Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Why die on this hill? A reply to Robert Thornton

My July 2020 blog post, “Wayne May and the apostasy of the Heartlanders,” is probably my most-viewed post. Last month, Heartlander Rian Nelson gave it some attention on the FIRM Foundation’s blog, which has increased the view count of my post from Heartlanders who disagree with my conclusions.

One such person is Robert Thornton, who recently left a lengthy comment on that blog post. He raised some interesting points, so I’ve decided to respond in this blog post.
I put my trust in God not men or the philosophies of men.
This claim is often made by those who assert that they are right because they supposedly trust in God while others are wrong because they supposedly trust in men.

I’m reasonably certain that Robert believes the things that Jonathan Neville, Rian Nelson, Wayne May, and Rod Meldrum have taught regarding the hill Cumorah and Book of Mormon geography. How are their beliefs different from “the philosophies of men”? They’re interpreting scripture and Church history, and their interpretations are at least as prone to error as anyone else’s.

Robert puts his trust in “the philosophies of men” like Neville and Meldrum; he just doesn’t recognize that he’s doing it.
I give little credence to those touting the superiority of intellectuals and scholars over prophets and apostles.
Heartlanders frequently level this accusation at people who believe the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. The claim that scholars and academics are “rejecting the prophets” goes back to Rod Meldrum’s 2008 DVD presentation; it’s now essentially a Heartland article of faith.

Despite what Jonathan Neville and other figures in the Heartland movement have said, no Book of Mormon scholar who believes in a Mesoamerican geography has claimed to be intellectually superior to prophets and apostles. In fact, many academics in the Mesoamerican camp have been invited to speak to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and have good working relationships with them. (Daniel Peterson is just one example of such a scholar.)
I flee from those who cast stones from the great and spacious building in order to demonize others for their sincere beliefs.
Robert is implying that I’m in “the great and spacious building” and “casting stones” at Heartlanders. It intrigues me that he sees this disagreement over Book of Mormon geography and how the Book of Mormon was translated as an issue of good vs. evil. If I disagree with Jonathan Neville and criticize his claims, I’m apparently in the “evil” camp. Not mistaken. Not in error. Evil—or at least wicked (1 Nephi 15:28).

Also, sincerity proves nothing. There have been many people throughout history who have been very sincere but still wrong in their beliefs.
Rather, I trust the Lord and those servants He has called.
Actually, Robert trusts specific statements from specific Church leaders that support his views. He probably ignores or rationalizes away the statements of Church leaders that disagree with his beliefs. I’m reasonably certain that Robert, like Jonathan Neville, dismisses the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography, even though it represents the official position of today’s Church.
I don’t pretend to know many things, but I do know that the Hill Cumorah is in New York and the “plains of the Nephites” are in the Heartland because that is what the prophet Joseph Smith taught.
Actually, Joseph Smith said very little about Book of Mormon geography, and he never made it the topic of any sermon. He had beliefs about it, but it’s a real stretch to assert that those beliefs were based on revelation. There’s no evidence whatsoever that his comment about “the plains of the Nephites” in his 1834 letter to Emma was derived from inspiration rather than simple assumption.

Heartlanders have planted a stake in the ground that the contents of his letter were revealed, and they accuse anyone who disagrees with them of “rejecting the prophets” or “claiming Joseph was an ignorant speculator.” That’s not the same thing, however, as providing actual evidence that Joseph’s letter was revealed.
Yes, I know all the arguments you will trot out to try to invalidate the prophet’s words and make him contradict himself, so you can spare me the repeating of them.
No one, least of all me, is trying to “invalidate” the words of Joseph Smith. The hard truth is that his words (or anyone else’s) don’t speak for themselves—they have to be interpreted. The best way to interpret them is in the light of what his close associates and other Church leaders of his day believed he meant, along with what Church leaders today affirm.

Robert and other Heartlanders are clinging to a specific set of statements made by Joseph Smith and disregarding the rest, along with contemporary context and nuance. They are pushing the simplistic—not simple, but oversimplified—version of Church history that they were taught in Primary classes and by well-meaning but under-informed Sunday School teachers.
When evaluating any theory, I don’t look at the men promoting it, but for the fruits it produces. I’ve tasted good fruit as I’ve learned about some theories and bad fruit as I’ve learned from others.
This is the most interesting of all Robert’s statements. What “fruit” is there from the assertion that the hill near Joseph Smith’s home was the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon? What does one learn about the Atonement of Christ, the doctrines of salvation and exaltation, the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or any other central teaching of the restored gospel? In short, why die on that hill? (Please pardon the pun.)

Lest you accuse Mesoamericanists of the same thing, let me remind you that people in the Mesoamerican camp don’t believe that the truth of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s calling hinges on where it took place. Book of Mormon geography and the location of the hill Cumorah are interesting fields of research, study, and discussion, but if it turns out that the Book of Mormon actually took place in New York State, the American Midwest, the Panamanian Isthmus, or South America, Mesoamericanists wouldn’t be crushed by this revelation. For Heartlanders, however, the Book of Mormon had to have taken place in the area around western New York, because Joseph Smith supposedly knew this by revelation and therefore the legitimacy of his prophetic mantle depends on it being true.

So what, exactly, are the “fruits” of the Heartland movement? During the four years I’ve been blogging about it, the fruits that I’ve seen have been irresponsible scholarship, dishonest claims and statements, misuse of historical sources, use of logical fallacies, criticism of the modern Church and modern Church leaders, misrepresentation of those who are critical of their theories, hypocrisy and double standards, promulgation of wild conspiracy theories, and a frequent lack of self-awareness.

