Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Monday, October 14, 2019

Disagree with Jonathan Neville? You’re either evil or stupid.

My problem with the “Heartland” theory of Book of Mormon geography isn’t nearly so much in its claims as in the dogmatic view of those who disagree with it.

For Heartlanders like Jonathan Neville, if you don’t agree with with his assertions and arguments, you’re either part of the “M2C”* conspiracy that’s trying to get people to “disbelieve the prophets,” or you’re one of the masses who have been brainwashed by those conspirators.

His October 14, 2019, blog post, “Mental prisons and Loserthink,” is an excellent example of this kind of disdain. In it he tells us:

  • “M2C” is a “mental prison” that is “common” among Latter-day Saints.
  • “From an early age,” Latter-day Saints are “deliberately groomed” to “interpret the Book of Mormon through the M2C lens.” [Note his use of a term that describes the tactics of sexual predators.]
  • Book of Mormon Central is “a front for the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum” and is “reinforcing the walls of the M2C mental prison.”
  • Cartoonist Scott Adams’s forthcoming book, Loserthink, will help Latter-day Saints “learn to see the walls of [their] mental M2C prison, and…learn how to escape.” When this happens, it will “usher in” what Neville calls “The Golden Age.”

Stop for a moment and consider the kind of language Neville is using. Those who don’t agree with his arguments are losers who are trapped in “mental prisons” of loserthink. They use the same nefarious schemes that sexual abusers do to trap people, young and old, in these “mental prisons.”

That is the kind of dishonest, uncharitable treatment of fellow Saints that we see regularly from Neville and his associates. They can’t convince people through evidence and arguments, so they mock and disparage them instead.

Jonathan Neville should be ashamed of himself, and those who believe in the Heartland theory should distance themselves from his extremist rhetoric.



Edited to include this useful quote from Aaron Ross Powell:
We would be better off granting our opponents the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not stupid or evil.

The “stupid and evil” fallacy looks like this:
X is a problem. Y is the solution to X. Therefore, anyone who rejects Y must either be stupid (because they don’t realize that Y is the solution to X) or evil (because they want X to continue and so don’t want to solve it by employing Y).
Of course, another reason for rejecting Y is not stupidity or evil (most people aren’t stupid and most people aren’t evil). Rather, it is possible—and, in fact, likely—that rejection of Y results from the belief that Y is not a solution—or, not a good solution—to X.

—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.

Monday, October 7, 2019

General Conference retrospective

Amid all the new and exciting changes that were announced at the October 2019 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one thing was notably absent: Any mention of the name Cumorah.

Jonathan Neville insists that an understanding of the true location of the hill Cumorah is an important doctrine.

It’s so important that it’s been mentioned by name in general conference…(wait for it)…in nine talks over the last 30 years.

Only one of those talks (President Thomas S. Monson, October 1990) even hints that the New York hill is the same hill in the Book of Mormon. (“I noted that in Moroni’s hand [on the Toronto Temple] was his familiar trumpet. He was gazing homeward—homeward to Cumorah.”)

And Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in his October 2003 conference address, declared significantly: “Joseph was directed to obtain that record, buried near his family’s home in a nearby hill, which is now called Cumorah.”

What does Jonathan Neville know that the Brethren apparently don’t?

—Peter Pan

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The path to truth

Jonathan Neville spends a lot of time writing about “consensus.” He even has a blog purportedly about building consensus on Book of Mormon geography, even though the posts on this blog are highly devisive and lack any apparent attempt to understand the views of those who disagree with him.

On that blog he recently posted a flowchart titled “The path to consensus,” which has nothing to do with consensus and much do with showing how one can interpret the prophets as he does and be right or reject the teachings of the prophets (as he understands them) and be wrong.

I reject the idea that “consensus” is a goal worth pursuing. Truth is not determined by consensus.

