Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Elder Marion G. Romney identified the people of Latin America as descendants of the Lamanites

Jonathan Neville and other Heartlanders do not believe that the peoples of Latin America are the Lamanites of the last days that are prophesied of in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, as Elder Gerrit W. Gong taught in April 2021 General Conference. Because Heartlanders have a highly nationalistic view of the role of the United States in prophecy, they reject the teaching of modern prophets and apostles that the modern descendants of the Lamanites are found throughout North and South America.

Neville, for example, believes that Lamanite ancestry is concentrated in the northeastern United States, with any Lamanite connections south of the United States being “in relatively low concentrations” through interaction with true Lamanites. The most he is willing to admit is that “the dilution theory” leads to the belief that “Lehi’s descendants can be found everywhere in the world.”

Heartland blogger Rian Nelson takes a disturbingly racist approach to this matter, denying that the peoples of Central America could be the Lamanites of prophecy because of the migrant crisis currently taking place at the U.S. southern border:
The illegal immigrants coming from our southern border are mostly Asian and if they were chosen by the Lord to come to America, the Lord would allow them here without a lot of legal hankering.… The Lord works in an organized way not in chaos. We already allow over 1 million legal immigrants each year, how many should we allow illegally before we will be overrun? Besides…those in Central and Mesoamerica are not the people spoken of in the Book of Mormon, these illegal immigrants just received some of the blood of Lehi from actual Nephites much later in about 900 AD.
Neville appears to agree with Nelson’s repugnant views, having posted this annotated political cartoon on his blog, only to remove the page sometime later. (I guess it’s not just “M2C scholars” who try to “erase history,” is it, Brother Neville?)

Heartlanders, of course, love Marion G. Romney for his October 1975 General Conference talk in which he declared that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon is the same hill in western New York where Joseph Smith received the gold plates from the angel Moroni. Neville has quoted from or cited this talk nearly one hundred times; he considers it a “General Conference classic.”

Yet I would suppose that Jonathan Neville, Rian Nelson, and other Heartlanders would be perfectly willing to throw Marion G. Romney under the bus for testifying that the people of Latin America are modern descendants of the Lamanites.

In April 1963 General Conference, Elder Romney, who was then overseeing the missionary effort in Latin America, taught from the pulpit:
Elder Marion G. Romney, April 1963
Elder Marion G. Romney, 1963
Mis queridos Hermanos y Hermanas de los países dónde se habla Español. Me da mucho gusto a veros aquí con nosotros esta dia. Con todo corazon, muy bienvenidos. [translate]

To you who wonder, I have just greeted and welcomed our people from Latin America. My Spanish may not have been such as they could understand, but you are in no position to challenge my interpretation of it.

I love these, my brothers and sisters. To me they are white and delightsome. And of course I love you, too.

Pursuant to assignment from the First Presidency of the Church, I have for the past two years been supervising the Latin American missions. It may not, therefore, be wholly inappropriate for me to say something about the Lamanites, many of whom live in these missions. With this intent, I take for my text the following statement made by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith in March 1831.

“…before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.” (D&C 49:24.)
Elder Romney followed this by quoting many of the prophecies connected with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days and the role it would play in the descendants of the Lamanites learning the covenants of their fathers and receiving the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Returning to the subject of the people of Latin America, among whom he had been ministering for the previous two years, Elder Romney concluded his talk:
Now, with this foreknowledge as an interpretative guide to the signs of the times, all who have seeing eyes and understanding hearts may rest assured that the fulfillment of the promises to the Lamanites is at hand. Most of the foregoing prophecies have already been fulfilled, and others are now in course of fulfillment. The apostasy and fourth generation destruction, the degeneration of the remnant, the coming of the gentiles, their establishment by the power of God as a free people in this land, their harassment of the remnant [of the Lamanites], the preservation of the promised record, and its coming forth by way of the gentiles are now all documented history.

For more than a hundred years the record of their fathers, the Book of Mormon, has been going to the Lamanites by way of the gentiles. And it is now being carried to them with increased tempo.

