The Diachronic Usage of Exclamation Marks across the Major Book of Mormon Editions

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Abstract: The usage of the exclamation mark has changed over time but continues to serve as an important textual interpretation aid. Punctuation itself has not been a permanent fixture in English, rather it was slowly introduced to English documents with changing standard usages after the invention of the printing press. Here we highlight the use of the exclamation mark across major editions of the Book of Mormon and document the presence of the exclamation mark in a reference table.

When the Book of Mormon was first translated and dictated by Joseph Smith to his scribe Oliver Cowdery, it was done without punctuation. The original manuscript was thus a stream of unbroken text. Though Cowdery and another scribe added scattered punctuation to the printer’s manuscript, a compositor for the Grandin Press, John Gilbert, largely disregarded it.1 Instead, Gilbert primarily employed his own punctuation and paragraphing — even with no affiliation to the new Church. John Gilbert commented on the 1830 manuscript some sixty-three years later:

Every chapter, if I remember correctly, was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end. … I punctuated it to make it read as I supposed the [Page 266]Author intended, and but very little punctuation was altered in proof-reading.2

From these remarks, it is unclear whether Gilbert was referring to Smith or the ancient authors of various books within the Book of Mormon. Even still, the overwhelming majority of John Gilbert’s edits were deemed acceptable by early Church leaders for the first publication of the Book of Mormon. According to Royal Skousen, compiler of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, it is estimated “that over 90 percent of Gilbert’s punctuation marks in the printer’s and original manuscripts were carried over without change into the 1830 edition.”3

Since the first edition in 1830, there have been twenty English editions of the Book of Mormon recognized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).4 A short history of various editions of the Book of Mormon is available in Appendix 1. For more on the story of the earliest editions of the Book of Mormon, including punctuation, we refer the readers to The Parallel Book of Mormon: The 1830, 1837, and 1840 Editions by Curt Bench.

With every new edition of the Book of Mormon came changes to the format, grammar, and punctuation. For instance, the original unpunctuated text of 2 Nephi 13:9 read,

wo unto their souls for they have rewarded evil unto themselves

However, John Gilbert added sentence capitalization, an exclamation mark after souls, and a period after themselves. Following this, the punctuated 1830 text read,

Wo unto their souls! For they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Four editions later (1879), the punctuation of this verse was changed: the sentence-medial (mid-sentence) exclamation mark following souls [Page 267]was replaced by a comma, and the period following themselves was replaced with the sentence-final exclamation mark. This change reflected a general change in punctuation usage at the time. Accordingly, the subsequent editions read,

Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!

This change in the location and use of the exclamation mark shifted emphasis from the worth of a soul (especially one who sins) towards the consequences of evil choices. While not affecting the semantic content, this subtle shift introduced by punctuation seems to alter the clausal emphasis: either on the distressing state of the soul or the consequences of wicked actions. Consequently, it creates a change in tone that may inform one’s interpretation.

Similarly, Alma 5:37 also once contained a sentence-medial exclamation mark that was changed to sentence-final. Compare these two excerpts, showing the punctuation change:

Oh! ye workers of iniquity. (1879)

O ye workers of iniquity; … but ye will not hearken unto his voice! (2013)

This change shifts the focus from a call for attention to a judgment of the behaviors of the people. With the exclamation mark employed at the end of the long verse, the verse now emphasizes that this group is prideful, foolishly choosing to ignore Christ’s call.

Interpretation disparities only widen in instances where the exclamation mark was changed to (or from) a question mark. In 1879, Ammon’s comment in Alma 26:3 existed as a posed question, compared below to its current punctuation.

How many of [the Lamanites] are brought to behold the marvellous light of God? (1879)

How many of [the Lamanites] are brought to behold the marvellous light of God! (1920–current)

Reverted back to an exclamation mark in the subsequent 1920 edition, this question mark renders this statement to be read with significantly different intent, perhaps offering a rhetorical purpose or seeking information rather than glorying in God’s work.

