Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Friday, July 14, 2023

Rian Nelson promotes the claim that Russell M. Nelson is “the prophet who teacheth lies”

I’m taking a break from my very busy summer schedule to share what should be a warning to all Saints to not believe or follow the teachings of Rian Nelson, blogger and social media coordinator for Rod Meldrum’s Book of Mormon Evidence website.

For many years, Rian Nelson has been blogging and posting about his opposition to COVID-19 vaccines. He’s compared vaccines in general to sorcery and the occult and called pharmaceutical drugs “poisonous.” (Click here to see more examples of conspiracy theories he’s peddled.)

The problem of course with Rian Nelson’s anti-vaccine stance is that it’s in direct opposition to the repeated counsel of the First Presidency. This has forced him to make increasingly convoluted claims in order to justify his positions in the light of prophetic statements.

The latest example of this is his promotion of Alexander Tibekizis’s Kindle book—available for just 99 cents (you truly do get what you pay for, I suppose)—that claims “by teaching lies, the president of the Church fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy” in Isaiah 9:15.* (If his blog post ends up being deleted, you can see a screenshot of it here.)

Rian Nelson first reprinted the Amazon.com description of Tibekizis’s book, unintentionally referring to it as “an amazing quote by Joseph Smith”:
Alexander Tibekisis The Prophet That Teacheth Lies During COVID-19, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were shocked to have their church leaders encouraging them to take the COVID-19 Vaccine. Some questioned the faith of those who would not take the Vaccine; others accused any who spoke against the Vaccine of promoting apostasy. Some questioned their own faith when confronted with their prophet promoting what they saw as a lie. Still, others took the Vaccine even against their better judgment, believing that God would not hold them responsible for the damage it caused if they followed the prophet’s counsel.

By teaching lies, the president of the Church fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy in the Old Testament, accompanied by many other leaders worldwide. Avoiding the Vaccine was not only the right and privilege of every member but standing for truth is precisely what the Lord has called those loyal to Him to do, both in and outside the Church. The Book of Mormon records that more part of the people came to believe in the Gadianton’s and thus took part with them in their spoils. This book documents how that same process occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also witnesses that none need question their faith in God, the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Church, or their own membership, but it rather invigorates all to remain faithful to the purposes of the Lord and stand for truth at all times and all places.
Rian Nelson then followed that by reprinting this comment that he wrote to Tibekizis:
I absolutely love the premise of your book. It is the message the Saints need to hear. Often, I think how the Word of Wisdom was not given as a commandment, as it was written for the WEAKEST of the Saints, which is very similar to what you are speaking about.

Over 70% of my family took the jab, which I didn’t, as I was blessed with a calming spirit that told me not to take it. My family didn’t listen, as they were deceived by the craftiness of man. Now, I know the Lord forgives and He will bless my family as they show faith in Him.

Our dear Prophet was not wrong, as he was speaking to the entire world. Many countries would have ostracized or rejected the Church in many countries, like they did in Utah and our own USA. President Nelson knows the Lord will bless those who truly understand or repent. It was a huge trial of our faith and we will go through much more as the Prophet [Joseph Smith] said,

“Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course…as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.”
Let’s break this down, shall we?

  • Rian Nelson believes that the First Presidency’s repeated counsel to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was, like the Word of Wisdom originally, not a commandment. (Nelson is correct that the Word of Wisdom was originally given “not by commandment or constraint,” although that changed in the 1920s under President Heber J. Grant.)
  • Rian Nelson believes that the First Presidency’s repeated counsel to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was “written for the WEAKEST of Saints.” This would imply, it seems, that spiritually elite Saints knew that President Nelson didn’t mean they should get the vaccine, but all the spiritual commoners didn’t understand this coded message and failed the test.
  • Rian Nelson believes that over 70 percent of his family members were “deceived by the craftiness of man.” (Wow, I’ll bet Thanksgivings and family reunions are blast with him around!)
  • Rian Nelson believes that the First Presidency’s repeated counsel to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was a ploy to keep the Church in good standing among the nations of the world, and that President Nelson “knows the Lord will bless those who truly understand”—wink, wink—that he really didn’t mean for people to get vaccinated. This was just a secret code that only the spiritually elite like Rian Nelson would understand, while Saints who lacked his understanding or were disobedient (i.e., those who need to repent) didn’t understand and follow.

In an ironic twist, on the very same day that Rian Nelson published his “the prophet who teacheth lies” blog post, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a contribution of $3 million to procure and distribute the new RTS,S malaria vaccine to help 39,500 African children receive the four doses required for immunity against malaria.

Rian Nelson is a false teacher who is leading unsuspecting Latter-day Saints into apostasy. Avoid and shun his teachings, and warn your fellow Saints also against them.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Addendum: Who was “the prophet that teacheth lies” in Isaiah 9:15?

I haven’t (and won’t) read Tibekizis’s book, but if he truly believes that Isaiah 9:15 is prophecy of Russell M. Nelson—or even that President Nelson fits some sort of prophetic type in connection with that verse—then he’s gravely mistaken.

Isaiah 9:8–10:4 is an oracle (prophetic saying) made by Isaiah some time around 730 b.c. against the nation of Israel (also called Ephraim), which lay to the north of Judah where Isaiah lived. Israel had formed an alliance with Syria (also called Aram) to jointly throw off the yoke of Assyrian oppression. The two small nations wanted Judah to join them against Assyria, but king Jotham of Judah refused to participate in their coalition. Israel and Syria responded to Jotham’s decision by attacking Judah to force her to join their alliance. Shortly after the war began, Jotham died and was succeeded by his young son, the wicked Ahaz (r. 732–716). Judah suffered significant defeats during the reign of king Ahaz, and eventually the armies of Syria and Israel marched to Jerusalem and besieged the city. It was at this point that Isaiah gave Ahaz the Immanuel Prophecy to reassure him that Israel and Syria would both be defeated within a few years (Isaiah 7:3–17).

Isaiah 9:8–10:4 follows that by declaring the Lord’s coming punishment on Israel/Ephraim, and its capital city Samaria:

¹¹Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin [the king of Syria] against him [Jacob, meaning the people of Israel],
 and join his enemies together;
¹²The Syrians before [i.e., from the east], and the Philistines behind [i.e., from the west];
 and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.
For all [despite] this his [the Lord’s] anger is not turned away [does not subside],
 but his hand is stretched out still [to strike Israel].
¹³For the people [of Israel] turneth not unto him that smiteth them [the Lord],
 neither do they seek the Lord of hosts [turn to him in the spirit of repentence].
¹⁴Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail,
 branch and rush [i.e., shoots and stem], in one day.
¹⁵The ancient and honourable [i.e., leaders and highly respected people], he is the head;
 and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
¹⁶For the leaders of this people [i.e., the “ancient and honourable” and the prophets of v. 15] cause them [the people of Israel] to err;
 and they that are led of them are destroyed.