Today the Church has in operation in lands inhabited, at least in part, by the remnant [of the Lamanites, i.e., Latin America], twenty-one missions. Others are being organized. Working in these missions during 1962 were, on an average, 2,424 missionaries a month. These missionaries brought into the Church 22,909 people in 1962, an average of 9.45 a missionary. This is well above the average of other foreign missions of the Church. So you see, my brethren and sisters, the Lord is pouring out his spirit upon the Lamanites. They are accepting the record of their fathers and are coming to a knowledge of the “things” referred to by Jesus. It is true that they are poor, they are downtrodden; they are in large part uneducated. In these and many other respects they still suffer under the curse brought upon them by their apostasy from the gospel once so richly enjoyed and strictly obeyed by their fathers. But they are now accepting the gospel. And they will continue to accept it in ever-increasing numbers. As they receive and live it they are certain to regain their favored status in the house of Israel and participate in the redemption of Zion and the building of the New Jerusalem here in America. Jacob, even now, flourishes in the wilderness, and shortly the “Lamanites shall blossom as the rose,” heralding “the great day of the Lord,” which God grant may not be long delayed, I humbly pray.
Fifty-eight years later, Elder Romney’s observation that the Lamanites in Latin America have “continue[d] to accept [the gospel] in ever-increasing numbers” has only accelerated. According to statistics released by the Church in April 2021, there are 6,468,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the countries of Central and South America, a figure that will soon eclipse Church membership in the United States (now 6,721,000). There are also forty-five temples in operation, under construction, or announced in those countries.

The Lord’s gospel is going forth in great power among the remnant of the Lamanites in Latin America. Hopefully our Heartlander brothers and sisters will be able to see and understand the importance of this truth, as it has been taught and testified by modern prophets and apostles of Christ.

—Peter Pan
 
* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.
 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The identity of Peter Pan, and other issues Jonathan Neville is wrong about

I don’t know if Jonathan Neville reads this blog or not. My impression is that he doesn’t, if only because he continues to make the same errors and false statements, even after I’ve corrected him—sometimes repeatedly.

For example, in a blog post published April 8, 2021, with the charming title “Dan the Interpreter is awesome,” he writes:
Dan [Peterson] is usually best ignored, but I’ll make an exception to thank him for sending more people to my blogs by referring them to the “important” blog of his alter-ego, Peter Pan. Dan’s well-earned reputation for ad hominem attacks is exemplified by this blog. It combines the worst of FARMS with the irrationality of the Interpreter.
Once again, I’m forced to publicly deny that I am Daniel Peterson, having done so many times already.

Notice also how Neville continues to refer to Daniel Peterson as “Dan the Interpreter” or simply as “Dan.” In fact, he never once mentions Peterson’s full name or even his last name. I think that simple respect demands at least that much, does it not?

As much and and often as I dunk on Jonathan Neville, I have never once called him “Jon” or “Jonny” or “Jon-Boy the Heartlander.” I always use his preferred version of his first name, his last name, or his full name. I feel that’s the least I can do, since I’m already criticizing his illogic and misrepresentations.

Neville continues:
Dan has always been upset at the idea of Latter-day Saints making informed decisions—especially when informed people disagree with Dan. It’s a strange characteristic of the credentialed class that they insist everyone agree with them. To be sure, they have their phony “academic disagreements” about such minutiae as which river in Mesoamerica is the Sidon, but they enforce their M2C dogma like old Soviet commissars. Except most of us don’t care about the M2C theories any more.
Wow, so much to unpack in just one paragraph!

  • How does Neville know that Daniel Peterson is “upset” when people disagree with him? Neville gives us no evidence that Peterson is the least bit angry about this. Read the comments on his blog, which are filled with people who legitimately hate him, and there is ample evidence that Peterson treats them with the patience of Saint Monica.
  • Where does Neville get the idea that Daniel Peterson “insist[s] that everyone agree with [him]”? Neville again asserts evil on Peterson’s part but provides us with zero evidence of such.
  • How, exactly does Peterson “enforce…M2C* dogma like [an] old Soviet commissar”? Peterson is president of the Interpreter Foundation (which he founded), but that merely gives him some measure of control over what is published under the foundation’s imprint. Neville appears to be disgruntled that the Interpreter Foundation doesn’t publish materials written by Heartlanders, but since Heartlanders don’t publish materials written by people connected to the Interpreter Foundation, that’s simply par for the course. The only way Neville can insist that Peterson and his cohorts are “like old Soviet commissars,” then, is to appeal to a grand conspiracy theory in which everything published by the Church is secretly controlled by the Illuminati-like “M2C citation cartel.”
  • Who are the “most of us” that Neville refers to? Neville makes it sound like his views represent some sort of silent majority of Church members. While the Heartland movement does have a sizable following, I suspect (although I admit that I have no data to back this up) that they represent a tiny fraction of the over 16 million Latter-day Saints worldwide.

