Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon?

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Short answer? No.

Long answer? There are too many distinct writing styles in the Book of Mormon to be the work of a single author.

Matt Roper and Paul Fields, who presented at the 2018 Book of Mormon Central Conference earlier this month, used stylometry to answer one of the oldest questions of the Restoration.

Stylometry uses statistics (imagine lots of graphs and charts and something called an “ellipsoid”) to analyze how literary style varies between writers. Stylometry looks at the different words and grammar structures common to an author’s style and the frequency at which those constructions occur in his or her writing.

Roper and Fields wanted to see how well authors could create distinct voices within a single work, so they along with their research team analyzed on two books from four nineteenth-century authors, respectively: Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and James Fenimore Cooper.

From the graph below, we see that these authors were capable of creating a distinction between the narrator’s voices(left) and the character’s voices (right). Roper and Fields then turned their attention to another great work of the nineteenth century: the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon
Courtesy of Book of Mormon Central

In books like Pride and Prejudice and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, authors aren’t managing a lot of different speakers, as much of the novel is narration. Neither are they covering hundreds of years of stories, though the time it takes Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to get together may feel like a century.  The Book of Mormon, however, covers more than a thousand years from 600 BC to 421 AD. And Roper and Fields found 28 distinct voices in the Book of Mormon. The graph below illustrates a few major voices.

Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon
Courtesy of Book of Mormon Central

You probably don’t pay much attention to the inasmuches, the whosoevers, the commas, and the semicolons when you read the Book of Mormon. But you probably pick up on the themes attached to different speakers. Mormon spoke of war, people, and obedience; Nephi spoke of fathers and brothers; and Alma spoke of faith, salvation and the Savior.

“Diversity of style is consistent from page 1 to page 531,” said Fields. 

So imagine Joseph Smith, with his coveted education and literary expertise, juggling 28 speakers with 28 different styles and subject matters and he went on to write the historical fiction that is now the foundation for the Mormon Church.

Can’t imagine it? That’s because it didn’t happen. The Book of Mormon is a literary masterpiece—neither the work of a lone man nor the work of man alone.

For more greatness of evidences, watch this video:

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Anessa studies journalism at Brigham Young University. She speaks four languages: Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, and English. Anessa enjoys traveling, cooking, and daydreaming. She hopes to one day write for Oprah's O Magazine or become her successor. Whichever comes first.