Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rebutting falsehood and misrepresentation, again

In his August 19, 2020, blog post “Why M2C persists”—unironically (?) retitled “How to get along better” after it was posted—Jonathan Neville repeats some false assertions that he’s made before…and have been rebutted previously on this blog.

So, once again, I must take to my keyboard in response to the misrepresentations he continues to spread.
Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park
Mathematical theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm regards one of Jonathan Neville’s blog posts. (1993; colorized.)
Neville begins:
I’m writing this blog for those who don’t accept M2C,* who want to understand the faithful alternatives to M2C, and who want to understand why the M2C citation cartel does what it does.
Fair enough. Every blog has an intended audience, and Neville has every right to speak to his.

I, as a reader of his now seventy-three blogs, have a right to criticize him when he misrepresents scholars with whom he disagrees, is irresponsible in how he treats historical sources, criticizes Church leaders or misuses their statements, employs ad hominem and other logical fallacies, promulgates conspiracy theories, is hypocritical, or shows a lack of self-awareness.

At no point should any of my criticisms of Jonathan Neville be misconstrued as anger or malice toward him. I fundamentally disagree with his core arguments regarding Book of Mormon geography and Joseph Smith’s method for translating the Book of Mormon, but I wish him well personally. I simply desire that he stop misrepresenting the beliefs of those who disagree with him and stop misleading the Saints with his theories.

One way he could do that is to stop implying, as he does above, that believing in a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon (or even a Mesoamerican Cumorah) is not a “faithful” approach. Another would be for him to stop using pejorative terms like “M2C citation cartel.”
I often point out that the M2C citation cartel refuses to compare M2C with the beliefs of those who still accept the New York Cumorah. I do so because their ongoing censorship is a missed opportunity for greater understanding and unity among members of the Church.
Here again, Neville is simply, clearly, and flatly wrong. There have been numerous reviews of “Heartland” Book of Mormon claims by those who do not agree with them. The Interpreter Foundation (one of the “cartel” members Neville frequently brings up) has, as of the date of this blog post, twenty four articles and other materials about Heartlander claims. And that’s just picking one particular source.

What Neville apparently wants is for people to prefer the type of side-by-side comparison tables (Heartland vs. “M2C”) that he frequently publishes. In these comparisons, he invariably misrepresents the views of his opponents and oversimplifies what are often complex issues.
Faithful believers in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon are happy to share their beliefs, compare them with alternatives in the pursuit of truth, and work together in harmony to build Zion regardless of any differences that linger.
The boldface in the preceding paragraph is Neville’s.

I completely and wholeheartedly agree with his statement. The problem is, as we’ll see, Neville asserts that everyone on his side is calm, cool, and collected, while everyone on his opponents’ side is angry and argumentative:
Apparently M2C believers continue to read this blog. That’s fine, but from time to time I hear from M2C supporters who are upset. They tell me I’m calling them stupid or foolish, but I haven’t done so because I don’t think that.
Oh, really? <ahem>: “Sometimes I edit cartoons to apply to the topic of Book of Mormon geography. Today there was a comic that I didn’t have to edit. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at Book of Mormon Central. I posted it here. Actually, maybe I should have edited it a little. Not everything they do is stupid. Just everything that is driven by their Mesomania. Which means about half of their no-wise [KnoWhys].” (July 26, 2018; emphasis added.)

If stupid perhaps is too harsh a word, it’s certainly without question that Neville believes those who believe in “M2C,” as he calls it, are ignorant or evil. (I’ve written before about his habit of deploying the “stupid or evil” fallacy.) And let’s not forget his claim that people who believe in “M2C” suffer from “loserthink.”
They are apparently getting their information from Dan “the Interpreter” or his alter ego, the anonymous troll who resorts to ad hominem and other logical fallacies on his blog.
I guess that Neville truly doesn’t read this blog, otherwise he would have read my many refutations and denials of being either anonymous or a troll. (Because words have meanings.)

I have also previously denied, and will do so here again with emphasis: I am not Daniel Peterson.

Make no mistake: I’m flattered that Neville would think that I am Daniel Peterson, as I’ve read him for many years and have enjoyed what and how he writes. But I am not he.

I’d very much appreciate it if Neville would stop claiming something that he does not know for himself to be the case, for it is completely, utterly, and wholly untrue.
I’ve always said that I respect and personally like (and often rely upon the work of) the LDS historians and M2C scholars. Most of what they’ve done is excellent research and explanation. Having believed M2C for decades, I could state their positions clearly and even convincingly—so long as the audience is as uninformed as most M2C believers are.
This is actually an oblique way of saying that people who disagree with Neville and his Heartlander friends are ignorant, oblivious, and blind—three words that are pretty close to stupid.

Neville believes that if more people were not uninformed and if they understood what he does, then they would believe as he does and no would would believe in “M2C.” That is manifestly untrue, however. There are many informed people who believe that the setting for the Book of Mormon (including the hill Cumorah) was in Mesoamerica who are also well acquainted with the evidences that Neville and other Heartlanders employ. They just disagree with the way Heartlanders interpret and use those evidences.
When I believed M2C, I was operating in a bubble. An information silo. Because I trusted these M2C scholars, their employees and followers, I was kept uninformed of all the relevant facts. The M2C citation cartel has tight control on the LDS educational and publication world. That’s how they have manged to successfully censor alternative faithful ideas.
This quote is deeply revealing. It demonstrates, once again, that Neville believes in a massive conspiracy within the Church to teach “M2C” and “censor” Heartlander views. From his perspective, the only possible way to interpret the evidence is the way he has interpreted it; therefore, those who don’t believe as he does are stupid (ignorant) or evil (conspiring).

Neville next contradicts himself, claiming in one paragraph that “M2C believers…are usually defensive, antagonistic, and quick to anger.” (He points the finger at me and Daniel Peterson as supposed examples of this.) Two paragraphs later, though, he calls “M2C believers” “wonderful and nice and faithful.” So, which is it?

(And, along the way, he cheerleads Heartlanders, who, unlike “M2C believers,” are “are happy to discuss their reasoning and are confident, not defensive.” And I roll my eyes back so far into my head that I fear they may get stuck there.)

The rest of Neville’s blog post is more of his usual shtick about how “M2C believers” suffer from confirmation bias. Heartlanders, by contrast, are “faithful believers in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

There’s a lot to be angry about in Neville’s disparaging remarks and outright misrepresentations. But, as I mentioned above, I’m not angry—not in the least. As Brigham Young reportedly said, “He who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool.”

I wish I had an explanation for why Jonathan Neville believes what he does and why he writes the things that he writes. I can only hope that he’ll come to recognize how fatuous and puerile he comes across to informed Latter-day Saints who simply disagree with him.

—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 comment:

  1. Well, they are certainly confident, but definitely defensive! And they don't seem particularly happy, either. (At least the Heartlanders I have met that want to "discuss" their views).


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