Returning to Neville’s blog:
Like other M2C scholars, Dan expects “ordinary” Latter-day Saints to accept the official pronouncements of the “Interpreters,” meaning the credentialed class that presumes to tell everyone what to think.

Hence, the name of his awesome “journal” that we all enjoy.
I’m honestly not sure which is worse: Neville’s triple use of “scare quotes” in these two sentences or his dripping sarcasm.

Again, what evidence does Neville have that Daniel Peterson “expects” anyone to accept “official pronouncements” (!) of the Interpreter journal? He provides us with not even a single quotation from Peterson’s pen or lips that would indicate that Peterson expects such deference from “‘ordinary’ Latter-day Saints.”

Perhaps, like so many of his other ideas, all of this is taking place only in his Neville’s own mind.

Turning to Elder Gong’s comment in April 2021 General Conference about “father Lehi’s faithful descendants” living in Latin America, Neville gives us a bizarre intepretation of the apostle’s teaching:
Of course, I have no problem with what Elder Gong said. Once we accept the dilution theory at the core of M2C, Lehi’s descendants can be found everywhere in the world.
Of course, Elder Gong didn’t say that Lehi’s descendants are “everywhere in the world.” He specifically noted the increasing numbers of converts in Latin America and connected that to the “gathering of father Lehi’s faithful descendants.”

Neville rejects the teachings of living prophets, so the only way he can align his heterodox views with what Elder Gong said is by distorting Elder Gong’s statement. He’s also forced to ignore numerous explicit statements made by the living prophet, Russell M. Nelson, about Book of Mormon geography and Joseph Smith’s use of a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.

It’s particularly sad to see the constant rhetorical dance Jonathan Neville must perform to make it appear as if his assertions line up with the teachings of living prophets and apostles.
Unlike the credentialed class, I’m happy that people can believe whatever they want. Also unlike the credentialed class, I encourage people to make informed decisions.
Neville repeats this claim—a lot. But repeating it hundreds of times, as he has, doesn’t make it true or any less self-serving than it is.

And, since this is the third time in just one blog post that Neville has called his ideological opponents “the credentialed class,” perhaps it’s not too ad hominem for me to point out that I would rather learn from someone who has academic credentials than, say, a lawyer who set up a quack cross-border medical clinic that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims that he could cure cancer patients by injecting them with urine.

Sometimes actual credentials are superior to fake ones.
Here’s the screen capture of his gem in case he tries to erase history, the way our revisionist historians and M2C scholars do.
The copy of Neville’s screenshot, above, is linked directly from the image URL on his blog. If the image above is broken, then you’ll know that it’s Neville who has tried to “erase history.” (Here’s a screenshot of my own blog, as a backup in case that happens.)

Neville ended his blog with this parting shot, drawn from Daniel Peterson’s second link in the screenshot:
BTW, it’s no surprise that Dan thinks the scriptures and teachings of the prophets are bizarre.
This is fairly conclusive evidence that Neville doesn’t read this blog. If he did, he would know that my post “The bizarre worldview of Jonathan Neville” isn’t about his selective use of the scriptures and teachings of the prophets; rather, it’s about his mad conspiracy theory that claims the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encircled by Church employees who “censor information” and “deprive Church leaders of important information” about the location of the hill Cumorah.

Jonathan Neville is a sad, little man with grandiose ideas of his own self-importance. He believes that he has discovered the truth that modern, living prophets and apostles turned away from fourteen years ago. If this humble blog can help expose Neville’s record of being on what the Prophet Joseph called “the high road to apostacy,” then I will consider my work to have not been entirely in vain.

—Peter Pan
 
* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.
 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Elder Gerrit W. Gong: “Father Lehi’s faithful descendants” live “in Latin America”

Elder Garrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking in General Conference, October 2020 At the Saturday morning session of April 2021 General Conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared:
By 2025, we anticipate as many Church members may live in Latin America as in the United States and Canda. The gathering of father Lehi’s faithful descendants is fulfilling prophecy.
Elder Gong specifically identified “father Lehi’s faithful descendants” as being in Latin America.

