Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Jonathan Neville and the art of psychological projection

Jonathan Neville really doesn’t like Book of Mormon Central (BMC). Oh sure, he’ll pay insincere lip service to how wonderful BMC employees and researchers are, but he wants his readers to know that BMC is nothing more than a nest of censorious conspirators who are dedicated to getting people to, in his his words, “disbelieve the prophets.”

This is made clear in his April 30, 2019, blog post, “Illusion of scholarship – Mormon’s Codex part 4.” In it, Neville begins by responding to people who “from time to time” ask him what he thinks about BMC. Here is his take:
These are all fine young scholars, but they’re employees. Book of Mormon Central is the most sophisticated and best-funded advocate of M2C* the world has ever seen. They work hard to persuade their readers that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.
You’re not going to change their minds.

Think of it this way. If you’re interacting with an employee of the Republican National Committee, are you going to persuade him/her to support Speaker Nancy Pelosi? If you’re interacting with an employee of the Democratic National Committee, are you going to persuade him/her to support President Trump?

That’s the level of commitment and devotion you’ll find among employees of Book of Mormon Central. Don’t waste your time trying to change their minds. Facts are just as irrelevant to them as are the teachings of the prophets.

We love our M2C brothers and sisters. There is no need to contend about any of this. There no point to contending, anyway. From a purely intellectual perspective, we can all see that M2C is a hoax. They can’t. And we can’t expect them to. It’s basic psychology 101.
There are a number of things to unpack here:

1. Neville claims that “BMC work[s] hard to persuade their readers that the prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah.” After analyzing BMC’s 512 published “KnoWhy” articles, I’ve discovered that only one of them has focused on the location of the Hill Cumorah. Others have touched on Book of Mormon geography and the Oliver Cowdery letters that Neville fetishizes, but only one KnoWhy has specifically been about the geography of the Hill Cumorah.

Does this sound like people “working hard” to “persuade” people that “the prophets are wrong”? Perhaps Neville could point me to a place where BMC has said “the prophets are wrong.” The KnoWhy on the location of the Hill Cumorah simply concludes, “The location of where Joseph Smith obtained the golden plates which he translated by the gift and power of God is well known. Whether that was the same location as the final destruction of the Nephites remains open to discussion.” Maybe in Neville-Neville Land this constitutes “working hard to persuade people that the prophets are wrong,” but in the real world this would seem to be doing responsible, nuanced scholarship.

2. Neville goes on to claim that, by virtue of being employees, the researchers at BMC are inherently biased, while insinuating that they’re just in it for the money. He compares BMC’s researchers to political hacks who are incapable of changing their minds or being reasoned with. “Don’t waste your time trying to change their minds,” Neville writes. “Facts are just as irrelevant to them as are the teachings of the prophets.”

One wonders if Neville would say this about his Heartlander colleagues at the FIRM Foundation, a for-profit business entity that fills the pockets of Rod Meldrum and other Heartlanders through conferences, publications, seminars, and tours. Because he makes money selling the Heartland hoax to the Saints, would Jonathan Neville also say that Rod Meldrum is a mercenary who can’t be reasoned with because he’s in it for the money?

3. “We love our M2C brothers and sisters,” Neville concludes. “There is no need to contend about any of this.”

Neville certainly has a funny way of showing “love” to his “M2C brothers and sisters.” This “love” includes mocking them with comics, graphics, and spiteful nicknames (including “M2C” and “Book of Mormon Central Censor”). It includes lying about them and repeatedly distorting what they actually believe and claim about Book of Mormon geography. It includes publicly saying they are part of a conspiracy to undermine the prophets, and claiming they are single-handedly responsible for people leaving the Church and abandoning faith in the Book of Mormon.

If this is what “love” is to Jonathan Neville, I shudder to think what he’d do if he hated his “M2C brothers and sisters”!

Neville finishes this part of his post with the loving and non-contentious line, “We can’t expect [M2C people to see their beliefs are a laughable hoax]. It’s basic psychology 101.”

Speaking of psychology, there’s this thing called psychological projection. As defined by Wikipedia,
Psychological projection is a defence mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.
Do we perhaps see any of that in Neville?

  • Neville accuses “M2C intellectuals” of being spiteful, contentious, and divisive while he himself has turned his brand into one of spitefully mocking and belittling “M2C intellectuals.”
  • Neville calls “M2C” a conspiracy while he himself spins so much conspiracy yarn about the “M2C citation cartel censoring information” that you could make a sweater out of it.
  • Neville accuses “M2C” of perpetuating a hoax while he works closely with Rod Meldrum and Wayne May, who routinely use forged artifacts, pseudoscience, and fraudulent history to prop up the Heartland hoax.
  • Neville says “M2C employees” can’t be reasoned with because they get paid for their work while attending and speaking at paid conferences and publishing multiple books.
  • Neville says “M2C intellectuals” are incapable of recognizing their own psychological biases while he himself goes about, blissfully unaware of his own biases.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Brother Neville is practically the poster child for psychological projection. That he lashes out at “M2C intellectuals” (including the Church History Department and Brigham Young University) for not accepting his bizarre conspiracy theories and impossible geography model demonstrates that he’s projecting the very psychological infirmities he suffers from onto his perceived enemies.

It’s okay, Brother Neville. We can all disagree peaceably here without resorting to armchair psychologizing each other. But the first step is to recognize it in yourself and ask for help.

—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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