Royal Skousen: Mormon Scholar
Royal Skousen is a linguistic and English-language professor emeritus known for his critical work on the text of the Book of Mormon. He retired in 2020. He is considered a leading expert on the textual history of the Book of Mormon. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This work has been to “recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon to the extent scholarly and academic analysis will allow.” Skousen began working on the critical text of the Book of Mormon in 1988. In 2001 he published the first two volumes of the Critical Text Project, which are typographical facsimiles for the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. From 2004 through 2009 he published the six books that make up volume 4 of the critical text, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon.
Skousen was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5, 1945. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and his PhD in linguistics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. For five years he was an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. He then joined the faculty at BYU. In 1981 he was a visiting professor at the University of California, San Diego. He was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Tampere in Finland in 1982 and a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands in 2001.
Since 1999, Skousen has served as the president of the Utah Association of Scholars, an affiliate of the National Association of Scholars. Since 2003, he has also been associate editor of the Journal of Quantitative Linguistics.
He has published three books on developing a theory of language called Analogical Modeling, a theory that predicts language behavior by means of examples rather than by rules: Analogical Modeling of Language (1989), Analogy and Structure (1992), and Analogical Modeling: An Exemplar-Based Approach to Language (2002). He has published on the quantum computation of Analogical Modeling, notably his 2005 paper “Quantum Analogical Modeling.”
In 2009 Skousen published The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text with Yale University Press, the culmination of his critical work on the Book of Mormon text. The Yale edition reconstructs the original text in a clear-text format, without explanatory interventions such as added chapter summaries, scriptural cross-references, dates, and footnotes found in modern editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition consists solely of the words dictated by Joseph Smith in 1828–29, as far as they can be established through standard methods of textual criticism.
Skousen served as a full-time missionary to Finland from 1965 to 1967. He married Sirkku Unelma Härkönen in 1968 and they are the parents of seven children.