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Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins

TitleJoseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRoper, Matthew, Paul J. Fields, and Atul Nepal
JournalJournal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture
KeywordsAncient America; Archaeology; Authorship; Book of Mormon Geography; Early Church History; Mesoamerica; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Stylometry; Times and Seasons

During the time the Latter-day Saints lived in Nauvoo, John Stephens and Frederick Catherwood published Incidents of Travel in Central America, an illustrated report of the first discovery of ancient ruins in Central America by explorers. These discoveries caused great excitement among the Saints, and subsequently five editorials appeared in the Times and Seasons commenting on what these meant for the church. Although the author of the editorials was not indicated, historians have wondered if Joseph Smith penned them since he was the newspaper’s editor at the time. We examined the historical evidence surrounding the editorials and conducted a detailed stylometric analysis of the texts, comparing the writing style in the editorials with the writing styles of Joseph Smith, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff—the only men involved with the newspaper during the time the editorials were published. Both the historical and stylometric evidence point toward Joseph Smith as the most likely author of the editorials. Even if he did not write them alone, he took full responsibility for the contents of the newspaper during his editorial tenure when he stated, “I alone stand for it.”