This prophecy was fulfilled a few years later (ca. 721 b.c.), when the Assyrians attacked and overran the nation of Israel and deported the ten tribes who lived there to the east.

Isaiah’s prophecy condemned the false prophets of the nation of Israel in the eighth century b.c. It has nothing whatsoever to do with modern times, COVID-19, or (heaven forbid) Russell M. Nelson.

And in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.” (D&C 10:63)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Antisemitism is alive and well on the FIRM Foundation website (UPDATE: sort of)

I’ve been very busy the last couple of months, partly because I’m engaged in re-reading the Book of Mormon over the summer. (I should have some things to say about that in a future post.)

Right now, however, it looks like Rod Meldrum still hasn’t reigned in Rian Nelson’s antisemitic crackpottery over at the FIRM Foundation website.

Earlier this year, the FIRM Foundation’s site was down for a couple of days after being suspended by its hosting service. When their site came back up, an antisemitic blog post they had recently published had been removed, but several other antisemitic posts were still up and available, as I documented at the time.

Today, the FIRM Foundation’s Facebook page reposted one of Rian’s articles from September 2022. It’s another one I haven’t seen before in which he references the vile antisemitic “Khazarian” conspiracy theory: This kind of swill has no connection to the Book of Mormon, which condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms, as have leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Update, Tuesday afternoon, June 13th: I commented on the FIRM Foundation Facebook post about the antisemitism in Rian’s article. Rian claimed that I was “putting words in his mouth,” so I shared the link to the AJC article (screenshot 1; screenshot 2). He then deleted my Facebook comments, blocked me from the FIRM Foundation Facebook page, and edited the article. It now reads: I guess that’s an improvement. The post still includes the terms Zionists and cabal, which can and are used in antisemitic ways.

I honestly don’t know if Rian understands that the things he believes and espouses are vulgar anti-Jewish slurs. And blocking me because I pointed this out? Nice touch.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

What Heartlandism does to the human brain

“Prosperous farmers.”

Joseph Smith:
“[I] was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by [my] daily labor.” (JSH 1:23)

“While preparing to [leave New York for Pennsylvania]—being very poor, and the persecution so heavy upon us that there was no probability that we would ever be otherwise…” (JSH 1:61)
Church History website, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
The Smiths moved to Palmyra, New York, between 1816 and 1817, with the intent of growing wheat. After saving for two years, the family made the first payment on a 100-acre lot of densely forested land in Manchester, a few miles south of Palmyra. During the winter of 1818 to 1819, the 10 members of the Smith family moved into a 1,000-square-foot log home built by Joseph Smith Sr. and his sons Alvin and Hyrum. The home was situated north of the farm, in Palmyra Township.

Developing a farm took years of work. The entire family labored to clear the land, plant and harvest crops, dig wells, build fences and rock walls, and construct a barn and other outbuildings. The family even harvested sap from the numerous maple trees on the farm to realize some early income.…

The family soon built a larger, frame home on the farm. Before his untimely death in November 1823, Alvin had begun construction on the frame home to provide greater comfort and more respectability for his aging parents. About twice the size of the log home, the frame home featured multiple rooms for receiving guests and included a large kitchen.…

Due to Alvin Smith’s death, the expense of the frame home, and the unscrupulous dealings of a local land agent, the financially strapped Smith family was unable to make the second payment on the farm and lost the title to it in 1826. By the time the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the Smiths had moved back into the log home and were working as tenant farmers on the land they had cleared and developed. The family left the area permanently in 1831, when they moved to Ohio.
—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Friday, May 12, 2023

Did Joseph Smith really use a seer stone? — The Standard of Truth podcast

The Standard of Truth Podcast The Standard of Truth podcast is hosted by Dr. Gerrit Dirkmaat, associate professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, and Richard LeDuc, a professor in the Masters of Business Creation Program at the University of Utah. In their weekly episodes, they “explore the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the life and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. They examine the original historical sources and provide context for events of the past. They approach the history of the church with faith, expertise, and humor.”

Gerrit Dirkmaat has a PhD in American history and worked on the Joseph Smith Papers Project as a historian and writer. He is, in my estimation, better acquainted with the life and teachings of Joseph Smith than just about any other living historian.

In their most-recent episode, Dirkmaat and LeDuc discussed “a rising trend/movement among Church members [who] adamantly reject that Joseph Smith used seer stones placed into a hat (in order to block out the light) to translate the Book of Mormon.” They politely didn’t name names, but it’s apparent from the context of their discussion that they’re referring to the book Seer Stone v. Urim & Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial by Hannah and James Stoddard, as well as several books written by Jonathan Neville.

I enthusiastically recommend the Standard of Truth podcast—and this episode in particular—to anyone who’s interested in this topic:
—Mike Parker [‘Peter Pan”]

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Jonathan Neville thinks I’m being “purged” from Interpreter

So much for my hope to take some time off.

Jonathan Neville published another blog post today promoting Bill Reel’s false and defamatory video. Because Neville doesn’t read this blog, he’s probably not aware that I posted a refutation of the key “evidence” Reel and Steve Pynakker presented that I have purportedly been masquerading online as Richard Nygren.

(For who may not have understood me, I’ve never used the Richard Nygren name or persona online, nor have I ever interacted with anyone who has. If that name or identity has been used on social media, I was not the person behind it. End of story.)

Neville’s newest blog post is titled “Purging Mike Parker?” In it, he repeats the same untrue things he’s been saying for years about the Interpreter Foundation, but now with added spin about the supposed “fiasco” concerning the pseudonym I used on this blog:
Purging Mike Parker seems unfair and unnecessary. But also insufficient. After all, his antics didn’t occur in a vacuum. It seems unlikely that anyone at the Interpreter was unaware of Mike’s “Peter Pan” alter ego, given Dan [Peterson]’s frequent and enthusiastic endorsement. From the outside, it looks like Mike is taking the blame for the entire organization.
“Purging”? “Taking the blame”? What in the world is Neville talking about?

It seems he referring to the fact that I no longer participate in the weekly Interpreter Radio broadcasts:
Because I haven’t watched the Interpreter’s Scripture Roundtables or podcasts, I didn’t realize Mike was such an integral part of the Interpreter team for so long.

