Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Jonathan Neville misinterprets the Gospel Topics directive

The Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon geography, released in January 2019 and somewhat revised the following month, including this directive from the First Presidency:
Individuals may have their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken. However, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories. All parties should strive to avoid contention on these matters.
Jonthan Neville’s unusual interpretation of this statement is that “the new essay asks members and leaders not to discuss Book of Mormon geography in ‘Church settings,’” and that the only viable course of action for the Church is to remove “all links to M2C*-advocating sites” from Church websites, including “links to BYU Studies, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, and any other site that advocates a particular theory of Book of Mormon geography.”

Six weeks after the publication of the essay, Neville insisted that “Book of Mormon Central and other members of the M2C citation cartel should cease promoting M2C immediately,” promising to “keep pointing it how directly they are contravening the new policy.” [sic]

But re-read the First Presidency’s statement. Does it say anything like how Neville has interpreted it? Does it “ask members and leaders not to discuss Book of Mormon geography in Church settings”? Does it say no one should advocate for or promote a specific Book of Mormon geography? It says nothing of the sort.

Here is the key phrase, with emphasis added for clarity: “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories.”

See the distinction? It’s perfectly fine to advocate for a theory about the geography of the Book of Mormon, as long as one does not do so in a setting or manner that would imply that prophets, Church leaders, or revelation support one’s theory.

Jonathan Neville believes that it’s BYU Studies Quarterly, FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, and the Interpreter Foundation (whom he collectively calls by the pejorative term “the M2C citation cartel”) that are violating the First Presidency’s directive—yet none of these organizations has claimed that prophecy, revelation, or official Church sanction stand behind any Book of Mormon geographic theory, including the Mesoamerican setting. In the absence of a revealed geography, they advocate for theories based on the reading of the text and best possible scholarship.

Meanwhile, however, Neville has and continues to claim that his opinion has prophetic sanction. He does so in nearly every one of his blog posts; here’s just one recent example:
All the modern prophets and apostles who have identified the Hill Cumorah [in New York] as the scene of the final battles were speaking as their roles as prophets, seers and revelators. This includes members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference.
How does Neville know that prophets and apostles who have spoken about the New York setting for the hill Cumorah have done so “as prophets, seers and revelators”? He doesn’t know that—he just assumes it. Their statements match his personal views, and so he implies prophetic support for his theories.

—Peter Pan

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

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Thoughtful comments are welcome and invited. All comments are moderated.

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Be notified of new posts