Projects described in the November 1980 newsletter continue, meanwhile here we spotlight another challenging research activity. John Hilton of Walnut Creek, California, has long had an interest in Book of Mormon studies. But his main talent is talking to computers -- and getting answers. He and his (nonMormon) collaborator, Kenneth D. Jenkins, have access to a large computer complex during many hours per day. It's already ingested the modern and 1830 texts of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the King James version of the Bible, thanks to the cooperation of Max Rogers, Director of the BYU Language Research Center, and the university's administration. With these texts on computer tape many kinds of statistical analyses can be carried out.
Two studies are already underway. The first is picking out rare expressions in the Book of Mormon -- how frequently they occur and where. For example, the phrase racked with eternal torment appears only in Alma. The all-searching eye of God is a phrase that occurs only in Jacob and Alma. Nephi and Nephi alone (with the exception of 2 Nephi 6:12 which comes from his record) describes a church as great and abominable. "Sorting out these phrases," says Jack Welch, will help us identify who wrote which things -- what Mormon really wrote as opposed to what he only abridged -- and will help us appreciate unsuspected qualities of Scripture."
A second project, gigantic in scope, is matching the Biblical text against Mormon Scriptures to find every phrase that recurs in both. "It will be interesting to see which phrases occur in the Book of Mormon from Old Testament prophets after Jeremiah, who dated to Lehi's day," observes Jack. "Or if a phrase from Obadiah shows up in Alma, did Obadiah originate it? Or was he quoting a still earlier text?" Of course some efforts have been made along these lines in the past, but more sophisticated analysis is necessary, and now possible, thanks to John Hilton's cooperation.
Proposals for additional studies using these computer facilities are welcomed. Each will be considered by the appropriate FARMS research committee for implementation.
The excitement of discovery produced by Mark Hofmann's 1980 recovery of what looks to be the original Anthon Transcript has died down somewhat, but the real work remains to be done. That page of Book of Mormon characters that Martin Harris took to New York professors to be appraised for its authenticity remains an unanswered question as long as it is untranslated; in fact even when a good translation is in hand there seems to be no possibility of acquiring enough additional "reformed Egyptian" ever to pin down a definitive translation. However, FARMS has been helping interested scholars by providing study materials and serving as an information clearing-house with cooperation from the Church Historical Department and BYU's Religious Studies Center.
Recently one scholar produced what he calls a "possible translation" of the whole transcript. He discussed his translation method and results with representatives of the Foundation, who offered to arrange for a working conference at which competent scholars would analyze and critique the translation at length. The researcher has agreed and is currently preparing a full presentation of his materials which will be circulated in advance to the limited number of highlyqualified participants invited to attend the meeting. planned for August.
This conference will also consider two previous attempts to decipher the document, as well as comparisons of the transcript with Micmac Indian hieroglyphs. Foundation officers stress that this will be a working conference: the public cannot be invited, probably no definitive conclusions will be reached, and proceedings will not be published. Almost certainly, much more work will need to be done, even if the research so far proves to be on the right track. The FARMS Newsletter, however, will provide periodic reports if only of the hospital style: "doing as well as can be expected," or "the operation was a success but the patient did not survive."
Donors who wish to assist with this important study may earmark their contributions for the "Anthon Transcript Project."
Lavina Fielding Anderson, with this issue, becomes the editor of the FARMS Newsletter. The officers plan to involve her also in preparing their reprint series and other projected publishing ventures in the planning stage.
"I've always been interested in scriptural research," says Lavina, "ever since I used to trail Hugh Nibley around at firesides when I was an undergraduate and make foolish attempts to cover his talks for the student paper, the Daily Universe. I'm very much in sympathy with the goals and purposes of FARMS, impressed by the quality of people involved and the soundness of the planning to this point -- but I might have just remained a sympathetic well-wisher if Jack hadn't mentioned that in addition to editing the Newsletter, there was a possibility of doing something with all of Hugh Nibley's uncollected papers, which Hugh has given to FARMS. That brought me in!"
Lavina graduated from BYU with a B.A. and M.A. in English, and received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to eight years of writing and editing for The Ensign in Salt Lake City, she has edited books published by Deseret Book, Bookcraft, and Cambridge University Press. She and her husband Paul are parents of a son.