Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Those who live in glass houses, pt. 4

(Part four of an ad hoc series. See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

Jonathan Neville clearly loves the Book of Mormon and its message. What’s puzzling to me is that, with all the time and effort he commits to blogging, he spends virtually none of it advocating for what he finds positive about the Book of Mormon and almost all of his time disputing what he claims are the arguments of “M2C.”*

In other words, he could use his 67 blogs to promote what is good and beautiful and interesting about the Book of Mormon. Instead he uses his time to tilt at windmills and slay imaginary giants.

This week Neville blogged about “M2C sophistry,” taking potshots at Brant Gardner and Gardner’s forthcoming book, Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture, without mentioning either of them by name. Gardner’s book isn’t about Book of Mormon geography, but Neville took the opportunity to criticize Gardner for the merest mention of connections between Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican cultures:
Today’s topic…involves yet another Interpreter article, this one an excerpt from a book.

The author is a well-known M2C proponent, as you will see. I like much of his work, but his obsession with M2C undermines his objectivity and even credibility, IMO [in my opinion].
Neville’s opinion that Gardner has an “obsession with M2C” gave me a good chuckle. If anyone is obsessed with “M2C,” it’s Neville, who, as I previously mentioned, spends all his blogging time stating and restating the same shallow objections to the Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography.

Likewise, it’s stunning to see Neville criticize Gardner’s “objectivity and credibility,” when Neville possesses neither of those traits. Regarding objectivity, Neville’s constant, repeated misrepresentations of views he disagrees with have been cataloged on this blog. And if credibility is measured by how and where one’s arguments have been published, then Neville and his catalog of CreateSpace self-published books (which include the intriguingly titled Goop Calder and the Haunted Cowboy Robots) hasn’t got a leg to stand on compared to Gardner’s extensive list of publications on many Book of Mormon subjects, including the over 4,600 pages he’s written and published through Gred Kofford Books, which have received awards from the Association for Mormon Letters.

But Neville doesn’t measure credibility by how robust an author’s arguments are; rather, he judges them credible if they accept Neville’s views on the Book of Mormon and Church history (which Neville, of course, claims align with the prophets’ views).

Neville continues:
For example, in this chapter, the author [i.e., Gardner] writes, “Books have been written to examine the geography and history described in the Book of Mormon. This isn’t one of those books.” But as a dedicated M2C advocate, he inserts M2C anyway. In fact, starting on page 39 he delves into one of the “correspondences” that, IMO, are pure bias confirmation; i.e., “it is important to note that this method of recording annalistic history was part of the cultures of Mesoamerica, which I consider the most plausible location of the Book of Mormon events. Perhaps the change to the way time was recorded was influenced by the introduction of the long count among the Maya.” He spends a few pages comparing Mayan annals to the Book of Mormon text.

My reaction to such “correspondences” is to consider whether they have any relevance or are merely examples of Loserthink bias confirmation and pattern recognition.
Neville being Neville, he can’t help but shove anything he disagrees with into the paradigm of his new favorite book, Scott Adams’s Loserthink. The title is so pejoratively delicious that he’s taken to using it as a cudgel with which to beat “M2C” and its proponents.

It’s at this point that Neville falls into a bottomless pit of the double standard:
Annals are ubiquitous on human history. The history of China includes “The Basic Annals” dating to around 2853 B.C. Ancient Roman and Christian annals were well known by the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, as were the Chaldean annals, the Phoenician annals, and others. Josephus discussed the annals of the Tyrians.

It may be more difficult to find an ancient civilization that did not keep annals than to find one that did. The Nephites and the Mayans were no exception, but that doesn’t make the Nephites Mayans.
Here we see Neville again misrepresenting his opponents: Gardner didn’t claim that the keeping of annals proves that the Nephites were Mayans. Rather, he claimed that “annalistic history was part of the cultures of Mesoamerica,” which means it was compatible with Nephite culture.

Do you know which civilization didn’t keep annals, Brother Neville? The Hopewell Indians—the people you and your Heartlander colleagues claim were the Nephites of the Book of Mormon.

Neville criticizes Gardner for what Neville considers to be a meaningless correspondence, yet Neville’s own views don’t even have such a correspondence, meaningless or not. The peoples of the Book of Mormon were diligent in keeping records, as they had been commanded to by the Lord; meanwhile, the Hopewell culture left no written works of any kind or even evidence that they had writing. In fact, the only pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas that left behind any known writings were in Mesoamerica.

—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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