In this article, we consider the diachronic use of all of the exclamation marks for the eight Book of Mormon editions featured by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on its official website under the heading [Page 268]“History of the Scriptures.”5 Precisely because the printer’s manuscript was presented without punctuation — and presumably the reformed Egyptian from which it was written was also unpunctuated — the presence of punctuation necessarily affects one’s reading of the Book of Mormon. It cannot be ignored because it determines the sentence shape and, in many cases, its meaning. Underscoring this verity, Royal Skousen, in his Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon explains “how a single word or punctuation mark might alter our understanding of a verse.”6

The exclamation mark, as a mark of emphasis or focus, especially encourages readers to be drawn to the statements or words that are marked, creating a textual world in which it is not only the reader, the text, and the Spirit, but unavoidably also the editor(s)’s interpretation. Starting with a brief history of the exclamation mark, we discuss the process for making changes to the editions and document each use of the exclamation mark across eight editions.

A Brief History of The Exclamation Mark

The term punctuation comes from the word punctilious, meaning attentive to formality or etiquette, elucidating the primary role of punctuation as, what editor Lynne Truss calls, “a courtesy designed to help readers to understand a story.”7 Introduced in the later fifteenth century, the exclamation was among the last marks introduced to punctuation. Over the years, scholars identified three main purposes for punctuation (and for the exclamation mark in particular): to serve a rhetorical function such as wonder, to indicate pauses, and to clarify sentence construction.

Over time, changes occurred regarding the formatting and function of the exclamation mark. It has long been used to express admiration,8 [Page 269]but the use of the exclamation mark to express friendship or sincerity, especially in emails and social media, is a relatively new development.9 Using it to express thanks is also a modern shift in usage, such as signing emails with Thank you so much!!!. These usages did not appear in any usage dictionaries until 2019. While the first users of the exclamation mark would perhaps have gawked at some modern constructions like

I’m so excited to see you tomorrow!!!!

where it would seem one exclamation is not enough, modern readers might likewise find the following construction a little odd:

I’m so excited! to see you tomorrow.

Yet, this kind of sentence-medial punctuation was common until the 1980s, when this usage was dropped in favor of sentence-final usage. The primary function of punctuation in time and context “is to resolve structural uncertainties in a text, and to signal nuances of semantic significance which might otherwise not be conveyed at all, or would at best be much more difficult for a reader to figure out.”10

Charting Changes in the Placement and Frequency
of the Exclamation Mark

Our research team obtained data on the placement of exclamation marks for two of the editions — 1981 and 2013 — through digital versions extant in WordCruncher,11 a textual analysis software developed by Monte Shelley and Jason Dzubak at Brigham Young University’s Digital Humanities Office. From the WordCruncher software, we exported the data into a tabular format and filtered for verses that contained exclamation marks.

The remaining editions that we analyzed are available on,12 which is also known as the “Internet Archive” and hosts millions [Page 270]of books, movies, software, music, websites, and more in a digital format. Since the labeling is sometimes unclear or absent, some manual intervention was necessary to examine the publication stamps for each edition. These editions were in a scanned PDF format, making extraction of the data more difficult. Once the desired editions were located, exclamation marks were then painstakingly searched by hand, and whenever an exclamation mark was identified, the verse with the mark was carefully transcribed to preserve the edition’s variance. From this transcription, two things were excluded: superscript footnotes and any hyphenation of words due to word wrapping.13

The table in Appendix 2 summarizes these changes involving the exclamation mark across the major editions of the Book of Mormon. Each reference in the table includes the parenthetical phrase that directly precedes the exclamation mark and the edition(s) in which it appears.


Looking at each exclamation mark from the vantage point of the current 2013 edition, we find that they are naturally divided into four categories: those preserved across all the editions up to the present; those added since the first edition (and remain in the current edition); those removed since the first edition; and lastly, those that underwent multiple revisions. This last category is referred to hereafter as “irregularities.”


Only fifty-seven of the original seventy-four exclamation marks from the 1830 edition are retained in the 2013 edition. Thus, while 77 percent of the original remain, they comprise only half of the current edition’s 113 instances of the exclamation. Whether this is a trend of cultural emphasis on the exclamation mark or attributable to some other aspect of editing is unclear.

[Page 271]Added

Over the several editions of the Book of Mormon since the 1830 edition, sixty-seven instances of exclamation marks were added, though only fifty-five of them still exist in the 2013 edition. These fifty-five remaining instances were added at various times: one was added in the Second Edition (1837), two in the Orson Pratt Revision (1879), and the other fifty-two in the committee of Apostles edition (1920).

The added exclamation mark in the Second Edition was likely to conform to the already-established pattern of punctuation. In First Nephi 11, Nephi is commanded by an angel a total of eight times to Look! All these instances were followed by an exclamation mark, except for the instance in the twelfth verse, which, due to the Second Edition revisions, now follows the established pattern.

