Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Monday, September 28, 2020

“Two men went up into the temple to pray…”

Jonathan Neville writes:
Those who are more experienced know how the maturation process works because we’ve all been through it. Young people cannot possibly know because they are at the beginning stages of the maturation process. Many of them think they understand because of what they’ve read, or what someone has told them, but that’s precisely why they are so closed-minded.

For example, the fine young scholars employed by Book of Mormon Central are the most active in promoting M2C* on the Internet. This is perfectly normal. Young educated people are more closed-minded than most people. The more educated they are, the more closed-minded they are. The combination of youth and education is the worst.…

Readers of this blog (apart from M2C advocates) are open-minded and happy to consider alternative points of view. We have a healthy skepticism about what we read and hear, and we don’t accept what the credentialed class serves up without first comparing it to the teachings of the prophets.
The proud Pharisee praying Luke 18“And the Heartlander stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other Latter-day Saints are, learned, evolutionists, Mesoamericanists, even as this young scholar from Book of Mormon Central.” — Luke 18:11 Neville Bible

—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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

“Oliver said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

Jonathan Neville’s blog posts are like Mexican food: The same handful of ingredients, just prepared in different forms. He continually repeats the same talking points over and over (and over) again, perhaps in the belief that repetition will convince his readers that what he writes is true.

The most recent example of this is his 1,367-word blog post “It’s not my theory,” in which he yet again defends his postion that the hill Cumorah must be the hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon. This time, he garnishes his combo meal with the claim that what he believes is fact, while what other people believe are theories.

He could have saved himself 1,358 words and a couple of hours if he’d simply written, “Oliver said it. I believe it. That settles it.

Like other fundamentalists, Neville thinks that there is only one legitimate way to read source documents—his way. For him, the writings of prophets and apostles have plain meaning that don’t require context or interpretation; interpretation is what other people do:
Our current revisionist LDS historians have done everything they can to accommodate their M2C* colleagues, but facts are facts. We can all read Letter VII, Lucy Mack Smith’s history, David Whitmer’s statements, Brigham Young’s explanations, etc. Every one of Joseph [Smith]’s contemporaries and successors in Church leadership who has addressed the issue publicly has reaffirmed what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah.…

It’s funny to me that some of my critics resort to falsely representing my position to criticize me. They miss the basic point that as far as I’m concerned, everything other than Cumorah is a theory. Such theories are open for further study, discussion, and even revelation. Settings other than Cumorah involve probabilities and interpretations, but mostly bias confirmation.

[Emphasis in Neville’s original blog post.]
Neville’s beliefs are facts. “M2C” and other views are theories.

(Latter-day Saint scholar Ben Spackman has recently written about how apostle Joseph Fielding Smith displayed this sort of thinking in his disagreements with other apostles and church leaders about the age of the earth and biological evolution.)

What Neville fails to perceive—or to admit—is that texts don’t interpret themselves. When Oliver Cowdery wrote in 1834, referring to the landscape between Palmyra and Manchester, New York, “When one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed,” the reader must ask himself why Oliver wrote it was a “fact” and how he knew it to be a fact.

Jonathan Neville—who is ever wont to accuse others of falling victim to “bias confirmation” but rarely willing to admit his own biases—refuses to ask the important why and how questions. For him, Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII is simply to be taken as theopneustos (“God-breathed”) and therefore unquestionable.

The bitter pill that Heartlanders like Neville refuse to swallow is that Oliver Cowdery’s series of historical letters (of which Letter VII is just one) contain factual errors. As Stephen Smoot has explained:
A problem with the Cowdery letters that Heartlanders routinely ignore or downplay is the fact that they contain glaring errors and embellishments. The most obvious example of this is that Oliver was completely silent about the First Vision. The way Oliver tells the story in Letters III and IV, in the year 1823 (!) Joseph Smith was confused by the religious sects and denominations fighting for converts around him and so retired to his bedroom, prayed, and was visited by the angel Moroni, which event kicked off the Restoration. This version of events contradicts Joseph Smith’s own official history, his 1832 journal entry (written in his own hand), and his private retellings of the First Vision, in which he placed the religious excitement in the years 1818–1820 and was visited by God the Father, Jesus Christ, and a host of angels—not a solitary visit from Moroni. The reason Cowdery didn’t mention of the First Vision is unknown.
Letter VII, written by Oliver CowderyIf Neville is going to assert that it’s a “fact” that the hill in New York is the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon because Oliver Cowdery called it a “fact” in Letter VII, then consistency demands that he also affirm that Joseph Smith’s confusion about religious disagreements in the 15th or 17th year of his life led, not to the First Vision, but to the visit of Moroni in 1823, as Oliver claimed in Letter III and Letter IV.

