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Monday, October 03, 2005

The Hilton Wordprint Study of the Book of Mormon

I was pleased to find a copy of John Hilton's article, "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship" on the Web, as printed in BYU Studies, 30 (Summer 1990):89-108. Since it's on a BYU site, I'm assuming that it's there with permission. The article is essentially the same as Chapter 9 of one of my favorite books, Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, ed. by Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997), pp. 225-253.

Hilton's work was based on the primitive Book of Mormon text obtained from the printer's manuscript, the 1830 printed text, available portions of the original manuscript, and the first edition printed by Wilford C. Wood. Editors prepared a composite file based on the oldest sections available to make the best possible primitive text that they could. In the study, quotations from KJV passages were excluded so that the analysis would be based on the texts allegedly created by Nephi, Alma, and others.

His project included cooperation with non-LDS people to help craft a solid statistical approach to compare texts of various authors.

The conclusions are noteworthy. It is highly probable that the authors of text ascribed to Nephi and Alma were two different people, and these two people are very unlikely to include any of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, or Solomon Spaulding. Critics are encouraged to reproduce the work or to critique what they have written.

Oh, there will be instant fame and glory to the first commenter who can quote the sentence or two in Hilton's article and give the page number that mentions the most beautiful and amazing woman in Wisconsin. (And the Midwest, and perhaps even all of North America . . . . OK, let's be honest: the world!)

2012 Update: Since publication of Hilton's study, there have been efforts to refute his conclusions and show that Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon may have been the authors of the Book of Mormon. For details on what these authors did and what serious errors affect their work, and for the latest contribution on wordprint analysis, see "Stylometric Analyses of the Book of Mormon: A Short History" by G. Bruce Schaalje, Matthew Roper, and Paul Fields, Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, vol. 21, no. 1 (2012), pp. 28-45. There is strong evidence that Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon, and neither was Sidney Rigdon nor Oliver Cowdery. Who then, was the author? Why, Somebody Else, of course. Or several somebodies.

28 comments:

Walter said...

"A recent study (1986) that further verfied the usefulness of Morton's word-pattern ratios over the simple noncontextual word-use rate is the methodical work of Kendra L. Lindsay."

Heck with the fame and glory. I want apples.

Samuel said...

Good article and as Dr. Hilton says, 7 or more rejections and the compared texts are "very likely not written by the same author." Unfortunately, the chart that shows the (highest) number of rejections for the compared authors is missing. They are as follows:

Nephi vs. Nephi-5
Alma vs. Alma-3
Smith vs. Smith-2
Cowdery vs. Cowdery-1
Spaulding vs. Spaulding-2
Nephi vs. Alma-10
Smith vs. Nephi-12
Smith vs. Alma-7
Cowdery vs. Nephi-14
Cowdery vs. Alma-9
Spaulding vs. Nephi-15
Spaulding vs. Alma-12

In other words, the results are as expected if the Book of Mormon is what it says it is...a book written by multiple authors (at least two) and that Smith, Cowdery, and Spaulding were most likely not the authors.

Michael A. Cleverly said...

Walter has the honor of the first post, but he failed to mention the page numbers. :-) The quote is from page 5, the endnote references (8) is found on page 15.

Mormanity said...

Apples for Walter Reade of Appleton, Wisconsin, to be delivered tomorrow, with just a touch of fame thrown in. Apple-free fame and glory for Michael Cleverly. (And thanks again for the book, Michael! I did keep the envelop after all, so I've got your address. Many thanks.)

Mark T. said...

Samuel said: "In other words, the results are as expected if the Book of Mormon is what it says it is...a book written by multiple authors (at least two) and that Smith, Cowdery, and Spaulding were most likely not the authors."

I'm certainly convinced. Who better to come to that conclusion than a Mormon scientist who has devoted his life to the subject.

Samuel said...

Mark,

I reject the premise that if a scientist is LDS, any study dealing with his religion in which he is involved is not to be trusted (in fact the whole idea is insulting.)