In the 1830 edition, there were only nine instances of the exclamative wo. These were preserved through the 2013 edition, but in many cases the placement of the exclamation mark was moved from the sentence-medial to sentence-final position. However, in the 1920 edition, twenty-seven more “woeful” statements were made exclamative. This means that over half of the additions of the exclamation mark in the 1920 edition were of this type. Two examples of added exclamations statements in the 1920 edition include Lehi’s lamentation and Nephi’s recording of Isaiah’s prophecy:

Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! (1 Nephi 1:13)

Wo unto the wicked, for they shall perish, for the reward of their hands shall be upon them! (2 Nephi 13:11)


Since the 1830 edition, sixteen exclamation marks have been removed. While seven were removed across the span of the 1800s, nine were removed in 1920. The majority of these were replaced with periods and commas. Notably, seven of the sixteen utterances in which exclamations were removed contained the imperative Behold. For example, 1 Nephi 16:26 from the 1830 edition stated:

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him, Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written!”

In this verse, there are two imperatives: look and behold. However, in 1920, this exclamation mark was removed and replaced with a [Page 272]period. It is significant that while similar words such as look and wo were receiving additional exclamation marks, the word behold was stripped of its exclamation mark in several instances. These variances are puzzling, especially since look and behold are synonyms and may be used interchangeably.


Not every exclamation mark in the Book of Mormon has a straightforward narrative; some have a more complex diachronic history. There are fourteen exclamation mark “irregularities” in the Book of Mormon. These are subcategorized as follows: (1) added and then removed; and (2) removed, re-added, and then preserved in the 2013 version; and in just the 1840 edition, there is a further category of (3) removed, re-added, and then removed.

Added and Then Removed

There are twelve instances of exclamation marks in the Book of Mormon that were added and then removed. Of these, all were added in the 1800s and eight were removed in the 1920s. Typically, these exclamation marks were switched to periods, commas, and question marks. The affected books in this category are 1 Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, and Mormon. Though these changes were distributed across different books within the Book of Mormon, five of the twelve added-and-then-removed exclamation marks are found in Alma.

Removed, Re-added, and Then Preserved

The sole instance in this category is found in Alma 26:3, where Ammon glories in the Lamanites coming unto the Lord, exclaiming,

But behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God!

In 1841, this exclamation mark was changed to a question mark, which consequently affected the function of the clause. When read as an interrogative statement, it is less certain that the speaker already possesses the answer to the question. However, in 1920, this was changed back to an exclamation mark and has remained since.

Removed, Re-added, and Then Removed Again

This category only includes two verses: 2 Nephi 13:9 and 2 Nephi 13:11. The exclamation mark in 2 Nephi 13:9 was removed in 1840 when it was replaced with a question mark, re-added in 1841 with an exclamation mark, and then removed again in 1920. This last change may have to [Page 273]do in part with the transition from sentence-medial to sentence-final punctuation. The original verse in the 1830 edition read:

The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.

Similarly, in 2 Nephi 13:11, the exclamation mark was removed in 1840, re-added in 1841, and then removed in subsequent editions.


It is not the aim of this paper to elucidate the best methodologies or approaches to use in the study of the exclamation mark throughout the Book of Mormon. However, for an example of one approach to studying the exclamation point in the 2013 edition, see Hingson, et al. (forthcoming).14 Furthermore, a few observations based on another approach used by Anderson (2022) in her master’s thesis is worth noting here.15 There, Anderson used Ricoeur’s interpretation theory, which describes the necessary interrelationship between the reader and the text for interpretation to occur. Since this theory has a rich history of application to religious texts, Anderson applied it to help uncover relationships between the genre of text and use of the exclamation mark.

One underlying theme that Anderson noted throughout the editions is that the epistle genre exclaims themes of God’s judgment, power, and destruction, while commands, or imperatives, exclaim the theme of love of God due to the sacrifice of Christ. The 1830 edition conveys that both God’s love and power are among the most important doctrines to be emphasized. This aligns with Joseph Smith’s remarks in his King Follett Sermon, where he states that the first principle of the gospel is “to know for a certainty the character of God.”16 Thus the 1830 edition calls the reader to behold the love of God and sacrifice of Christ and makes an argument for God’s character.