The extent of Neville’s biases are revealed in his further claim that Joseph Smith’s 1838 history, “was not written by, and probably not dictated by, Joseph Smith. Instead, it was compiled by his scribes.” So, according to him, Oliver Cowdery’s error-prone 1834 history is the authoritative source for the location of the hill Cumorah, but Joseph Smith’s canonized 1838 history—the primary source for our understanding of the First Vision—is untrustworthy.

Witness the folly that Heartlanderism hath wrought.

—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.

Friday, September 18, 2020

We get fan mail

I welcome all comments, especially ones that disagree with something I’ve written.

My only rule is that comments must be thoughtful. I don’t publish “drive-by” comments.

So, while I won’t be publishing the following comment, I do wish to demonstrate to “TwoCumorahFraud” that I don’t censor, obviously or otherwise:
Comment from TwoCumorahFraud on the Neville-Neville Land blog, 17 September 2020
Jonathan Neville insists that “those who accept the New York Cumorah are happy to discuss their reasoning and are confident, not defensive.”

TwoCumorahFraud’s comment doesn’t seem to be a good representative of his assertion.

—Peter Pan

Jonathan Neville won’t like the October 2020 issue of The Friend

It’s bad enough that the childen of the Church were infected by articles about Mesoamerican foods and crafts in the September 2020 issue of The Friend. Now the dastardly M2C* conspiracy has moved to the cover of the October issue! It appears that the folks at Church magazines are continuing to disregard the urgent pleas of Helen Lovejoy:
The Simpsons Helen Lovejoy think of the children!
Church magazines, of course, have a long history of publishing artwork depicting a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, much to Jonathan Neville’s dismay.

—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, September 17, 2020

Jonathan Neville at the gates of confusion

In a pair of bizarre blog posts, Jonathan Neville once again completely misunderstands—or perhaps willfully misrepresents—the purpose and use of BYU’s Virtual Book of Mormon map.

First he wrote:
The Book of Mormon gives us several warnings, such as this one:

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” (Ether 2:9)

But we’re told by our M2C* scholars that the Book of Mormon took place in an imaginary land.

Maybe people aren’t repenting because there is no downside to being “swept off” a fantasy map?
And he followed up on that by writing (with the emphases in his original):
Portraying the Book of Mormon in a fictional setting hardly inspires confidence that the book Joseph translated is an authentic history.

And yet, all LDS youth today are learning this fictional setting for the Book of Mormon in seminary, institute, and at BYU.

This fictional setting is based on the M2C premise that the prophets are wrong because the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in southern Mexico, not in New York.

The M2C citation cartel has established its own M2C interpretation as the de facto official interpretation of the Book of Mormon. They are imprinting this fictional setting on the minds of LDS students around the world.

This is a slow-moving disaster.
It’s difficult for me to grasp the level of ignorance and/or the single-minded devotion to promulgating deceit that are required for him to make such statements, for the truth of the matter can be found right on the home page of the Virtual Book of Mormon:
The Church and BYU stay neutral in questions of exactly where the Book of Mormon took place. The Lord could have removed all questions regarding the exact locations of these events but he did not. For that reason, our design team has chosen to develop an internal map that shows relational directions and approximate distances that match the approximately 550 geography descriptions in the text as closely as possible. These are artistic renditions.
Relational directions.”

Artistic renditions.”

