Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Come, Follow Me 2021 doesn’t care about Jonathan Neville’s opinions

The 2021 Come, Follow Me manual on the Doctrine and Covenants has just become available, and I’m certain that Jonathan Neville will have more criticism to level at the Church because of what it says and doesn’t say.

The reading for January 25–31 is D&C 6–9. Under the heading “Voices of the Restoration” (pages 20–21 in the printed manual), we read:
Cover of the 2021 Come, Follow Me manual by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We don’t know many details about the miraculous translation process, but we do know that Joseph Smith was a seer, aided by instruments that God had prepared: two transparent stones called the Urim and Thummim and another stone called a seer stone.

The following statements, from eyewitnesses to the translation process, support Joseph’s witness.

Emma Smith

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made any mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. Even the word Sarah he could not pronounce at first, but had to spell it, and I would pronounce it for him.”

“The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.…

“My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”
The Church’s gospel study manual for individuals and families for 2021 teaches that Joseph Smith used both the Urim and Thummim (or Nephite interpreters) and a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.

Jonathan Neville has called this “foolish revisionist history,” “gross deception,” “silly” and “totally wrong,” a “long-discredited theory,” and many other derisive terms such as the ominous-sounding acronym “SITH” (stone-in-the-hat). He claims that it derives entirely from an anti-Mormon book published in 1834 (despite ample eyewitness testimony to the contrary). And he’s accused Church leaders of changing Church doctrine to fit this “new narrative.”

The Church’s gospel study manual for individuals and families for 2021 also quotes Emma Smith’s eyewitness testimonies of the translation process of the Book of Mormon. Her first statement, above, was given in 1856; Elder (now President) Russell M. Nelson quoted her testimony in the July 1993 issue of the Ensign. Her second statement was published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints after her death in April 1879.

Jonathan Neville completely disregards Emma’s witness. He considers her to be a “critic…who denied that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the plates” and has repeated Brigham Young’s unfortunate remark calling her “one of the damnedest liars I know of” (even though Brigham’s accusation was over Emma’s beliefs about succession in the presidency of the Church, not about her witness of the Book of Mormon translation).

The new manual also doesn’t say a word about the hill Cumorah. From Neville’s point of view, I imagine that is its greatest offense.

The gap between what the Church and its leaders teach and what Jonathan Neville claims grows ever wider. At the beginning of the coming year, I expect that he’ll continue to accuse Church employees and historians of “censorship” and “rejecting the teachings of the prophets”—at least the prophets that he selectively quotes, not the living ones whom the Saints sustain.

—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.


  1. D&C 17:1-6 clearly states that the 3 witnesses would be able to view 5 items. A seer stone was NOT one of the 5 items because the Urim and Thummim was used to translate the Book of Mormon--NEVER a seer stone!

    1 Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a aview of the bplates, and also of the cbreastplate, the dsword of Laban, the eUrim and Thummim, which were given to the fbrother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord gface to face, and the hmiraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the iRed Sea.

    2 And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.

    3 And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall atestify of them, by the power of God;

    4 And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work.

    5 And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.

    6 And he has translated the abook, even that bpart which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth it is true.

    A seer stone was NOT one of the Five.

    1. Hi, Bruce; thanks for leaving a comment.

      I find your interpretation of D&C 17 to be rather odd. The Liahona and the sword of Laban were included in the objects the witnesses were permitted to see, yet they had nothing to do with the translation of the Book of Mormon.

      It seems much more likely to me that these five items were chosen because they were ancient and evidence of the existence of real Nephites. Joseph's seer stone wasn't an ancient artifact; although he used it alongside the Nephite interpreters to translate the Book of Mormon, it was not part of the items shown to the witnesses because it wasn't of ancient origin.


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

Popular Posts

Search This Blog