Book of Mormon Wordprint Analysis
Here is what will probably be the first of several Book of Mormon Wordprint Analysis posts, based on a database I put together and curiosity I’ve had for many years about “voices” in the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon computer studies are fascinating to me, and I believe in the future they will be key to understanding Book of Mormon origins.
1. I excluded Isaiah and Malachi portions.
2. Each verse is a record across the bottom axis, ie 6006 non-Isaiah verses in BOM.
3. The y-axis represents: the total count of the specified phrase / total word count in the verse, smoothed by 21 records. ie the calculation for the word “the” for Alma 16:11 (record #1271 on the x-axis) would be the total instances of the word “the” for the 10 verses prior, the verse, and 10 verses after, from Alma 16:1 – Alma 16:21, divided by the total words in those 21 verses. Or 123/1007 = 0.1221. Why? I played around with it until I felt like it was enough of a smoothing to show the trend, but not too much to identify the location of the hits and the inflection points.
4. Selection of phrases: I selected phrases 1) from prior Wordprint studies 2) where analysis showed there was something distinct about the data distribution which might give insight into authorship.
I chose to order these after the priority of Mosiah theory that shows that Joseph Smith, after losing the 116 pages, kept going starting with Mosiah, and then went back after finishing Moroni, and started over with 1 Nephi.
Disclaimer and warning: a) I’m just a hobbyist that’s good with databases but not strong enough in statistics to try any actual statistical studies. b) I have a deep love and wonder for the power of the Book of Mormon in its doctrine, ability to inspire, and complexity, but I do not believe it is an ancient record. My best explanation for the Book of Mormon is that it is a book length midrash commentary of the Bible by Joseph Smith through his interaction with the divine, as described by Greg Prince. c) For many reasons (mostly that the book seems too complex for Joseph to have written himself) I’m enamored with the idea that Joseph Smith took a book like what is theorized in the Spaulding-Rigdon theory, as the base of the Book of Mormon, but I fully acknowledge the implausibility of such theories. d) I’m a data lover, and love to analyze and let data speak for itself, but I admit my findings might be biased by my preconceptions, so I invite others to look at this same data to look for patterns and provide theories.
This is what I see in the data:
1. Similar to the Larsen Rencher BYU study in 1982, I see what appears to be distinct voices in the Book of Mormon. I see the Mosiah-Alma chapters as distinct from Nephi. And I see Moroni’s voice having crossover to both Nephi and the prior large plates voice, similar to what is shown in this graphic from their study.
2. Similar to what Brent Metcalfe showed and Chris Smith illustrated in this graphic, I believe there’s a certain type of trend that goes across voices that simply trends with the Book of Mormon translation period start to end.
3. The largest difference is small plates vs large plates.
- part of it obvious to context, I vs he/they or past tense vs present/future tense
- but also some uniqueness in vocabulary and phrases
4. It appears there is very strong cohesiveness from Mosiah to Alma, which starts to erode a little starting with Helaman.
5. Obvious distinctiveness in the war chapters with war vocabulary and less references to God.
6. Helaman to 3 Nephi 11, sometimes correlating to the prior Mos-Alma but sometimes breaking off with a different trend.
7. Messiness in the portions 3 Nephi 11 to Ether and Ether to the end, sometimes looking unique, sometimes correlating to the rest of the large plates.
8. More analysis is needed here, but it seems there are three distinct groupings within the small plates: from 1 Nephi 1 to 1 Nephi 13, from 1 Nephi 14 to Jacob 4, from Jacob 5 to the end of the small plates. This could be a lot of things: for example Nephi voice vs Jacob voice or narrative of the beginning part of Nephi compared to prophesying and sermons of the last portion of Nephi.
9. There’s distinct crossover between Moroni’s voice and Nephi’s voice, especially comparing Nephi’s last portion to Moroni.
The orange lines coincide with 1. Helaman 1, 2. 3 Nephi 11, 3. Ether 1, 4. 1 Nephi 1, 5. 1 Nephi 13, 6. Jacob 5.
did: this chart shows the distribution of the word “did”, smoothed per the explanation above, starting with Mosiah 1 going to the end of the book, restarting with 1 Nephi and going through Words of Mormon.
restating this because it will be very confusing if you miss this: I chose to order these after the priority of Mosiah theory that shows that Joseph Smith, after losing the 116 pages, kept going starting with Mosiah, and then went back after finishing Moroni, and started over with 1 Nephi.
and now behold:
now I say:
came to pass:
he caused that:
speak unto you:
The next two are important ones.
First. “Did X”. Here I took all the did x verbs, ie did go, did sleep, did eat, did come. This Old English phrase is one of the key findings Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack have found in their studies.
Second. “more part”. Note on this: I’m not completely sure, but I think the two instances used in 1 Nephi 9 seem to be inconsistently applied. ie usually “more part” means “the majority”, but in this case it means “mainly”. Which would be fascinating, if true, implying possibly that Joseph copied a phrase he learned from the large plates, but did so inconsistently.
I mentioned my conclusions first. Without statistical validation, none of this is terribly valuable, but I think there’s some good stuff here for others to take the ball and run with it.