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Does BYU Master's Thesis Support Spalding-Rigdon Theory?


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Noel, who posts on this board, has made me aware of a recent BYU Master's thesis that will interest those who like to delve into or discuss the Spalding-Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon authorship.

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:

4.4 The Book of Mormon and Sidney Rigdon

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.

(p. 42)

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

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In summary, the seemingly inconclusive

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?


Based on that quote, I'll stick with the Spirit.

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Your criticism of the sentence length is foursquare on point. Punctuation was always outside the control of everyone but Grandin . . . and subsequent persons involved in subsequent editions.

Weak sauce indeed.

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Your criticism of the sentence length is foursquare on point. Punctuation was always outside the control of everyone but Grandin . . . and subsequent persons involved in subsequent editions.

Weak sauce indeed.

I was about to say, the sentence length thing is highly problematic.

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I previously failed to notice that someone had asked me if I thought the reported study results offered significant support for the Spalding-Rigdon theory. I think it would tend to favor Sidney Rigdon's involvement, but so weakly that it shouldn't particularly sway anyone's belief. Rather, this study should inspire further studies that are better controled and which might offer significant evidence on the question.


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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...First, Spalding was not included in the analysis. ...And...Rigdon
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