I imagine this will not sit well with Heartlanders. Jonathan Neville has downplayed the connections between peoples of Latin America and the Lamanites:
Lamanites have interacted with other indigenous people throughout Latin America and the Pacific. While DNA shows that the Native Americans in the northeastern U.S. have non-Asian origins (unlike most native peoples in Latin America and the Pacific), there’s no reason to think Lamanite ancestry is more widely dispersed, albeit in relatively low concentrations outside the northeastern U.S.
(Neville’s DNA evidence comes from Rodney Meldrum and is seriously flawed.)

In a disturbingly racist blog post at the FIRM Foundation’s blog, Rian Nelson quoted Meldrum:
If our research on the geography of the Book of Mormon is correct[,] then the vast majority of the remnant Lamanites are the North American Indians, not the Maya, Inca, or other populations of Central or South America who genetically are Asian, not Semitic or Hebrew[.]
Once again, we see Heartlanders rejecting the teachings of the prophets concerning the descendants of Lehi in the Americas.

—Peter Pan
 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Someone should really bring Jonathan Neville up to speed

In dozens of blog posts dating back to at least September 2018, Jonathan Neville has relentlessly criticized Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack’s theory that the syntax of the Book of Mormon matches structures and patterns found in Early Modern English.

Neville incorrectly ascribes this theory to “LDS [sic] intellectuals” who are part of the “M2C* citation cartel.” He insists that these intellectuals (which include people associated with the Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, and religious instructors at BYU/CES)
are telling us that Joseph didn’t really use the Urim and Thummim, didn’t really use the plates, and didn’t really translate anything. Instead, according to them, Joseph merely read words that appeared on a seer stone he put in a hat (or read words that appeared in vision). They’re trying to persuade us that the “actual translator” was some unknown supernatural being who, inexplicably, used Early Modern English combined with early 1800s expressions, complete with anachronisms that critics have long claimed are evidence of 19th century composition.
Neville, as usual, is simply wrong about all of this. His claims are misrepresentations.

There are two corrections that he should immediately make to his claims:

First, as I explained over a year ago:
[Neville’s] accusation that “all the M2C intellectuals agree with Brother Skousen’s views of the translation” is yet another overstatement on Neville’s part. There is, in fact, rigorous debate among legitimate Latter-day Saint scholars (of which Neville is not one) about Joseph’s translation method. For example, Brant Gardner, a prominent scholar and author whom Neville mentions in his blog post and whom he certainly considers a leading “M2C intellectual,” disagrees with Skousen on numerous points. (Gardner has written an entire book that sets forth his views on the translation.)
Royal Skousen, interview, The Translation of the Book of Mormon, March 22, 2021
Royal Skousen
Far from being some monolithic theory that dominates the discourse among Latter-day Saint scholars, the translation method of the Book of Mormon is, in fact, a point of ongoing debate. There are scholars in the “tight control” camp (e.g., Skousen), scholars in the “loose control” camp (e.g., Gardner), and some scholars who take a hybrid approach.

But Neville shows no evidence of even being aware that there are multiple views held by the broader scholarly community. He’s so hyperfocused on defeating the dreaded and dangerous “M2C citation cartel” that he’s left himself ignorant of what the people in that supposed cartel actually say and write and believe.

Second, Neville’s claim about Royal Skousen’s theories are both fallacious and out of date. Skousen himself has publicly stated that he’s abandoned a theory he unwisely floated early on his research into the text of the Book of Mormon.

This example is from an answer Skousen gave at a conference panel in August 2017:
[Question:] Can you share any thoughts you might have on why the Lord chose Early Modern English?

[Royal Skousen:] Well, I don’t know. A lot of people want me to answer that question, and I’m studying it. And Stan Carmack is helping me, and we’re going to publish a book in next few months, part 3 of the Critical Text of the ,Book of Mormonpart 3, volume 3—that will go through the whole language, showing all the phrases, the words, and some of the syntax that all derives from Early Modern English, not from Joseph Smith’s time.