My assumption is that the “fruit” that Robert has experienced has been mostly confirmation of his own biases and preexisting beliefs. It can feel good to have someone tell you that everything you already believe is true; it’s much harder for people to be told that what they believe isn’t quite correct and needs to be amended, updated, and revised.
I honestly don’t know why some people are so obsessed with calling this or that believer a deceiver, charlatan, or apostate simply for expressing their beliefs. It stirs up contention and turns those involved into servants of the adversary.
This goes back to my earlier comment about sincerity. “Simply expressing one’s beliefs” sounds harmless, but it’s troubling when those expressions lead people to believe things that aren’t true. Even worse, when those expression lead people to reject the teachings of modern prophets and apostles, disparage Church employees, scholars, and publications, and praise anti-Mormons and use their resources, then it’s clear that those expressions are leading people astray and down the road to apostasy.

The Savior admonished the Nephites to avoid contention because they were disputing over the proper manner of baptism (3 Nephi 11:28–30). His injunction was never intended to prevent people (such as your humble author) from pointing out dangerous falsehoods that are being promulgated within the Church of Jesus Christ.
I also use my real name when I blog and comment on others’ blogs because I am not ashamed of what I believe and I have nothing to hide. I’ve learned that those who criticize others under an alias are often wearing a costume in order to deceive the elect.
I’m far from “ashamed” of what I write. I stand by it, in fact. I don’t expect Robert to have read every blog post on my site, so I’ll repeat the following for his benefit:
I go by the pseudonym Peter Pan for a couple of reasons. The first is that I thought it was funny and that it tied in with the name of the blog (which was created first). The second is that, to be honest, there are some unstable people in the Heartland movement—Stephen Reed being just one prominent example—and I’d rather not expose myself or my family to being stalked or harassed by them.
I appreciate Robert’s comment and for giving me the chance to clear up any misunderstanding and confusion he or other Heartlanders may have about me and this blog.

—Peter Pan

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Neville-Neville Land 2022 year in review

2022 M2C NPCsThe end of 2022 brings to a close the fourth year I’ve been publishing this blog. What started as something of a lark has developed into a full-blown escapade.

This year I published 48 posts examining the iconoclastic beliefs and assertions of Jonathan Neville and his associates in the so-called “Heartland” Book of Mormon movement. That’s down from 72 in 2021 and 74 in 2020. The reduced number of posts this year has been due mostly to (a) my increasingly busy schedule and (b) Jonathan Neville’s regular routine of regurgitating the same content over and over again, only using just ever-so-slightly different words. There’s only so many times that I can write about (to use just one example) his repeated fatuous assertion that people who don’t agree with him are “rejecting the teachings of the prophets.”

Among the significant developments this year in Neville-Neville Land, I would include the following:

Finally, here are the top ten Neville-Neville Land posts for 2022 by number of reads:

  1. The First Presidency reviewed Saints before publication (July 27, 2022).
  2. Jonathan Neville reacts to Spencer Kraus’s reviews (June 30, 2022).
  3. President Nelson and the attention to detail in Saints (August 4, 2022).
  4. Follow-up: The character of Stephen Reed (“TwoCumorahFraud”) (March 14, 2022).
  5. “Doctor Scratch,” perpetual gadfly and blowhard (July 23, 2022).
  6. Recommended watching: Spencer Kraus’s interview with Robert Boylan (July 19, 2022).
  7. Peter’s hiatus and three brief notices (March 6, 2022).
  8. Jonathan Neville’s latest folly: The Kinderhook Plates (March 30, 2022).
  9. Spencer Kraus’s devastating review of Jonathan Neville’s A Man that Can Translate (June 17, 2022).
  10. Rian Nelson pulls a Michael Scott (April 11, 2022).

Last year at this time, I wrote, “I see little evidence that Jonathan Neville will retreat from his extremist views in the coming year and bring himself more in line with the teachings of the prophets regarding the Book of Mormon and how the Prophet Joseph Smith translated it.” I’m saddened to report that I was right. However, 2023 brings a new year and new opportunities, so here’s hoping that more people will see through the transparent falsehoods of the Heartland movement in the coming year.

Happy new year!

—Peter Pan

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Another response to Rian Nelson of the FIRM Foundation

This is a response to Rian Nelson’s comment on my December 20, 2022, blog post.
I don’t believe we will ever agree on the Fantasy Map idea so lets [sic] move on after a short comment. The way the map is, you should have simply shown any shape and just listed the order of the cities from bottom (Where Lehi landed) to the top where (hill Cumorah is located). In other words your fantasy map could be called instead, an “accurate list of Book of Mormon cities from landing place to extinction place.”
Your description of the BYU Book of Mormon Conceptual Map reveals that you haven’t given it any consideration or study. I have used it in my Book of Mormon study for the last five years and have found it to be thoroughly consistent with the descriptions and directions given in the text of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon Conceptual Map is far more internally consistent than Moroni’s America – Maps Edition, which is radically at odds with the Book of Mormon, logic, and common sense. (I have critiqued elements of your book here, here, and here.)

If anything fits the description of a “fantasy map,” it’s Moroni’s America – Maps Edition. Yet I will still give you the courtesy of referring to your book by its actual title. If you wish to continue smearing those you disagree with by using pejorative labels, that’s up to you. It’s certainly not in keeping with common courtesy and respect for opposing views, though.
We know the purpose of the scriptures is to teach truth. I will never believe David, Emma, and Martin over the the two first hand witnesses, Joseph and Oliver, nor over the scriptures. The scriptures say what instruments came with the plates, and that they were used to translate. No need to add conjecture.
Emma Smith, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer were firsthand eyewitnesses to the translation, Rian. For heaven’ sake, Emma and Martin were scribes for Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon before Oliver Cowdery even met the Prophet, and the translation was completed in the Whitmer home, where David and his entire family witnessed the translation.