Did you even read the study? In case you missed it, Dr. Hilton was one of several scientists involved in the project and the "major" LDS contributor (I assume that means there were other members of the Church involved, but they had little direct impact in the study.) In fact, on the top of page six, we discover he had quite a bit of skepticism in the project and that his fellow scientists were "agnostic and Jewish."

I mean after 10,000 hours and 7 years working on this project, you would think that all that effort would at the very least deserve careful analysis and thought rather than unimpressive and automatic dismissal. You would think that with the time and energy that anti-mormons devote to the DNA studies which prove nothing about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, that they would at least be willing to read this study before commenting.

Kcowolf said...

I find it interesting that some people will reject any member of the Church who presents evidence that the Book of Mormon is true, and yet will agree without complaint with anyone who is NOT a member of the Church saying that it is false.

Honestly. How many people say, "Well, that person isn't a Mormon, so obviously he would say the book isn't true, so his opinion isn't worth squat"? And yet how many say, "Well, that person is a Mormon, so obviously he would say the book is true, so his opinion isn't worth squat."

There's going to be "evidence" on all sides of the coin. People looking for evidence of its truthfulness will find it. It couldn't have been written by Joseph Smith alone. A young man without much formal education writing a complex book about two distinct civilizations, including Hebraisms he knew nothing about (and which may not have been known until after his death, such as the chiasmus in Alma 36), and which has not yet been sucessfully disproven to everyone's satisfaction.

On the other hand, those who want to reject the book will find reasons for doing so, including literal interpretations of certain passages of the Bible (including Revelations 22) and apparent contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

On my mission I learned that you can quote (almost) all of Jeff's entire page of evidences for the Book of Mormon and yet people will reject it.

There is one sure way to know if the Book of Mormon is true or not. It's found in Moroni 10:3-5 and the Introduction of the Book of Mormon. It's as simple as that. After that, any "evidence" for or against the Book of Mormon can then be taken in its correct context.

Sir Jon said...

Earlier in this blog, Mark T. said - "Who better to come to that conclusion than a Mormon scientist who has devoted his life to the subject."

I assumed that he had read the article, but maybe he skipped the part that explains the group consisted of agnositc and Jewish professors who wanted to use the same method for other writings. Yes, a Mormon was involved. It's strange how the Mormon invalidates the results, and yet the agnostics and Jews involved don't validate the results.

Let's not let prejudice cloud our logic.

Sir Jon

Anonymous said...

What I find odd about this is that he doesn't tell us the names of these agnostic Jewish members of the so-called "Berkley group." He (along with Jeff and Samuel) use their alleged non-LDS religion to give credibility to his findings, but never tells us what their names are.

He also never mentioned whether "the Berkley Group" with its unnamed non-LDS scientists published their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. I infer from that that the answer is no. I also infer from that that the reason isn't because they didn't try--it is because their science is junk.

Am I wrong? Who are the non-LDS research partners? Was their work published in a peer-reviewed journal? If not, why not?

Samuel said...

I didn't cite the fact that there were non-LDS people involved in the study as a way to establish credibility; I believe the study speaks pretty well for itself in that regard. I brought it up because a poster acted as if John Hilton was the only person involved and since he is LDS, the study cannot be trusted. This is like rejecting the Tanner's books because they had no LDS contributors to them (there are a lot more logical ways to discredit their works.) I guess if we dont know the names of the alleged "non-LDS scientists," they didn't exist and the study falls on the face.

Great inferences as well; getting from "this was not published in a 'peer review' journal" ergo the science behind the article is "junk." Very handy.

Any DNA articles out there that "disprove" the Book of Mormon that were not published in a "peer review journal?" Guess we can reject them for using "junk science."

Imagine the opposite-an article about a wordprint study undertaken by non-LDS members comes out in a non-peer review journal. What if that study showed Joseph Smith was the author of the BoM? Would you be so insistent that it be placed in a "peer review" journal or show concern that only non-LDS scientists were involved? I doubt it.

This study was undertaken by scientists who wanted to see if the 1980 wordprint study was accurate. I know it is hard to believe the article, but it appears the Berkeley scientists were the ones initially interested and John Hilton "joined" with them. In fact, the article states they did not accept certain parts of the original study and were basically redoing it using new and more sophisticated methods. Sounds like "peer review" to me, whether it was published in such a journal or not.