[Page 274]By the 1920 edition, the changes in exclamation marks shifts some from focusing primarily on the characterization of God; instead, exclamation points co-occur with wo statements. These exclaimed verses contain themes of the destruction and wickedness that results from rejecting or forgetting Christ, His works, and His counsel. By the exclamations of asides (brief tangential remarks, such as Mormon’s editorial comments), the punctuation aims the message at the future reader to whom Mormon was writing. These exclamations that emphasize what is happening outside of Book of Mormon times draw us into the eternal underlying themes of salvation through Christ. In all, the 1920 edition sees a larger emphasis on the many sins we can commit and the need to call upon God for his grace in overcoming them. The calamities of hell are painted in vivid picture, as is the call to repentance. The asides bring the story to the reader as they exclaim the foolishness of men at the denial of Christ and the compensating need for the preaching of the Gospel.

The shifts in what is exclaimed from 1830 to 1920 may reflect changing views or approaches toward religion, punctuation generally, Church missionary efforts, or those doctrines that merit emphasis by inspired leaders at the time. These areas (and more) are worth examining to see what impact punctuation has on interpretation of the Book of Mormon. These kinds of analysis and scholarship are made possible by compiling all instances of punctuation marks across time and editions in one place (as done for the exclamation mark in Appendix 2) so that future scholars may more easily analyze and interpret them.


Over the 183-year period in which the eight Church-featured editions of the Book of Mormon were produced, the exclamation mark underwent a number of changes as to its frequency and placement. Of the original seventy-four exclamation marks added by John Gilbert in the first edition, fifty-seven (77 percent) are preserved in the 2013 edition of the Book of Mormon. In contrast to the first edition’s 74, the current edition (2013) has 113 exclamation marks; fifty-eight (51 percent) are preserved from the first edition, while the remaining fifty-five (49 percent) were added in later editions and perpetuated to the present. Of those fifty-five later added, most of them (fifty-two) were added in 1920. Since 1920, only minimal changes to exclamation marks were made in the text.

An understanding of the various changes, as well as the larger trends they exhibit, will aid readers’ interpretation of the Book of Mormon text. [Page 275]Through closer examination, changes in exclamation marks may reveal a doctrinal emphasis from solely focusing on God’s character, to also now alerting readers to the dangers of sin and exigency to personally seek salvation through Christ. Consequently, by observing where these impactful marks occur in the text of the various Book of Mormon editions, we gain greater insight into those doctrines, principles, and commentaries regarded by their editors as worthy of the exclamation and its attending emphasis at the time.

[Page 276]Appendix 1: Eight Major Book of Mormon Editions

Information for this appendix was adapted from a page on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ official website: History of the Scriptures.17

1830: The First Edition

This edition was created based on the original manuscript as dictated by Joseph Smith, as well as the printer’s manuscript — a copy of the original produced by Oliver Cowdery for printing purposes. The edition consisted of 5,000 copies printed by E.B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, with the aid of the typesetter, John Gilbert.

1837: The Second Edition

Printed in Kirtland, Ohio, this edition underwent hundreds of grammatical changes and had a preface written by Parley P. Pratt and John Goodson. The 1830 edition and the printer’s manuscript were used as the basis for this edition.

1840: The Third Edition

Joseph Smith made corrections to this edition, but because of the Third Edition’s rarity and limited availability to the Apostles in England, the First European Edition (known as the 1841 edition) served as the basis for most subsequent publications of the Book of Mormon by the Church. Thus, Joseph Smith’s 1840 corrections were not referenced for changes made to any of the other listed editions, making it an edition that has no influence on current punctuation choices in the Book of Mormon. However, many of the errors, grammatical or content-related, were gradually corrected over the following century.

1841: The First European Edition

With Joseph Smith’s permission, the Book of Mormon was printed by J. Tompkins in Liverpool, England, while the apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt were serving missions there with [Page 277]the other Twelve Apostles. This was the last edition of the Book of Mormon to be published in Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

1879: The Orson Pratt Revision

Orson Pratt made his own revision at Brigham Young’s request. The versification of the Book of Mormon was introduced in this edition. This edition was electrotyped in London, England, but printed and bound in Liverpool. Pratt took duplicate electrotype plates to Salt Lake City. This set was used for most Book of Mormon copies until the Apostles’ Revision (1920).

