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Wordprint Studies (Part 5 of 6)

Wordprint or stylometry studies try to identify the author of a text. Studies have tried to prove ancient as well as modern authorship. What does Brian Hales think of these studies? Is there a gap in Book of Mormon authorship?

GT:  Well, I know there’s been a lot of wordprint studies trying to identify [a specific author.] There was the Stanford study that said, “Oh, see, Solomon Spalding was the real author.”  Whereas, then BYU guys used the same methodology, but they included a “none of the above,” and, I think, pretty much blew the Stanford guys out of the water on that. But it seems to me, and I don’t know how you feel about word print studies. There are a lot of BYU guys that say, “Well, there’s 30 authors. We can show there’s 30 different authors of the Book of Mormon.” Then, you have the Stanford guys who are like, “No, it’s Solomon Spalding.” Do you have any point of view on word print studies?

Brian:  Well, they call them stylometrics, and I only include four, mostly because as I’m reading those four authors, I can even detect some differences that a person making up the text would have to take into account. There are two studies that, as you said, are saying it was written by Joseph or by Spalding or by Rigdon. Then, there are studies by Church members that show different authors, and it couldn’t be Joseph. I don’t put a lot of stock into it. But again, I can tell a difference of how Nephi is writing in his books versus how Mormon is compiling in his sections.

GT: I will just say if this was something that was a valid science, I think the FBI would have done that for Mark Hofmann.

Brian:  (Chuckling) well, and maybe you know, but I heard. Who was it? Mark Hofmann had paid somebody $5,000 to try to break down the sentence structure of the Book of Mormon, and he’d made hundreds and hundreds of three by five cards that were catalogued. Who was that?

GT:  That was Brent Ashworth.

Brian:  Brent, and so you can see that just to try to imitate 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, the amount of work Mark Hofmann was going to go to, the best forger of this era. So, I think he’s showing us this wouldn’t have been easy to do in the first place, let alone try to imitate it in the second place, as Hofmann was maybe planning to do, because he could do Martin Harris’ handwriting. But, creating those actual sentences is a whole ‘nother ballgame, rather than just writing.

Check out our conversation….

Is it possible to figure out the author of a text via wordprint studies?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Brian!

575: What Skills Were Needed to Write Book of Mormon?

574: Automatic Writing/Bill Davis’s “Visions of Seer Stone”

573: Looking at Spaulding & Collaborator Theories

572: Reviewing Polygamy Criticisms