Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Monday, July 13, 2020

Neville’s peculiar definition of “censorship”

Jonathan Neville, conspiracy theorist, claims that Church employees and historians are censoring Church history.

In his July 13, 2020, blog post, “Censorship by Hugh Nibley,” Neville quotes from an article by the late professor Hugh Nibley that was published in the March 1955 issue of the Church’s magazine, Improvement Era. Nibley discussed how ancient scribes revised and edited texts, including sacred texts. Neville believes the same thing is going on today:
Nibley continued[:] [“]The rigorous and arbitrary censorship of ancient texts belongs to the common heritage of all the "people of the book," being an established routine in every age. Antiochus ordered all copies of the Jewish scriptures burned, and pronounced the death penalty on anyone guilty of possessing a copy…[”]

Good luck getting caught with a copy of [Oliver Cowdery’s] Letter VII if you work for Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU, CES, or Meridian Magazine. Whatever you do, don’t read the packet on Cumorah.
The concluding phrase in that last paragraph is a reference to Neville’s “BYU packet” (which is not used at BYU) about the hill Cumorah.

What is absolutely bonkers about what Neville wrote is that a copy of Letter VII is available on Book of Mormon Central’s website. It isn’t even that hard to find: Click the Search field on their website, type “Letter VII”, and it’s the first hit in the search results.

“Good luck getting caught with a copy of Letter VII if you work for Book of Mormon Central”? Perhaps someone should inform Book of Mormon Central’s employees.

What’s even more bizarre, though, is how Neville claims that the Church simultaneously does and does not engage in censorship:
To accommodate M2C* intellectuals such as those who run Book of Mormon Central, Volume 1 of Saints managed to censor Cumorah completely from Church history.

The Gospel Topics entry on Book of Mormon Geography also de-correlated Cumorah by not even mentioning it.…

Fortunately, we all have access to the Joseph Smith Papers, which are awesome. Some of the notes promote M2C and SITH, but otherwise the material is outstanding in every way.
So, according to Neville, Saints, which directly links to original documents on the Joseph Smith Papers website, is censoring Church history by directly linking to original documents on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
Jonathan Neville's claim of censorship in Saints, volume 1
Neville’s claim about censorship in Saints, from his own blog post.

The truth about Jonathan Neville's claim of censorship in Saints, volume 1
The truth: an excerpt from Saints, with footnotes.

How much more confused could Neville and his argument be?

—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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