As an alternative to Neville’s self-serving, question-begging flowchart, I offer the following:
The path to truth: Are prophets speaking from revelation or personal interpretation?
“Individuals may have their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken.”
Gospel Topics: Book of Mormon Geography

—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.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The mark of the fraudster

Jonathan Neville published a blog post today (September 30, 2019) that points out the Mayan glyph in Book of Mormon Central’s logo. He calls this “The mark of M2C”* and helpfully informs us:
The mark of M2C is identifiable by the Mayan icon in the upper right. It is used to let people know that anything published under or by this mark will promote M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory).
In the spirit of recompense, I’ll help our readers identify the mark of the gullible, otherwise known as “the sign-manual of the forger.”

The following image is from BofM.Blog, a Heartlander blog run by Rian Johnson, friend of and coauthor with Jonathan Neville. This particular image is from a reprint of an article by Wayne May, long-time purveyor of fraudulent artifacts that he claims are evidence of the Book of Mormon:
The Mystic Symbol of the fraudulent Michigan Relics
The glyph is from the Michigan Relics, a forged set of tablets that were “discovered” in the late 19th century. May and other Heartlanders, of course, try to pass these fraudulent artifacts off as not only genuine but connected to the Book of Mormon. Heartlander artist Ken Corbett has even painted this glyph onto the breastplate supposedly worn by Zelph, the white Lamanite:
Detail from Zelph a Man of God by Ken Corbett
(The Zelph account has reached almost mythic proportions within the Heartlander community. He’s so central to their beliefs that Jonathan Neville has an entire page on one of his 67 blogs, entitled “Testimony,” that bears witness of Zelph.)

The “Mystic Symbol” is the mark of a fraud. James E. Talmage exposed the fraud over 100 years ago in the Improvement Era, the Church’s official magazine:
James E. Talmage called the Mystic Symbol of the Michigan Relics 'the sign-manual of the forger
The pitchmen who sell Heartlander materials to gullible Latter-day Saints continue to insist that the Michigan Relics are genuine, despite what has been published by the Church and responsible archeologists.

Jonathan Neville is worried about the wrong symbol.

—Peter Pan

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lack of self-awareness: the defining characteristic of Heartlanders

In his multiple books, speaking engagements and tours [Dr. John L.] Lund zealously proclaims the actual lands of the Book of Mormon to be located in Guatemala and southern Mexico in spite of the fact that Church leadership has maintained neutrality on where its history took place for over 150 years. What does Lund know, that Church leaders do not, that gives him such confidence?

—Rod L. Meldrum, quoted on BofM.blog, September 28, 2019
Turning this question around, perhaps one could ask Brother Meldrum:

“In his multiple books, speaking engagements and tours [Rod Meldrum] zealously proclaims the actual lands of the Book of Mormon to be located in [the American Midwest and northeast] in spite of the fact that Church leadership has maintained neutrality on where its history took place for over 150 years. What does [Meldrum] know, that Church leaders do not, that gives him such confidence?”

—Peter Pan

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Heartland train goes off the rails

This new video promotion summarizes everything one needs to know about the legitimacy of the “scholarship” in the Heartland movement:
Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I did have to admit that the production values appear to be quite high. I fear that alone will serve to convince many Latter-day Saints that this bizarre theory has merit.

—Peter

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The real difference between Heartlanders and “M2C”

Jonathan Neville spends much time and many keystrokes telling us the differences between his point of view and the supposed point of view of “M2C intellectuals.”

Do you want to know the real difference between Mesoamerican and Heartland Book of Mormon advocates?

  • Mesoamerican Book of Mormon advocates would completely accept evidence of a Book of Mormon site in Illinois, if one were discovered, examined, and published by competent individuals who have training in archaeology and anthropology.

  • Heartland Book of Mormon advocates would immediately reject evidence of a Book of Mormon site in southern Mexico, if one were discovered, examined, and published by competent individuals who have training in archaeology and anthropology. Heartlanders like Jonathan Neville would instead accuse the discoverers of being “biased intellectuals” who “reject the teachings of the prophets” and want to undermine faith in the New York Cumorah.

