Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Wayne May and the apostasy of the Heartlanders

Jonathan Neville, Rodney Meldrum, and the rest of the hucksters who are selling the Heartland hoax to gullible Latter-day Saints are relative newcomers to the movement. Long before them—before the term “Heartland” was even applied to a U.S.-centric Book of Mormon geography—there was Wayne May.

Wayne May was, at first, a proponent of the Great Lakes theory of Book of Mormon geography. Since 1993, he has been the publisher of Ancient American, a magazine dedicated to advancing fraudulent pseudoarchaeology and the claim that there is a massive conspiracy among historians and scientists to suppress the real history of indigenous peoples of North America. After Rod Meldrum began advocating for the “Heartland” Book of Mormon theory around 2007, he and May allied themselves and May shifted his focus from the Great Lakes to the Midwest as the setting for the action in the Book of Mormon. (For more on this, see the articles in FARMS Review 20/2 and FARMS Review 22/1.)

May’s latest venture is a scheme to find the ancient Nephite temple in the city of Zarahemla, which he asserts (as do other Heartlanders, based on their dubious interpretation of D&C 125:3) is across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo, Illinois. May’s initial attempts to find the Nephite temple—which involved dowsing and the eventual use of heavy machinery—were fruitless, but he’s raising funds to do a more thorough search using drones and earth-penetrating scans to find what he insists must be there.

Like Jonathan Neville, Wayne May believes that Latter-day Saints must have a true and correct belief in Book of Mormon geography, otherwise their faith is misplaced. To give you an idea of what he believes about this, take a look at his six-minute video, “True Map for the Book of Mormon,” which he uploaded to YouTube on June 24, 2020:
After condemning the Virtual Book of Mormon map produced by Tyler Griffin and Taylor Halverson at Brigham Young University—calling it a “fantasy map,” just as Neville frequently does—the video’s computer-generated narrator tells us (starting at 1:08):
Let’s return to the original account that an angel from on high gave to Joseph Smith. As a Church, we can do much better than this. God is merciful, but only for so long. As a Church, we are under his condemnation. We must come back to the light and truth that He revealed to Joseph Smith. Bring the Book of Mormon back to its real setting in the real world. Take down the false and replace it with the truth.
According to Wayne May, the Church is “under condemnation” for not believing in the correct geography of the Book of Mormon.

This is yet another example of the false god of the Heartland Book of Mormon movement: They’ve replaced the central message of the Book of Mormon—repentance and obedience to the Lord’s commandments, as taught by His prophets—with their own message of American Exceptionalism. For Neville, Meldrum, May, and other Heartlanders, the Book of Mormon is, first and foremost, a witness of the United States of America. According to them, the United States is God’s promised land, and therefore the peoples of the Book of Mormon must have lived in the United States and the Book of Mormon’s promises must apply only to the United States and its inhabitants.

(This partly explains Neville’s disturbing views on nationalism and racial superiority, as seen in blog posts like this charming one from July 2018.)

May’s video continues by citing the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography (another one of Neville’s frequent whipping boys), and then it directly accuses the Church and its leaders of hypocrisy and teaching false doctrine (starting at 4:03):
The second question is the geographical neutrality. The Church’s stated position on the geography of the Book of Mormon is “that the events the Book of Mormon describe took place in the ancient Americas.” The statement also says that “the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urge leaders and members not to advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories.”

In concept, the position of neutrality seems clear. In practice, the resources of the Church only favor either the Mesoamerican theory for the book’s setting or the fantasy map that is found in the study materials that are used to instruct millions of members about the geography of the book.

We can do better than this. Joseph Smith brought forth the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. The revelations that Joseph Smith gave to the Church are clear. That fantasy map puts the Church in a place where no truth can be found for the setting of the Book of Mormon.

As a people, we remain under the very same condemnation He pronounced upon the early members of our dispensation. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 84:57: “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.”
In this segment, Wayne May once again claims that the Church is “under condemnation” for not accepting the Heartland Book of Mormon geography. As evidence of this, he quotes D&C 84:57 and implies that what Joseph Smith’s revelation was referring to a true belief in the geographical setting of the Book of Mormon.