It’s manifestly clear—bordering on painfully obvious—to any fair-minded reader that the Virtual Book of Mormon is not implying that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in an “imaginary land” or in a “fictional setting.” Rather, because the Church and BYU remain neutral on the question of the real-world setting of the Book of Mormon—remember, “the Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon describes took place in the ancient Americas”—BYU’s internal map is intended only to show “relational directions and approximate distances.” To answer the question Neville posed in the title of his first blog post: Those who do not serve God will be swept off of the American continent “when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them,” for, as the Joseph Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, and Mark E. Petersen taught, North and South America with all its nations encompasses the Lord’s land of Zion.

Neville, in his second blog post, would have us belive “there is an alternative” to the Church’s stated viewpoint of geographic neutrality, namely his “Heartland” maps of the Book of Mormon. He calls these “a sound interpretation of the Book of Mormon,” when they are, in fact, a jumbled mess of forced interpretations of scripture and implausible redefinitions of common terms. On point after point, they fail to align with how the text of the Book of Mormon describes Nephite and Lamanite lands.

Jonathan Neville is not unintelligent or uneducated, which is why it’s so perplexing how he could so badly misrepresent the directly stated purposes and objectives of the BYU Virtual Book of Mormon map. I truly wish I could avoid charging him with outright dishonesty, but I see few, if any, alternatives in this case.

—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.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The “M2C” conspiracy continues to spread!

The M2C* citation cartel is expanding beyond just Book of Mormon geography and location of the hill Cumorah. Now they’re now pushing Mesoamerican recipes and arts and crafts on the children of the Church!

From the September 2020 issue of the Friend magazine: —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, September 10, 2020

None dare call it crackpottery

Jonathan Neville asserts:
The M2C* citation cartel employs every possible tactic to limit the information available to Church members. They seek to prevent members of the Church, as well as Church leaders, from getting information that contradicts their theories.

We’ve seen how the Saints book, for example, censored Cumorah. Cumorah was censored from the Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography. Joseph Smith’s own statements about the Urim and Thummim were censored from the Gospel Topics Essay on the Translation of the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Central continues to censor evidence and explanations that contradict M2C. Now they’re doing the same with the Urim and Thummim. The entire M2C citation cartel participates in this, and it’s amazing to watch.
Jonathan Neville's book Mesomania with a tin foil hatThe theory that there’s a massive, ongoing conspiracy to keep Heartlander views out of Church publications and away from the attention of Church members is central to Neville’s bizarre worldview. In his mind, the Heartland Book of Mormon theory is obviously true and should be given equal (or even preferential) time and attention with other views, especially the Mesoamerican view.

But all theories are not equally valid. Just because Neville, Rod Meldrum, Wayne May, and other Heartlanders have managed to build a sizable following does not mean that their arguments and assertions have any merit. Numerous reviews of Heartlander claims have demonstrated that those claims lack scholarly rigor and are prone to errors of fact, irresponsible interpretations of scripture, and the use of outdated and discredited historical and scientific theories.

Neville’s latest complaint could have just as easily been written by a flat-earther:
The spherical-earth cartel employs every possible tactic to limit the information available to students of earth science. They seek to prevent young people in schools, as well as public officials, from getting information that contradicts their theories.

We’ve seen how the Smithsonian’s book, Earth: The Definitive Visual Guide, for example, censored the flat earth. The flat earth was censored from the Earth Science page on NASA’s website. The statements of Auguste Piccard, the Swiss physicist and explorer who was the first man to reach the stratosphere, affirming the flat earth were censored from the Earth Sciences page of the National Science Foundation’s website.

National Geographic continues to censor evidence and explanations that contradict Spheranoia. Now they’re doing the same with anti-vaccination views. The entire Spheroid citation cartel participates in this, and it’s amazing to watch.
Lest you think the preceding is hyperbole or overstatement, keep in mind that it is Heartlanders who are developing and promoting the so-called “Universal Model” that claims all the physical and life sciences are wrong, that they are in fact based on completely different principles than mainstream science teaches, and that there’s a massive conspiracy to promote traditional scientific explanations and censor “nontraditional” ones like the Universal Model.

Heartlanderism and the Universal Model share a common origin: They’re both crank theories that push back against the established, accepted narratives by offering pseudoscientific and ahistorical explanations.