Joseph Smith is not the translator of the text. The evidence is really very strong for this. A lot of people want me to explain why, and one time I foolishly suggested there was a “translation committee.” That was a mistake, because, first of all, it gets in the way—everybody wants to know who’s on the translation committee.… The real question is, what’s this language of this text like? So that’s what we’re studying, and it’s going to be made available, and you can study it yourself. And a lot of people have a lot of views, but they’re not studying it. Someday you can ask the Lord; he’ll tell you how he did it. But I myself don’t know, and I think it just gets in the way, and so I take back my statement. I put it in print, even. “The Lord or his translation committee”—it was dumb, dumb.

[10:13–12:12]
In a more recent interview an interview recorded a few years ago and released on March 22, 2021, Skousen again clarified his view on a “translation committee” and what he meant by “Joseph Smith is not the translator of the text.”

The following is a long extract from his interview, but I believe it’s worth quoting because it gives Skousen the opportunity to explain his views are and shows how complex and nuanced they are—far from the oversimplistic caricatures that Jonathan Neville continually gives us:
Some people have said—I even entertained it a while—“Well, maybe God didn’t do the translation of the Book of Mormon.” That he had a committee. I’ll state it—I’ve stated it once; I don’t state it anymore because I don’t believe it—and God had a committee, though, of Protestant Reformers, you know, in England—English guys that had died—and got them all together and said, “Here’s the translation; I want you to do this Book of Mormon for me, and we going to give it to Joseph Smith down the road,” or something. [Laughs]

So this is the “committee” idea, and these guys are from the 15 and 1600s. Now, first of all, the committee has to go from before 1540, and it’s got to go up to 1730, because you’ve got vocabulary that some of it’s coming in and so forth, so it’s a mix—that’s one of the things. But you can imagine lots of things; just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean it happened this way.

But then there’s one real problem with this theory of the “committee.” So, this is the problem: Stan [Carmack] and I were sitting there studying Early Modern English writers, and we’ve got this guy, [Nicholas] Harpsfield who wrote the life story of Sir Thomas Moore. He wrote it in about 1557 or so. And Stan is reading it to me. It’s in the time period of the kinds of things we’ve been seeing in the Book of Mormon. And about every other sentence, Stan reads a word that I don’t understand at all. So, there’s something like ween—it doesn’t mean “to wean a baby”; it’s just in there.… So we stop, we get out the Oxford English Dictionary, and say, “Okay, let’s find this word.” We don’t know it. We go down another couple of sentences and we find another word. We don’t know it; we gotta look it up. So, if we have a group of guys [in the] 15- [or] 1600s who are putting together a text, there should be words in there that we don’t understand—at all. Well, we have that in the Book of Mormon when Isaiah is quoted: carbuncles, the besom of destruction. We get words, in fact, [that] we have no idea what they mean, and we have to look them up.

But when we get to the Book of Mormon, we don’t get that kind of vocabulary at all. We may get errand, which originally means “message” but now means ”task,” but it’s still in English. So when Joseph Smith says “errand,” the scribe is going to recognize the word, [and] he’ll write it down. Even though the meaning may have changed, the words are still the same. This is true of virtually every word in the Book of Mormon—they’re all understandable to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as far as words go; they haven’t dropped out of the language. Whereas if I read a 1570 book, I’m going to find, “Oh, I don’t know this word,” “I don’t know that word,” “Stan what is this? We’re going to have to look it all up!” And when we read Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, we’ve got to look up all these words that irritate us—all these women with their wimples and all the paraphenalia [that] they’re wearing. “What are these things?” We’d like some notes; we gotta be told. But you don’t have to do that with the rest of the Book of Mormon.

What does this mean? Well, it means that the translation is being prepared for Joseph Smith so that he can read it off, and the scribe can write it down, and they will recognize the words, even though they may not recognize their meanings quite right.… So, however this text is being prepared, it’s being prepared for Joseph Smith’s time. It’s being sort of “filtered,” so there won’t be the besoms in there and the carbuncles and the wimples. So it can’t be that there’s some committee that just got together and put it all together and said, “Okay, we’ve done our job; now we’ll just wait for Joseph Smith.”