But now he’s omitted from the list of hosts, despite his having hosted numerous podcasts and videos over the years.
Neville thinks that my use of the pseudonym “Peter Pan” was a “fiasco”—a term I’m certain he’ll repeat continually in that hope that people will believe it. He also believes that I’m somehow being “purged” from Interpreter’s website.

The real reason I’m no longer appearing as part of the Interpreter Radio lineup is that I stepped away from it last summer because my life had simply become too hectic, and I needed to spend Sunday evenings with my family. That’s all.
Stalin Nikolai Yezhov airbrushed Mike Parker Interpreter Radio
All of the old shows I appeared on are still on the website; I’m just no longer a current host. By my own choice. Eight months ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a textbook example of the level of research the Jonathan Neville does before he publishes his views. He’s the clown car of investigative research.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so shockingly disgraceful.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

If you personally know Jonathan Neville, please email him a complete copy of this blog post. He refuses to read what he calls my “stupid blog,” so the only way he’ll know how mistaken he is is if you tell him.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Examining Bill Reel’s false accusations against me

(Yes, I know I said I was going to take a break from blogging for a bit. This is important enough that I felt I needed to make an exception.)

I’ve struggled for over a week about whether or not to write this blog post. I’ve been falsely accused by an ex-Mormon critic of the Church in a way that attacks my character. He has publicly presented fabricated evidence to misrepresent me as a supposed racist who is purportedly involved in a conspiracy to cover up my real identity by using the online persona of a fictitious African-American man.

In a situation like this, any explanation I offer is unlikely to placate those who are predisposed to believe the worst about me, people I know, and the gospel we affirm. And talking about it risks drawing more attention than it would otherwise receive or merit. Regardless, publishing the truth may result in at least some good.

I apologize for the length of this post, but the details are complex and require a full examination.

: Robert Boylan’s “Richard Nygren” remark

I have previously explained, in writing and in a video interview, the facts behind the “Richard Nygren” comment made by Robert Boylan in his YouTube podcast. I was aware of Robert’s remark, but—other than posting Robert’s video on this blog—I did not repeat his comment, nor did I do anything to disseminate or promote it. I simply moved on. (And, to be honest, largely forgot about it.)

: Bill Reel’s first public accusations

On , ex-Mormon podcaster Bill Reel first accused me, via his Facebook page, of “having lurked the internet under the false identity of an African American Person of Color from Alabama named Richard Nygren.” (Screenshot.) He declared that he always considered me and others who defend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints against critical attacks to be “crooked weasels” who “always protect the Church at any expense[,] but impersonating people of a race you are not seems to be a whole other category of unhealthy deception.” Addressing me personally, Reel wrote, “If this isn’t true[,] I would welcome you explaining yourself and helping us figure out why the profile of [Richard Nygren]…used to be the exact same profile of no one other than Mike Parker?”

At that time, I had no idea what Bill Reel meant about lurking on the internet under the name Richard Nygren. I have never impersonated or used the online identity of any person of color, including the fictional Nygren.

According to one of the links in his Facebook post, Reel sourced his information from a virulently anti-Mormon message board, the same one where my real identity had been revealed earlier in March. (No, I’m not going to provide any links to that site. It’s the same one that Daniel Peterson refers to as the “Peterson Obsession Board,” so that’s what I’ll call it.)

That same day () I attempted to contact Bill Reel via Facebook Messenger (screenshot), in person, by voicemail, and by SMS text message. In each of these instances, I denied that I have ever claimed to be Richard Nygren or any other Black man. I told him that his claim bordered on libel and requested that he delete his Facebook post and issue a retraction and an apology. He responded to me via SMS text later that day; he ignored my requests for a retraction and pressed me to explain my involvement. I had no information to give him other than it was Robert Boylan who made the original statement and that I had never claimed to be Richard Nygren or any other Black person. I simply didn’t know what he was talking about.

It wasn’t until Reel went public with his “evidence” two weeks later that I learned what he believed he had on me.

: Bill Reel’s YouTube livestream

On the afternoon of April 15th, Bill Reel and Steve Pynakker co-hosted a 2 hour, 45 minute YouTube livestream titled “LDS Apologists & The Invention And Coverup Of Richard Nygren,” in which they went through the evidence of my perfidy as they understood it.

In their discussion, Reel referred to a , YouTube livestream interview with Pynakker, Jonathan Neville, and ex-Mormon Kerry Shirts. Shirts has his own YouTube channel called “The Backyard Professor” and posts frequently on the Peterson Obsession Board as “Philo Sofee.” (Reel and Shirts share the distinction of being ex-Mormons who were formerly associated with FAIR.)

According to Reel and Pynakker:
[38:40] REEL: On March 25th, Steve Pynakker informed his followers that he and Jonathan Neville would be on the Backyard Professor’s show the following day, and [Mike] Parker notified the host, Kerry Shirts, just before showtime that he would be in the chat for that show. Would they be reporting on Peter Pan’s identity? He had to have had the thought. Regardless, he writes this blog post on the same day as the show. Maybe before I read what he says here, would you mind just telling a little more of that story, how that all unfolded?

[Skipping a bit of Pynakker’s explanation of how he came to do the Shirts/Neville podcast and how he learned my identity.]

[40:18] PYNAKKER: A couple days later I announced that I’m going to be co-hosting with Jonathan Neville, and in my mind what happened is, right before—um, Kerry Shirts tells me earlier in the day; I don’t remember the exact thing—I think he actually said before we were taping that, “Yeah, by the way, Peter Pan is going to be in the discussion.” I thought, “Oh, that’s very interesting.” And then also we had started connecting the dots because just a few hours before this episode goes live, this is when he [Mike Parker] announces who he is he gives his identity at that point.

This misinformation is the origin of Reel’s accusation against me.

In response to Pynakker’s claims, I make the following statements of fact:

  • I had no advance knowledge that Pynakker, Shirts, and Neville were going to be on a YouTube podcast together. I don’t follow Shirts or Pynakker’s YouTube activities. (I’ve barely read any of what Shirts posts on the Peterson Obsession Board, and, except for a few pages of posts about my real identity, I’ve ignored the very outré conversations going on over there.)
  • It is a complete coincidence that I happened to publish my blog post (“Questions and answers”) on the same day that the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville livestream took place.
  • I did not indicate to anyone, including Kerry Shirts, that I would “be in the discussion” on their YouTube video. As far as I can determine, I haven’t communicated with Kerry Shirts for over ten years. The last email I wrote in which I even mentioned him was on , in which I responded to someone who asked me what had happened to him by saying that he’d apparently become “something of an agnostic” (screenshot).
  • I did not watch or participate in any way in the , Pynakker/Shirts/Neville YouTube video.
  • I first learned of the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville video from Jonathan Neville’s , blog post about it. To the best of my knowledge, Neville did not announce his appearance on that livestream video ahead of time.
  • On , I published a blog post about the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville video. At that time I had not watched it, and I still haven’t watched it (except for a ten-second portion that someone else sent me as a YouTube link with a timestamp; see below). I linked to the video in my blog post, but my post focused on Neville’s lack of wisdom in having anything to do with Kerry Shirts, not on the content of the video.

