Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Friday, July 3, 2020

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

(With apologies to Inigo Montonya.)

Anyone who has read this blog long enough knows that Jonathan Neville has, shall we say, a complicated relationship with the truth.

When his interpretations of scripture, the statements and writings of prophets, and Church history don’t align with the facts, he doesn’t rethink his interpretations; he simply doubles down by insisting that things are the way he believes them to be.

The latest example of this is from one of his seventy-one blogs, one with the too-clever-by-half URL BookOfMormonCentralAmerica.com. This entry, entitled “Moroni’s America – the Prince of America,” observes Independence Day 2020 by telling us:
The 4th of July is a good time to review what Elder Orson Hyde taught about Moroni. Speaking on the 4th of July [1854] in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, Elder Hyde reiterated the teachings of the prophets that Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith “the history of the early inhabitants of this country.”
By “this country,” of course, Neville means “the United States.” I’ve discussed that misinterpretation before, and Stephen Smoot has done a thorough takedown of that Heartlander trope on his blog. We’ll return to that in a moment.

Neville then quotes a portion of Elder Orson Hyde’s sermon (from Journal of Discourses 6:368), making sure to put into boldface type the following portion:
It was by the agency of that same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith [i.e., Moroni], and revealed to him the history of the early inhabitants of this country, whose mounds, bones, and remains of towns, cities, and fortifications speak from the dust in the ears of the living with the voice of undeniable truth.
Now, Elder Hyde’s Independence Day address certainly focuses on the history of the United States and the hand of God in its establishment and flourishing. The revelations to Joseph Smith indicate that the Lord “established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I have up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80), so there’s plenty of prophetic testimony about that.

But did Orson Hyde believe that “the history of the early inhabitants of this country,” as found in the Book of Mormon, was limited to the boundaries of the United States? No—he didn’t.

In a speech delivered in Great Salt Lake City on July 4, 1853—one year to the day before the speech quoted by Neville—Elder Hyde told the assembled people:
Let it never be forgotten, but let the mind’s eye always be directed to it, as the eye of the storm-beaten mariner is ever directed towards the polar star, or the beacon lights, that while they ward off danger, they inspire with joy. It is a prophetic saying, relating to the destiny of this country, contained in the records found in Cumorah¹ and translated by the stripling youth, whose blood has sealed the truth of his translation; hear it all ye ends of the earth! “There shall no king be raised up on this land; and whosoever seeketh to raise up a king on this land shall perish.”² “This Land” means both North and South America, and also the families of Islands that geographically and naturally belong and adhere to the same. There are promises and decrees of God, in relation to “This Land,” of an extraordinary character. No other land can boast of the same. How now beautifully does the spirit of the above prophetic sentiment chime in with the great American principle, “that no foreign prince, potentate, or sovereign will be allowed to interfere in the affairs of this Continent!”

—“Speech of honorable Orson Hyde, delivered in Great Salt Lake City, July 4th, 1853,” Deseret News, July 30, 1853, p. 2 [LINK]; reprinted in The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, vol. 15, no. 44, p. 706 [LINK]. Italics in the original; boldface added. Ironically, this speech is also available on the Heartlander website JosephSmithFoundation.org [LINK].

¹ That the hill in New York was called “Cumorah” by Latter-day Saints is not disputed. Hyde’s use of that name was not a revealed statement that the hill in the Book of Mormon and the hill in New York were the same hill.

² Hyde may have been paraphrasing 2 Nephi 10:11–14.
For Jonathan Neville to quote Elder Orson Hyde as evidence that “this land” or “this country” referred solely to the boundaries of the United States is irresponsible at best and dishonest at worst.

—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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