I am not not an advocate of the Spalding-Rigdon theory. I'm one of its critics. But I'd like to raise the issue of whether the analysis presented in this thesis offers significant evidence in the theory's favor. The thesis in question is Brenda F. Ginos, "Parameter Estimation for the Lognormal Distribution," December 2009:
Turning to the object of the paper written by Schaalje et al. (2009), recent speculation
has been made by Jockers, Witten, and Criddle (2008) that the majority of the chapters of
the Book of Mormon were written either by Sidney Rigdon or Solomon Spalding. We can
see the estimated density of sentence lengths for the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon
text (with punctuation inserted by the printer, E.B. Grandin) compared to the estimated
densities of both the compilation of letters written by Sidney Rigdon and the revelations of
Sidney Rigdon in Figure 4.3; the parameter estimates may be found in Table 4.4. It may
be noticed that the estimated densities of all three texts are very similar, suggesting similar
authorship under Yule's theories; determining whether a significant difference is present,
however, is beyond the scope of this paper.
4.5 The Book of Mormon and Ancient Authors
Assuming that the Book of Mormon is scripture written by several ancient authors, an
idea which is contrary to the declarations made by Jockers et al. (2008), a brief examination
follows of the densities of sentence lengths of a few of these authors. First, we look at the
writings of the prophet Nephi, found in the Books of First and Second Nephi, and compare
them with those writings of the prophet Alma, found in the Book of Alma. In Figure 4.4
and Table 4.5, we find the density and parameter estimates for these two texts. A definite
difference between the two density curves in Figure 4.4 may be seen, suggesting that two
different authors truly are present and that the Book of Mormon is actually written by
multiple authors rather than just one.
Taking another example from the Book of Mormon, we look at the difference between
the writings of the prophets Mormon and Moroni, found in the Book of Mormon, Words
of Mormon, and Book of Moroni texts. In Figure 4.5, we may once again notice that two
separate authors appear to be present. Parameter estimates of these texts are given in Table
4.6. Thus, although Figure 4.3 suggests that the Book of Mormon was written by Sidney
Rigdon, there is alternative evidence suggested by Figures 4.4 and 4.5 and Tables 4.5 and 4.6 that multiple authors are involved in the Book of Mormon.
Thus, the analysis has found an apparent stylistic match between Sidney Rigdon’s letters and revelations and the text of the Book of Mormon. The author argues that this does not indicate that Rigdon was the actual author since multiple authors appear to be involved, a finding she suggests supports ancient authorship. (In her analysis, 1 Nephi and Alma differ from one another, as do Mormon-Words of Mormon and Moroni.)
However, the author fails to note that Spalding-Rigdon theorists also posit multiple authorship; so the proffered analysis might be taken as significant evidence in favor of this theory.
I think the analysis does tend to favor Spalding-Rigdon theory, or some variant thereof, but perhaps only weakly.
The problems I see with using Ginos's analysis in favor of the Spalding-Rigdon theory are as follows:
First, Spalding was not included in the analysis. And from the fact that Rigdon’s style appears to match that of the Book of Mormon on the dimension studied (sentence length), with multiple authorial styles appearing to be present, it does not follow that the variant style(s) would match that of Spalding. This could only be determined by further analysis.
Second, if I understand correctly, the analysis reported here found a close match between Sidney Rigdon’s style and the style of the Book of Mormon as a whole, while also finding that this whole appeared to be comprised of multiple styles. In this case, the study’s support for Spalding-Rigdon theory would be greatly reduced: the composite style of the whole work should, on that theory, represent a blend of Spalding’s and Rigdon’s respective styles, rather than precisely matching Rigdon’s own individual sentence-length patterns.
Third, a measure of “sentence lengths” for an unpunctuated book of rambling style may be inherently problematic. One would want to know more about how sentence lengths were determined.
Fourth, it should be noted that Yule's author-attribution theories, on which the Rigdon-BoM match is found, are in question and are employed by Ginos only tentatively:
findings concerning whether Yule's theories
are true supports the idea that more than one method should be used simultaneously in
determining authorship. One such method, for example, might be to examine the frequency
of the use of noncontextual words within a document. Noncontextual words are those which
act as the support of a sentence, providing structure and
flow while connecting contextual
words. They are frequently used in analyses to determine authorship because they are not
biased or limited by the topic under discussion in a written document. Furthermore, it may
be argued that frequency of such noncontextual words may be more distinguishable from
author to author than sentence lengths.
What do you think? Does this study provide significant evidence for the Spalding-Rigdon theory...or not?