The difference between the Mesoamerican group and the Heartland group is the former is composed of scholars and the latter is composed of ideologues.
Editor’s note: After I posted this blog, a friend pointed me to this post on the blog Studio et Quoque Fide that makes the same point in more detail.

—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 24, 2019

Dueling Thomas Sowell quotes

It may surprise Jonathan Neville to know that he and I are both fans of economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell.

Today, in response to Neville’s quotation of one of Sowell’s tweets that Neville clearly intended as a jab at “M2C,”* I respond with a Sowell quote that’s directed toward Heartlanders in general and Neville in particular:
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” — Thomas Sowell
As this humble blog has demonstrated over the last eight months, Neville’s constant and continual misrepresentation, bias confirmation, use of logical fallacies and ad hominem, childish behavior, and lack of self awareness amply demonstrate that he doesn’t know enough to realize how ignorant he is when it comes to interpreting the Book of Mormon and the writings of Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders. To put it another way:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Unknown
(See also the Dunning-Kruger Effect.)

—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 22, 2019

Has Jonathan Neville just admitted to kicking against the pricks?

This is a follow-up to my previous post.

In his September 17, 2019, blog post, “Inventing M2C,” Neville wrote:
By now, the M2C* intellectuals have invented all kinds of knowledge about the Nephites that originated with Mesoamerican studies but not the text of the Book of Mormon. And their zeal knows no bounds; they’ll spend every penny they raise from members of the Church and the Church itself to promote M2C to the world.
In my earlier post, I challenged Neville to provide evidence that “the Church itself” has been donating money to Book of Mormon Central. I’m virtually certain that he doesn’t know that the Church is doing any such thing.

However, it’s clear that Neville believes the Chuch is donating money to Book of Mormon Central “to promote M2C to the world.”

If Neville believes this to be the case, why is he criticizing Church leaders for giving these supposed donations to Book of Mormon Central? If it were true, wouldn’t it indicate that Church leaders understand something that Neville doesn’t?

As I’ve written recently, all the signs point to Jonathan Neville being a critic of the Church. This is just one more example that demonstrates this to be the 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.

The worst kind of lies are the ones you tell yourself

“Every lie is two lies—the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it.” —Robert Brault
At the FairMormon Conference in August 2019, Jasmin Rappleye of Book of Mormon Central announced ScripturePlus, a new app for smartphones that she said they hoped would “enhance…scripture study with an exciting amount of new resources we’ve been putting together.”

(You can watch the video of her announcement on Facebook.)

As of the date of this blog post (September 22, 2019) the app has yet to be rolled out to users, but that hasn’t stopped Jonathan Neville from straight-up lying about it.

I use the term lying, because there’s no other word for what he’s been doing.

Since Sister Rappleye’s presentation, Neville has mentioned the ScripturePlus app in eight different blog posts. Here is what he has had to say about it:

August 27, 2019:
[ScripturePlus] will imprint M2C* on every member of the Church who uses it. It includes M2C videos and commentary such as the images in this post.…

One wonders, scripture plus what?

It’s a digital form of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.

ScripturePlus is designed to entice Church members away from the Church’s relatively neutral Gospel Library and immerse them in a carefully designed indoctrination program. Hence, it’s not “free” in any non-monetary sense of the world. It is as tightly controlled as any totalitarian media we can think of, and it forces uses to think only one way about important issues.
August 28, 2019:

A few weeks ago when I sat in the audience during part of the FairMormon conference, the few hundred people in attendance…were thrilled at how ScripturePlus will usurp the neutral Gospel Library and indoctrinate users to believe M2C.

