Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Friday, September 20, 2019

Don Neville de la Mancha

In Miguel de Cervantes’s famous 17th-century Spanish novel, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, the main character, Alonso Quixano, reads so many stories of chivalry that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight and change his name to Don Quixote de la Mancha. In perhaps the most famous scene from the novel, Don Quixote makes a charge with his lance on windmills that he mistakenly believes are ferocious giants.

Jonathan Neville is becoming a modern-day Don Quixote.

In his September 20, 2019, blog post, “Closing their eyes,” he launches a full-frontal assault on the windmills of Book of Mormon Central by making all kinds of fantastical and imaginary claims of their supposed perfidy. For example:
Book of Mormon Central is spending millions of dollars to divert members of the Church away from the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah and toward their own theory that the “real” Cumorah is in southern Mexico (hence M2C: the Mesoamerican/two Cumorahs theory). Their database contains articles that attack those of us who still believe the prophets, and it has been purged of any material that explains why we still believe the prophets.
This claim is not only unhinged (he has a very broad definition of “attack”), it’s also inconsistent with what Neville himself has written. Less than a month ago he claimed, ’We love everyone at FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, etc. We appreciate the good work they do in many fields. They’re awesome people, faithful Church members, have good intentions, etc.“

So which is it, Brother Neville? Are the people at Book of Mormon Central “awesome,” “faithful,” and “have good intentions,” or are they “divert[ing] members of the Church away from the teachings of the prophets” with their millions of dollars in donations?

And five weeks ago—in a blog post inexplicably titled “How can we work together?”—he claimed that his readers “know that I support 80–90% of what Book of Mormon Central does because I share their stated objective of making the Book of Mormon more accessible to the world.”

So if Book of Mormon Central is “spending millions of dollars to divert members of the Church away from the teachings of the prophets,” and these millions represent the 10% to 20% of their activity that Neville doesn’t support, then it follows that they must be spending five to ten times as much on activities that he does support. Just how much money does he think Book of Mormon Central is spending every year? It appears to be perhaps as much as $20 million! Now, I don’t know what Book of Mormon Central’s annual budget is (and I suspect neither does Neville), but you have to admit that sounds a little fantastic.

But all of this is just a prelude to Neville’s completely bonkers comparison of Book of Mormon Central and other supporters of “M2C*” to fanatical 19th-century anti-Mormons.

Neville has been reading Orson Pratt’s newspaper The Seer—(he’s seemingly unaware that the entire run of that publication was disowned and repudiated by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve)—and has come across a statement that he believes applies to his fellow Latter-day Saints who disagree with him about the geography of Book of Mormon events:
While working on another project, I came across this passage from The Seer, Vol. II, No. 1, January 1854. It reminded me of the way the M2C citation cartel treats those who still accept the New York Cumorah.

THE TREATMENT OF THE UNITED STATES TOWARDS THE SAINTS.

Question.—First, In what manner have the people of the United States treated the divine message contained in the Book of Mormon?

Answer.—They have closed their eyes, their ears, their hearts and their doors against it. They have laughed at, ridiculed, derided, and treated it with the utmost contempt. They have scorned, rejected, and hated the servants of God who were sent to bear testimony of it. They have invented the most abominable, wicked and malicious lies, and published the same against it. Their priests have hypocritically and piously read these lies from the pulpit, and warned their congregations from one end of the Union to the other, to neither hear, read, nor investigate it, nor any thing in favor of it. They have denounced it as “a most vile and wicked imposition;” “a horrid blasphemy;” “a soul-destroying and most damnable doctrine, emanating from the bowels of hell.” Their editors have for years reiterated, through the columns of their papers, these abusive unjust denunciations and vile falsehoods, without giving any chance in their columns for a reply or correction of these bare-faced and foul misrepresentations. (Seer II.1:193 ¶2–3)

[The boldface type is Neville’s.]
“Ridiculed, derided, and treated it with the utmost contempt”? “Scorned, rejected, and hated the servants of God who were sent to bear testimony of it”? “Abominable, wicked and malicious lies”? “A soul-destroying and most damnable doctrine”? Where in the world is Neville getting any of this?

Our dear Don Neville, I’m afraid, has completely lost it. He’s now tilting at windmills, much as the moonstruck Man of La Mancha once did.

The bizarre irony here is that it was less than a month ago when Neville himself wrote, “The M2C intellectuals, their employees and followers…can’t engage in a rational, calm discussion because that would require an exchange of views and information, something M2C will not tolerate.”

I’m sorry, Brother Neville, but who’s “rational” here?

—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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