1920: The Apostles’ Revision

A committee of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints held a conference in 1920 with a mandate “’to examine the several editions of the Book of Mormon’ (that is, to compare texts),” and “‘to correct a few errors that had crept into some of the issues through bad proof-reading’ (to update the text).”18 The committee was composed of four apostles and two general authorities, with Elder George F. Richards acting as chair because of seniority and Elder James E. Talmage having the most editing experience. These two had the heaviest hand in the editing process, with Talmage effectively becoming managing editor and, later, project manager. Edits were made on the most recent 1912 edition with reference to the other available editions. Interestingly, neither the original nor the printer’s manuscript were available at this time for comparison. Also of interest to this study is that while the First Presidency reviewed any proposed changes to the text, “the First Presidency allowed the committee to implement punctuation changes without review.”19

1981: Scriptures Publication Committee Edition

As part two of the Church’s historic English scriptures project, this edition received new and expanded chapter summaries, as well as expanded footnotes cross-referencing all the Church’s standard works. Some additional textual corrections were made to the Book of Mormon based on close comparisons with early manuscripts.

[Page 278]2013: The Scriptures Committee Edition

The latest edition — the Scriptures Committee version — was produced in 2013, again under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The edits were minor, correcting some spelling and punctuation and modernizing some word spellings.

Appendix 2: Table of Exclamation Mark Presence

The presence of an exclamation mark is indicated by a “P” whenever the mark is present in an edition.