The earliest published account of the translation of the Book of Mormon—printed in 1829 by Jonathan Hadley—reported that “By placing the Spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, [Joseph] Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.” This report was given in August 1829 after Joseph met with Hadley, publisher of the Palmyra Freeman, about printing the Book of Mormon. Another non-Mormon, Richard McNemar, who heard Oliver Cowdery preach in Ohio in November 1830, wrote in his diary in January 1831, “There is said to have been in the box with the plates two transparent stones in the form of spectacles thro[ugh] which the translator looked on the engraving & afterwards put his face into a hat & the interpretation then flowed into his mind.”

In short, the number of eyewitness and and secondhand sources that claim Joseph Smith translated while looking at a seer stone or the Nephite interpreters in hat is simply overwhelming. You’re cherry-picking a very limited number of specific sources and interpreting them so that they support your beliefs. That’s completely irresponsible, and it demonstrates the desperate lengths Heartlanders go to when making their case.
I really don’t have a problem with your opinions as you are free to have them.
Quite clearly you do have a problem with them, since, according to your and your fellows, I and other people who disagree with you are “rejecting the teachings of the prophets,” promoting anti-Mormon claims, causing a loss of faith leading to apostasy among members, and are responsible for a decline in growth of Church membership.

As long as you continue to make such claims, your own statements belie your assertion that you don’t have a problem with alternative opinions.
The Book of Mormon speaks to a specific land, not Greenland, not, Guatemala and not Peru. I Nephi 13 is obviously speaking of the United States. The Church approved header to Chapter 13 says, “Nephi sees in vision the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles, the discovery and colonizing of America, the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible, the resultant state of gentile apostasy, the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion.”
I think you’re misreading the heading to that chapter. It doesn’t say “the discovery and colonizing of the United States of America”; it says, “the discovery and colonizing of America.” America refers to the entire continent of North and South America, which Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, and Mark E. Peterson testified is “the land of Zion” and “a choice land.”

1 Nephi 13 speaks of events that took place in what would become the United States, but it’s also a prophecy of many other things, including the voyages of Christopher Columbus, who never set foot on the North American continent.

The “choice land” Nephi saw includes the United States, Greenland, Guatemala, Peru, and the rest of the American continent.
This statement above and common sense says, I will stick with my quote of, “I know The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon, as the Lord chose it. He did not choose it because those who live here are better people, or because it is a more beautiful place than other parts of the world, but He chose it to be the place of the Restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days. Why? Because He chose it!” It’s what I believe.
You may believe it, but it’s still circular reasoning. And it conflicts with the statements of the prophets mentioned above who testified that the entire North and South American continent is the choice land mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The United States was the place chosen for the restoration of the gospel, and that gospel has gone forth to the peoples in Latin America. These people are the descendants of the Lamanites, a truth that has been believed and taught by many Church leaders, including Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Anthony W. Ivins, Marion G. Romney, and most recently Gerrit W. Gong and President Russell M. Nelson.
No need to respond as we have agreed to disagree. May the Lord bless you.
Well, I decided to respond anyway. I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas.

—Peter Pan

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

My reply to Rian Nelson of the FIRM Foundation

On December 18, 2022, Rian Nelson published a post about me on the FIRM Foundation blog. I responded to his post the next day with an open letter. Rian replied with a comment on this blog. The following is my reply to his comment.
Mr. Pan, I appreciate you responding to by blog. Just a few responses.
There’s no need for formalities. Please, call me Peter.
Calling the CES Map a “Fantasy Map” is accurate. It does not relate to any current geography in the world.
Come now, Rian; be honest. You use that term as a derogatory label. We both know it.

The name of the BYU Book of Mormon Conceptual Map explains its purpose and goal, and its website informs us that it was designed and prepared to give “a basic idea of approximate directions and theoretical relationships between various geographical features mentioned in the stories.” It is not a “fantasy map” like the one of Middle-earth created for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Calling it a “fantasy map” misrepresents the intent of the project. This is similar to how you and Jonathan Neville use terms like “SITH,” which has sinister origins. It’s an unfair practice that demonstrates that you and your associates are not acting in good faith.

I have always referred to your book, Moroni’s America – Maps Edition, by its full title. The least you can do is refer to the Book of Mormon Conceptual Map by its proper name.
There is not one scriptural quote about Joseph using a stone in a hat to translate, and there are at least 4 or 5 scriptures that say he used the two stones fastened to a breastplate.
Your argument is a non sequitur. There are many events in Church history that happened but are not mentioned in the scriptures. For example, Joseph Smith began the translation of the Book of Mormon in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he and Emma and Oliver Cowdery struggled financially. David Whitmer invited them to come to his father’s home in Fayette, New York, where they would receive free room and board and also assistance with writing while Joseph translated. Joseph took David up on his offer, and they moved there in early June 1829. There is nothing about any of that in the scriptures—not in the Book of Mormon, not in Joseph’s revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, not in the canonized portion of Joseph’s 1838 history that’s in the Pearl of Great Price. Therefore, according to your logic, Joseph either never moved to Fayette or he was not authorized by the Lord to do so.

Joseph, of course, did use the Nephite interpreters/Urim and Thummim to translate portions of the Book of Mormon, but he also used a seer stone. Martin Harris—who was Joseph’s scribe for a time, an eyewitness to the translation process, and one of the Three Witnesses—said that “the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.” Either Martin was correct, or he was mistaken, or he was lying. The fact that so many other eyewitnesses to the translation (including Emma Smith, David Whitmer, Joseph Knight Sr., Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, and others) also reported that Joseph used a seer stone indicates that Martin was neither mistaken nor lying. (Jonathan Neville’s “demonstration hypothesis” is nothing more than an ad hoc way to dismiss the overwhelming eyewitness testimony that doesn’t fit with his beliefs.)

