Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Jonathan Neville doesn’t understand the “M2C” position at all

One of the most challenging things Captain Hook and I have had to deal with on this blog is that Jonathan Neville simply does not understand the views that he criticizes. Because he misunderstands the beliefs of those who believe the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica—what he calls “M2C”*—he frequently misrepresents them. An example of this is found in his June 26, 2019, blog post, “The article you’ve never seen.”

We’ll get to Neville’s blog post in a moment. First, some background:

Joseph Smith stated in November 1841 that recently-published descriptions of the ruins in Mesoamerica “unfolds & developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon.” He was also editor of the Times and Seasons when it published a series of articles about Mesoamerica that concluded that the Nephite city of Zarahemla once “stood upon [the] land” of “Central America, or Guatimala.” (Neville does not believe that Joseph had anything to do with the Times and Seasons articles, despite the solid scholarly evidence against his opinion.)

Regardless of what he wrote or believed in 1841/1842, those who believe in a Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography do not argue that Joseph Smith ever believed or taught that the Book of Mormon took place exclusively in Mesoamerica. Rather, like all of Joseph’s contemporaries of whom we are aware, Joseph believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography—that is, he believed that the Book of Mormon took place across the North and South American continents, that South America was the “land southward,” the isthmus of Panama was the “narrow neck of land,” and North America was the “land northward” where the Jaredites lived and met their end and the Nephites fought their final battles. It’s virtually certain that Joseph believed that the hill in New York where he received the plates of Mormon was the hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon.

So Jonathan Neville demonostrates his ignorance of what Mesoamericanists actually are claiming when he publishes things like this:
Our M2C intellectuals like to emphasize the anonymous editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons that mention Central America. They claim Joseph Smith wrote, edited, or approved of these editorials.…

Here’s an article from the 1842 Times and Seasons you’ve never read before. When you read it, you’ll see why our M2C citation cartel doesn’t emphasize this one.
Following this, Neville reprints, in its entirety, the January 1, 1842, Times and Seasons article, “Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon.” It contains excerpts from Charles Thompson’s 1841 book of the same name. Thompson, a Latter-day Saint, believed that the ancient Native American earthworks in Ohio and its environs were evidence of that the Nephites lived in that land. The Times and Seasons article quotes from Thompson’s book and the Book of Mormon.

First, I should note that the “Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon” article was published a full two-and-a-half months before Joseph Smith became editor of the Times and Seasons. (Joseph became editor starting with the March 15, 1842, issue of the paper.) Why didn’t Neville mention this important fact? Was he perhaps censoring what his readers see in order to mislead them? If so, that would be both ironic and hypocritical.

But let’s grant that Joseph did approve of Thompson’s book and the excerpts of it that were published in the Times and Seasons. So what? As I explained above, Mesoamericanists fully accept that Joseph believed the Book of Mormon peoples lived all over the North and South American continents, and so any evidence of ancient civilizations anywhere in the Americas were of interest to him.

So, to answer Neville’s challenge: Why don’t Mesoamericanist Book of Mormon believers “emphasize” the January 1, 1842, article in the Time and Seasons? Because there’s no evidence Joseph had anything to do with it and because we already accept that Joseph would have agreed with it anyway.

The fault isn’t in us for not emphasizing something Joseph didn’t write; the fault is in Jonathan Neville for disputing what Joseph clearly approved of as editor of the paper.

—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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