Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

“There was one set [of plates] and one set only.”

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought has been a hit-and-miss affair for many decades now (with more misses than hits as time has passed), but it’s still an occasional source for insightful scholarship on topics of interest to Latter-day Saints.

The summer 2019 issue (vol. 52, no. 2) includes a delightful essay on “Empirical Witnesses of the Gold Plates” by Larry E. Morris. (PDF download here.)

Morris is a Latter-day Saint historian whose books have been published by Yale University Press and Oxford University Press. He’s also published articles on the life of Oliver Cowdery (see here and here).

Needless to say, Morris is a careful and respected scholar, which is why I found the final paragraph of his recent Dialogue essay so fascinating. After reviewing seventeen eyewitness accounts of the golden plates translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Morris concludes:
Individual accounts [of the plates] add that the pages were pliable, about as thick as plates of tin, about four to six inches thick, clearly not fashioned from stone or wood, and connected by rings. The plates were heavy, much heavier than stone, with estimates of their weight ranging from forty to sixty pounds. They measured about six or seven inches by eight inches and had a greenish color. The documentary evidence indicates there was one set and one set only. [Emphasis added.]
His flat declaration is of interest to me because Jonathan Neville believes and teaches that there were, in fact, two sets of plates translated by Joseph Smith. Neville calls these “the Harmony plates” (Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi) and “the Fayette plates” (the small plates of Nephi). Neville, in fact, has written that belief in two sets of plates is one of the “fundamentals in Church history.”

So it’s particularly odd that Neville—who dogmatically insists in nearly every blog post that Latter-day Saints follow “the teachings of the prophets” concerning the location of the hill Cumorah—is completely and totally at odds with all of the prophets and all of the witnesses on how many sets of plates Joseph Smith received.

I suppose that Larry Morris, the prophets, and the Book of Mormon witnesses are now all part of the “M2C citation cartel.”*

—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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