There are many things that are not in the scriptures but are nonetheless true.
I have no problem with those of you who believe differently in the geography and the translation than I do, as we all have that freedom.
But you and your associates clearly do have “a problem with those of [us] who believe differently,” because you keep claiming that if we don’t agree with your beliefs, then we’re “rejecting the teachings of the prophets,” promoting anti-Mormon claims, causing a loss of faith leading to apostasy among members, and are responsible for a decline in growth of Church membership.

Until you and your collaborators stop making these false assertions, please don’t claim that you “have no problem” with those who don’t agree with you.
When people say we are a hoax, or an apostate sect, or we are critical of the Brethren, or say we think we are racially superior to some, those are incorrect and small statements.
I disagree. Jonathan Neville has repeatedly claimed that Church leaders and Church employees are censoring Church history, misleading members, and publishing anti-Mormon arguments. These statements (among many others) are clear evidence that he is promoting an apostate form of the restored gospel that is critical of the Brethren.

Your own racially charged statements about the people of Latin America are directly at odds with what the prophets have taught.

I think the evidence demonstrates that my assertions are correct. And as long as Jonathan Neville can claim that “M2C” is a hoax, then I think it’s only reasonable that I can make the same claim about the Heartland movement.
Let me rephrase when I called you a “small person”, and say your comments are small minded.
Thank you for rephrasing that.
I know The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon, as the Lord chose it. He did not chose it because those who live here are better people, or because it is a more beautiful place than other parts of the world, but He chose it to be the place of the Restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days. Why? Because He chose it!
First, your statement is an example of circular reasoning and is thefore logically fallacious.

Second, I also believe that the United States was set apart by God to be the cradle of the Restoration—not because the Book of Mormon teaches that but because Joseph Smith’s revelations do.

Certain statements in the Book of Mormon can be interpreted to be references to the United States, but most of them are so nonspecific that they could refer to other nations as well. For example, the prophecy of the “mighty nation” that would scatter Lehi’s descendants (1 Nephi 22:7–8) cannot refer to the United States because that scattering was prophesied to take place before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the expulsion of the American Indian tribes from the Eastern United States didn’t take place until after the Book of Mormon had already been published. (I wrote about this here.) Likewise, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Mark E. Peterson both declared that the “choice land” prophecy in Ether 2:9–12 refers to the entire Western Hemisphere, not just the United States.
May the Lord bless you in sharing the love of Christ, as I will try and do a better job of doing so as well.
Thank you! I also hope the Lord blesses you in your righteous endeavors. I also pray that he will hinder me, you, and anyone else who tries to lead people away from the truth of the restored gospel and the teachings and authority of living prophets.

—Peter Pan 

Monday, December 19, 2022

An open letter to Rian Nelson of the FIRM Foundation

Dear Rian,

I notice that you recently blogged about me. Thank you for opening a dialog; I hope this leads to further discussion.

I’ll respond to each of your points:
The blog below is from a a [sic] man who calls himself “Peter Pan.” I respect all peoples [sic] opinions, but it is very sad when they begin calling Heartlanders names.
This is a very interesting statement, since in your own blog you referred to the BYU Book of Mormon Conceptual Map by the derogatory name “Fantasy Map” (a term that Jonathan Neville has used in over 100 of his own blog posts) and also wrote that I “just seem like a very small person” to you. So, apparently, name-calling is not exclusive to my site.
He said we are an apostate sect, and hucksters, racists and other inflammatory things.
Allow me to examine those three terms in the context in which I used them:

  • Over the last four years, I have given many examples of statements from you, Jonathan Neville, and other Heartlanders that are apostate or lean in that direction. One of the most troubling features of Heartland movement is how its advocates continually imply that today’s Church and Church leaders are teaching falsehoods or withholding the truth about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the hill Cumorah. (For example, see these statements by Jonathan Neville about how Church leaders have been purportedly suppressing the truth about the translation of the Book of Mormon in General Conference talks and Church magazines, and this claim he made that a general authority published anti-Mormon material in a Church magazine.) These things are very disturbing. You are leading your followers away from the teachings of living prophets while claiming to be faithful to dead prophets. You are also causing dissension and division among the Saints by repeatedly attacking mainstream Latter-day Saint scholars and implying that they are a “fifth column” within the Church. These things are despicable and dangerous. When confronted, you claim that you follow the Brethren and have faith in the Church, but your own statements contract that claim.
  • Yes, I called the leaders of the Heartland movement “hucksters.” A huckster is “a person who employs showy methods to effect a sale,” and the conferences and videos produced by the FIRM Foundation certainly fit that description.
  • Please read carefully: I have never once called you or anyone else a racist. I have said, however, that some of things you have written are racist: I’ve referred to “a disturbingly racist blog post,” “appeals to vaguely racist notions,” and “a disturbingly racist approach” to a specific matter. Occasionally using racist language does not make you a racist; it simply means that you should carefully consider what you write and how it could be interpreted by your readers before publishing.
He defends the “fantasy map” they use as you see it in the video below by John Lefgren.
There you go using the term “fantasy map” (in scare quotes, no less) instead of its actual name, the BYU Book of Mormon Conceptual Map. Using its real name would show respect for its creators, but it would prevent you from using derogatory labeling as a polemical weapon.
I support the following scriptures and quotes, that strengthen my faith and testimony, as I believe the Book of Mormon events began in North America:
1- D&C 128:20
2- D&C 125:3
3- Joseph’s letter to his wife Emma, on the Plains of the Nephites. JSP
4- Story of Zelph and Onondagus on the Illinois River JSP
5- Hundreds of quotes by Prophets, Apostles and Leaders HERE.
I’ve discussed each of these references and the problems with the Heartland interpretation of them. Feel free to use the search feature on my blog to find these discussions.