So, I think it shows, however this translation is prepared, it’s been prepared for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and the other scribes. And the Lord has his hand in it; he’s overseeing it.… When you get this idea of a committee, you sort of think, “Oh, it was done, and it’s just sort of sitting there, and now we can just wait for Joseph Smith.” Well, no—no, the Lord just doesn’t let this thing go; he’s preparing it, he’s working with it.

Ultimately, we’re just finding evidence that this text is well-crafted; it looks like it was worked on, beginning in the 1500s, but it’s been worked on—the translation—for a long time, and it’s been worked on going towards Joseph Smith. So we’re talking about a long period of time. It’s very well-controlled.

It’s got things in it which aren’t Early Modern English, too—it’s got these Hebrew [artifacts?], these extra ands, which we’ve never found: “If you come / and surely you should / and I will come” we haven’t found in any dialect of English anywhere. But there are lots of them in the Book of Mormon; I’ve got a whole list, ten pages of them in the original text. They’re in the Book of Mormon. So, we’re not going to just dismiss them and say, “Joseph Smith had too much beer that day,” or something. People come up with all kinds of crazy theories to explain anything, but what we want to do is say, “What’s actually in there? And what does it mean?”

The conclusion is, it’s a text that looks like it’s controlled, word-for-word, down to the ands. Those extra ands are being put in there. All those and it came to passes are there for reasons, and all the ors—correcting ors—are there for reasons, but they’re there. Before we jump off the cliff with theories of why they’re there, we want to know what exactly it is and where they might be coming from and whatnot.

That’s what I do, and I think too many people have already figured out the Book of Mormon. I gave a talk, “A Theory! A Theory! We Have Already Got a Theory, and There Cannot Be Any More Theories!” And I’ve given another talk where I’ve changed my mind on ten different things, because evidence, evidence, will make you change your mind. When I started out this project, I thought Joseph Smith got ideas, and he put them into his own language; it was the only way I could explain the bad grammar. That’s what I thought. But the evidence is becoming, to me, overwhelming that, no, that isn’t the way it occurred. So I think that we have to be able to be willing to change our mind; we have to look at the evidence. And I may change my mind again on various things, but I’m not going to hide it—if I discover I’ve made a mistake, I’m gonna say something, and I’m gonna put it in writing.

[45:15–54:13]
Notice how Skousen’s explanation sounds nothing like Jonathan Neville’s distorted summary of it? Skousen’s theory of translation is complex and rich and full, but Neville doesn’t seem to deal well with complexity or nuance.

What Skousen appears to be saying, if I’m interpreting him correctly, is that the translation of the Book of Mormon came by revelation from the Lord. Joseph Smith didn’t “translate” the Book of Mormon in the usual sense of a translator who uses his intellect to convert the meaning of a text in one language into another language; rather, the Lord gave Joseph the translation by inspiration.

That explanation should be thoroughly uncontroversial, but Jonathan Neville insists, for reasons that are not clear to me, that Joseph was the translator in the sense that he controlled the language of the English Book of Mormon text and that text reflected Joseph’s grammar. Skousen’s work contradicts that hypothesis.

Neville is certainly welcome to advance his own explanations for how the Book of Mormon was produced. He’s not, however, going to misrepresent the arguments and the characters of those who disagree him without getting some pushback. (Hence this blog’s raison d’être.)

—Peter Pan
 
* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.
 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Why Heartlanders and conspiracy theories are joined at the hip

Rian Nelson is continuing to post nutbar conspiracy theories on the FIRM Foundation’s Facebook page. Here’s one of his latest, followed by a terrific comment that strikes at the heart of why Heartlanderism and conspiracy theories go hand-in-hand:
—Peter Pan
 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Heartlanders push back against Rian Nelson’s nutty conspiracy theories

Rian Nelson is a prominent Heartlander who runs the social media for Rod Meldrum’s FIRM Foundation. He collaborated with Jonathan Meldrum to produce Moroni’s America – Maps Edition, and he’s a speaker at Meldrum’s April 2021 “27th International Book of Mormon Evidence Conference.”

I’ve previously discussed Rian Nelson and his attraction to off-the-wall conspiracy theories. He’s a believer in the “Q-anon” pedophile ring conspiracy, and has argued that the March 18, 2020, Utah earthquake “was actually destruction of child trafficking tunnels under the old Dugway Utah Germ Warfare base also referred to as another Area 51 UFO Base.”

