Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

FIRM Foundation accuses the Church of deceiving the elect

The Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism Foundation (or “FIRM Foundation”) was formed by Rodney Meldum in 2008. It is the leading organization in the “Heartland” Book of Mormon movement.

Jonathan Neville is a frequent contributor to the FIRM Foundation’s website and frequent speaker at their conferences. He’s also collaborated with Rod Meldrum on Heartland publications, including their Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon. Neville isn’t responsible for things done by the FIRM Foundation, but he is an important individual within that circle.

On February 17, 2020, the FIRM Foundation posted the following on their Facebook page:
FIRM Foundation Facebook post from February 17, 2020
(Note: The date of Ezra Taft Benson’s BYU address was October 25, 1966, not 1996.)

Here we see yet another example of Heartlanders accusing the Church and its leaders of being fallen or in apostasy and needing correction. According to Rodney Meldrum’s FIRM Foundation, the Church today is teaching “things that do not square with the truth” because the devil is “trying to deceive the very elect.” That, according to them, is why Church publications include statements about Joseph Smith engaging in supposedly “occultic” practices like using seer stones. The Heartlanders are, of course, “the wheat,” while everyone else who believes these supposedly false teachings—including President Russell M. Nelson himself—are “the tares.”

This has been a significant step taken by all apostate groups before they split from the main body of the Church: Accuse its leaders of being “out of the way” and not teaching true principles. The leaders and followers of such groups, of course, believe that they are teaching the truth and that the leaders of the Church need to come into alignment with them.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles condemned such talk in an address he gave in October 2006 General Conference:
Over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.

As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it. It is true light shining in a dark world, and it shines from these proceedings.
And, in a revelation given to Joseph Smith while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Lord warned:
Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.

And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death—wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house. Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them. They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation. It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.

(D&C 121:16–23)
—Peter Pan

1 comment:

  1. Pete Enns has a great piece today that's relevant to this whole issue. Here's a relevant paragraph:

    "What marks off recent generations [of both Fundamentalist/Literalist-type Protestants and Latter-day Saints] is not that a renegade group of scholars and other troublemakers are now, all of a sudden, allowing “historical context” to invade our understanding of the pristine Word of God. Rather, the problem is that we have come to understand much more of that ancient context than ever before. The fact that many Protestant communities are deeply committed to Scripture as a clear word from God, which, therefore, can safely be understood without engaging the messiness of history, creates an antagonistic attitude toward those who are perceived as sacrificing Scripture on the altar of (unbelieving) scholarship.

    "...Rather than abandoning the method, however, it is wiser, I feel, to be willing to do the hard work of trusting God, going where the questions lead, and rethinking theological articulations when necessary, knowing that the survival of the Christian faith does not hang in the balance." (emphasis in original)

    I think his point is clear enough - we need to learn to understand ancient cultures (and even 19th-Century ones!) on their own terms.



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