The problem with the Heartland approach is that you start with a conclusion (“the Book of Mormon events began in North America”) and then interpret these texts so that they fit into your predetermined belief, while also ignoring or hand-waving texts that contradict that belief. For example, Jonathan Neville doesn’t like the statements from Emma Smith, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and many others that Joseph Smith used a seer stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon, so he dismisses those eyewitness testimonies and tells people, wrongly, that they should focus only on specific, cherry-picked statements of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, without interpreting those statements in the light of all the available evidence.

When you write:
Please read, pray and study these references above on your own, for validation of your own feelings.
…you’re doing the same thing Neville does—telling people to focus on only a limited number of specific sources that are the keystones of your belief.
I share this information with you for an awareness of the vitriol my friends Wayne, Rod, and Jonathan have endured for many years. They are entertained and just shrug it off as the good men they are.
The “vitriol” I have supposedly heaped upon your friends is no worse than what you and your friends have said about Daniel Peterson, Jack Welch, Richard Bushman, John Sorenson, and many other good men. You and your associates have repeatedly stated that these men—along with Church employees and Church leaders—have “rejected the teachings of the prophets,” are responsible for loss of faith and a decline in the growth of Church membership.

If you want respect for yourselves, then you need to start giving respect to others. This entire conflict began in 2008 with Rod Meldrum claiming that Church scholars are leading members astray; you, Jonathan Neville, and others have continued to promulgate that lie since then. If you want to know the source of the supposed “vitriol,” take a look in the mirror.
I love the gospel and the Savior and His Church. It saddens me to see good members put others down and don’t have the courage to openly debate in a positive way. We all love the Book of Mormon and it is my prayer we can all come together and not fight with each other. Our fight is against Satan not our fellow members.
I wholeheartedly agree! So please stop putting down and misconstruing the beliefs and statements of those who disagree with your interpretations about Book of Mormon geography, Book of Mormon translation, and other matters. Stop implying that the Brethren and Church employees are suppressing or distorting Church history. Stop peddling misguided “QAnon,” anti-vaxx, and other conspiracy theories. Start focusing on the truth of the teachings in the Book of Mormon and allow for different viewpoints on historical and geographic issues without asserting that those who disagree with you are “rejecting the teachings of the prophets.”
The anonymous Mesoamericanist supporter of the Book of Mormon won’t disclose his real name as he continually calls Heartlanders names.
Many authors throughout history have used pseudonyms for one reason or another. (There’s a long list of them on Wikipedia.)

I go by the pseudonym Peter Pan for a couple of reasons. The first is that I thought it was funny and that it tied in with the name of the blog (which was created first). The second is that, to be honest, there are some unstable people in the Heartland movement—Stephen Reed being just one prominent example—and I’d rather not expose myself or my family to being stalked or harassed by them.
Summary of Quotes from Peter Pan

1- “hucksters who are selling the Heartland hoax to gullible Latter-day Saints”
2- “advancing fraudulent pseudoarchaeology”
3- “May’s latest venture is a scheme”
4- “dubious interpretation of D&C 125:3 to find what he insists must be there.”
6- “must have a true and correct belief in Book of Mormon geography, otherwise their faith is misplaced”
7- “According to Wayne May, the Church is “under condemnation” for not believing in the correct geography of the Book of Mormon.”
8- “This is yet another example of the false god of the Heartland Book of Mormon movement:”
9- “with their own message of American Exceptionalism.”
10- “According to them, the United States is God’s promised land, and therefore the peoples of the Book of Mormon must have lived in the United States and the Book of Mormon’s promises must apply only to the United States and its inhabitants.”
11- “explains Neville’s disturbing views on nationalism and racial superiority
directly accuses the Church and its leaders of hypocrisy and teaching false doctrine. Wayne May once again claims that the Church is “under condemnation” for not accepting the Heartland Book of Mormon geography”
12- “He then asks viewers to give him money to help pay for the effort to find it.”
13- “As I’ve previously written, the Heartland movement is an apostate sect that is critical of living prophets and apostles.”
14- “Heterodox Teachings” [Not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma.]
I stand by all of these statements as I made them in their original context. I invite anyone to search for these phrases on my blog and read what I wrote in full.
You can respond to Peter Pan at his blog below. Please, no derogatory remarks. I am sure he is a good member of the Church who loves the Book of Mormon. He just seems like a very small person to me.
And there’s the reference to me being “a very small person.” Who’s calling names now?

(For the record, I’m 5′ 10½″ tall, which is not “small.”)

It appears that some of your followers haven’t been heeding your advice. (“Please, no derogatory remarks about that very small person!”) Here are a couple of examples from your Facebook post about your blog: (The comment above—along with all of its replies—was deleted by its author or by Rian Nelson.) Respect is a two-way street, Rian.

If you would like to engage in a dialog, I would be more than pleased to have that conversation. Please feel free to contact me in the comments below or at peter ᴀᴛ nevillenevilleland ᴅᴏᴛ com.


—Peter Pan

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Jonathan Neville is unfair and untruthful

By now it should be obvious to the readers of this humble blog that those who believe the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and those who believe it took place the American Midwest (“Heartlanders”) don’t see eye to eye on Book of Mormon geography.

Mesoamericanists don’t have a problem with theories that place the Book of Mormon somewhere other than Mesoamerica, as long as those theories are based on good and compelling evidence. Heartlanders, on the other hand, for nearly fifteen years have been falsely accusing Mesoamericanists of “rejecting the prophets” by not embracing their claims. (See the section on “Poisoning the Well,” in this review of Rodney Meldrum’s 2008 DVD presentation.)

That kind of misrepresentation is a hallmark of the writings of Jonathan Neville, who has continually attacked and falsely accused those who disagree with him. Here’s just the latest example from his poison pen:
We continue to encourage Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, and FAIRLDS [sic] to provide their readers and viewers with access to all the facts, along with multiple faithful interpretations—including alternatives to M2C and SITH.

