Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, February 29, 2020

When Heartlanders are unintentionally hilarious

Jonathan Neville is, apparently, still on an extended trip through southeast Asia and Oceania, so he hasn’t posted much for me to blog about recently. Here are a few things I discovered this week that I thought were quite funny, albeit unintentionally so.

First, Rodney Meldrum, the de facto leader of the “Heartland” Book of Mormon movement, has a regular video podcast where he and one or more guests discuss the current Come, Follow Me lessons. In the podcast posted February 27, 2020, he discussed 2 Nephi 26–30 with noted Heartland authors James and Hannah Stoddard (who, like Neville, are opponents of the historical claims that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon).

Meldrum’s opening comments demonstrate the caliber of thought (or lack thereof) that he and his guests bring to the discussion of the Book of Mormon. (My transcript is from the original audio. For clarity and brevity, I’ve cut out Meldrum’s many ums and uhs, you knows, and repeated words.)
This is 2 Nephi chapters 31 through 33. Kind of give just a quick overview of where we’re at, again: So, basically, a lot of things have happened through, the family has gone through the desert and so forth; they’re now here in America. Basically, we have—Nephi has gone through the tree of life and gone through all of that information, and this is kind of like some of his closing words here. They are his closing words. These were not in the main set of plates that were in the stone box; these are part of the small plates of Nephi, so this is where we’re getting this pure material right from Nephi, and, it’s not even being filtered through Mormon and Moroni, at this point in time. So, I love this. This is—this is kind of, if you want to say, his, opus…um…what do you call it? What do you call that? Opus…grandiosis or whatever? [laughs] His magnum opus! That’s what it is! A magnum opus!
Now, heaven knows that I’ve had what I like to call “brain farts” like this myself. Most people, in fact, have had this happen. And Meldrum laughed at himself and the Stoddards also laughed with him. Fine. But what’s most interesting is how both James and Hannah Stoddard just sat there as Meldrum struggled for the word, James with a look of confusion on his face and Hannah with doe-eyed vacancy.
Rodney Meldrum, Hannah Stoddard, James Stoddard
The takeaway from this is, if you’re going to lead a talk or podcast with something profound, prepare what you’re going to say in advance so you don’t look like an idiot.

The second amusing thing is what Meldrum said immediately after that:
So this is basically where [Nephi]’s just kind of laying it all out at the end of his book. So, to begin with, he basically says, “I, Nephi.” Again, he’s doing this introduction, kind of like Native Americans do, they—talking about, making sure we know who it is who’s talking.

Now, I’ve been accused by many people of using insensitive stereotypes of Native Americans. I mean, the song “What Made the Red Man Red” was not one of the more culturally enlightened moments of my career, I’ll admit.
But Meldrum actually believes the 1950s movie stereotype of the American Indian who introduces himself as “I, Tonto” (or whatever) was (a) a real thing and (b) handed down from Book of Mormon peoples.

I don’t know whether to laugh or just stand here with my jaw hanging open. This is the supposed “scholarship” of the “Heartland” movement.

Finally, perhaps the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time came from a blog post that Neville published on February 28, 2020:
I embrace improvements and corrections; I’m thrilled when someone finds an error in what I’ve written so I can correct it. I’m continually updating my books and other materials based on reader feedback.
Now that is truly hilarious!

For over a year Captain Hook and I have, on this blog, demonstrated many, many errors and absurdities in Jonathan Neville’s writings. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t corrected a single erroneous thing he’s written that we’ve pointed out.

If he’s going to lie, I’m at least grateful that he decided to do it in such a bald-faced and openly obvious way.



  1. I think it's actually quite hilarious the level Neville goes to. He mentioned ignoring inconvenient truths in his last blog post while he's the one who really, truly does that. It made my day a while back when I learned that when David Whitmer told the story of meeting Moroni on the way to New York it was immediately followed up with him saying that his mother met the same angel Moroni, not Nephi. Of course, Neville loves to quote the first half of that before Whitmer becomes an unreliable witness. And I partially feel a little responsible for his latest blog post. I saw he made those ridiculous claims comparing a Mesoamerican setting to the corona virus and socialism in his other blog post and finally wrote a lengthy comment talking about his hypocrisy and bad scholarship. And then of course the next day he posts that intended audience post, so whether or not it's related I just know my comment isn't up yet and now I am not sure if it ever will be, and I'm almost positive he's received many, many more comments like mine over the past few days or weeks. But thanks for all of your work, Peter Pan. I've really enjoyed reading your humourous remarks as you talk about the laughable claims that Neville and Meldrum make. Keep up the good work!

  2. Peter wrote, “As Meldrum struggled for the word, James with a look of confusion on his face and Hannah with doe-eyed vacancy. The takeaway from this is, if you’re going to lead a talk or podcast with something profound, prepare what you’re going to say in advance so you don’t look like an idiot.”

    I’m not impressed with the scholarship of the Heartland model at all, and I’m especially concerned with claims many of its proponents make to the effect of, if you don’t accept this model, you don’t really have a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. I think that idea can and has caused a lot of damage in the Church. I also share other concerns such as the conflict of interest entailed in making a living off of giving tours, etc.

    However, I think in this post you’re drifting over the line into genuine unkindness. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t need to ridicule people for lack of polish. If eloquence is a requirement for deserving a hearing, we’d toss out Joseph Smith with the bathwater, too, along with plenty of other rough-hewn members in plenty of wards I’ve served in, in the USA or in my mission to Latin America.

    Again, I think it’s fine to hold people accountable and critique their reasoning, and even their motives when called for. I also totally acknowledge that you’ve been treated unfairly yourself by some people in the Heartland camp. But please don’t devolve into ridicule. We’re all on the same team. You’re doing a valuable service with your writings, and you’ll especially reach more hearts by keeping the discourse at a certain height. Let’s keep it as kind as we can and avoid friendly fire, even when we sometimes receive it.

    Thanks for hearing me out, and for your blog’s helpful reviews of the subject matter.

    1. Thanks, Nathan, for encouraging me to be my “better self,” as Karl G. Maeser put it. The whole exchange struck me as funny, but I probably did cross a line there.

      Unfortunately, the way the internet archives everything, it’s too late to retract my post.

  3. It would also be a stretch to say your position is much more respectful to Native Americans than the Heartlanders are. After all you are cut from the same cloth.

    Just your comical use of cartoon “redmen” is evidence of that.

    1. Clearly, you’re not familiar with the intentional uses of irony, satire, and self-deprecation as a comic tropes.

      It’s tragic when wit is wasted on the witless.

  4. Hey, it can happen to the best of us. I can't say I've never flubbed in the same way.

  5. Another thing I find strange is that it seems like whenever one of the Heartlanders comes up with a new idea, such as Neville's "two plates" theory, the others all immediately start using it, but in a way that makes it appear that they believed it all along. Meldrum's use of the "two plates" theory in this post is one example of this. Is there no disagreement among Heartlanders over any of these theories and ideas, or any sort of investigation into their veracity, or do they just accept whatever any of them put forward without question?

    1. It’s hypocritical for Neville, because he continually accuses the Interpreter Foundation and other “M2C” outlets of doing what he calls “peer approval” instead of “peer review.” And yet what you pointed out, David, is a perfect example of “peer approval”—Heartlanders uncritically accept the theories of other Heartlanders.


Thoughtful comments are welcome and invited. All comments are moderated.

Popular Posts

Search This Blog