I do not know where Kerry Shirts got the idea that I would be participating in that video. I can think of three possibilities:

  1. Someone trolled Kerry Shirts by impersonating me or “Peter Pan,” and he sincerely believed it.
  2. Kerry Shirts invented the claim that I would be participating in his YouTube livestream, either as a lie or as a joke directed at Pynakker.
  3. Pynakker’s recollection of his conversation with Kerry Shirts is mistaken.

I’d like to give both Shirts and Pynakker the benefit of the doubt here and go with possibility #1, but I honestly don’t know what the truth is.

: “Richard Nygren” appears in the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville video

In the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville livestream, someone appeared in the chat with the screen name “Richard Nygren” and using an avatar of comedian Dave Chappelle dressed as the rock star Prince (explicit content in that link). This person asked (in all caps), “Do you think you will ever sit down with Mike Parker over lunch and be friends?” (Timestamp 1:27:42.) As I stated above, I did not watch (and have not watched) that video, nor did I interact with it in any way. The person who commented in that livestream as “Richard Nygren” was not me, and I had no knowledge of what took place in that livestream until I watched Reel and Pynakker’s livestream.

: Steve Pynakker plays connect-the-dots

Returning to Reel and Pynakker’s discussion:
[46:09] REEL: So, then you guys do your show and this aired on the 26th of March 2023. Mike Parker has informed you guys—specifically Kerry Shirts—but he’s informed you guys that he is going to be participating in the chat of this show. He’s going to be in participating—I don’t mean necessarily interacting, other than he’ll be there, he’ll be watching the comments, he’ll be observing, and he certainly has ample opportunity to comment and to speak up. Strange thing happens in the middle of the show is that a comment comes on the screen from Richard Nygren with a picture of David Chappelle dressed as Prince, and the comment is, “Do you think you will ever sit down with Mike Parker over lunch and be friends?,” and whoever this person is—and again we can’t conclude conclusively that it is Mike Parker—but I want you to explain the context of this comment: Why this person is asking if Neville and Parker will sit down over lunch and be friends.
Reel then added that this had been a opportunity for me to “resolve the Nygren connection,” even though, as he admits, he couldn’t conclusively conclude that it was me in the chat. (Again, it wasn’t.)
[47:34] PYNAKKER: So this is what was so funny is I didn’t catch it at the time when it was live; I actually re-watched the episode the next day and I remember looking at the screen and thinking, “Oh my goodness.” I was like—that to me as I—immediately I made the connection, that’s Mike Parker commenting as Richard Nygren. That’s how I saw it; that was my immediate response. Now I can’t say for 100 percent certain, but if you look at the chat history, Richard Nygren is actually interacting during the chat as well. So we have Mike Parker, who—and I didn’t know all this, I mean, again, this is, a lot of this information was after I first figured this out was—he’s interacting with people. Mike Parker said he’s going to be in there. Why isn’t Mike Parker going in there and saying, “Hey, who are you? Who’s this Richard Nygren guy?‘ Or interacting or saying something? It just seems to me as you read this—this to me appears to be Mike Parker’s voice under the guise of Richard Nygren, and he seems to have some intimate knowledge—or if it’s not Richard, if it’s not Mike Parker, it’s somebody that’s close enough that they would feel they could ask, “Would you do lunch with him,” almost like asking for a friend, you know. So, either it’s somebody but I—my hunch is that’s Mike Parker.
And there is Reel’s supposed smoking gun: The day after the Pynakker/Shirts/Neville interview, Pynakker had a sudden realization that that was me posting as Richard Nygren in the chat. He says he “can’t say for 100 percent certain” that I was posting as Richard Nygren, but since I had purportedly told Kerry Shirts that I’d be there (again, I said and did no such thing), in his mind it was either me posting as Nygren or I was watching the video but didn’t speak up to deny that was me posting as Nygren. Neither Pynakker nor Reel ever considered the third possibility that I wasn’t in the chat at all.

Calumny may defame

As I have stated above and from the start, from the moment that Robert Boylan made a joke about fictional Black man to, in his own words, “tweak Heartlanders,” I have not used the name or identity of “Richard Nygren” anywhere for any reason. I didn’t even repeat his joke in any forum at any time. It happened, I wasn’t going to throw a friend of mine under the bus for a joke, and so I ignored it and went on with my life.

Bill Reel’s key piece of evidence that I “fabricated and perpetuated a fictional black apologist” and then engaged in a cover-up is based on a fallacious comment purportedly made by Kerry Shirts and an erroneous conclusion reached by Steve Pynakker based on that comment.

If this is how carefully they weigh evidence and devise arguments against the Church of Jesus Christ and its followers, then I think any reasonable person should sincerely question everything they say.

This is all it takes these days for someone like Reel to engage in character assassination that drives clicks on—and ad revenue from—a YouTube video (one that now has over 9,300 views).

Will I ever get the retraction and apology that I asked of Bill Reel on ? I think that’s unlikely. I also think that it’s more likely that he and those who side with him will accuse me (falsely) of making up this explanation as just another part of the supposed cover-up. Even if I don’t get that apology, though, hopefully this blog post will clear up any confusion that people of good will have about this.

I’m willing to answer honest, sincere questions about this incident in the comments.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Friday, April 21, 2023

Taking a bit of a break

This week has taken a toll on me, emotionally and spiritually. And there may be more challenges ahead, if Jonathan Neville follows through on some of the things he told me he may choose to do.

I’m going to take a break from this blog for a bit to find some peace in the company of friends and family. I’ll be back in a bit, once I’ve recharged.

My thanks to the kind words of support that I’ve received by way of email messages and comments on this blog. They mean more to me than you can know.

Despite our dramatic differences and feelings of mistrust for one another, I do wish to thank Jonathan Neville for posting my responses to his comparison table. He published my reply over five individual blog posts (I, II, III, IV, and V). Needless to say, I take strong exception to his commentary on my replies—I believe that he has misconstrued almost all of what I wrote. Still, I’m grateful that he gave me the opportunity to respond and followed through by publishing it. My offer for him to write something that I will post on my blog remains open.

