Recently, I experimented with diving a little deeper into the Book of Mormon, reading, experiencing, and examining it in an entirely new way—through text analysis.
Before you tune me out, let me assure you the process is much more fascinating than it might sound. I took the text of the Book of Mormon (not including chapter summaries that were added later) and ran each book through a program that looks at everything from the most-used words and phrases in the text to its level of readability, number of characters, longest sentence (Captain Moroni holds the record with a sentence of 135 words in Alma 60:25-27), number of syllables, etc. That's right, I looked at detailed information regarding the entire 1,417,809 characters, 267,931 words, 7,679 sentences, and 369,797 syllables found in the Book of Mormon—pages and pages of information just waiting to provide insight and new perspective.
Here are just a few of the insights I had while investigating the Book of Mormon in this different way:
The Most-Used Word in the Book of Mormon
It's no surprise that the most-used word in the Book of Mormon is the most-used word in almost any work of literature. It was also the most-used word of my last sentence. The word? "The." It is used 19,203 times in the Book of Mormon, making it 7.2 percent of the entire text. But when you filter out the smaller filler words, an entirely new picture appears:
When looking at these words together, messages appear for me that are intensely deep and personal. The most-used Book of Mormon word, "unto," signifies to me the very purpose of this sacred record. This book is meant to draw me unto the Father and His Son. It is a precious gift given unto me by my Heavenly Father and prophets of the past. Their messages speak of "the voice of the Son [coming] unto me" (2 Nephi 31:12), teaching me to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31).
The rest of the most-used words in the Book of Mormon speak of this personal relationship with God as well as actions we must take. I love that "shall" is stressed above "not," revealing the gospel is focused on what we do, how we create, and who we serve rather than what we refrain from. In addition to this focus on doing, many personalizing words shine through ("I," "ye," "all," "people," "my"), showing that God not only desires to reach all His children—He wants to reach us all on an intimate, individualized level. As Elder David A. Bednar says in his recently released book, One by One, "the Lord knows us one by one. He knows each of us. He knows our names. He knows our concerns. He knows our apprehensions. He knows our potential and possibilities. Significantly, the first word spoken by God the Eternal Father to man in the first vision in this latter-day dispensation was 'Joseph.' The Father and the Son knew Joseph Smith as a one." And He knows each of us as a one and speaks to us through the Book of Mormon.
Simpleness of the Language
Another surprising finding from my research into the language of the Book of Mormon was its simplicity. On a readability scale (where 6 represents easy and 20 very difficult), each book within the Book of Mormon scored below an 11, with most books scoring close to an 8.
Despite the years, language, culture, and other barriers that separate us from the Book of Mormon prophets, their words still strike us with the same clarity and simplicity Nephi spoke of: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men” (2 Nephi 31:3), “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell” (2 Nephi 33:6), “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn” (2 Nephi 25:4).
As Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught, "More so than in any other time in our history, there is an urgency in today’s society for men and women to step forward and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of plainness. God delights when His truths are taught clearly and understandably with no conspicuous ornamentation. Plainness in life, word, and conduct are eternal virtues." The plainness in the Book of Mormon testifies that ancient prophets truly saw our day and understood the simple truths we most need to guide our lives.