-old
claims that the book is the work of just one man."
"Utilizing a computer to identify 'wordprints' or word use patterns
that scientifically differentiate between individual writing styles,
researchers have uncovered what they claim is conclusive evidence that
the Book of Mormon is the work of many authors."
"This is in direct contradiction to critics who claim the book is a
fictional work written in the 1820s by Joseph Smith, the prophet-founder
of the LDS Church, or by Solomon Spalding, ..."
"The research was done by Dr. Alvin C. Rencher, a professor of
statistics at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Wayne A. Larsen,
a statistician for the Eyring Research Center, both located in
"'The overwhelming evidence given here should permanently lay to rest
the alternative theories that Joseph Smith or Solomon Spalding wrote the
Book of Mormon,' a report on the study says. ..."
"Wordprint comparisons between the Book of Mormon and the known 19th
century writings of Joseph Smith and Mr. Spalding show conclusively that
neither of these persons, authored the book, the scientists say."
"In fact, their research indicates that the book was authored by at
least 24 different writers, and possibly more, whose styles bear no
resemblance to that of Joseph Smith, Mr. Spalding or other 19th century
writers whom they examined. ..."
"One of the tests went so far as to indicate that 'odds against a
single author exceeded 100 billion to one,' the statisticians noted in
"Are the conclusions of the study final? 'I don't think the last word
is in yet,' Dr. Rencher says. But he also says he is confident the
research is valid and the statistical methods used in the study are
"Wordprints are developed by feeding passages of 1,000 word minimum
for each author into a computer and analyzing the frequency of what Dr.
Rencher calls 'non-contextual words' such as and, for, it, as, be and
"Different authors develop different patterns in the frequency of use of
such words--patterns not related to the context of the material but
constant throughout the individual's writing.
"That makes the wordprint a useful tool for identification of
authorship, much like a fingerprint or voiceprint can be used to
identify an individual, Dr. Bencher said." 1
David I. Holmes, a Senior Lecturer in Statistics at Bristol Polytechnic,
pointed out a very serious deficiency in this study which throws very serious
doubt on its validity:
"The most impressive statistical analysis carried out on the Book of
Mormon is that undertaken by Larsen, Rencher and Layton. ... The authors
conclude that their results all strongly support multiple authorship of the
Book of Mormon yet their whole case rests on the assumption that the
frequency of occurrence of non-contextual function words is a stylistic
discriminator. The article claims that there is no resemblance between the
authors of the Book of Mormon and the nineteenth century authors sampled,
but the case rests on usage of words such as 'unto, behold, yea, forth,
verily, lest and nay' which would all naturally be prominent in
an archaic biblical-type style, but could hardly be expected to occur with
the same frequency elsewhere, even in the early nineteenth century.
Subsequent British analysis for the Association for History and Computing
A similar multivariate analysis technique conducted by a British non-Mormon,
David I. Holmes. 3 He concluded that the author of Doctrine and Covenants
and of The Book of Mormon was the same person, Joseph Smith.
|14 large blocks of text from the Book of Mormon, totaling 120,000
|Documents written or dictated by Joseph Smith between 1828 and 1833.|
|Three blocks of about 10,000 words from the early revelations in the
Doctrine and Covenants,|
|Text from the book of Isaiah and |
|Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham. |
"... the aim of my research is to complement historical and scientific
studies into the authenticity of the Book of Mormon by subjecting it and
related Mormon scripture to stylometric analysis. In this paper it is
understood that a particularly effective measure for purposes of
discrimination between writers is the vocabulary richness of a text....
"We may summarize by noting that the analyses have shown that the Joseph
Smith and Isaiah samples form distinct and separate clusters, whereas all
other samples tend to cluster together...."
"The formation of the clustering observed here, provides evidence of the
utility of the multivariate technique advocated by this study. ..."
"An important discovery is the fact that the samples of writings from the
various prophets who purportedly wrote the Book of Mormon
do not form prophet-by-prophet clusters.
The dendrogram in Figure 2 shows that only the two samples from Alma display
internal homogeneity... There appears to be no real difference between
Alma's vocabulary richness and Mormon's vocabulary richness within the Book
of Alma, a conclusion in direct contradiction to the findings of Larsen and
the Brigham Young University team. This study
has not found, therefore, any evidence of
multiple authorship within the Book of Mormon itself. Variation
within samples from the same prophet is generally as great as any variation
between the prophets themselves.
"Two of the three 'revelations' samples are also
indistinguishable from the Book of Mormon
prophets. ... The dendrograms and principal components plots place
the Book of Abraham text (AB) firmly in the main 'prophet' cluster, its
nearest neighbor being sample R1 from Moroni. In terms of vocabulary
richness, clearly the Book of Abraham is indistinguishable from the Book of
Mormon prophets and from samples D2 and D3 of Joseph Smith's revelations....
"It is my conclusion, from the results of this research and the
supporting historical evidence, that the Book of Mormon sprang from
the 'prophetic voice' of Joseph Smith
himself, as did his revelations and the text of the Book of
Abraham. We have seen that the style of his 'prophetic voice' as evidenced
by the main cluster of the textual samples studied, differs from the style
of his personal writings or dictations of a personal nature."
An informal analysis by Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Joseph Smith's writing style:
and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, an evangelical group
known for its intense opposition to and criticism of the LDS Church, performed their own
brief computer study. 2 They searched through the Book of
Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price and concluded that they "were all the product of one mind", Joseph Smith.
They quote Mormon scholar Elinore H. Partridge who commented
on Joseph Smith's style of writing:
"Joseph Smith's writing is characteristically marked by series of related
ideas joined by simple conjunctions: and, but, for. In
his handwritten manuscripts, he used neither punctuation nor capitalization
as sentence markers. When his writing has been edited, or when someone else
wrote words which he dictated, the result is an unusually large number of
sentences beginning with for, and, or but."
The Tanners selected the Book of Alma, Chapter 2, at random. They found that
62% of the sentences begin with for, and or but.
Next, they analyzed Smith's account of the First Vision from "Joseph
Smith's 1832-34 Diary." They found that 61% of the sentences
tested began with one of these three words.
Related essay on this web site:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Quoted in: Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "BYU Computer Study," The Salt Lake
City Messenger, #41, 1979-DEC. Online at:
http://www.xmission.com/ We were unable to locate the original quote from
the Provo Herald.
- "Salt Lake City Messenger,"
Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Issue 84, 1993-April, P. 9-10, at:
- D.I. Holmes, "A Multivariate Technique for Authorship Attribution and its Application
to the Analysis of Mormon Scripture and Related Texts," History and Computing,
Vol. 3, No. 1, 1991, Pages 14, 20-21.
- Elinore H. Partridge, "Characteristics of Joseph Smith's
Style and Notes on the Authorship of the Lectures on Faith," Task Papers in LDS
History, # 14, 1976-DEC, Pages 1 & 2.
- Wayne A. Larsen and Alvin C. Rencher, "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An
Analysis of Wordprints," in Noel B. Reynolds, Ed. "Book of Mormon
Authorship," Bookcraft, (1982).
- "Stylemetry Authorship Analysis," at:
Copyright © 1997 to 2006 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-NOV-14
Author: B.A. Robinson