The Late War

Correlation is not causation or even influence. Alleging a connection between The Late War and the Book of Mormon requires valid evidence.

Without any documentation, Chris and Duane Johnson conclude that Joseph Smith read Hunt's book while in school assuming the book must have been widely available.

Without any supportive historical data, the Johnsons affirm that Joseph constructed the Book of Mormon by using structural elements of The Late War. The evidence is presented as a series of comparisons between the Book of Mormon and The Late War.

The Johnsons do not attempt to explain how Joseph Smith might have implemented his alleged knowledge of The Late War into the documented process that brought forth the Book of Mormon.

The computer program sought to identify the book(s) that was most like the Book of Mormon. After comparing the Book of Mormon to over 135,000 books, they identified a few with similarities. So if The Late War is removed from the list of potential sources, the program would instead identify another without assessing how similar or dissimilar the two books really are.

One analyst described the Johnson’s methodology as a fallacy called the Texas Marksman or the Texas Bulls Eye (no offence to our Texan friends). A rifleman shoots multiple rounds at a piece of wood an then approaches the various bullet holes and draws a target around them to make it look like they were all in or near the center. So the question is whether the computer program has identified a genuinely related work or simply drawn a target around a cluster of computer data.

Seventy-five of the parallels identified as significant between the two texts came from the Copyright statements of the two books, which is not surprising or significant.

The computer model deals with the occurrence of specific words but is not capable of judging the quality of the parallels being offered.

Comparing The Late War written by Gilbert J. Hunt in 1819 to the Book of Mormon demonstrates several differences:

Author Education Age at publication Book Date published Pages Words
Gilbert J. Hunt Co-published his first book in 1808 Under 45 The Late War, Between the 'United States and Great Britain 1819 246 83,000
Joseph Smith One year frontier schooling 24 Book of Mormon 1830 588  268,163
  • Paul Fields and Matt Roper have analyzed the methodology employed by the Johnson as it relates to their conclusions. First, correlation is not causation.

correlation is not causation

Second, comparing distinguishing phrases demonstrates important dissimilarities.

RoperFields20

Word clouds may not seem to scientific, but they illustrate the differences in the most commonly used words.

The Late War Word Cloud


Additional Resources:

Scriptural Style in Early Nineteenth Century American Literature (including The Late War by Gilbert J. Hunt) by Matt Roper and Paul Fields

"The Late War Against the Book of Mormon", by Benjamin L., McGuire

New Computer Study Purports to Detect Literary Influences on the Book of Mormon by Christopher Smith