So it was with some interest this morning (March 16, 2021) that I saw Heartlanders pushing back against Nelson on the FIRM Foundation Facebook page. Nelson was the anonymous author of this post (which has since been removed, probably by Nelson or Meldrum): Readers’ initial reaction to yet another Rian Nelson conspiracy post was not positive: I’ve long wondered if Rod Meldrum agrees with Rian Nelson’s lunatic beliefs. Meldrum allows Nelson to go virtually unchecked on FIRM Foundation blogs and social media, apparently without any consideration for how Nelson’s conspiracy-mongering can damage his foundation’s brand.

—Peter Pan
 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Those who live in glass houses, pt. 12

(Part twelve of a series.)

glass houseNetflix recently debuted their three-part documentary series, “Murder Among the Mormons,” about forgerer and murderer Mark Hofmann.

Ever eager to use a current event as a cudgel with which to attack his foes, in a March 10, 2021, blog post, Jonathan Neville once again compared Mark Hofmann to scholars who disagree with the “Heartland” theory of the Book of Mormon:
Erasing Church history for ideological reasons, the way our Church historians and our M2C* citation cartel does, is just as destructive to the pillar of social trust as Hoffman’s [sic] effort to create new history through forged documents.

Censoring actual history is the mirror image of forging historical documents.

Both produce a distorted understanding of history that undermines social trust. They just take different routes to get there.
Since Neville thinks it’s okay to compare those with whom he disagrees to a sociopathic serial killer, perhaps this is a reasonable time to ask:
Which side of the Heartland/“M2C” debate promotes forgeries and pseudo-history for money?
—Peter Pan
 
* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.
 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Jonathan Neville maligns the Church’s Come, Follow Me manual

Jonathan Neville has no qualms about openly criticizing official publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • He has stated that “Church employees and departments are censoring information at various levels,” and “they are even depriving Church leaders and members of important information and perspectives.”
  • He’s implied that Church employees are behaving like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • He’s repeatedly criticized material published in Church magazines—including articles written by general authorities—and suggested that members steer investigators and interested nonmembers away from official Church publications because these materials supposedly teach falsehoods.
  • He has an entire blog dedicated to criticizing Saints, the Church’s new official published history.
  • He’s repeatedly sought to discredit the Church’s Gospel Topics essays.
  • He even believes that Church leaders themselves are misleading the Saints.

To all of the above, we can add Neville’s repeated criticism of the Come, Follow Me curriculum. He has asserted that these materials “are not doctrine, they are subject to change at any time without notice, and even the Brethren don’t always know what they contain before they are published.” (Neville seemingly believes that the First Presidency are dupes who are “asleep at the wheel” and allowing apostate teachings to be published by the Church.)

On February 24, 2021, Neville added to all the above another blog post in which he claimed that the 2021 Come, Follow Me manual is “misleading” the Saints and shouldn’t be trusted:
A lot of what we think is a difference in opinions is really a difference in knowledge. People think their opinions are based on fact, but that’s usually a delusion—especially when they don’t have all the facts.

And, as much as we wish it was not the case, we are not getting all the facts from current correlated Church history.

The Come[,] Follow Me 2021 manual is the latest example, but that’s because it is correlated with the Saints book.

In a way, this doesn’t matter. It’s funny, even, that our historians think they can mislead us this easily. Every member of the Church has responsibility to study these things and reach our own conclusions. Delegating our study to our historians, and then believing what they tell us, is a colossal mistake.

True, we should be able to trust them. But they have an agenda different from ours.
According to Neville, Church scholars and Church employees think they know the facts, but they’ve been deluded. Neville, however, has the facts and is not deluded.

Even more disturbing, though, is Neville’s assertion that “our historians think they can mislead us this easily.” In other words, he’s arguing that historians employed by the Church are wilfully and purposely trying to “mislead” the Saints because “they have an agenda [that is] different from ours.”

Here again we see Neville flirting with apostasy. The General Handbook of the Church defines apostasy as “repeatedly acting in clear and deliberate public opposition to the Church, its doctrine, its policies, or its leaders.” If publicly and repeatedly criticizing Church leaders, Church employees, and Church publications in the manner Neville has been doing for years now isn’t apostasy, then what is it?

