Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Friday, November 15, 2019

Jonathan Neville, Master of the Double Standard

For Jonathan Neville, seemingly everything he encounters or experiences has some connection to the (supposed) vast conspiracy of Mesoamericanists who are (supposedly) trying to undermine the (supposedly) revealed geography of the Book of Mormon. Right now, for example, he’s reading cartoonist Scott Adams’s new book, Loserthink, and of course, finding all kinds of ways to apply it to “M2C.”*

In his November 15, 2019, blog post, “The Jailers of your Mental M2C Prison - Loserthink,” the latest in a series of blog entries on Adams’s book, he informs us:
The M2C jailers of mental prisons use patterns or analogies as arguments and rationales for M2C. The M2C intellectuals use the term “correspondences” to describe the patterns they cite to make people believe ancient Mayan culture has something to do with the Book of Mormon.

The argument goes like this:

The Nephites were farmers.
The Mayans were farmers.
Therefore the Nephites were Mayans.

When explained that way, the futility of a theory based on “correspondences” is apparent. Yet the entire M2C theory consists of little more than such “correspondences.”
Neville tells us that his hypothetical argument is “like” this, which allows him to weasel out of the inconvenient fact that no proponent of a Mesoamerican Book of Mormon settings has ever made such a facile, superficial claim.

Neville goes on to explain that “the entire M2C theory depends on such comparisons and patterns,” but that Scott Adams warns that human beings “can’t tell the difference between valid patterns that might predict something useful and something that simply reminds us of something else but means nothing.”

What’s so outrageous about this is that Neville and his Heartlander comrades do exactly what Neville is criticizing “M2C” proponents of doing—only they’re much, much worse at it.

The Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon, a Heartlander publication of the Book of Mormon for which Neville served as a contributor, is chock full of attempts to draw correspondences between the Book of Mormon and ancient Native American societies of American Midwest. Many of these supposed correspondences are based on flawed research, old and outdated claims, or are just simply in error.

Here’s just one example from Stephen Smoot’s excellent review of the Annotated Book of Mormon:
A chart provided on p. 542 lists “words and phrases” that are shared by “Indians of America” and biblical Hebrew. The first problem with this chart is that it does not specify which “Indians of America” are being discussed, so it is impossible to verify which language to check to see if the parallels are valid. The short citations of two eighteenth and nineteenth sources to give some kind of credence to the chart are woefully inadequate, as they offer no genuine anthropological or linguistic insight, but rather reflect what is now widely considered to be thoroughly out of date speculation, at best, about Native American origins. Besides this problem, the chart also suffers from the fact that many of the Hebrew words listed aren’t actually Hebrew. “Jehovah,” for instance, the first word cited as parallel to the “Indian” word “Yohewah,” is not actually Hebrew, but the English mispronunciation of the German mispronunciation of the Latin mispronunciation of a deliberate Hebrew mispronunciation of the tetragrammaton (YHWH), which is believed to have originally been pronounced something like ya-weh. “It was never actually pronounced ‘Jehovah’ in antiquity.” Additional non-Hebrew words (or badly confused words) in the chart include, but are not limited to, those for Heavens (shamayim, not “Shemin”), Wife (ʾishah, not “Eweh, Eve”), His wife (ʾishto, not “Lihene”), nose (ʾaf, not “Neheri”), Winter (choref, not “Korah”), Do (ʿasah, not “Jannon”), and Assembly (qahal, not “Grabit”). The last phrase on the chart, Waiter of the high priest, has no known correspondence in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is obvious that [editors David] Hocking and [Rod] Meldrum are clueless to even the basics of Hebrew, and have merely passed on spurious parallels they uncritically accepted from thoroughly outdated sources.
I should point out that—unlike Hocking, Meldrum, and Neville—Stephen Smoot can actually read Biblical Hebrew. So when Neville repeatedly warns us in his blog post to beware of “experts,” what he’s really asking you to do is to trust amatuers and dilettantes like those who created the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon. (And we’ve clearly seen what happens when ignorant illiterates like Hocking, Meldrum, and Neville try to draw their own correspondences.)

By critizing “M2C” for doing what he himself does (and so poorly), Jonathan Neville again demonstrates that he’s completely lacking in self-awareness.

—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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