See you soon.
“We have always endeavored to cultivate a spirit of friendship, amity, and peace with mankind.… Rumor with her ten thousand tongues has always been busy circulating falsehood and misrepresentation concerning us, and men have frequently in the absence of correct information, entertained unfavorable opinions concerning us, and have spoken as they thought; but when they have been better informed they have regretted their course and have seen that calumny has been like a viper in our path, and has stung like an adder.” —Editorial, Nauvoo Neighbor, May 3, 1843, p. 2 [source]

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Jonathan Neville tried to blackmail me

This is not a post I wanted to write. Unfortunately, it’s become necessary because Jonathan Neville has threatened to team up with anti-Mormon critics to attack me and my character unless I take down this entire blog.

(TL;DR version)

I’ll begin with some context:

Bill Reel’s podcast

On , ex-Mormon podcaster Bill Reel hosted a 2 hour and 46 minute (!) YouTube livestream with the intent to (from the video’s description) “expose the shocking story of how a group of 5 white LDS apologists fabricated and perpetuated a fictional black apologist, Richard Nygren, to provide cover for one of their own. Through detailed investigation and interviews with key players, we reveal the disturbing truth behind this deceitful act and its coverup as well as the impact it has on those involved and on the Mormon apologetic community.”

The truth behind Reel’s breathless hyperbole is not nearly as interesting or dramatic as he tried to make it, and none of the supposed “key players” responded to his requests for information (unless Reel was referring to Jonathan Neville, in which case I’m not surprised). In addition to denying Reel’s spin that I or anyone else “perpetuated a fictional black apologist,” I also categorically state that neither I nor anyone else mentioned in Reel’s video made any fake Richard Nygren profiles on YouTube or any other social media platform, website, or online chat.

That didn’t stop Reel from “grinning ear to ear” when he found a story he could spin to attack and defame a few Latter-day Saints. And his lackeys naturally ate up everything he said, making equally reprehensible comments in the live chat, including some loathsome attempts to dox me by posting my home address.
Pepe Silvia conspiracy theory It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Bill Reel, probably
Because of Bill Reel’s video, I’ve received harassing messages from disturbed individuals accusing me of being a racist. Some of these messages have contained what could be considered threats. I won’t post those messages here, as they may be evidence if one of these people decides to follow through on their statements.

Normally, I would just ignore Reel’s video—“don’t feed the trolls,” and so forth. These deranged lunatics are obsessed with destroying people who believe in the restored gospel, and they experience no twinge of conscience when they distort the truth.

But then Jonathan Neville jumped on Bill Reel’s bandwagon.

Jonathan Neville promotes Bill Reel’s video

Jonathan Neville—who refuses to read anything I’ve written or to watch my interview with Robert Boylan—was apparently more than happy to watch Bill Reel’s podcast, because he posted about it on his blog.

In his blog post, Neville asserted:
Prominent members of the citation cartel concocted, promoted and perpetuated a fake blogger persona named ‘Peter Pan’ to attack me on an ad hominem blog that ridicules my family name.
Just about every word of that sentence is false.

  • There were no “prominent members” of anything involved with the creation and maintaining of this blog; it was solely my idea, and I alone am responsible for it.
  • By “promoted,” Neville is referring to Daniel Peterson sharing links to this blog on his own site from time to time. He did this not because he’s been involved in the creation or operation of this blog, but because Jonathan Neville has attacked him and other scholars with weird claims that they’re part of some conspiracy to promulgate “M2C” within the Church.
  • If Neville wants to call writing a blog under a pseudonym using “a fake blogger persona,” then I’m afraid to tell him that many blogs are pseudonymous, many famous authors have written under pseudonyms, and even many early American Founders wrote pseudonymously. (I certainly don’t consider this blog to be on the level of Thomas Paine’s anonymously published Common Sense, of course.) As I’ve stated before, I used a pseudonym to protect myself from unstable people—a decision that has now proven itself to be prophetic, as I’ll explain in a moment.
  • To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never “attacked” Jonathan Neville on this blog. I’ve at times been sarcastic or snarky, but I’ve always tried to focus on his claims and assertions, not on his person. If anyone can give me examples of where I’ve “attacked” him, please let me know in the comments below; if there are legitimate examples, I’ll gladly remove them and apologize.
  • The name of this blog is not “ad hominem,” because that’s not what ad hominem means.
  • This is the first time that Neville has alleged that the name Neville-Neville Land “ridicules [his] family name.” It’s strange that he’s waited this long to make an issue about it; this blog has existed for over four years, and only now he’s bringing this up? It seems to me that he’s desperately seeking some opportunity to criticize me.

Amid his many other claims, Neville also asserted in his blog post:
For years, these guys have been falsely accusing Heartlanders of racist motives when it is they themselves who used a phony and racist persona to mislead their own readers and followers (and donors, in the case of Dan Peterson).
This is a rather audacious claim, considering that Rian Nelson on the FIRM Foundation’s blog has made repeated antisemitic statements, statements that Neville himself has shrugged off by writing, “Lots of people think crazy things, and normally that doesn’t matter because we recognize that none of us is perfect.”

Neither Jonathan Neville nor Bill Reel cared when the FIRM Foundation was posting vile, racist antisemitism on a regular basis. Only after Daniel Peterson blogged about it did Neville address it, with a response that equates to, "Yeah, that’s not great, but it’s just Rian being Rian.” But now that they think they’ve got me dead to rights, suddenly the mere mention of a fictitious Black man has them screaming “EMERGENCY! RACISM! DANGER! Actual incendiary antisemitism is something they’re happy to overlook and excuse, but merely mentioning a nonexistent Black man as part of a joke is apparently beyond the pale. Hypocrisy much?

One could reasonably accuse Reel and Neville of being nothing more than deplorable opportunists.

And, as I’ve already stated, I’ve never used a “racist persona” in any way on any platform. Claims that I or anyone I know has done so are absolutely false.

My personal request to Jonathan Neville

After I saw Neville’s blog post, I sent him the following email on . I asked him to not share this message online out of respect for my family’s privacy, but unfortunately I’m now forced to post it publicly to provide context for Neville’s response. (I’ve made a few slight changes to my email to remove some sensitive, personal information about my family. The message and intent of the email has not been altered. You can read a screenshot of my email, with redactions.)
Brother Neville,

I notice that you have blogged approvingly about Bill Reel’s video about me.

