Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Friday, October 16, 2020

On close-mindedness and trolling

As I’ve pointed out many, many times on this blog, Jonathan Neville gives the appearance of lacking even a shred of self-awareness. The criticisms he levels at his “M2C”* ideological opponents apply at least as much—and often more so—to himself and other Heartlanders.

Here’s just the latest example: After quoting statistician Nate Silver, who wrote, “One thing I’m [sic] noticed is that once someone gets a PhD, it become [sic] 10x harder to convince them they’re wrong” (which itself is amusing, considering how wrong Silver called virtually every outcome in the 2016 U.S. presidential election), Neville writes:
To this I would add, once someone is hired by a PhD, it becomes 20x harder to convince them they’re wrong.

And if they’re working on PhD [sic] themselves, it becomes 30x harder to convince them they’re wrong.

Exhibit A: the employees of Book of Mormon Central who troll faithful LDS [sic] who happen to disagree with M2C because they still believe the prophets.
I have three observations about Neville’s comment:

  1. My experience in engaging with Heartlanders has been that they are among the most closed-minded and obstinate of individuals. Not one that I have spoken to has been even so much as willing to consider that their interpretation of D&C 125:3 is an enormous stretch without any historical or contextual standing. They have been, to a person, thoroughly convinced that the United States is the only possible setting for the Book of Mormon and that “M2C” is a vast conspiracy operating at all levels of the Church. Few of them have any academic credentials in the fields of anthropology or archaeology, and yet they’re at least the equal of the “20x” and “30x” groups Neville mentions.
  2. Which employees of Book of Mormon are “trolling” faithful Latter-day Saints, Brother Neville? And, since “trolling” does have a specific definition, please point to how and where these employees are doing said trolling. And please demonstrate with actual evidence that this disagreement is because Heartlanders “still believe the prophets” and not because Heartlanders base their beliefs on “inaccuracies, embellishments, fallacies, dubious and unsubstantiated claims, selective use of evidence, parallelomania, presentism, false claims, and pseudo-scientific and pseudo-scholarly claims.”
  3. And since you brought up “trolling,” Brother Neville, may I point out your continual posting of passive-aggressive statements, like your claim the other day that Book of Mormon Central hires “fine young scholars and pay[s] them to flood the Internet with M2C and attacks on faithful LDS members who still believe the teachings of the prophets”?
Napalm attack by an A-1 aircraft in Vietnam with saracastic phrase
If Jonathan Neville wants to know the source of the animosity between Heartlanders and non-Heartlanders, he should look no further than his own writings. His constant attacks on, disparagement of, and passive-aggressive and backhanded compliments toward those with whom he disagrees has been the blogging equivalent of dropping napalm while simultaneously wondering why there are so many forest fires raging in the area.

—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. My experience conversing with Heartlanders is the same. I worked at Deseret Book for many years, and occasionally would come across them. I would add "angry", "belittling", "offended", and "crazed" to your descriptions of "closed-minded" and "obstinate". I'm not using these words randomly; I really have spoken with Heartlanders who have at least one of these traits, and most times have all of them. They also almost always have an air of "I know something you don't know" common among conspiracy theorists.

    There have been a few exceptions; those who do not exhibit these traits have usually just heard of the Heartland theory, and haven't looked at the "evidence" supporting it, or are sweet old ladies, buying what looks to them like a nice book for their families for Christmas (The Book of Mormon Annotated Edition).

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, David. My experience has been the same.

      An example of the second group you mentioned: I was approached by a kindly elderly employee at Deseret Book a few years ago. She showed me a copy of Tim Ballard’s book ‘The Washington Hypothesis’ and asked me if I’d heard of it. I told her I was familiar with the claims the author made. She was a bit taken aback by my use of the word “claims.” I gently tried to explain in two sentences or fewer that Ballard was simply making stuff up based on a fictional 19th century story. She was surprised that anyone could not love Ballard’s book. And I doubt that I gave her any reason to question her beliefs.

    2. Yes, opinions towards Ballard's books tend to fall into two camps, those who love them unconditionally, and those who understand the questionable historicity of their content. I was only able to give people my honest opinion of a book if they specifically asked for it, so it was a little frustrating at times!


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