But we recognize that, so far, Jack Welch, Dan Peterson, and Scott Gordon adamantly refuse to do so.

They’re all awesome people, faithful and smart, etc. But along with the organizations they lead, those three in particular exemplify the problem of cognitive rigidity, joined by their employees, collaborators, and followers.

On this blog we’ve discussed the ways in which these three men, specifically, have sought to promote M2C and SITH by misrepresenting Church history, making up false information about the Heartland ideas, and refusing to permit alternative faithful interpretations on their websites.
There are two significant problems with Neville’s statement:

First is Neville’s repeated practice of complimenting those who disagree with him before accusing them of doing horrible things. According to him, Jack Welch of Book of Mormon Central, Dan Peterson of the Interpreter Foundation, and Scott Gordon of FAIR are “awesome…, faithful and smart,” yet they also supposedly “misrepresent Church history” in their quest to “promote M2C and SITH.” Faithful people, by definition, do not misrepresent Church history. I’ve documented this kind of back-handed, passive–aggressive behavior from Neville before (see this example and this example); it’s his typical method of operation.

Second is Neville’s false claim that the three people he mentioned “refuse to permit alternative faithful interpretations [of Book of Mormon geography] on their websites.” I’ve previously noted that no private organization has an obligation to give a platform to views with which it disagrees, but in this case, Neville isn’t even telling the truth. The Interpreter Foundation recently offered him the opportunity to respond in their journal to critical reviews of his books A Man that Can Translate and Infinite Goodnessand Neville accepted their offer.

Interpreter wasn’t under any obligation to publish Neville’s response; its editors did so as a gesture of kindness and fairness to Neville. And what did they get in response for publishing him? Neville turned and slapped them down for “refusing to permit alternative faithful interpretations,” even though they had just done exactly that.

Likewise, for the 2021 Book of Mormon Central Art Contest, Neville submitted a painting entitled “The Light of Men: 3 Nephi in Ohio.” It depicts Jesus appearning to the Nephites “at the site of the modern Kirtland temple,” which is where Neville believes the Book of Mormon city of Bountiful was. Book of Mormon Central published his submission, not exactly the kind of behavior one would expect of an organization that “refuses to permit alternative faithful interpretations” on its website.”

Neville frequently engages in this sort of “bite the hand that feeds you” behavior. After Interpreter published his response, he complained at length about the publication process, accused Interpreter of “not [being] a legitimate academic journal,” and asserted that “this latest experience is just another example of the problems with [Interpreter’s] present editorial board.” More recently, he falsely asserted that “M2Cers and SITHsayers…don’t want to discuss the teachings of the prophets in Church history and they don’t allow fair comparison charts with alternative faithful interpretations.” This was after Interpreter had published his 3,600-word response and explanation of his views. He complains that his critics don’t publish his views, but when they do, he ridicules and derides them.

When dealing with Jonathan Neville, truly no good deed goes unpunished.

—Peter Pan

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

David Hocking’s claim about temples and steps

Yesterday I posted about Heartlander David Hocking’s claim that Church-approved Book of Mormon art is “visual pornography.” The quote I provided from Hocking included this claim:
If [the Church is] going to be truly neutral, they need to remove that kind of image and make it more Hebrew, not some other weird religion that has stone steps with a little square box [at the top]. I’ve never been to a Mormon temple or go to Hebrew [sic] when you go to the temple after the manner of Solomon that has multiple steps with a little square box at the top.
As it turns out, this is one of the primary arguments Heartlanders make to refute the Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon: According to Hocking, a temple designed after the law of Moses cannot have steps or stairs due to the prohibition in Exodus 20:26.

Spencer Kraus saw my blog post and wrote a response to Hocking’s claim. Unlike Hocking, Kraus can read Hebrew, and he has some interesting insights into the meaning behind Exodus 20:26 and how some Mesoamerican structures fit the pattern for temples revealed to ancient prophets of Israel.
Read “A Note on Temples, Stairs, and Mesoamerica,” by Spencer Kraus.
—Peter Pan

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Heartlander David Hocking calls Church-approved artwork “pornography”

David Hocking is a noted figure in the Heartland movement who has self-published his own annotated editions of the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Book of Jasher, and the Old Testament book of Isaiah. His Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon, which he co-edited with Rodney Meldrum, contains forgeries and unprovenanced artifacts, misrepresentations of historical sources and DNA science, and unsubstantiated claims and arguments. His editions of the New Testament, Jasher, and Isaiah are texts in the public domain—usually translations that are well over one hundred years old.

Hocking was recently interviewed for the Gospel Tangents podcast, which bills itself as “the best source for Mormon history, science, and theology.” Among the eyebrow-raising things he said in this interview was that Church-authorized artwork depicting the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica is “visual pornography.”
The pertinent part of the interview begins at 1:04:13. Podcaster Rick Bennett noted that there may be “people who admire the work you’ve done,” but who are going to be “turned off with the Heartland theory stuff.” Bennett then asked:
Rick Bennett: Would you consider creating an edition [of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon] that was more geography…

David Hocking: Neutral.

Bennett: …neutral, yeah.

Hocking: Yeah. And, actually, the Church should be doing that, but they’re not. Every—everything that they talk about—they have never been neutral—

Bennett [crosstalk]: That’s so weird about [unintelligible]

Hocking: But, yeah, they want us to be neutral, but they’re not. They have never shown anything in Central—uh, in North America; they always show it as in Mesoamerica. Although the background has mountains in it, it’s got palm trees, it’s got Chichen Itza-type/style temples that have nothing to do with the law of Moses, but that’s their choice. All the artwork—now I’m going to be very bold here; people are going to hear this from Dave Hocking—we hear a lot about pornography in the Church. You know, we have a problem with pornography and what is [unintelligible]? It’s a visual image that you can’t get out of your brain, and it desecrates the human body. These images of the temple that are in our church buildings, that’s in our church material, to me is visual pornography. Why? Because those are not temples after the order of Solomon. You don’t do the law-of-Moses types of sacrifices in these models that they show as images, and you can’t get it out of your mind, and it desecrates the law of Moses. So, for me, that’s visual pornography.