Setting Reel’s egregiously false spin on these events aside for the moment, his video invades my privacy by discussing in general terms where I live and work. (He lives in the same part of Southern Utah that I do.) Several comments in his YouTube video have tried to dox me by providing my home address and links to information about me on my employer’s website.

I have already received several harassing messages from people who have seen the video. These I can deal with, but they have troubled my family members. They have been terrified by what sound like threats and worried about disturbed individuals showing up at our home uninvited.

I’ve already reported Reel’s YouTube video as harassing me, but it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything about it.

I’m asking you, as a fellow Latter-day Saint and on behalf of my family, to please remove your blog posts linking to Reel’s video. The less advertisement his salacious trash can get, the better.

Kind regards,

Mike Parker

Jonathan Neville’s response and attempt to blackmail me

Neville has so far responded to my email three times. The first reply came on the afternoon of

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Jonathan Neville misrepresents Jack Welch, Stephen Smoot, and BYU Studies Quarterly

Title page of BYU Studies Quarterly 61:4 A Guide to the Book of Abraham
The title page of BYU Studies Quarterly 61:4
BYU Studies Quarterly volume 61, issue 4, is entirely dedicated to the Book of Abraham. This issue was coauthored by Stephen O. Smoot, John Gee, Kerry Muhlestein, and John S. Thompson; it’s a wonderful resource on this precious book of scripture.

In his , blog post, “More good news from BYU Studies” (screenshot) Jonathan Neville delivered a backhanded compliment, praising BYU Studies Quarterly for what he believes is its “changed editorial approach” and “more diverse and open direction,” before using the same post to unfairly attack the supposed “citation cartel.”

In his blog post, he refers to mainstream Latter-day Saint scholars as “gatekeepers who insist on conformity with their own views,” citing the Interpreter Foundation as an example, whose editors he claims “have assumed a role reminiscent of the biblical Pharisees known for their ‘insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law.’”

Neville is also critical of John W. Welch, the former editor of BYU Studies Quarterly and founder of Book of Mormon Central. Neville had this to say about Welch:
The name of this blog—Book of Mormon Central America—reflects the sad reality that Book of Mormon Central has chosen to promote its Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory exclusively, thereby excluding alternative faithful interpretations of Church history and the teachings of the prophets. Years ago, when Jack Welch told me he was offended by the name, I explained that I would gladly change the name and even remove the blog from the Internet if he would change his editorial approach by recognizing alternative faithful interpretations of Book of Mormon origins and setting. All I ask is a fair and accurate comparison of the alternatives, including the New York Cumorah.

To this day he has refused to do so. Thus, the blog endures.

Back then, as editor of BYU Studies [sic], Jack used the journal as a vehicle to promote his M2C agenda. After he left, though, BYU Studies [sic] has improved significantly.
Neville’s comment about the name of his blog is something I may revisit in the future, but for now I’d like to focus on his last claim: According to him, since John Welch left as editor of BYU Studies Quarterly—which Neville incorrectly refers to by the name it went by prior to 2012—the journal “has improved significantly.”

He repeats this claim later in the same blog post:
BYU Studies [sic] recently released a volume on the Book of Abraham. In the Conclusion, the authors make a statement that, if actually followed by LDS [sic] apologists and historians, would mark a sea change for LDS [sic] scholarship. Such a paradigm shift would benefit everyone, LDS [sic] or not, who is interested in the Restoration. The paradigm shift would also benefit those who read and follow the critics of the Restoration, who adhere just as rigidly to their own critical dogma as does the LDS [sic] citation cartel.
Although it should be evident that we tend to favor certain theories over others when it comes to explaining the nature and translation of the Book of Abraham, we do not presume to impose our understanding on others as an article of faith. We are happy to acknowledge that Latter-day Saints can in good faith come to different conclusions about the nature of this book of scripture and “pursue a faithful study of the Book of Abraham from different backgrounds and approaches.” In fact, we welcome these different approaches and encourage a multitude of voices to contribute to the conversation.

Imagine how much healthier LDS [sic] scholarship would be if LDS [sic] scholars generally, and Jack Welch specifically, adopted such an approach.

We note first that such a declaration probably could not have been published while Jack Welch was editing BYU Studies [sic]. For whatever reasons, he has long been opposed to alternative faithful interpretations, and his approach remains in effect at Book of Mormon Central.

[emphasis Neville’s]
(Neville persists in using the acronym “LDS,” even though Church leaders have asked that we no longer use that abbreviation.)

To recap: According to Jonathan Neville, BYU Studies Quarterly has “improved significantly” since Jack Welch left his role as editor of the publication in 2018, and the declaration in the conclusion of the most recent issue “probably could not have been published while Jack Welch was editing” the journal.

But Neville’s claim is explicitly contradicted in the introduction to same issue of BYU Studies Quarterly:
In January 2020, Pearl of Great Price Central published its fortieth Book of Abraham Insight before shifting attention to Joseph Smith—History in the Pearl of Great Price in anticipation for the April 2020 general conference of the Church, which had been designated by President Russell M. Nelson as a bicentennial celebration. It was at that time that the authors of this present volume, who were the principal researchers behind the Book of Abraham Insights on the Pearl of Great Price Central website, felt it was appropriate to revise the Insights and make them available in print. Accordingly, the subsequent months of the year 2020 were spent revising the Insights to incorporate feedback from readers, update material in response to advances in scholarship, take into consideration constructive critiques, expand some material that was at first kept deliberately short, and include new material that could not appear in the initial run of the Insights due to constraints in Pearl of Great Price Central’s publishing schedule. With the kind assistance and cooperation of John W. Welch and Steven C. Harper, the former and current editors of BYU Studies Quarterly, respectively, we are pleased to now find a home for the final result of these revisions and expansions as an issue of that journal. [emphasis added]
Please note that Pearl of Great Price Central is a subsidiary of Book of Mormon Central. The articles in the very issue of BYU Studies Quarterly that Neville is so pleased with came from Book of Mormon Central and were printed due in part to the efforts of John Welch.

Stephen Smoot is one of the authors of the volume, and his name is listed first among his coauthors on the cover and on the title page. In his blog post, Neville had this to say about him:
At least one of the authors credited with this [declaration], Stephen O. Smoot, has a well-earned reputation for eagerly and fiercely attacking anyone who reaches different conclusions than his.

Smoot “is currently an adjunct instructor of religious education at Brigham Young University and a research associate with the B.H. Roberts Foundation.” We are left to speculate whether this paragraph marks a sea change for him personally, or whether his authorship was attached to this conclusion by accident.

