Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Jonathan Neville’s broken scriptural allegory

Following up on his implied claim that Latter-day Saints who disagree with him are followers of Satan, in a December 2, 2019, blog post, “Voice of the people,” Jonathan Neville accused those who don’t believe that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon is in western New York of rejecting the Lord.

Let that sink in for a moment before reading further.

Here’s what he wrote:
For over 150 years, the prophets and apostles have consistently taught that the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 (the one and only Hill Cumorah) is in western New York. This includes not only Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (Letter VII) and their contemporaries, but members of the First Presidency speaking in General Conference, such as President Romney’s detailed address.
Neville continues to beg the question by not addressing his unspoken presumption that all these statements were based on revelation instead of common belief that became tradition. There is no revelation from the Lord on the location of any Book of Mormon lands, so Neville has elevated the statements and writings of prophets and apostles (at least the ones he agrees with) to infallible scripture. (And Letter VII is not nearly as strong of a piece of evidence as he assets, as Stephen Smoot has explained.)
No prophet or apostle has ever repudiated the teachings of his predecessors about the New York Cumorah.
Church leaders rarely, if ever, “repudiate” the incorrect statements of their predecessors, probably out of respect for great men who erred but are no longer around to correct what they said or wrote. Instead, the historical precedent has been for Church leaders to simply stop teaching incorrect principles and replace them with correct ones. (See, for example, how Church leaders have handled statements made prior to 1978 about black men and the priesthood.)
But many scholars and their followers have rejected those teachings.
How many times does this blog have to demonstrate that claim is false before Neville stops repeating it? It’s becoming his equivalent of the große Lüge.
M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorah’s [sic] theory) is based on the claim that the prophets are wrong because the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is actually somewhere in southern Mexico.
Actually, as stated here repeatedly, it’s based on the claim that the description of the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon doesn’t match the characteristics and features of the hill in western New York and that the area in southern Mexico is a better match geographically and culturally. It in no way claims that “the prophets are wrong” because, as stated here repeatedly, the location of the hill Cumorah hasn’t been revealed by the Lord to any modern prophet.

And then comes Neville’s shocking accusation:
There are indications that many, if not most, members of the Church are following the M2C scholars instead of the teachings of the prophets.

How can we explain this?

This is hardly the first time the people have preferred intellectuals over the prophets. Here’s one example to consider:

6 ¶ But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
(1 Samuel 8:6–7)

The Lord told Samuel to do what the people wanted because the people had rejected Him in favor of their desire for a king.

In our day, the M2C intellectuals have rejected the teachings of the prophets on this topic.
Here’s why Neville’s scriptural allegory doesn’t work:

In the time of 1 Samuel chapter 8, Samuel was the living prophet of the Lord. Samuel received the Lord’s word and interceded with the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel. The Lord had given Samuel strict counsel regarding a king, but the people rejected that counsel, which “displeased Samuel.”

In our day we have a living prophet—Russell M. Nelson. He receives the Lord’s word and intercedes with the Lord on behalf of the Saints. The Lord has said nothing to Russell M. Nelson—or any other modern prophet—about the location of the hill Cumorah, let alone made correct belief in its location an article of faith.

If any scriptural example applies here, it’s this one from the time when King David of Israel brought the ark of the covenant from Gibeah to Jerusalem. Along the way:
David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:5–7)
Jonathan Neville steadies the ark of God Jonathan Neville is an ark-steadier. He continually claims that he knows what the prophets meant and what’s important for today’s Latter-day Saints to believe regarding Cumorah—despite the fact that none of today’s prophets and apostles are teaching what he claims is so important to believe and profess and even though President Nelson himself has recently taught publicly what Neville asserts is falsehoods cooked up by a conspiracy of intellectuals within the Church.

—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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