Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Monday, May 13, 2019

If it’s so obvious, where is the evidence, Brother Neville?

Jonathan Neville has decided to take a break from not responding to John Sorenson’s scholarship and instead double down on his baseless claim that Latter-day Saint conversion rates are declining, in part, because of
…the influence of the intellectuals in the Church, including employees at CES, BYU, and COB, who are teaching the youth (and investigators) to disbelieve the prophets regarding such fundamental points as the translation of the Book of Mormon and the Hill Cumorah.
That claim is from his May 13, 2019, blog post, “Restatement of the obvious.”

This is not the first time Neville has made this kind of claim—on March 3, 2019, he literally invented evidence that New York-Cumorah acceptance rates among Latter-day Saints have been declining since 1920 (and, of course, blamed the decline on “M2C” intellectuals*).

Now he’s gone further than claiming loss of faith among Latter-day Saints into attributing declining conversion rates to the teaching of “M2C.” And what evidence does he have that this “serious problem that has real-world ramifications” is the case? He writes:
We do have statistics, and one of the biggest barriers [to accepting the gospel] is disbelief in the historicity and divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

We’ve seen that only 50% of Millennials in the Church believe the Book of Mormon is a real history, and that percentage is declining.
Neville links to his blog review of Jana Riess’ book The Next Mormons to back up his claim that half of Millennial saints disbelieve that the Book of Mormon is history. He seems unaware of criticisms Riess’ methodology, including her “question framings, answer options and sample demographics.” There are significant concerns that Riess’ pool of survey respondents wasn’t representative of typical Latter-day Saints and that she asked them leading questions that skewed the results.

In any case, let’s grant for the moment that half of LDS young adults don’t believe the Book of Mormon is historical. Does Neville have any evidence that this is because they’ve been taught “M2C”?

No. But that doesn’t stop him from considering itʼs “the entirely predictable result of”
1. Repudiating the consistent and persistent teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah and

2. Teaching the Book of Mormon to students in CES (Seminary, Institute, and BYU) by using a fantasy map.
Both of these points are utter nonsense, as the Captain and I have repeatedly pointed out on this blog. (See, for example, this post and this post.) But Brother Neville apparently doesn’t read this blog, otherwise one would expect him to respond to our claim that he’s employing logical fallacies and misrepresentations of his opponents’ claims to make his points.
As bad as this situation is for the youth of the Church, it is even worse for investigators, as I’ll discuss in upcoming posts.
We look forward to seeing Neville’s evidence. However, if it’s anything like the nonexistent arguments he’s promised but not delivered about John L. Sorenson’s work, we may be waiting a long time to see it.

—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.


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