Anonymous said...

"I guess if we dont know the names of the alleged "non-LDS scientists," they didn't exist and the study falls on the face."

No. Since we don't know their names we also don't know their qualifications. Nor can we verify if Hilton is representing their views accurately.

Have you read the D. James Craft reexamanination of wordprint studies? I'm skeptical of this entire notion. As Dr. Bailey from the University of Michigan was quoted in Sunstone, "The term 'wordprint' is an unfortunate one since it reminds people of fingerprints. We know that fingerprints are valid; voiceprints are somewhat dubious; and we're not sure if "wordprints" even exist."

I find Hilton's claims highly dubious. Not because they support the Book of Mormon, but rather becasue it is a terrible abuse of Statistics.

That's my view at least. Wanting to challenge my views, I've spent a couple hours searching the web for the names of these non-LDS scientisits so I could ask them if Hilton represented their views acurately, and so I could talk to them about the validity of the study's assumptions.

I have a feeling that either Hilton overstated their opinions or that they just aren't very good statiticians.

Samuel said...

"I have a feeling that either Hilton overstated their opinions or that they just aren't very good statiticians."

You say you wanted to challenge your views. You made the effort on searching the web for the names of the researchers. You spend a couple of hours. I assume you found nothing, and the end result was the above. "I have a feeling" you already had the end result in mind.

As well the statement above is a poor inference, but even if we accept it as valid, would you then say that if we find that if Hilton did not overstate their opinions (in fact states them completely accurately) and they are excellent, completely qualified statisticians, then the study is true? If not then, what is the conclusion you want us to draw from the above?

Here is a series of inferences for you: One would assume that the people involved in the study with John Hilton were aware that Hilton was LDS. One would assume that others in their "peer group" at Berkeley and elsewhere would be aware that they were working on such a project. One would assume that since they were reviewing the work of the 1980 study and their efforts would be of interest to the academic community, their work would be released in some way to the public (incidentally, most of the criticism of the 1980 study came from Mormon circles, even though it supported the LDS view of the BoM.) Finally, with academic ego being what it is, as well as academic integrity, one would assume they would have called John Hilton to task if he had misrepresented them in any way. That I am sure you would have found on your web search (on an anti-mormon website.)

Wordprint analysis may be flawed as you say. I would assume you are equally critical of the incredibly inept use of DNA to "disprove" the Book of Mormon. Luckily, we have a great deal more evidence to rely on the BoM, internally and externally.

In my own search for the members of the Berkeley group, I came across this sad bit of news:

http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=jbms&id=219

Daniel Peterson said...

I don't have the references ready to hand, but there was a debate in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society about five years ago (perhaps somewhat more) between a critic of wordprint analyses of the Book of Mormon, David Holmes, and, writing in a subsequent issue, a believing Latter-day Saint statistician named G. Bruce Schaalje. In my view (for what it's worth), and, from what he has told me, clearly in his, Dr. Schaalje appears to have won that debate rather decisively.

It doesn't get more "peer-reviewed" than the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

Samuel said...

One other thing...I am unable to find any reference to "D. James Craft." I found nothing on google by that name. I assumed you might have meant "Dr. James Craft" and a searching google with "Dr. James Craft" plus "word" turned up 4 hits: 2 of a business admin professor, 1 of a dentist, and 1 of a protestant minister. Not sure if any of these are him. Could you please give me page where I might read the study or some more info on it? Thank you.

Daniel Peterson said...

D. James Croft wrote a Sunstone article critical of the early Larsen and Rencher wordprint study. I believe that he taught business management, or something of the sort, at the University of Utah.

Larsen and Rencher did not, I'm told, feel that Croft's critique had much merit. In any event, the subsequent "Berkeley Group" study in which John Hilton was involved was designed, among other things, with Croft's critique in mind.

Samuel said...

Wait...sorry but I dont want to misunderstand. Are you saying that Dr. Croft wrote his article about the 1980 study and not the Hilton study?

