Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jonathan Neville believes President Nelson is “undercutting the basic premise for the Restoration”

Continuing his long streak of not comprehending the implications of what he writes, this week Jonathan Neville posted the following on one of his 67 blogs:
In very few cases does anyone leave the Church while retaining a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

I include this event as part of the “Perfect Storm” series [of blog posts] because the combination of M2C* and the peep stone narrative are undercutting the basic premise for the Restoration.

That is, the Restoration is based on the premise that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery told the truth about the translation of the Book of Mormon and related events. They were the sole witnesses to the translation, the restoration of the Priesthood, and the restoration of Priesthood keys in the Kirtland temple.

Modern LDS scholars who promote M2C and the peep stone narrative are teaching members of the Church to disbelieve Joseph and Oliver on key points they emphasized over and over.

This inevitably leads to an erosion of faith.

[Boldface type in the original.]
Neville has recently concluded that the eyewitness testimony that Joseph Smith used a seer stone—what he derisively calls a “peep stone”—to translate the Book of Mormon is part of the supposed grand conspiracy by “M2C scholars” to undermine the restored gospel.

He fails to mention, however, that President Russell M. Nelson has taught that Joseph used a seer stone, and his teachings have been published in the Ensign, the Church’s official magazine:
I am intrigued, as you are, with the process Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon, which he said was done through “the gift and power of God.” (Book of Mormon, title page.)…

The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)
The preceding is from an address then-Elder Nelson gave on June 25, 1992, at a seminar for new mission presidents at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. It was published as “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, July 1993, pp. 61–65.

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
According to Jonathan Neville, by teaching the “peep stone” narrative, President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is “undercutting the basic premise for the Restoration” and “teaching members of the Church to disbelieve Joseph and Oliver on key points they emphasized over and over.”

How long will it be before Neville claims that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are in apostasy and that he’s been called of God to set the Church in order?

—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. It probably won't be long if he keeps on the same path. I pray he recognizes what he is doing before that happens. Has he ever responded to these concerns about his writings that are apostasy-laden? Does he just write such concerns off by explaining that he is not really criticizing Church leaders because they have been "misled" by scholars?

    1. In June 2019, Jonathan Neville responded to two criticisms leveled on this blog (see here), but he hasn’t written anything that I’m aware of in response to us pointing out that he’s being critical of the Brethren themselves.

      What so fascinating about his view of things is that, if his conspiracy theories were true, the Brethren would have to be extremely uninformed not to see what’s going on right under their noses. The fact that the Brethren haven’t acted to stop “M2C” indicates to me that they don’t agree with the theories of Neville and other Heartlanders.

      (I know some other things as well that I’m not at liberty to disclose that back up that conclusion.)

    2. Exactly. The reason "M2C" is the prevalent theory is because it has the most convincing evidence and arguments. If another theory had these, then I could see the Church giving it equal consideration in publications, CES classes, artwork, etc.

      Also, since the Brethren would have to be extremely uninformed for this conspiracy to be true, does Neville believe that they are? It seems to me from his and other Heartlanders' writings that they have the unfortunate belief that prophets are simply ventriloquist dummies; the Lord controls them like a puppet and His words are spoken through them word for word, exactly as He says them. In this way, the prophets can't think for themselves and are thus susceptible to the "machinations" of the "M2C citation cartel". But if this were the case, wouldn't the Lord warn them that they are being deceived? Nothing about the Heartland conspiracy theory makes sense.

      Also, I have heard Heartlanders cite President Hinckley's admitting to being tricked by Mark Hofmann and his forgeries as precedent for the imaginary situation today in which the Brethren are being deceived by scholars. The important difference is that in the Hoffman case, the Church was very careful to say that the documents they purchased from Hoffman had not yet been authenticated, and advised caution in their use, both in official Church settings and personally. No such disclaimers have been issued about Mesoamerican evidence for the Book of Mormon.

  2. Watch the short video, Scripture Legacy, produced by the Church, now available on YouTube as well as on Church of Jesus Christ.org. It was first aired between conference sessions, Sunday, April 2014. Palm trees and stone building have been replaced by hardwood trees and mounded edifices.

    1. I’m not convinced that one video produced by the Church in 2014 proves anything. The Lamanite warriors in the opening of the film are using the macuahuitl, a Mesoamerican weapon.


    2. To make any evidence in a film say what you want it to say, you need to prove that what is shown is done for a reason other than budget. I am also wondering how much palm trees versus hardwood trees are the right thing to have in pre-Columbian Guatemala City, which is the general site some have proposed for Zarahemla. It is high in the mountains, not on the coast.

      I do not think any reputable historians or archeologist anywhere would argue that the walls Samuel is shown atop in Arnold Freiburg's paitings existed anywhere in the Americas in the pre-Columbian era. Any artistic work takes some artistic licesne, and that often involves reproductions that the artist knows are not at all true to the past. There are limits to how truly the past can be represented in art. To begin with your actors are all modern people, not ancient people, and so in some key ways they will never truly replicate the ancient people they are depicting. You when casting and costuming make decisions on what you want to represent about the past, but any representation of what people are wearing in something set in the first century BC is going to have guesses, and I am sure if we could have a time machine we would find that some of our gueses are just plain wrong.

    3. To follow up on John Pack Lambert's comment, I'm not aware of any well-known Mesoamerican Book of Mormon researchers who believe Zarahemla was present-day Guatemala City. GC is at an elevation of 4,900 feet, much higher than areas to its north, so it's a better candidate for the city of Lehi–Nephi, which was in the southern highlands held by the Lamanites.

      For a rundown on the major theories and where they place Lehi–Nephi and Zarahemla, see:


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