Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A typical Jonathan Neville blog post

A friend of mine created a programming script that can extract common word combinations from long texts and produce sentences that group together the author’s most commonly-used phrases. (He explains how this works at the bottom of this post.) He ran it on the last six months of posts at Jonathan Neville’s Book of Mormon Wars blog and it produced the following.

Dear readers, I present to you the typical Jonathan Neville blog post:
Rather than placing an exclamation mark after the words of the prophets, they claim superiority over those teachings.

We don’t yet know for sure where the events of the Book of Mormon is among the most significant. The Book of Mormon is an actual history.

FairMormon, a member of the M2C citation cartel of Book of Mormon Central, all these people were wrong.

Fortunately, efforts to censor the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

If, some day, members of the Church unite behind the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah in New York.

The Hill Cumorah is the keystone of our religion, but intellectuals in the Church have cast out these prophets, one after the other.

1909: LDS President Joseph F. Smith published Letter VII in the 1899 Improvement Era here:

It also explains why the M2C citation cartel of Book of Mormon Central uses for censoring other ideas, for example.

Most members who accept M2C don’t know what the prophets have taught, the youth of the Church.

This is not to say that we expect the M2C citation cartel is so corrosive and, ultimately, counterproductive.

The Church’s only position is that the events the Book of Mormon took place. The essay is consistent with that.

Second, the explicit endorsement of M2C by a General Authority does more than merely imply Church support.
(I must admit that “The Hill Cumorah is the keystone of our religion” just about perfectly nails Neville’s theology!)

All joking aside, what’s most interesting to me about this is that Neville’s derogatory phrase “M2C citation cartel”* appeared in 25% of the reconstructed sentences. This shows, I believe, how often he uses this epithet to describe those who disagree with him about Book of Mormon geography.

Neville is unwilling or unable to grant that honest, intelligent people, acting in good faith, can come to different conclusions than he can over the location of Cumorah and the nature of the statements of prophets and apostles who have spoken about it. Because “the other side,” as he sees it, is fundamentally dishonest, they must be purposely misleading the Brethren and members of the Church. Hence, virtually every one of his blog posts implies that there is a vast conspiracy at all levels of the Church.

As someone who reads his posts daily, I’ve long since grown weary of it. Perhaps one day someone will convince him to stop it. One can only hope.

Here’s how my friend described his computer script:
One common way to make text-prediction software (like the word suggestions you see when you’re typing on your smartphone) is to gather a large amount of text from a user—text messages, Facebook posts, literally anything they type—and pay attention to which words typically go together. If user input data shows that they type “Trump” 80% of the time after typing the word “president” and they type “Nelson” the other 20%, then you can write code that will randomly predict either “Nelson” or “Trump” after the word "President" using those percentages rather than making it an even coin flip. This is called Markov Chain modeling.

I copied and pasted all of Neville’s blog posts [from bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com] for the last six months into a text document and had a Markov Chain program in Python compute transition probabilities for every word and make a model. Then I had it generate random sentences based on that model.
My thanks to him for providing me with his results!

—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 comment:

  1. Yes, I think I remember reading that quote from Joseph Smith in Preach My Gospel as a missionary: "I told the brethren that the Hill Cumorah was the keystone of our religion . . ."


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