Daniel Peterson said...

That's correct. As I recall -- and I may be wrong, but don't think so -- he was writing about the earlier study, not the later "Berkeley Group" study.

Unfortunately, I don't have any of the relevant bibliographical information ready to hand just now, and it's been quite a while since I looked at any of this.

Samuel said...

Thank you very much. Your insight and knowledge is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Royal Statistical Society reference, Daniel. I’ll see if I can find it.

Has anybody done a word print study to see of the Jesus speaking 3 Nephi is the same Jesus that speaks in the D&C? If it showed they had different wordprints, would you guys conclude that the Jesus of the D&C isn't the Jesus of the BoM?

My curiosity on this is piqued. If a 19th Century writer wrote some fiction in quasi-KJV speak, would we really expect it to have the same frequencies of A(fws)/# etc. that his 19th Century prose used?

My concern with this goes beyond merely how many sentences begin with “and it came to pass.” Hilton said “if the author consciously imposes an external structure, the free flow of the author’s wordprint pattern is modified, and accurate wordprint measurements become more difficult to obtain.” How much is the wordprint pattern modified by imposing the external structure of KJV-speak rather than the honest free flow of the author’s own language?

Hilton said that the paper describing the results of their 10,000 hours of work was described in the paper “Hilton and Jenkins, ‘On Maximizing Author Identification.’” (footnote 12) Does anybody know the complete reference for this paper and/or where it can be located?

Daniel Peterson said...

It was published in BYU Studies back in 1990. I found a PDF format version of it by googling on

< Hilton Jenkins "On Maximizing Author Identification" >

Anonymous said...

Hilton said that the paper describing the results of their 10,000 hours of work was described in the paper “Hilton and Jenkins, ‘On Maximizing Author Identification.’” (footnote 12) Does anybody know the complete reference for this paper and/or where it can be located?

The complete reference is located in footnote 2. It's a paper published by FARMS in 1987.

Anonymous said...

Another article:

Comparative Power of Three Author-Attribution Techniques for Differentiating Authors (Schaalje, Hilton, Archer)
-----------

The exchange between Larsen/Rencher and Croft in Sunstone can be read here.

Daniel Peterson said...

Which demonstrates that Croft's response was to the Larsen/Rencher piece rather than to the "Berkeley Group." John Hilton and his associates did their work (or, at least, published it) well after Croft's 1981 Sunstone review.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, that fact is quite clear once you read the 1990 BYU Studies article.

Samuel said...

"Well, yes, that fact is quite clear once you read the 1990 BYU Studies article."

Hehe, guess I missed it. Part of what threw me, was that mentioning Croft's article appeared to be in direct confrontation to Hilton' study (by quoting about the validity of Hilton and his study before and after the Croft mention.)

In other words, it made it seem that the Croft "reexamination" was undertaken after the Hilton study and quoted to disporve the validity of the Hilton study. Maybe it was just my reading of it. But since the Hilton study corrected many of the errors of the 1980 study, even to the point of consulting with Dr. Croft, it (the Croft reexamination) seems a very invalid point to raise.

Dan said...

At 12:29 PM, October 05, 2005, Anonymous said..."Has anybody done a word print study to see of the Jesus speaking 3 Nephi is the same Jesus that speaks in the D&C? If it showed they had different wordprints, would you guys conclude that the Jesus of the D&C isn't the Jesus of the BoM?"
I am not aware of one having been done; however, in 1982, Robert L. Hamson published "The Signature Of God" detailing his wordprint study comparing the resurrected Jesus' words in St. John's Revelation with several Sections of the Doctrine & Covenants, including Section 128 (a letter by Joseph Smith); all of the sections tested matched the Revelation quotes as being the same person speaking, except for 128, which did NOT match. I just checked amazon and several copies of the book are for sale there.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Peterson is right--David Croft's article appeared in the Sunstone in 1981. It was a critique of the Larsen and Rencher study, not of the later Hilton study by the Berkeley group.

Steve Murphy said...

The link to John Hilton paper is broken but can now be found here.