Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Opening Roper's Black Box

I wrote a complete interlinear peer review of the Roper/Fields article on stylometry that I'll post in a few days, but first, I'm going to post a series of shorter comments about the issue. In my view, their work is not credible for several reasons that I'll explain.

To quote Earl Wunderli, who had his own dealings with Roper/Fields, "Roper et al. may well have thought their statistical analysis superseded all other evidence, but I find they mislead more than enlighten." See Wunderli's extended analysis here.

Today, I'm posting the end product of their work. Readers can decide if they want to believe their own lying eyes, as the expression goes, or the Roper/Fields conclusions. (Hint: by the end of my posts, you'll believe your own eyes, not the Roper/Fields spin.)

The center column in this table shows the 900 words of commentary in the three Times and Seasons articles. The left column contains the holographic writings of Joseph Smith that Roper/Fields claim they used for their stylometry analysis. The right column contains the published writings of Benjamin Winchester that Roper/Fields claim they used for their stylometry analysis. In both cases, I am showing only the respective works from 1841-1843, the time frame immediately surrounding the 1842 articles. (Expanding the time frame for Joseph's holographic writings doesn't make a difference; he never once wrote a single word about Stephens or Central America, nor did he ever write about extracts. By contrast, Winchester's writings are replete with extracts from scriptures and historical works.)

Here I am not making any stylometric or analytical comparisons. That will come in subsequent posts. For now, I want readers to see what we're dealing with in terms of the texts themselves.

The author of the 900 words (according to Roper)
The 900 words (Sep/Oct 1842)
Not the author of the 900 words (according to Roper)
Below are all the holographic writings of Joseph Smith from 1841-1843. These are taken from Roper’s database. According to Roper/Fields, these writings are so close to the 900 words that Joseph is the only possible author of the 900 words.  
Below are the 900 words, consisting of three separate editorials published in the Times and Seasons on 15 Sept 1842 and 1 Oct 1842. Roper/Fields assume, without evidence, that these were all written by the same person so they combine them for their analysis.
Below are writing samples taken from Benjamin Winchester’s work between 1841-1843. According to Roper/Fields, these writings are so different from the 900 words that Winchester cannot be the author.
Nauvoo <May> 14th 1841
Ebenezer F Wiggins and Ela<en>der Wiggins agrees to sell to Joseph Smith h their farm containing two hundred and thirty two acres of land on the following conditions the <they are> to have a deed for one of the best <city> lots in Nauvoo <at 1000 dollars> and one hundred dollers in goods in hand and the remainder to be in mony to be paid in three yearly payments with interest from this date said Smith is to have the possession of the primices <immedeately> with all the spring work and the crops now on the same with the excepttion of the house <which they live in> which they are to have a reasonable time to obtain one some where els they are not to be distressed on account of the house the rents of those who have rented any portion <of said farm> is to come to said smith
Joseph Smith

Nauvoo City Feb. 24th 1842
Ebenezer Robinson is intitled to the use of the sterotipe plates and coppy right for the print[in]g [of] fifteen Hundred Books of Morman
Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith

Nauvoo August 18th 1842
Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.‑

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me, now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers [Granger], Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of y youcome <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room intirely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnestness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient,  <and>  affectionate, companion, and friend.
Joseph Smith

Nauvoo City  Oct‑ 2d 1843
Mr. Lucian Adams
Dear Sir
I have furnished the Steam boat the one hundred dollers you agreed to Send me as well as in every thing else and Set her a runing and She is like to do well She is now at St. Louis I am owing the bearer of this line Seventy five dollers in cash which I want you to pay him for me and I will apply it on you[r] Share of the boat I am most respect[f]uly you[r] Obedient Servent
Joseph Smith

Nauvoo City Dec 9th 1843
Mr. Clayton
Treasury for the City of Nauvoo

you will Please pay out of the City funds in your hands Sixty dollers to be paid to the commandants of Cohorts to be used in case of defence
Joseph Smith
Mayor of said City

EXTRACT From Stephens' "Incidents of Travel in Central America."
The foregoing extract has been made to assist the Latter-Day Saints, in establishing The Book of Mormon as a revelation from God. It affords great joy to have the world assist us to so much proof, that even the most credulous cannot doubt. We are sorry that we could not afford the expense to give the necessary cuts referred to in the original.
Let us turn our subject, however, to The Book of Mormon, where these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites:-and the mystery is solved.
On the 72d page of the third and fourth edition of The Book of Mormon it reads as follows:
And on page 280-1 is full description of the Isthmus.
Mr. Stephens' great developments of antiquities are made bare to the eyes of all the people by reading the history of the Nephites in The Book of Mormon. They lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found. Read the destruction of cities at the crucifixion of Christ, pages 459-60. Who could have dreamed that twelve years would have developed such incontrovertible testimony to The Book of Mormon? surely the Lord worketh and none can hinder.


