Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Friday, December 20, 2019

Disagree with Neville? You’re a “disloyal” teacher of “poisonous thoughts”

Jonathan Neville claims that Church instructors who teach that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon may not be the hill in New York are “disloyal” to the prophets and are putting “poisonous thoughts” into the minds of those they teach.
Joffrey Baratheon dies of poison
The late King Joffrey Baratheon, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, felled by the treacherous poison of “M2C.”*

Neville’s October 9, 2017, blog post was republished on December 17, 2019, on Rian Nelson’s site as “Debunking the Two-Cumorah Theory” (even though the post doesn’t do what Nelson’s title claims it does). In this post, Neville attempts to turn the tables on FairMormon’s use of a 1966 quote by Elder Harold B. Lee.

After his usual disingenuous disclaimer about admiring and respecting Latter-day Saint scholars and educators who disagree with him, not intending any of what he writes to be personal, etc., etc., Neville then abuses Elder Lee’s address to accuse those who believe that the hill Cumorah may be in Mesoamerica of the most heinous crimes. Elder Lee told Church educators:
Remember that the very worst enemies that we’ve had are those that are within the Church. It was a Judas that betrayed the Master. It was a William Marks. It was a Frederick G. Williams and Sidney Ridgon, to some extent, and others who thought about the accusations that resulted in the death of the Prophet Joseph. Today it’s the same. The greatest and worst enemies we have in the Church today are those within our ranks whom we haven’t caught up with yet.

Now I sat in with one of our teachers who was rebelling. He’d written a text to be used in the Institutes and when it was turned down and was not acceptable because it was not correct, he just campaigned and he now has such a rank apostate attitude that he declares that he doesn’t believe the Church was organized as Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants says it was. He doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith had the vision as he testified he had. He thinks the Book of Mormon was written by somebody, but he doesn’t know who. He is irritated by things that go on in the temple and the temple endowments and so on. Now all the spleen and the ugliness of his soul comes out when he’s not longer sustained as a teacher, but while he was there, how many minds he poisoned.

Better that a millstone be tied about your neck and you be drowned in the depths of the ocean than to offend one of our Father’s little ones. You’re an ideal, you’re a trained teacher. And if you’re disloyal in your teaching, and if you lead them astray and put poisonous thoughts in their minds, it may be the thing that will keep them from ever attaining the high place in the kingdom.

Brother Berrett had done well to have our attention called to this subject of loyalty. Time doesn’t permit, of course, to elaborate on these, and much more might be said.… I am sure that if you will open your minds and your hearts, remember these prime principles that we are talking about on the subject of loyalty, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls that some who have preceded you have not been able to avoid.
Neville himself put portions of Elder Lee’s quote in boldface type, and I replicated his formatting in the preceding quote. He wants to draw attention to those portions because he believes that they apply to those who teach that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, where the Nephites fought their final battle, is not in New York state.

In other words, if you’re an instructor in the Church and you disagree with Neville’s interpretation of the Book of Mormon and the teachings of (selected) prophets, then you are disloyal, are among “the greatest and worst enemies we have in the Church today,” are like Judas who betrayed Christ, and should be drowned by a large, heavy stone. Neville writes:
In my view, the question of [the true location of] Cumorah is a question of whether we are loyal to the prophets and apostles, starting with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Can you think of a more poisonous thought than the teaching that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were “mistaken” about Cumorah being in New York? More precisely, this poisonous thought portrays them as ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah.

Yet that is what professors at BYU are currently teaching.
Three thoughts about Neville’s position here:

  • His relentless, single-minded obsession about the New York hill being the hill Cumorah surpasses a mere “gospel hobby.” For him, it has become the paramount doctrine of the Church, greater than any other message of or in the Book of Mormon. It is his First Article of Faith.
  • His extremism has led him to charge those who dare to hold a different view of being “disloyal” to Joseph Smith and other prophets and apostles, of spreading “poison” among the body of the Church. Those who disagree with him are, therefore, apostates.
  • The ironic thing is that it is Neville and his fellows who peddle the Heartland hoax who are the ones who are claiming that the Church is out order and needs to be corrected. (Who’s flirting with apostasy here?)

In response to Neville’s rhetorical question, “Can you think of a more poisonous thought than the teaching that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ‘mistaken’ about Cumorah being in New York?” I would say that it’s far more poisonous to repeatedly publicly imply that the living prophet is teaching falsehoods and that none of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles know that they’re (supposedly) being duped by crafty and designing Church employees.

That kind of teaching is truly disloyal.

—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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