Time will tell on that question.
I reached out to Stephen Smoot about all of this, and he replied with the following statement. I quote him with his permission:
As explained in the introduction, this issue of BYU Studies Quarterly, titled A Guide to the Book of Abraham, originated in 2019 as a project by Book of Mormon Central (as part of its subsidiary, Pearl of Great Price Central). At that time, John W. Welch approved of and encouraged the work of my coauthors and I. Some time after posting this material online, we revised, expanded, and updated this content and prepared it for publication in print. Jack was instrumental in helping us work with Steven Harper, then the incoming editor of the journal, to get this material published. So, from day one Jack Welch has been involved in this project, and we thank him in our introduction for his kind assistance. We are indeed grateful to both him and Steve for all of their hard work and dedication in helping us get this new issue of the journal past the finish line. To somehow suggest that Jack must have disapproved of the publication of A Guide to the Book of Abraham or the views expressed therein is plain folly.

Jonathan Neville has speculated whether my name might have been “attached to this conclusion [of the issue] by accident,” since, as he alleges, I have “a well-earned reputation for eagerly and fiercely attacking anyone who reaches different conclusions than [mine].” Rest assured, I am the primary author of the conclusion, and so this blogger need not wonder at all about potential misattribution. The paragraph Brother Neville appears so concerned about also doesn’t mark “a sea change for [me] personally.” I mean everything I wrote in the conclusion, and the views expressed therein I have long maintained. I have always been fine with honest, sincere disagreement over matters of religion, both within and without the Latter-day Saint community, and I count myself fortunate to have friends and acquaintances across the religious spectrum. Who I do not tolerate are bad-faith actors who use harmful rhetoric and identity politics to attack others or who willfully manipulate the evidence to suit their particular ideological agenda.
Jonathan Neville could have discovered for himself the nature of John Welch’s involvement in A Guide to the Book of Abraham by reading the introduction to the volume or contacting any of its authors or the staff of BYU Studies Quarterly, but he didn’t. Instead, he made false statements about Brother Welch based on misrepresentations of Welch’s character and a complete lack of factual knowledge of Welch’s responsibility for getting the volume published.

This is yet another example of Neville’s inadequate research and his apparent eagerness to misrepresent those with whom he disagrees.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Saturday, April 8, 2023

My response to a thoughtful comment by Greg McIver

In response to my YouTube interview with Robert Boylan, I received a very thoughtful comment from Greg McIver. His comment was long enough and detailed enough that I thought it deserved the attention of a reply in a separate blog post.
Hi Mike,

I try to learn from lots of people and perspectives. I was watching Robert Boylan interview you on YouTube. I wasn’t going to say or write anything but you asked viewers to comment if we saw anything that we perceive as attacking Jonathan personally and you’d look at it and perhaps make changes. That prompted me to respond on your blog because Robert doesn’t have comments turned on.
I appreciate that you took the time and effort to comment, Greg. I’m especially thankful for the thought you put into your comment. After having dealt recently with some very noisome anti-Mormon critics, your message came as a breath of fresh air.
First of all, I am a so-called ‘Heartlander.’ Of course, I do not know everything and try my best to be open to all valid information. For me, there seems to be a lot of Mesoamerican information that just doesn’t fit.
And that is perfectly fine with me. I’m open to honest differences of opinion. I hope I came across that way in my interview and that I continue to do so in this response to your comment.
When I saw ‘Neville-Neville Land’ in Robert’s title, I wasn’t sure if it was referring to Jonathan Neville or not. I’ve never seen your blog before.

The title of your blog is not polite at least, and a snide attack at worst. The title is clever but indicates you have come to the conclusion that Jonathan Neville is delusional or his research and conclusions are pure fantasy. Your subtitle ‘…the Heartland hoax’ is also implying intentional deceit. You may disagree but I don’t think it is good to cast malice or bad intent on Rod Meldrum, Wayne May or anyone who embraces or leans toward the Heartland opinion. Wayne and Rod are clearly sincere and hold to the belief of divine authorization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

If you truly want to come off as a non attack website, you can get a respectful domain name and move the content. Tedious but doable.
I mentioned in my , blog post (which you may not have read yet) that the name of this blog is, indeed, a pun. It’s intended as a lighthearted one, much like the names of Jonathan Neville’s blogs that he uses to poke fun at those he disagrees with, including Book of Mormon Central America (a play on Book of Mormon Central, which advocates for a Mesoamerican geography), Fairly Mormon (a play on “FairMormon,” the former name of FAIR), and SITH sayers (a twist on “soothsayers,” with “SITH” referring to those who believe the historical evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a seer stone).

As long as Jonathan Neville doesn’t mind using website names to tease his ideological opponents, then I trust he won’t mind me doing the same. I try, however, to avoid descending into name-calling and demonization, something that (sadly) Neville himself stoops to on an occasional basis (for example, see here and here).

As far as the sincerity of those in the Heartland movement, I believe that claims of sincerity are overrated. There have been many people throughout history who have been sincere but also wrong in their beliefs.

Your concern about the subtitle of my blog did cause me to reflect, though. “Heartland hoax” is my reaction to Jonathan Neville’s term “M2C hoax,” which he has used in at least 29 individual blog posts on his sites. He clearly believes that that claims the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6 is not the hill in western New York constitute a hoax (“something intended to deceive or defraud”), so my first reaction is that two wrongs don’t make a right, but they do make things even.

After giving your objection some thought, though, perhaps you’re right—maybe I should take the high road instead. So, in part because of your thoughtful nature of your comment, I’ve decided to act on your recommendation and change the subtitle from Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax to Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement. Thank you for encouraging me to follow Karl G. Maeser’s advice to “Be yourself, but always your better self.”
Neville-Neville Land blog subtitle change 2023-04-08
Before and after
I am impressed with Jonathan Neville’s background and accomplishments as an attorney, law enforcement and business. He uses legal burdens of proof to guide his conclusions. I don’t ascribe perfection to him or anyone other than Jesus. He has stated many times that he is open to change.
You are correct that he uses legal burdens of proof, but he often misuses them. For example, he has relied heavily on hearsay evidence, has made up claims that have no evidence for them whatsoever, has discounted the testimonies of firsthand eyewitnesses when those testimonies have contradicted his theories, and has simply been dishonest in some of his claims (here’s just one example of the latter).

