Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Jonathan Neville is the Rodney Dangerfield of Book of Mormon studies

Rodney Dangerfield
Jonathan Neville feels that doesn’t get any respect. From his June 27, 2019, blog post, “Sacred places and other updates”:
We think the M2C intellectuals should acknowledge and respect our beliefs about sacred places.

They do so for adherents of all other religions.

The only ones whose beliefs they disrespect, denigrate, and attack, are those who still believe the teachings of the prophets and apostles about the New York Cumorah.
With all due respect, Brother Neville, you started this fight.

But now, after people who disagree with you have spent a fraction of a fraction of their time pointing to errors in your research, you cry foul? You demand respect? Incredible! What gall!

Neville protests:
Next, we’ll see employees of Book of Mormon Central on social media, saying I don’t respect their beliefs. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I respect their beliefs; I even refer people to their sites to see for themselves. I respectfully disagree with their logic and interpretations of the text, sciences, and other facts, but I respect everyone involved with this discussion. I like them all personally. I love them as brothers and sisters.
As Captain Hook and I have pointed out, your supposed respect for employees of what you call the “M2C citation cartel”—the very name is pejorative!—rings hollow when you continually accuse them of being a sort of “fifth column” within the Church that’s covering up the truth, damaging testimonies of young and old, and misleading the leaders of the Church. You protest that you “don’t think they are apostates,” but you’ve accused them of being exactly that in all but name only.
What I oppose is the ongoing censorship by the M2C citation cartel that prevents members of the Church (and nonmembers) from knowing about alternative views and interpretations that support the teachings of the prophets.

I think most Church members would like to know that there is evidence that supports the prophets.

The M2C citation cartel should make this information available instead of insisting the prophets are wrong and M2C is the only explanation for the Book of Mormon and events in Church history.
Censorship is something governments do to suppress dissenting views that the state finds objectionable. It is not censorship for a private organization (including a church) to refuse to publish “alternative views and interpretations.”

Jonathan Neville believes that his “alternative views…support the teachings of the prophets,” but what he’s really espousing is a fundamentalist interpretation of the Book of Mormon, backed by selective statements by selective, dead prophets. His views do not align with modern prophets and apostles, who have declared, “The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.” (Neville rejects that statement and blames it on a conspiracy of “M2C intellectuals.”)

Neither the Church nor any other organization is required to give him a platform, any more than a publisher of an earth science textbook is required to publish the “alternative view” that the earth is flat and covered by a dome just because that view is taught in the Bible.
We think the Church’s position of neutrality requires openness and inclusiveness, but Book of Mormon Central and the rest of the M2C citation cartel refuse to allow readers to know about alternatives to M2C.
The “Church’s position,” as articulated in the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography, includes the following four points:

  1. “The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.”
  2. “Individuals may have their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography and other such matters about which the Lord has not spoken.”
  3. “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories.”
  4. “All parties should strive to avoid contention on these matters.”

The Heartland theory of Book of Mormon geography, as espoused by Jonathan Neville, violates the third and fourth points. Neville argues that his view of the location of the hill Cumorah is the only one that’s in line with what he considers to be “the teachings of the prophets,” and he has, for several years now, sought to convince others of the truth of his beliefs by demeaning, denigrating, and vilifying “M2C intellectuals” who disagree with him.

You want respect, Brother Neville? Start by giving some of it first.

—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. I have one minor quibble about "Flat Earth," where you say "just because that view is taught in the Bible". I think a better statement would be "just because that cultural worldview is reflected in the Bible". It's not a "Biblical teaching" any more than any other generally Levantine cultural artifact is, and it's where flat earthers give every religious believer a black eye.

    1. You are correct, Eric—the flat earth is incidental to Biblical teaching. It's a worldview that frames the Biblical Creation accounts (as well as the Flood and other accounts), but it's not a doctrine or a revelation.

      Thanks for the clarification.


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