But even more unsettling is how May quotes the counsel of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to not advocate personal theories about the location of the Book of Mormon “in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories,” and then he immediately proceeds to ignore their counsel by claiming prophetic support from Joseph Smith (via D&C 84:57 and 125:3) that the ancient city of Zarahemla is on the west bank of the Mississippi River. And the summit of his chutzpah? He then asks viewers to give him money to help pay for the effort to find it.

As I’ve previously written, the Heartland movement is an apostate sect that is critical of living prophets and apostles.

Hopefully Jonathan Neville, Rodney Meldrum, Wayne May, and others who advocate for such heterodox teachings will repent and take a different approach before the entire movement implodes and takes thousands of Saints out of the Lord’s Church.

—Peter Pan


  1. That quote you shared a few posts back seems more and more applicable:

    “That man who rises up to condemn others & finding fault with the Church saying that they are out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high road to apostacy & if he does not repent will apostatize as God live[s].”

    It's one thing to pawn a phony archaeological dig on Latter-day Saints. It adds to May's shame that he insists if you don't help pay for his research-so-called you are under condemnation with the rest of the Church-something that it seems only the Prophet should be able to declare as dictated by the Spirit.

    Of course, perhaps May and Neville know something we don't about church leaders and go the way of Denver Snuffer and others. Time will tell I am sure. As for me, I'm happy to continue following the prophet and leave Book of Mormon geography outside the articles of faith of the Church.

    1. It appears that the quotation you use above:

      “That man who rises up to condemn others & finding fault with the Church saying that they are out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high road to apostacy & if he does not repent will apostatize as God live[s].”

      could be applied to the tenor of this article. I have never heard the Heartland proponents claim that others were in apostasy, but this article surely makes the claim against the Heartlanders

    2. “I have never heard the Heartland proponents claim that others were in apostasy….”

      JJ: Please read more on this blog, then. Click the APOSTASY link in the Tags section and see how Jonathan Neville has frequently implied that Church leaders are teaching falsehoods. See how he is setting himself up as the arbiter of the correct way to understand what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught. See how he is openly critical of Church museums and visitors centers for not teaching the Heartland theory.

      Heartlanders are not “the Church.” Finding fault with them is not what Joseph Smith intended by his statement. Finding fault with the Church and its leaders—something Jonathan Neville does continually—is, however.

  2. I work closely with the LDS members you are judging and you are bearing false witness.
    I followed the Mesoamerican Book of Mormon archaeology for 45 years and grew tired of the lack of results that confirmed the Book of Mormon geography. The Heartland model does not demand that we throw Joseph Smith and many others church leaders under the bus.
    I do not know of anyone who has lost their testimony because of the Heartland Model, but one of the very prominent believers in Mesoamerica left the church and called the Book of Mormon a fraud (see attached article). Notice in the article in table 1 that the timeline for the Mayan culture does not fit at all within the Book of Mormon timeline. The picture of Christ walking down the stairs of a pagan Mayan temple is impossible since the Mayan buildings were not built until ~800 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not believe in the revelation recorded in D&C 125:3, please tells us why the Lord gave Joseph Smith this revelation? Also, please enlighten us as to what you know about Mesoamerican Book of Mormon archaeological findings that Brother Thomas Stuart Ferguson did not know that would have kept him from leaving the church. There is nothing phony here except the millions of dollars Mesoamerican Book of Mormon hoaxers has taken from the church and its members. The events recorded in the Book of Mormon took place in the eastern US and not in Southern Mexico or Guatemala. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/how-mormon-lawyer-transformed-archaeology-mexico-and-ended-losing-his-faith

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Opie. My response ended up being so long and detailed that I turned it into its own post:


  3. Hi Peter, what is the location where the New Jerusalem will be built?

    1. It will be built at Independence, Missouri. D&C 84:1–5.

    2. Thanks, agreed. What did the prophet Ether say to the Jaredites about New Jerusalem?

    3. Ether wrote that the New Jerusalem would be built upon “this land” (Ether 13:1–13) which was “a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord” (13:2; cf. 2:10, 12).

      What was the “choice land” referred to in the book of Ether?