Bennett: Hmm. Wow, that’s pretty bold.

Hocking: It is very bold, but to me that’s what it is, because you cannot get that out of your brain. And if they [Church leaders?] attempt to do that [remove or change the artwork?], there’s going to be a huge backlash. Like, you’ve been given this all this time—you know, image after image after image, iterations after iterations —and now we’ve got new videos that we’re going to show you, and it’s going to be the same image, and I think that’s not right. If they’re going to be truly neutral, they need to remove that kind of image and make it more Hebrew, not some other weird religion that has stone steps with a little square box [at the top]. I’ve never been to a Mormon temple or go to Hebrew [sic] when you go to the temple after the manner of Solomon that has multiple steps with a little square box at the top. They’re all rectangular, and they have different compartments, and you go through these different—and you’ll never see that as part of the depiction of where the Savior came. You see them in a Chichen Itza-style temple with these stone—and, you know, you read the book of Mormon, they never built out of stone.
Hocking is probably referring to Church-commissioned or Church-approved artwork like “And He Healed Them All Every One” by Gary Kapp, “Christ Asks for the Records” by Robert T. Barrett, and “Jesus Christ Visits the Americas” by John Scott. These paintings are published in Church manuals and magazines and approved by Church leaders for use in meetinghouses. (John Scott’s painting hangs in the high council room in my stake center. I confess that I’ve never felt especially turned on when looking at it during stake meetings.)

Strictly speaking, the “Chichen Itza-style temples” in Latter-day Saint depictions of the Book of Mormon are anachronistic. The city of Chichen Itza didn’t become prominent until after 600 A.D., and the Temple of Kukulcán—the building with “multiple steps with a little square box at the top”—didn’t reach its final form until after 900 A.D., hundreds of years after the fall of the Nephite civilization near the end of the 4th century. Art often uses anachronistic elements. (For example, consider the Italian Renaissance setting of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) The use of Mayan-style architecture in Book of Mormon paintings is intended to represent a Mesoamerican setting without actually claiming that the Mayans were the people of the Book of Mormon. (They weren’t.) Hocking is protesting the use of artistic license; no one who knows Mesoamerican history is arguing that the Temple of Kukulcán was a Nephite temple.

But Hocking’s claim that Church artwork is “visually pornographic” goes well beyond mere disagreement over artistic style. He’s implicitly accusing Church leaders, including the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, of defiling Latter-day Saint temples and meetinghouses because they’ve approved artwork for them that depicts the Savior in a setting that Hocking disagrees with.

How captivated does he have to be with his own theories to claim that Church artwork is pornographic? It’s beyond bizarre, bordering on obsessive madness.

(Also, his claim that the Nephites “never built out of stone” is manifestly false. Alma 48:8 tells us that they built “walls of stone” as defenses against Lamanite attacks. No passage in the Book of Mormon so much as implies that they didn’t use stone in constructing buildings and other structures.)

—Peter Pan

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Jonathan Neville shills for anti-Mormons (again)

“Stuff You Missed in Sunday School” is an online meme page that tries to point out supposed contradictions in Latter-day Saint beliefs. I’m not going to provide them a link—you can look them up online yourself, if you’re so inclined—but their content lacks even a modest level of depth or understanding. Their modus operandi is to take advantage of the low level of knowledge many Saints have about difficult or complex issues involving Church history and doctrine.

Considering his willingness to freely use and even defend anti-Mormon resources, it’s not at all surprising that Jonathan Neville posted this “Stuff You Missed in Sunday School” meme to his “Book of Mormon Central America” blog on November 29, 2022: Neville followed up with this statement:
One quotation is from an anonymous essay written by scholars who promoted their own theories and never bothered to quote what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said on the topic.

The other is from a President of the Church who served as an apostle for 62 years and 2 months, second only to David O. McKay (63 years and 9 months). He also served as Church historian for nearly 50 years.
The meme and Neville’s commentary overlook the long and complex history of how Latter-day Saint historians have treated the many eyewitness accounts of Joseph Smith using a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon and receive revelations. Many historians have accepted these accounts, and their eyewitness testimonies have been printed in Church-published books and newspapers in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. A very small number of historians have rejected these eyewitness testimonies, Joseph Fielding Smith being the most prominent example.

In his comments, Neville has employed the logical fallacy of appeal to authority: Insisting that a claim must be true simply because someone important said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered. In this case, he has appealed to Joseph Fielding Smith, who “personally [did] not believe” that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon. Neville argues, fallaciously, that Joseph Fielding Smith’s view is correct because he was an apostle and served as Church historian; serving in those two positions does not make him infallible, however, and Neville himself would certainly disagree with some of the views he held.

In summary, “Stuff You Missed in Sunday School” has tried to pit the current official stance of the Church concerning a historical matter against the personal stance of a prophet who has been dead for over fifty years. Joseph Fielding Smith wasn’t correct in the first place, so his personal views are inconsequential. What’s worse, though, is that Jonathan Neville has decided, once again, to use the “any stick with which to beat them” approach to dealing with those who disagree with him, to the point of being willing to repost anti-Mormon claims that are designed to destroy the testimonies of the spiritually weak and historically unaware.

Neville should be ashamed of his actions, but my guess is that he’s not.