From an extract from "Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America," it will be seen that the proof of the Nephites and Lamanites dwelling on this continent, according to the account in The Book of Mormon, is developing itself in a more satisfactory way than the most sanguine believer in that revelation, could have anticipated. It certainly affords us a gratification that the world of mankind does not enjoy, to give publicity to such important developments of the remains and ruins of those might people.
When we read in The Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on to this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord, as a branch of the house of Israel, and then read such a goodly traditionary account, as the one below, we can not but think the Lord has a hand in bringing to pass his strange act, and proving The Book of Mormon true in the eyes of all the people. The extract below, comes as near the real fact, as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus.-Surely "facts are stubborn things." It will be as it ever has been the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah. Now read Stephens' story:


Since our 'Extract' was published from Mr. Stephens' 'Incidents of Travel,' &c., we have found another important fact relating to the truth of The Book of Mormon. Central America, or Guatimala [Guatemala], is situated north of the Isthmus of Darien and once embraced several hundred miles of territory from north to south.-The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land as will be seen from the following words in the book of Alma:-

It is certainly a good thing for the excellency and veracity, of the divine authenticity of The Book of Mormon, that the ruins of Zarahemla have been found where the Nephites left them: and that a large stone with engravings upon it as Mosiah said; and a 'large round stone, with the sides sculptured in hieroglyphics,' as Mr. Stephens has published, is also among the left remembrances of the, (to him,) lost and unknown. We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in The Book of Mormon.
It may seem hard for unbelievers in the mighty works of God, to give credit to such a miraculous preservation of the remains, ruins, records and reminiscences of a branch of the house of Israel: but the elements are eternal, and intelligence is eternal, and God is eternal, so that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered. It may be said of man he was and is, and is not; and of his works the same, but the Lord was and is, and is to come and his works never end; and he will bring every thing into judgment whether it be good, or whether it be evil; yea, every secret thing, and they shall be revealed upon the house tops. It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens' ruined cities with those in The Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one, and so we make another.

The following is an extract from Priests history of American antiquities. 
To prove the foregoing statements with regard to American antiquities, we extract the following from different authors. First. Rev. A. Davis in his lecture on the discovery of America by the Northmen says: "The ruins of a city in Central America are among the most striking of such, This city, called Palenque (the name of a town not far off: other antiquarians call it Otolum) lies two hundred and fifty miles from Tobasco, lat. about 15 degrees N."
Now we ask, can any one tell whether the American Indians are of Israel unless by revelation from God? This was a hidden mystery, which was necessary to be revealed in time for their gathering.
We will here insert the testimony of three witnesses which is appended to the Book of Mormon page 572, third edition... 
The remains of these cities and temples, are to be seen in Central America, and elsewhere, in both the north and south parts of the continent; the discovery of which has excited the curiosity and astonishment of the learned so much of late. 
But I am satisfied, that the foregoing is evidence, that is incontrovertible, and sufficient to convince every candid person...
 [The masthead to the Gospel Reflector.]

We shall now proceed to prove; first, from various relics of antiquity that America has been inhabited by an enlightened people, far in advance of the savage state of the red men of the forest; second that they were a branch of the House of Israel; third, that it was their privilege to receive revelations, and write them for the benefit of future generations; fourth, by the predictions of prophets, that they were of the tribe of Joseph; fifth, that they were to receive revelations, which were to be deposited in the earth to come forth in the latter times, and unite, in testimony, with the Jewish scriptures; sixth, that the gathering of Israel will soon follow, or succeed the coming forth of this work. Having thus planned our work, -- we will investigate each particular separately. 

At length they commenced settlements in the region of country, not far from the Isthmus of Darien, and while in those parts they advanced farther in science and arts, than at any time previous, and built more spacious cities and buildings than they did before.

the Book of Mormon reveals the fact that the aborigines of this continent are a branch of the House of Israel.

Any person who will carefully read the four Evangelists will discover that some of the first ideas that the disciples of Christ had were those of a worldly nature; but they in time were made acquainted with the object of Christ's mission.

Now when the antiquarian traverses the Western wilds, he has the privilege to behold the relics of a once enlightened nation, who understood arts and sciences to some extent. He there can walk upon the ruins of once magnificent cities abounding in wealth and prosperity; but now depopulated, and lying in heaps of massive ruins. And if he is onward with his researches -- he gazes upon numerous forts, mounds, obelisks, and catecombs, which he marks with wonder and amazement.

To this we say there is sufficient evidence both circumstantial, and scriptural, to establish the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

Speaking of the before mentioned city [Priest] says: "This account which partly describes the ruins of stone city seventy-five miles in circuit (length 32 English miles, greatest breadth 12 miles,) full of palaces, monuments, statues, and inscriptions: one of the earliest seats of American civilization about equal to Thebes of Egypt and well calculated to inspire me with hopes that they would throw a great light over American History, when more properly examined." We might multiply a catalogue of extracts from different authors upon this subject; but we forbear believing that enough has already been said to convince every candid mind that America has been inhabited, previous to its discovery by Europeans, by an enlightened and civilized race of people. However, if any one should wish to learn farther concerning the antiquities of America, we recommend him to A. Davis' "Discovery of America by the North-men J. Priest's American Antiquities," Mr. Hill's do.; and Baron Humboldt's "Travels in South America." [Note: the Stephens books were published a few months after Winchester’s articles in the Gospel Reflector.]

It is evident from the following extracts that the aborigines of this continent are descendants of the House of Israel. But lest the reader should misunderstand, we will here state, that the Book of Mormon professess to have been written by a nation that has been destroyed; but they and the present race of Indians were of the same origin, or sprung from the same father; therefore when we prove the one to be a branch of the House of Israel, we prove the other to be of the same origin.

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