I’m afraid that his approach to history doesn’t meet the minimum standards set by historians, let alone legal standards.
On the YouTube interview at around 1:7:30 minutes: “…he’s either not aware of the implications of his arguments or he is aware of them but he’s not stating them. And I don’t know which one it is. And I’m not going to come out and say that he must, he’s either stupid or evil, I’m not going to do that but that’s…you know what’s going on here?…I really don’t know, I really don’t know.”

With your body language, it seems that you think Jonathan is either stupid or evil. I know Jonathan is not stupid and there is no evidence whatsoever that he is evil. There has been a decades-long struggle in the historical department starting with Arrington, to change the historical narrative. There have been disagreements between various apostles. Are they stupid or evil?
I apologize if my body language conveyed something I didn’t intend to communicate. I abhor the false binary of “stupid or evil,” in part because Jonathan Neville himself has used it.

What I intended to convey through my body language was the frustration I feel in trying to reconcile Jonathan Neville’s claims with the assumption that he is operating in good faith. He has repeatedly misrepresented the views and claims of those he disagrees with, to the point sometimes that I’ve been forced to call him out for lying. This will be my 353rd post on this blog; I back up everything I say with quotes and links, and yet he’s refused (by his own admission) to read any of my criticisms, let alone to respond to them.

I would very much like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s so often wrong that I don’t know what to make of it.

Also, for the record, the claims about Leonard Arrington made by Hannah Stoddard and other Heartlanders are distortions. Outside of some personal conflicts, there has been no “struggle” within the Church History Department, and certainly not a “civil war,” as Stoddard has called it. I don’t have the time to go into this at the moment, but I hope that someone who is qualified will critically review Stoddard’s books, because she makes a lot of false claims in them. (I hope you are sensing a pattern here.)
We are in the same camp believing in Jesus Christ. I think it is a good practice to withhold condemnation. I don’t condemn you if your opinion is different and hope you don’t condemn me for mine. I have great friends who disagree with me on things. There have been many disagreements with what people have said over the years. You know there are many topics that people and even the leadership have not agreed on without being stupid or evil.
I certainly do not condemn you—or Jonathan Neville, for that matter. As I stated in my interview with Robert Boylan, my problem with Neville isn’t that he and I disagree; the problems are that he affirms that anyone who doesn’t agree with his interpretations of Church history is “rejecting the teachings of the prophets” (a claim he has made dozens of times in his blog posts) and with his dishonesty, his frequent misrepresentations, and his irresponsible scholarship, examples of all of which I have repeatedly documented on this blog.
All the best,

Greg McIver
And to you! I hope this has given you additional insights into some of the problems with the claims made by the Heartland movement. I don’t think everything they advocate for is wrong, but there are some serious problems with their methodology and trustworthiness. I would like to see them retain the good they believe and discard the rest.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

The story of Neville-Neville Land, as told to Robert Boylan

Robert Boylan, who runs the blog and YouTube channel Scriptural Mormonism, graciously invited me to come on his video podcast and tell the story behind this blog. I took him up on the offer, and this was the result:
I harbor no illusions that this interview will satisfy the few but vociferous fanatics who recently have taken to attacking me and my character from a dark and execrable corner of the internet.

I trust, however, that honest people of good will—among whom I count many of my readers—will be interested in hearing how this blog began and why it exists in the first place.

As I mentioned in this interview, I tried to be accurate and fair when I described the beliefs and arguments of Jonathan Neville and others in the Heartland movement. If anything I said was inaccurate, please leave a comment below and offer a correction.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

Thursday, April 6, 2023

An open reply to Jonathan Neville, part 2

The following is my reply to an email I received from Jonathan Neville on . See my earlier response for context.

Brother Neville:
Hi “Peter.” Thanks for answering. I’ve been traveling and just got onto this email account.
It’s no problem whatsoever. I completely understand that you and I have lives beyond our online activities. I hope your travels were enjoyable.
If you don’t want to meet, that’s fine, but the offer remains open because it’s a rare chance to bring more mutual understanding to these topics.
I appreciate that. I’m open to meeting with you, but I have just one condition, and that’s that neither you nor I engage in name-calling or profaning the temple endowment. I have never called you names (like “Joker Jonny” or “Nutty Neville”), and I expect the same from you. If you’re willing to remove from your blogs instances where you’ve referred to my friend Daniel Peterson as “Slander Dan” and used phrases from the endowment to imply that he is like Satan, that would be a good-faith gesture, and I would be happy to to meet at a time and place that is convenient for both of us.
One of the problems with these discussions is your ongoing ad hominem site, which I read only once but ignore as I do all ad hominem sites.
If you’ll forgive me for asking a pointed question: If you don’t read my blog, how do you know that I use ad hominem arguments?

Additionally, I want to be certain that you know what an ad hominem argument is, because it’s not just “he said mean things about me”—it’s a specific type of logically fallacious argument. I don’t believe I’ve done either of those things, but I’m certainly willing to correct any place in my blog where I may have. If you find any such instances, please let me know.
I appreciate your input on the table. I like the way you try to nuance your position. With your permission, I’d be happy to post it on my blog in the interest of clarity and accuracy.
Please feel free to do so. I consider all of our communications to be subject to public posting, unless you specifically tell me otherwise.
But it is evident that the bottom line remains that you claim Oliver was wrong, isn’t it?
I cannot accept that summary of my beliefs because it uses loaded terminology to create a rhetorical trap that you expect me to fall into. (“Mike Parker believes Oliver Cowdery was wrong! He rejects the teachings of the prophets!”)

The truth is that you and I both believe that Oliver Cowdery was wrong about some things. I think you would agree with me that he was wrong when he insinuated that Joseph Smith was guilty of adultery. I think you would also agree that he was mistaken (or at least overlooked certain facts) in Letter III and Letter IV when he claimed that Joseph Smith’s confusion about which church to join led to the visit of Moroni, not to the First Vision.

Statements made by Oliver Cowdery—and anyone else, for that matter—need to be weighed and given context. When you insist that Oliver was “right” about something that is important to your personal beliefs and that everyone who doesn’t agree with you believes he was “wrong,” you’re not doing history—you’re weaponizing Oliver and his words in an ideological war against your opponents. (This weaponization goes back to the birth of the Heartland movement, when Rod Meldrum twisted President Hinckley’s words to assert that Latter-day Saint scholars “disdain” the Prophet Joseph Smith by arguing that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.)

We both accept that the gospel is true, that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by divine means, and that the Book of Mormon is a real history of real ancient people. We may disagree over how best to understand and interpret some of the finer points of those beliefs, but when you insist that those who don’t interpret those points the same way you do are “rejecting the prophets” or whatever, you are only causing division and contention.
All the best,

Jonathan Neville
And to you,

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]

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