—Peter Pan
 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jonathan Neville has it completely backwards

In his February 22, 2021, blog post, “Oliver, Joseph, and scribes and Pharisees,” Jonathan Neville asserts:
The question of Cumorah boils down to whether people believe what Joseph and Oliver said, or whether people believe our latter-day scribes and Pharisees.

It’s a clear choice.

Once you decide whom to believe, you can confirm your choice with a corresponding interpretation of the scriptures and the relevant external evidence.
The proud Pharisee praying Luke 18According to Neville, scholars within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who do not believe as Heartlanders do regarding Book of Mormon geography and translation are “scribes and Pharisees.” He does’t explain why this comparison is accurate and appropriate.

The reality, however, is exactly the opposite: It is Jonathan Neville and his Heartlander colleagues who are modern-day equivalents of the scribes and Pharisees of the New Testament:


Truly, if there are modern-day scribes and Pharisees, they are found among the advocates for the “Heartland” hoax who promote conspiracy theories and stir up dissension and contention through their false accusations against faithful Latter-day Saint scholars, Church employees, and Church leaders.

Jonathan Neville’s comparison is completely backwards.

—Peter Pan
 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Oversimplification again

Perhaps the greatest flaw in Jonathan Neville’s writings is his continual habit of misrepresenting those with whom he disagrees. He seeks to frame the debate in such a way that it appears that he agrees with the leaders of the Church while those who differ with him “reject the teachings of the prophets” (a phrase he has used over 120 times).

The latest of example of this reprehensible behavior can be found in his February 12, 2021, blog post, “Simplicity again,” in which he writes:
Some time ago I discussed the principle of simplicity as it relates to Book of Mormon historicity.

Most debates merge toward two opposing sides, and in this case, the debate is between New York Cumorah vs. non-New York Cumorah. Usually this is framed as M2C* vs Heartland.

Our M2C scholars honestly believe the prophets were wrong. The Heartlanders honestly believe they were correct.

This is a very simple discussion.

I don’t discuss this as a right/wrong situation. It’s a matter of personal preference. I hope we can all agree on that, at least.
No, Brother Neville, we can’t “all agree on that.” Your framing of the debate, here and in many of your other writings, is simply scurrilous.

No one on the “M2C” side has ever claimed that “the prophets were wrong.” This very phrase completely misrepresents their views—and Jonathan Neville knows it does.

There are several important truths here that Neville is burying, including:

  • Prophets are human beings who receive the Lord’s word. To them, the Lord reveals his will on some subjects; on others, he is silent. When he is silent, prophets are free to offer their beliefs and opinions on these matters. Sometimes their beliefs are based on good and accurate information; other times their beliefs are based on assumptions and speculation.
  • There has been no revelation from the Lord indicating that the New York hill is the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon nor on the real-world locations of any other Book of Mormon places.
  • Neville’s attempts to claim that the name of the New York hill has been revealed are all drawn from late, secondhand sources. For example, Neville tries to use comments made in passing by Lucy Mack Smith and Parley P. Pratt—both written decades after the events they described—to claim that Joseph “had to have learned the name [Cumorah] from Moroni or Nephi.” It is irresponsible for someone who claims to be a historian to hang so much weight on such flimsy evidence.
  • Although Neville is certainly correct that most prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have believed that the New York hill was the same hill where the Jaredites and the Nephites fought their final battles, and that they have expressed this belief in General Conference and in other settings, it is not correct for him to imply that that these men have been univocal on this point. (In this he commits the logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority.) As I’ve previously demonstrated, Elder Anthony W. Ivins, Elder John A. Widtsoe, President Harold B. Lee (12) and Elder Robert D. Hales have all directly or indirectly questioned whether the hill near Joseph Smith’s home is the same hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon.

the final chase of Moby-Dick
Jonathan Neville battling M2C. (B&W, 2021)
So, far from being “a very simple discussion,” the matter of the location of the Nephite hill Cumorah is both complex and messy.

Jonathan Neville, of course, needs for it to be simple, because such a simple, manifestly obvious point benefits his monomaniacal cause. But because the matter is not simple, he’s been forced to oversimplify it. In doing so, he has done a grave injustice to the prophets and the historical record and has taken advantage of the ignorance of his believing readers.

—Peter Pan
 
* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.
 

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