—Peter Pan

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Jonathan Neville’s claims eerily similar to those in a famous anti-Mormon book

Jonathan Neville continues undeterred in his claim that the language of the Book of Mormon was derived from the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. In a recent blog post, Neville repeated his argument that the famous phrase in King Benjamin’s sermon “the natural man is an enemy to God” was derived from Jonathan Edwards’s sermon on how “natural men are God’s enemies.” Since September 2019, he has maintained a blog devoted to proving that Joseph Smith copied much of the language in the Book of Mormon from the published writings of Jonathan Edwards. His response to Spencer Kraus’s thorough takedown of his hypothesis demonstrates that he has not read Kraus’s criticisms carefully and that he’s too personally invested in his view to admit that it has any flaws.

Dozens of times Neville has asserted that historical claims that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon are simply repeating the assertions made in the 1834 anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. In an ironic twist, Neville’s claims that Joseph didn’t see anything in the Urim and Thummim and that he copied the language of contemporary sermons repeats a similar explanation given by T.B.H. Stenhouse in his famous 1873 anti-Mormon book The Rocky Mountain Saints: Like Stenhouse, Neville believes that Joseph Smith didn’t “see” anything in the Urim and Thummim or seer stones—quite odd for a prophet who was called a “seer” (Mosiah 8:13; D&C 21:1)—and that “the language of modern preachers and writers” explains the origins of the language in the Book of Mormon.

Rather than demonstrating the miraculous origins of the Book of Mormon—the keystone scripture of the Restoration—Neville is providing ammunition to its critics who wish to find commonplace explanations for how it came to be.

—Peter Pan

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Jonathan Neville takes more swipes at John Sorenson and peer review

It’s been awfully quiet around here for a while. Jonathan Neville hasn’t been blogging much; when he does, it’s usually the same things he’s been saying for years, just with the words rearranged a bit.

Here are two brief comments on some of his recent posts:

First we have Neville (again) complaining about John Sorenson’s book Mormon’s Codex by (again) quoting Sorenson’s statement, “There remain Latter-day Saints who insist that the final destruction of the Nephites took place in New York, but any such idea is manifestly absurd.” This is, according to Google, the twenty-ninth time Neville has quoted that passage in a blog post. He also quotes Terryl Givens’ statement in the foreword that Sorenson’s book is “the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon scholarship”; this would be the sixth time he’s repeated that.

At this point, I’m seriously wondering if Neville has actually read Mormon’s Codex. The book is a massive tome, with 714 pages of content and an 86-page bibliography, but Neville has never, to my knowledge, seriously addressed any of it. A few years back, he did a series of “reviews” of Sorenson’s book in which he utterly neglected to address a single claim or argument within it. He just keeps repeating the same “manifestly absurd” statement and taking repeated umbrage at it. It’s tiresome.

Second, here we see Neville once again attacking peer review in general and the peer review process at Interpreter in particular:
Peer approval serves to reinforce groupthink among like-minded academics and intellectuals. Students are enamored with their professors and mentors. They seek to please those who bestow credentials and can advance their careers.
I think Neville completely misunderstands what peer review is and how it works. The peer review at Interpreter is double-blind—the reviewers don’t know whose work they are reviewing, and the author doesn’t know the names of those who reviewed their work. That being the process, I’m not sure how the reviewers can seek to curry favor with anyone.

Giant human skeleton from Ireland I would be very interested to know if Digital Legend Press, which prints Neville’s books and much of the other content produced by Heartlanders, has anything like a peer review process or if they source-check the citations and references in their authors’ works (as Interpreter does). Based just on the fact that Digital Legend’s Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon included a photograph of the skeleton of an eighteenth-century Irishman and implied that had a connection to ancient Jaredites, my guess is that they don’t do any peer review or source-checking.

Well, if they can’t be bothered to double-check the claims they publish, at least no one in the Heartland community is advancing their academic careers by pleasing professors and mentors. So they have that going for them, right?

—Peter Pan

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

On the alleged audacity of Jonathan Neville’s critics

In the book-publishing world, it’s common for publishers and authors to distribute a limited number of advance review copies of a book before it’s available to public. As you can probably tell from the name, these advance copies are sent out so that reviewers can have a chance to, well, review the book and publish their reviews in anticipation of it being sold.

Reflecting on an unrelated matter, on , Jonathan Neville recalled
my experience with Matt Roper, Jeff Bradshaw, and the Interpreter years ago when I gave Matt an ARC [advance review copy] to discuss with me but instead he used it to write 3 articles for the Interpreter, one published the morning of my joint appearance with him at the John Whitmer Historical Association, that publication date timed so I couldn’t respond.
So, Jonathan Neville is upset because he gave an advance review copy of his 2015 book, The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala—and Back Again to Matthew Roper, and Matthew Roper used that advance review copy to…{wait for it}…write a review of Neville’s book.

Bill Murray Peter Venkman Ghostbusters human sacrifice dogs and cats living together mass hysteria animated GIF Dr. Peter Venkman explained what happens when someone uses a review copy of a book to write a review
How Matt Roper and his conscience can sleep at night is a mystery for the ages, apparently.

(I should point out that, to the best of my knowledge, Neville hasn’t yet responded to or refuted Matthew Roper’s three Interpreter articles. The timing of the JWHA meeting aside, what’s preventing Neville from writing a response to Roper’s now-seven-year-old articles? Nothing, I would imagine, other than perhaps he can’t respond.)

Neville concluded his blog post with this childish swipe at the organization that tops his enemies list:
Last I heard, Matt now works at Book of Mormon Central, whose employees continue this type of practice.
Meanwhile, our long-time readers will recall how Jonathan Neville straight-up lied to Matthew Roper when they first met and how Neville hid his true agenda and intentions from Roper for months, only to publish a distorted account of their interactions in The Lost City of Zarahemla. Neville is once again showing his penchant for dishonesty and hypocrisy.

—Peter Pan

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