      President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve said in in April 1976 General Conference: “America, North and South, is a choice land, a land reserved for God’s own purposes.” He then immediately quoted Ether 2:9, 10, 12 in support of his statement. (https://churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1976/04/the-constitution-a-glorious-standard)

      Five years earlier, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve said in April 1971 General Conference that the “choice land” promises of Ether 2:12 referred to “the modern nations of the Americas.” Note the plural π΄π‘šπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘–π‘π‘Žπ‘ , referring to North and South America. (https://churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1971/04/warnings-from-the-past)

      These statements support the Tenth Article of Faith, which declares that “Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent.”

    4. Agreed with your response. And in focusing on the "this land" teaching by Ether, who lived in the land over which Coriantumr was king and prophesyed to the understanding of the Jaredites, the location of the New Jerusalem, or Independence Missouri, would be included in the area of Coriantumr's kingdom. Otherwise he would have taught them it was to be in another land.

      So, what was the approximate size or area of Coriantumr's kingdom? We would need at least one other fixed point to help determine this, correct? What is that fixed point, or points if you're aware of more than one?

      Note: I'm fully aware of the Church's official stance on this topic, so please know that this discussion has no affect on my testimony. I'm interested in hearing thoughts and opinions other than my own.

    5. Lehi and his descendants didn’t have a map of the Western Hemisphere. They knew that they had arrived at a new land, but they didn’t know how vast it was. They believed that were “upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20), a portion of which was in the south and another portion in the north, separated by a narrow neck or pass and surrounded on all sides by seas. So, when the authors of the Book of Mormon wrote of “this land,” they were often (but not always) referring to the entire land of promise, which we know from the teachings of modern prophets is the entire North and South American continents.

      Ether’s record (which was abridged by Moroni) speaks of “this land of promise” “which was choice above all other lands.” It’s in “this land” that the New Jerusalem will be built. (Ether 2:8–9; 9:20; 13:1–10.) From the interpretation given by President Ezra Taft Benson, Elder Mark E. Petersen, and others, “this land” refers to the entire Western Hemisphere, not in the specific land or kingdom where Coriantumr reigned.

      It’s similar to saying “Washington D.C. is in the United States.” That’s a true statement, but the United States is over 3 million square miles in size, and Washington is in one specific part of of the country. Someone who lives in Los Angeles could rightly say that Washington is in “this land” or “this country,” even though it’s nearly 2,300 miles away.

    6. Very well. What are your thoughts on the location of the hill Ramah?

    7. Other than that Ramah is the same hill as Cumorah (Ether 15:11), I have no special insights into its location other than what the Book of Mormon itself has to say about it—that it was in the land northward, north of the narrow neck of land, that it was in “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains,” and so forth. There are some things that can be reasonably inferred from the text—that it offered the Nephites some strategic advantage over the Lamanites (Mormon 6:4) and that it was near the shore of a very large sea (Ether 9:3; 15:8).

    8. An interesting quote. "I do not believe we should give credence to the highly speculative theories about Book of Mormon geography. I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in Central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates."
      Mark E. Petersen Conference Reports, April 5, 1953

    9. Yes, that was Mark E. PetersenΚΌs belief (and he called it his belief) in 1953. This was before over 60 years of increasingly sophisticated research has shown that his belief was not well-founded.

  4. I put my trust in God not men or the philosophies of men. I give little credence to those touting the superiority of intellectuals and scholars over prophets and apostles. I flee from those who cast stones from the great and spacious building in order to demonize others for their sincere beliefs. Rather, I trust the Lord and those servants He has called. I don't pretend to know many things, but I do know that the Hill Cumorah is in New York and the "plains of the Nephites" are in the Heartland because that is what the prophet Joseph Smith taught. Yes, I know all the arguments you will trot out to try to invalidate the prophet's words and make him contradict himself, so you can spare me the repeating of them. When evaluating any theory, I don't look at the men promoting it, but for the fruits it produces. I've tasted good fruit as I've learned about some theories and bad fruit as I've learned from others. I honestly don't know why some people are so obsessed with calling this or that believer a deceiver, charlatan, or apostate simply for expressing their beliefs. It stirs up contention and turns those involved into servants of the adversary. I also use my real name when I blog and comment on others' blogs because I am not ashamed of what I believe and I Ihave nothing to hide. I've learned that those who criticize others under an alias are often wearing a costume in order to deceive the elect.

    1. Robert: Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your perspective.

      I thought your comment was worthy of a longer reply, so I’ve responded to it here:



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