Neville and his colleagues aren’t being censored; they’ve been discredited and rejected.

—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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Jonathan Neville attacks defenders and defends attackers of the restored gospel

It’s becoming ever more clear that Jonathan Neville’s allegiance is not to the restored gospel but to his peculiar readings of Book of Mormon geography and Church history. Anyone who disagrees with his views on those two things is, according to him, “repudiating and ridiculing the teachings of the prophets.” He’s even willing to condemn defenders of the gospel and defend its critics.

In a recent blog post, Neville criticized Daniel Peterson (whom Neville belittles by continually referring to him as “Dan the Interpreter”) and Robert Boylan, both of whom are long-time and able defenders of the restored gospel and the restored Church.

Boylan had criticized an anti-Mormon blogger who confused the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon (Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer) with three authors who wrote an awful anti-Mormon book in the 1970s (Howard Davis, Wayne Cowdrey, and Donald Scales). That blogger had written:
Why did [Joseph] Smith’s three main witnesses, Cowdrey, Davis and Scales write the book, “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Vision House Publishers, 1977)? Why did they leave the Mormon Church, even though they claimed to have seen Smith’s tablets?
Robert Boylan rightly called this blogger’s argument “silly,” and Daniel Peterson, who brought attention to Boylan’s criticism called it “an exceptionally stupid argument.”

Neville inexplicably came to the defense of the errant blogger, telling his readers the argument was a result of “ignorance, not stupidity” and the result of a “simple mistake.” He then turned on defenders of the gospel by asserting that this sort of language is an example of “the type of ‘apologetics’ that has turned off so many people” because it is “fundamentally wrong,…at least as [it is] practiced by the M2C citation cartel (FARMS, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, etc.).”

Confusing the Three Witnesses for three anti-Mormons who lived 130 years after Joseph Smith and never had any visionary experiences is not a “simple mistake.” It displays the author’s deep-seated ignorance of the fundamental claims and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a silly, exceptionally stupid argument.

(And, as I recently pointed out, Jonathan Neville is in no position to criticize others for using the term stupid.)

Perhaps even worse, however, is Neville’s defense of the blackguard Wayne Cowdrey, co-author of the aforementioned awful anti-Mormon book. In the 1970s, Cowdrey went about claiming that he was a descendant of Oliver Cowdery, despite the fact that Oliver Cowdery had no living descendants, as Robert and Rosemary Brown revealed in their fiery and magnificent exposé of Cowdrey and his claims.

Neville inexplicably writes:
The otherwise omniscient Dan the Interpreter doesn’t seem to realize that Wayne Cowdrey clarified that he is related to Oliver because Oliver’s grandfather was Wayne’s uncle, six times removed. Nevertheless, Dan embarks on a bizarre explanation of why Wayne could not be descended from Oliver, as if that has any relevance to the facts and argument Wayne has made. It’s another typical diversion from the main points of the arguments raised by critics.
What Nevile doesn’t seem to know (or care about) is that Wayne Cowdrey was only forced to admit that his relationship to Oliver Cowdery was so indirect as to be meaningless after the Browns exposed him as a liar. Wayne Cowdery was using his fabricated relationship to Oliver Cowdery to enhance his credibility as a critic of “Mormonism”—after all, who better to expose Joseph Smith than a supposed direct descendant of one of the Three Witnesses?

But none of that appears to have any significance to Neville. In his mind, apparently, Wayne Cowdrey was simply misunderstood about the meaning of the term direct descendant and merely needed to “clarify” his relationship to Oliver Cowdery. Instead of being considered the odious charlatan that he was, Neville would have us show empathy for Wayne Cowdrey for just being unintentionally imprecise.

I don’t have a relevant image to go with this post, so instead I’m including this image of a very adorable puppy who definitely did not lie about his relationship to Oliver Cowdery nor defend anyone who did.
Now, clearly Wayne Cowdrey’s arguments should be (and have been) rebutted, but it is critical to note Cowdrey’s appeal to false authority (himself) and what it demonstrates about his habit of not telling the truth.