Reference 1830 1837 1840 1841 1879 1920 1981 2013
1 Nephi 1:13 (And he read, saying, Wo, wo unto Jerusalem!) P P P P P
1 Nephi 1:13 (And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations!) P P P
1 Nephi 1:14 (Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 1:14 (thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 2:9 (O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!) P P P
1 Nephi 2:10 (O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!) P P P
1 Nephi 11:8 (And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:12 (And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look!) P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:19 (and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:21 (Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:24 (And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:26 (Look and behold the condescension of God!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:30 (And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
[Page 279]1 Nephi 11:31 (And he spake unto me again, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:32 (And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 11:35 (I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw!) P P P P
1 Nephi 12:1 (Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren!) P P P P P
1 Nephi 12:11 (And the angel said unto me: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 12:14 (And the angel said unto me, behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren!) P P P P
1 Nephi 13:1 (And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 13:11 (behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren!) P P P P
1 Nephi 14:16 (and, behold, thou seest all these things!) P
1 Nephi 14:18 (And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!) P P P P P P P P
1 Nephi 14:20 (And the angel said unto me, Behold, one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb!) P P P P P
1 Nephi 16:26 (look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written!) P P P
1 Nephi 16:32 (and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy!) P P P
1 Nephi 16:38 (Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also, that angels have ministered unto him!) P
1 Nephi 17:40 (Behold, he loved our fathers!) P P
1 Nephi 17:41 (and the labor which they had to perform, was to look!) P P P P
1 Nephi 20:18 (O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandment! (s))20 P P P P P
2 Nephi 1:13 (they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe!) P P P P P
[Page 280]2 Nephi 1:14 (Awake!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 4:17 (O wretched man that I am!) P P P
2 Nephi 4:28 (Awake, my soul!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 4:32 (my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!) P P P
2 Nephi 4:32 (O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!) P P P
2 Nephi 4:33 (O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!) P P P
2 Nephi 4:33 (O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!) P P P
2 Nephi 4:33 (Wilt thou make my path straight before me!) P P P
2 Nephi 8:9 (Awake, awake!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:8 (O the wisdom of God!) P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:8 (his mercy and grace!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:13 (O how great the plan of our God!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:17 (O the greatness and the justice of our God!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:19 (O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:20 (O how great the holiness of our God!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:27 (But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:28 (O that cunning plan of the evil one!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 9:28 (O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 13:9 (Wo unto their souls!) P P P P
2 Nephi 13:9 (Wo unto their souls! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!) P P P
2 Nephi 13:11 (Wo unto the wicked!) P P P P
[Page 281]2 Nephi 13:11 (the reward of their hands shall be upon them!) P P P
2 Nephi 15:8 (Wo unto them that join house to house, till there can be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 15:11 (Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink, that continue until night, and wine inflame them!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 15:20 (Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 15:21 (Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 15:23 (Who justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 16:5 (Then said I: Wo is unto me!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 20:2 (to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 20:15 (as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood!) P P P
2 Nephi 24:4 (How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 24:12 (How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 24:12 (Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 26:7 (O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people!) P P P P P P P P
2 Nephi 27:14 (wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God!) P P P
2 Nephi 27:27 (And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:15 (wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!) P P P
[Page 282]2 Nephi 28:16 (Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:24 (Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:25 (Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:26 (Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:27 (Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:28 (And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:29 (Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!) P P P
2 Nephi 28:32 (Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!) P P P
2 Nephi 29:3 (many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible!) P P P P
2 Nephi 29:3 (many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible!) P P P P
2 Nephi 31:5 (O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!) P P P
Jacob 2:15 (O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!) P P P
Jacob 2:16 (let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!) P P P
Jacob 4:9 (For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth!) P
Jacob 6:3 (and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 2:19 (O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 3:12 (But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God!) P P P
[Page 283]Mosiah 8:20 (for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!) P P P
Mosiah 12:2 (Yea, wo be unto this generation!) P P P
Mosiah 12:26 (I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord!) P P P
Mosiah 15:14 (Thy God reigneth!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 15:15 (And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 15:16 (And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 15:17 (And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 27:37 (And how blessed are they!) P P P P P P P P
Mosiah 29:17 (For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed!) P P P P P
Mosiah 29:17 (yea, and what great destruction!) P P P P P P P P
Alma 5:31 (Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!) P P P
Alma 5:32 (Yea, even wo unto all ye workers of iniquity; repent, repent, for the Lord God hath spoken it!) P P P
Alma 5:37 (Oh/O!)21 P
Alma 5:37 (but ye will not hearken unto his voice!) P P P
Alma 18:14 (therefore Ammon turned himself unto the king, and said unto him what wilt thou that I should do for thee, O King!) P
Alma 19:29 (O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell!) P P P P P P P P
Alma 19:29 (O blessed God, have mercy on this people!) P P P
Alma 24:15 (Oh, how merciful is our God!) P P P P P P P P
[Page 284]Alma 26:3 (but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God!) P P P P P P
Alma 26:5 (yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves!) P P P
Alma 29:1 (O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!) P P P
Alma 29:15 (Behold, they have labored exceedingly, and have brought forth much fruit; and how great shall be their reward!) P P P
Alma 36:20 (And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!) P P P
Alma 42:25 (What! do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?) P
Alma 60:8 (ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword!) P
Alma 60:32 (while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory, and the vain things of the world!) P
Helaman 7:14 (Yea, because I have got upon my tower that I might pour out my soul unto my God, because of the exceeding sorrow of my heart, which is because of your iniquities!) P P P
Helaman 7:17 (O repent ye, repent ye!) P P P P P P P P
Helaman 7:20 (Oh!) P
Helaman 7:25 (Yea, wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has come among you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton!) P P P
Helaman 7:26 (Yea, wo shall come unto you because of that pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts, which has lifted you up beyond that which is good because of your exceedingly great riches!) P P P
[Page 285]Helaman 7:27 (Yea, wo be unto you because of your wickedness and abominations!) P P P
Helaman 12:4 (yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!) P P P
Helaman 12:5 (yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!) P P P P P P P P
Helaman 13:39 (O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words!) P P P
3 Nephi 9:2 (and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen!) P P P
3 Nephi 9:13 (O all ye that are spared, because ye were more righteous than they!) P
3 Nephi 11:17 (Hosanna!) P P P P P P P P
3 Nephi 11:17 (Blessed be the name of the Most High God!) P P P P P P P P
3 Nephi 13:23 (But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!) P P P P P P P P
3 Nephi 20:40 (Thy God reigneth!) P P P P P P P P
3 Nephi 22:11 (O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted!) P P P P P P P P
3 Nephi 24:14 (Ye have said, it is vain to serve God, and what doth it profit that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts!) P
3 Nephi 29:5 (Wo unto him that spurneth at the doings of the Lord; yea, wo unto him that shall deny the Christ and his works!) P P P
3 Nephi 29:6 (Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!) P P P
3 Nephi 29:7 (for he that doeth this shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy, according to the word of Christ!) P P P
4 Nephi 1:18 (And how blessed were they!) P P P
[Page 286]Mormon 5:22 (And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways!) P P P P
Mormon 6:17 (O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord!) P P P P P P P P
Mormon 6:17 (O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!) P P P P P P P P
Mormon 6:19 (O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!) P P P P P P P P
Mormon 9:4 (Behold, I say unto you, that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell!) P
Ether 14:18 (Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!) P P P P P P P P
Moroni 8:12 (for how many little children have died without baptism!) P P P
Moroni 9:15 (Come out in judgment, O God, and hide their sins, and wickedness, and abominations from before thy face!) P P P
Moroni 9:18 (O the depravity of my people!) P P P P P P P P

