Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The illusion of scholarly engagement

Jonathan Neville is incredibly adept at repackaging the same simplistic argument into an infinite number of blog posts, but can he actually engage the published scholarship of “M2C intellectuals”?*

In his April 19, 2019, blog post, “Illusion of scholarship – Mormon’s Codex part 1,” he teases his readers with the possibility that he might actually give us something of substance. He begins:
After my [April 17th] post on the illusion of scholarship, people wanted specific examples.

Let’s start with Mormon’s Codex, which Professor Terryl Givens claims is “the high-water mark of scholarship on the Book of Mormon.” Foreword, Mormon’s Codex, p. xvi.
Despite his childish inability to resist including an image of the cover of Mormon’s Codex without overlaying it with an “M2C approved” stamp, this is a promising start. At last, perhaps we’ll finally get the takedown of the magnum opus of John L. Sorenson—Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brigham Young University—that we’ve been waiting for!

Neville continues:
Well, let’s start with Brother Givens. In the Foreword, he writes,

“Whether or not God spoke to Moses on Sinai, Jesus resurrected from the dead, or Paul wrote words given him by inspiration, no one doubts the Old World setting and ancient origins of the Old and New Testaments. Until such time as a preponderance of evidence provides comparable historical plausibility for the Book of Mormon’s ancient origin, no one can expect scholars to consider the book as anything other than a nineteenth-century cultural artifact. If such a time is to come, it will arrive in large measure through the efforts of John Sorenson, who has done more than any Latter-day Saint scholar to shift the terms of the Book of Mormon debates.”

This is the M2C or bust approach; i.e., you have to believe the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, and that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah, or else you have to believe the Book of Mormon is fiction.
That’s Neville’s sole quotation from Mormon’s Codex.

Oh, Jonathan, you started with such promise and then you blew it! We were expecting some response to Sorenson’s claims, but instead all you did was give us a quote from the foreword and then proceed to misinterpret the only quote you gave us!

By claiming that Sorenson “has done more than any Latter-day Saint scholar to shift the terms of the Book of Mormon debates,” Givens clearly didn’t mean “shift it toward an ‘M2C or bust’ approach”; rather—as is clear from the context of the very paragraph you quoted—he shifted the debate from one of the Book of MOrmon being “a nineteenth-century cultural artifact” to it being an ancient document grounded in historical reality.

Now, that historical reality just so happens to be rooted in Mesoamerica, which is the reason Mormon’s Codex exists in the first place. Yes, we know that you disagree with that theory, and we can see from your blog post that you go on to repeat, for the umpteenth time, your unproven claims that believing that theory means “repudiat[ing] the teachings of the prophets” and causing loss of testimony among young Latter-day Saints, blah, blah, blah. But surely even you must admit that Professor Sorenson’s decades of research and publications—through actual, reputable publishers, not self-published outfits like CreateSpace {cough}—have all pointed toward his goal of grounding the Book of Mormon in historical reality.

Brother Neville, once again you’ve let us down.

Ah, well. At least you spelled “foreword” correctly in your blog post…unlike you did the book you edited, Moroni’s America – Maps Edition:

Moroni's America - Maps Edition: Forward & Acknowledgements

—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.


  1. Wow!!! Jonathan Neville lives rent free in your heads.... Best of luck guys, but the Book of Mormon wars are over. Hope you guys are doing ok.

    1. Hi, T.L.! Thanks for your comment.

      Jonathan Neville is a fascinating hobby that Captain Hook and I just happen to share in common. His logic is so unsound and his bizarre conspiracy theories so transparently fallacious that we feel it privilege to warn the saints about his criticisms of the Church and its leaders. If one or two people avoid his false teachings because of our blog, then we'll have considered our efforts worthwhile.

      "The Book of Mormon wars (are over)" is, of course, Neville's claim, and the name of one of his dozens of blogs. In reality they never began; the "wars" are all in his head. He's claimed victory despite not even taking the field, as it were. To do that, he'd have to produce evidence that isn't drawn from fraudulent artifacts, twisted readings of scripture, impossible geographies where words mean what he insists they mean, and wild-eyed claims of conspiracies taking place in the Church Office Building.


      Your Peter


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