We are in a battle for the souls of men. The Savior himself had no problem declaring to certain people who opposed him, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44), and he told John the Revelator what would be the fate of liars (Revelation 21:8).

I, for one, do not excuse the despicable acts of the enemies of the Restored Church. Why does Jonathan Neville?

—Peter Pan

Robert Boylan has also responded to Neville’s post. You can read his reply on his excellent blog, Scriptural Mormonism.

Daniel C. Peterson also responded on his own blog, Sic et Non.

* “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.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Jonathan Neville won’t like the September 2020 issue of the New Era

Jonathan Neville completely rejects the reasonably widespread theory that the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi 8 was caused by volcanoes. He rejects this, not because volcanic activity can’t explain what the descendants of Lehi experienced, but because there are no volcanoes in the American Midwest, and his evidence must fit his predetermined conclusions.

So I suspect that the September 2020 issue of the New Era will only serve to confirm his biases about Church magazines being run by the “M2C* citation cartel”:
Is it scientifically possible for the catastrophes described in 3 Nephi to have really happened? As a sign of the Savior’s death, the Nephites and Lamanites experienced storm, tempest, whirlwinds, thunder, and lightning; shaking of the earth; cities breaking up, burning, or sinking into the sea; highways and earth breaking up; rocks breaking up and being scattered; darkness that could be felt; vapors of smoke; the inability to light fire and make light; and a change in the whole face of the land. The initial event lasted for three hours, and the darkness lasted for three days. (See 3 Nephi 8—10.)

As a matter of faith, we do not need a scientific explanation of the means by which God caused these cataclysms. But it is interesting to note that, in fact, all of these phenomena have been observed in connection with one type of geological event: a massive and explosive volcanic eruption.

A volcanic event of this scale is rare but not unheard-of. Tectonic activity, extraordinary electrical events, tornadoes, falling debris, days of dark and stifling clouds of ash—all of these have been associated with volcanoes before and have caused the kind of destruction and death described in the Book of Mormon. It could have been this or something else entirely. The important thing is that it actually happened, as prophesied.
(The April 2020 issue of the New Era wasn’t one he cared for, either.)

—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.

Friday, August 21, 2020

“I’ll take ‘Things That Never Happened’ for $800, Alex”

Jonathan Neville claims:
Some of our M2C* friends were upset a while back when I described M2C as a hoax.
Things That Never Happened Jeopardy! game boardAs usual, Neville is making claims that anonymous people said or did something. Who are these “friends” who were “upset”? How does he know they were “upset”? Simply challenging something Neville wrote doesn’t imply that the person who challenged him is experiencing any elevated emotional state.

This is similar to Neville’s frequent claim that “people often ask” him a particular question. Usually the question is eerily specific, something Neville himself would say if he were the one asking. He never identifies who these “people” are or how they contacted him.

Until Neville can provide some evidence of who these “upset” individuals are and what they said, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that these “friends” don’t actually exist (at least outside of Neville’s imagination).
In fact, some of them responded by claiming the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were a hoax.
Now this, I can say with complete confidence, is horse hockey (as Colonel Potter used to call it back at the 4077th). It’s a gross distortion of what Neville’s critics have actually said.

I’ve often referred to the Heartland Book of Mormon theory as a hoax. “Heartland hoax” is a tag featured on this blog, and it’s a hashtag I regularly use on this site’s Twitter account.

Now, calling the Heartland movement a hoax is in no way the same thing as “claiming the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were a hoax.”

Prophets and apostles have taught many things—some of them revealed by God, some of them inspired by the Spirit, and some of them from their own understanding. There is no revelation stating that the hill Cumorah in New York is the same hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon. Many Latter-day Saints—including Latter-day Saint leaders—have believed the two hills are the same hill, but conventional wisdom is not the same thing as revelation.

I trust that our readers can see through what Neville is doing here: This blog uses the phrase “Heartland hoax,” which Neville has distorted into “the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah were a hoax.” It’s not the teachings of the prophets that are a hoax; it’s the way Jonathan Neville and other Heartlanders misuse those teachings to spread their lucrative theories.

—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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