1. Royal Skousen, “Worthy of Another Look: John Gilbert’s 1892 Account of the 1830 Printing of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 21, no. 2 (2012): 58–72.
2. Memorandum by John H. Gilbert, September 8, 1892, Church History Catalog, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
3. Skousen, “Worthy of Another Look,” 66; Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, eds., The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000).
4. Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 739–44.
5. “History of the Scriptures,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 13, 2021,; See also “Understanding the Process of Publishing the Book of Mormon,” Church Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, January 1, 2008,
6. Grant Hardy, “Approaching Completion: The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project,” BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2018): 167.
7. Lynne Truss, “Introduction — The Seventh Sense,” in Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (New York: Gotham Books, 2004), 7, emphasis added.
8. F. Howard Collins, Authors’ and Printers’ Dictionary (London: Oxford University Press, 1912), 309–10.
9. Stuart Jeffries, “The Joy of Exclamation Marks!” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, April 28, 2009,
10. Malcolm B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (New York: Routledge, 2016), 1.
11. “WordCruncher: Search, Study and Analyze,” V.7.1.107, Digital Humanities, Brigham Young University, 1991–2022, Windows 10, app by Jason Dzubak, James Rosenvall, and Monte Shelley. Software available at
12. We searched the book title “Book of Mormon” on and found over 5,000 results. Many of these are publications related to the Book of Mormon, and so we sifted through to identify those that included a PDF of the Book of Mormon. Once these entries were narrowed down, each PDF was found on pages 2–3 of the results.
13. We wanted to preserve only the text that is considered scriptural. The footnote characters are considered metadata, and the text is more easily comparable without them. Likewise, there are two types of hyphenations: soft and hard hyphens. Hard hyphens are when a word purposely has a hyphen in the middle of the word. Soft hyphens are added when the word is being split and partially moved to the next line of text. When the word is designed to have a hard hyphen, then the hyphen is preserved. When the word is being split because of word wrapping, we ignore the hyphen.
14. Hingson, et al, “Something Wicked this Way Comes! Applying Linguistic Structures within Ricoeur’s Interpretation Theory” (unpublished manuscript, September 23, 2022), Microsoft Word file.
15. Brooke Anderson, “Exclamation Marks in the Book of Mormon: A Linguistic Analysis” (unpublished master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2022).
16. B. H. Roberts, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1950), 6:305,
18. Richard L. Saunders, The 1920 Edition of the Book of Mormon: A Centennial Adventure in Latter-Day Saint Book History (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2021), 25.
19. Ibid., 33.
20. In the 1830 edition, commandment is plural. In all other editions, it appears singular.
21. In the 1879 edition it is spelled Oh. In all later editions, it is spelled O.

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About Scott L. Howell

Scott L. Howell is an assistant teaching professor for the graduate Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. He holds a doctoral degree in Instructional Science from BYU and is a former administrator for the university’s Division of Continuing Education. He lives in Spanish Fork, Utah, and he and his wife, Lori, are the parents of seven children.

About Brooke Anderson

Brooke Anderson has a master’s degree in Linguistics from Brigham Young University. Her thesis is entitled “Exclamation Marks in the Book of Mormon: A Linguistic Analysis.”

About LaReina Hingson

LaReina Hingson is a visiting faculty member in Linguistics at BYU where she works on discourse analysis in religion, law, and sign language linguistics. She has lived in ten different states, visited three different continents, and served in three different temples. A retired competitive dancer, she continues to be physically active by teaching aerial arts.

About Lanna McRae

Lanna McRae is a senior at BYU studying Linguistics with a minor in Russian and TESOL. Her primary research interests are second-language acquisition and sociolinguistics.

About Jesse Vincent

Jesse Vincent is a text analysis specialist in the Office of Digital Humanities at Brigham Young University. He assists scholars in creating textual corpora that they need for their research. He also develops WordCruncher, software designed to search, study, and analyze digital texts for discovering insights. Jesse graduated with a BA in Linguistics in 2019 and has been married since 2020 to his sweetheart from Germany. Together, they speak a total of ten languages.

About Brandon Torruella

Brandon Torruella is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University. He studies Linguistics, as well as Computer Science, Scandinavian Studies, and Arabic. His academic interests are historical and computational linguistics.

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