September 10, 2019:
I had hoped to take 10 months off from discussing Church history and Book of Mormon historicity.… I wanted to observe, from a distance, the imminent disaster of ScripturePlus, the new app from Book of Mormon Central designed to entice Church members away from the Gospel Library to imprint revisionist Church history and M2C on the minds of the Saints, starting at a young age.
In that blog post, Neville began using the following image that he created. In his next blog post, he captioned it, “ScripturePlus replaces Gospel Library”:
Jonathan Neville believes that Book of Mormon Central's ScripturePlus app is designed to replace the Gospel Library app
September 11, 2019:
ScripturePlus, the new app from Book of Mormon Central that uses the official scriptures licensed from the Church, teaches M2C expressly and exclusively. ScripturePlus is designed to entice Church members away from the Church’s Gospel Library, which is (relatively) neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography.

Soon, even more than it is already, M2C will be enshrined as the only “acceptable” explanation for the Book of Mormon.
September 12, 2019:
I’m reposting some of the most popular posts in the blog for new readers. This one was originally posted on August 24, 2016. I’ve edited it a little. The post is especially important now that ScripturePlus, the new app from Book of Mormon Central, is explicitly teaching M2C.
September 16, 2019 (which includes a painting of a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon with the caption “M2C indoctrination from ScripturePlus”):
The New York [location for the hill] Cumorah…is about to become a more serious issue than ever before, thanks to the M2C editorial position of the ScripturePlus app brought to us by Book of Mormon Central.… Any hint of “neutrality” [regarding Book of Mormon geography] has been entirely destroyed anyway by the actions of the Church-supported M2C organizations such as Book of Mormon Central. The new “scriptureplus” [sic] app explicitly teaches that the “real” Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in Mesoamerica. Book of Mormon Central is spending millions of dollars to spread its M2C message, using attractive videos and graphics, as well as links to its own M2C “Kno-Whys” and other resources.
September 17, 2019:
By now, the M2C intellectuals have invented all kinds of knowledge about the Nephites that originated with Mesoamerican studies but not the text of the Book of Mormon. And their zeal knows no bounds; they’ll spend every penny they raise from members of the Church and the Church itself to promote M2C to the world.

Just watch what happens with ScripturePlus as it replaces Gospel Library.
September 20, 2019:
Book of Mormon Central uses their millions of dollars to…develop ScripturePlus, the app that teaches M2C exclusively and uses colorful graphics and videos to entice Church members away from the Gospel Library.
Let’s tally up Neville’s lies here, shall we?

  1. Six times Neville claims that ScripturePlus is designed to replace the Church’s Gospel Library app by encouraging people to use ScripturePlus instead of Gospel Library. The image he created and has used multiple times makes the same claim visually.
  2. Five times Neville claims that ScripturePlus will “imprint” and “indoctrinate” people into believing “M2C,” “forcing” them “to think only one way.”
  3. In two posts he claims that Book of Mormon Central is “spending millions of dollars to spread its M2C message” through ScripturePlus, and that this money has been raised “from members of the Church and the Church itself.”

Absolutely none of those claims have any factual basis.

  • Neither Jasmin Rappleye in her FairMormon Conference presentation nor Book of Mormon Central in any communication has claimed that ScripturePlus is designed as a replacement for Gospel Library.
  • If “imprinting” and “indoctrinating” people is as simple as releasing a smartphone app, Neville should tell this to the corporate owners of major consumer brands; I’m certain they’d be delighted to know how much they can save on future advertising expenses.
  • As I’ve previously discussed, there’s no evidence that Book of Mormon has “millions of dollars” at its disposal. I’d wager that Jonathan Neville has no idea what Book of Mormon Central’s budget is; he’s just making up dollar figures from his own fevered imagination.
  • What evidence does he have that “the Church itself” has been donating money to Book of Mormon Central? None.

Every one of his claims is a lie, a complete and total fabrication. Jonathan Neville made them all up and yet states them as if they’re facts.

How anyone considers anything he writes or says to be trustworthy is simply beyond me.

—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.