Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Those who live in glass houses, pt. 8

(Part eight of a series.)

Jonathan Neville writes:
In Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon, there are zero accounts of people building massive stone temple, pyramids, or other structures. Yet the M2C* citation cartel has retranslated the text to describe these and other features of Mayan culture.
Setting aside his misrepresentations of Mesoamericanist arguments for a moment, Neville is in no position to criticize “M2C” Book of Mormon believers on this matter when his own writings on the Book of Mormon are filled with conjecture and downright fantasy about the Nephites and Lamanites.

Here are just a few examples from his book Moroni’s America. (Page numbers here refer to the Moroni’s America – Maps Edition volume he edited.)
Jonathan Neville's Lands of the Book of Mormon fantasy map
Jonathan Neville’s fantasy map of the Book of Mormon
  • According to Neville, the term “wilderness” means “river,” and the “narrow strip of wilderness” was “a water barrier that acted as a border—effectively a fence.” (pp. 2, 9)
  • According to Neville, the Book of Mormon’s references to the “narrow pass,” “narrow passage,” “narrow neck,” “narrow neck of land,” and “small neck of land” were not references to a single, narrow passage in a narrow neck of land, but five different passes, passages, and necks spread out across a distance of nearly 500 miles. (p. 4)
  • According to Neville, the sea west was actually two seas, one south of Nephite lands (the Mississippi River delta) and one northeast of Nephite lands (Lake Michigan). (pp. 12–13)
  • According to Neville, the narrow neck between the land Bountiful and the land of Desolation was a passage between the Grand Kankakee Marsh and the Great Black Swamp. Neither the terms marsh nor swamp appear anywhere in the Book of Mormon. (p. 16)
  • According to Neville, Lehi’s prophecy that the Lord “will take away from [the descendants of the Lamanites] the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (2 Nephi 1:10–11) was fulfilled “at the beginning of the 1830s, [when] nearly 125,000 Native Americans” were forced the by federal government of the United States to relocate to modern-day Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. (p. 29–30) Neville ignores the important context of Lehi’s prophecy, written by Nephi in the preceding chapter: “The Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered. And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed.” (1 Nephi 22:7–8; emphasis added). Nephi informs us that the scattering of the descendants of the Lamanites will take place before the Lord’s “marvelous work” in restoring the gospel to the earth—in other words, prior to the 1830s. Lehi’s prophecy, therefore, cannot refer to the Trail of Tears.
  • According to Neville, the peoples of the Book of Mormon used rivers (which are wildernesses?) to travel extensively throughout their lands. (pp. 37, 38, 40, 88, 89) There is not a single account in the Book of Mormon of anyone traveling by boat using rivers.
  • According to Neville, Hagoth the shipbuilder sailed his “exceedingly large ship” (Alma 63:5) between the Great Lakes and eventually out the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean. (p. 73) Before the modern invention of locks, neither the rivers and rapids that connect the Great Lakes nor the St. Lawrence River could not be navigated by boats of any size.
  • According to Neville, the Nephites fortified Bountiful (Helaman 4:7) by building a massive earth-and-wood wall from Lake Michigan, down into southern Ohio,and then up to western New York. (p. 75) This wall would have been nearly 600 miles long. Needless to say, there is absolutely zero archaeological evidence of such an enormous structure.
  • According to Neville, the Nephites had “lambs, sheep, [and] rams,” which they sacrificied according to the law of Moses. (p. 85) Sheep—domesticated or wild—did not exist anciently in the eastern part of North America; they were introduced to the continent by the Spaniards. Sheep are mentioned twenty-five times in the Book of Mormon, all but once in a metaphorical context. The single passage that refers to the existence of sheep was during Jaredite times (Ether 9:18); the Nephites are never described as possessing sheep, nor using them for sacrifice.

Despite these and many other inaccuracies in Neville’s Book of Mormon claims, he feels free to criticize believers in a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon for things they never claimed in the first place.

Glass houses, indeed.

—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. The capacity of Heartlander's to strain at gnats and swallow camels never ceases to amaze me.

    "Hmmm... Which is a more likely fulfillment of the 'seed shall be scattered' prophecy? Trail of Tears relocated 60,000 Native Americans from the USA. Small pox and other Old World diseases wiped out 90% of the entire American indigenous population. Let's go with the Trail of Tears, fer sure."


Thoughtful comments are welcome and invited. All comments are moderated.

Popular Posts

Search This Blog