Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Jonathan Neville still doesn’t get it

My last post discussed the revised Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon geography. Jonathan Neville has also responded to the revised essay on his own blog. His reaction, however, demonstrates that he is still completely missing the point when it comes to the damning implications the revised essay has for his claims.

Before getting into that, two points are worth mentioning.

1. Neville writes:
The term “Americas” is a recent development. The Church History Department uses it everywhere now to replace what the historical documents actually say. Moroni and Joseph Smith both referred to the aborigines of “this country,” but that causes problems for M2C*, so instead we always see “Americas” instead.
This is a common Heartlander claim, one Neville has repeatedly brought up on his blog. But it simply isn’t true. Matthew Roper addressed this argument back in 2010 (see pp. 35–51).

2. Neville also claims:
Before Joseph Smith even obtained the plates, he identified the hill in New York as Cumorah.
Neville can provide no firsthand statements from the Prophet for this claim. The only evidence he has for this are late, second- and third-hand reminiscences, not from Joseph Smith himself but by others who knew him. In fact, as the Church’s website points out, “early Latter-day Saints, including Joseph Smith, later called the hill Cumorah, but the best research on the subject puts the term into common circulation no earlier than the mid-1830s.”

Now to my main point:

It’s astounding that Neville tries to make the Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon geography into a subtle rebuke of “M2C intellectuals.” It’s equally astounding that Neville does not realize the revised essay fundamentally rebukes his rhetoric and and calls into question his methods.

For example, Neville often disparagingly calls Book of Mormon CentralBook of Mormon Central Censor,” and FairMormonFairly Mormon.” He frequently imputes nefarious motives to “M2C intellectuals” and others who disagree with his theories. And yet Neville claims it’s really “M2C intellectuals” who are being rebuked by the revised essay. Commenting on the essay’s directive that “all parties should strive to avoid contention on these matters,” Neville responds:
There is no reason to contend about any of this, so long as people are enabled to make informed decisions as they choose. There’s no justification for using claims of prophetic or Church support to justify censorship, logical fallacies, etc.
By “censorship” and “logical fallacies,” Neville clearly implies that the fault with these lies with those who believe in a Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography. This is amazing because Neville is the one who routinely resorts to contentious name-calling and logical fallicies throughout his writing.

Likewise, Neville thinks the essay’s emphasis on the absence of a prophetic or revealed position on Book of Mormon geography is a rebuke of “M2C”:
I hope the latest version of the essay puts an end to the M2C claims of prophetic and Church support for their theories.
The level of chutzpah in this single sentence leaves me speechless. Neville and his Heartlander compatriots are the ones who have loudly trumpeted claims that their theories—that Zarahemla is in Iowa, that Cumorah is in New York, and that the “land of promise” is exclusively in North America—have prophetic backing. Is Neville seriously so oblivious or wilfully blind that he cannot see how the revised essay demolishes the very foundation of the Heartlander paradigm?

It is honestly difficult for me to comprehend how he can seriously believe the revised essay is a subtle refutation of “M2C.” Intellectual honesty demands that he recognize that the revised essay, including its official statement by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, fundamentally undermines his entire operation, not his opponents’.

—Captain Hook

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

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