Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Jonathan Neville maligns the Church’s Come, Follow Me manual

Jonathan Neville has no qualms about openly criticizing official publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • He has stated that “Church employees and departments are censoring information at various levels,” and “they are even depriving Church leaders and members of important information and perspectives.”
  • He’s implied that Church employees are behaving like the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • He’s repeatedly criticized material published in Church magazines—including articles written by general authorities—and suggested that members steer investigators and interested nonmembers away from official Church publications because these materials supposedly teach falsehoods.
  • He has an entire blog dedicated to criticizing Saints, the Church’s new official published history.
  • He’s repeatedly sought to discredit the Church’s Gospel Topics essays.
  • He even believes that Church leaders themselves are misleading the Saints.

To all of the above, we can add Neville’s repeated criticism of the Come, Follow Me curriculum. He has asserted that these materials “are not doctrine, they are subject to change at any time without notice, and even the Brethren don’t always know what they contain before they are published.” (Neville seemingly believes that the First Presidency are dupes who are “asleep at the wheel” and allowing apostate teachings to be published by the Church.)

On February 24, 2021, Neville added to all the above another blog post in which he claimed that the 2021 Come, Follow Me manual is “misleading” the Saints and shouldn’t be trusted:
A lot of what we think is a difference in opinions is really a difference in knowledge. People think their opinions are based on fact, but that’s usually a delusion—especially when they don’t have all the facts.

And, as much as we wish it was not the case, we are not getting all the facts from current correlated Church history.

The Come[,] Follow Me 2021 manual is the latest example, but that’s because it is correlated with the Saints book.

In a way, this doesn’t matter. It’s funny, even, that our historians think they can mislead us this easily. Every member of the Church has responsibility to study these things and reach our own conclusions. Delegating our study to our historians, and then believing what they tell us, is a colossal mistake.

True, we should be able to trust them. But they have an agenda different from ours.
According to Neville, Church scholars and Church employees think they know the facts, but they’ve been deluded. Neville, however, has the facts and is not deluded.

Even more disturbing, though, is Neville’s assertion that “our historians think they can mislead us this easily.” In other words, he’s arguing that historians employed by the Church are wilfully and purposely trying to “mislead” the Saints because “they have an agenda [that is] different from ours.”

Here again we see Neville flirting with apostasy. The General Handbook of the Church defines apostasy as “repeatedly acting in clear and deliberate public opposition to the Church, its doctrine, its policies, or its leaders.” If publicly and repeatedly criticizing Church leaders, Church employees, and Church publications in the manner Neville has been doing for years now isn’t apostasy, then what is it?

—Peter Pan


  1. Interestingly enough, he is correct in stating "...we are not getting all the facts from current correlated Church history" simply because that is not its purpose; Gospel Doctrine is not an undergrad-level history course (it has taken me a long time to come to terms with this). The curricula are largely written to the lowest common denominator, e.g., an illiterate new convert in Guatemala, although CFM does a much better job of providing additional light and knowledge to the hagiographies we used to get. Correlation will always leave the inquisitive wanting more, and that inherent limitation is a good thing. It's also ironic that he is correct when he says "[professional historians] have an agenda [that is] different from ours" if by 'ours' he means 'Heartlanders'. Having received my BA in (primarily American) history, and worked professionally in the intelligence community, I should hope so. That agenda is accuracy.

    The historian and the intel analyst are professional cousins, both concerned with credible sources, methods and analysis that will hold up to harsh scrutiny as they build an accurate picture of a given setting, people or situation. In other words, assessment (not opinion) "based on fact". In the case of intel, that is literally a matter of life and death. And in both cases, new information can and does dramatically change a given assessment. It is a sign of intellectual maturity to be able to adapt to such a newly-revealed reality. An historian or analyst who cannot build such an assessment (or who does push an agenda) is quickly dismissed by his peers as not credible in a field where personal credibility is the only thing one has of any value. There is a reason Graham Hancock is not taken seriously by actual archeologists and historians, but he's made himself rich by selling his unsupported version of the ancient past to people who don't know better. Aliens gotta Atlantis, I guess.

    1. “That agenda is accuracy.” Well put, Eric.

  2. The irony is that Church historians, like all responsible, professional historians, include copious references, sources, and endnotes, so that their readers can, indeed, "study these things" ourselves and "reach [their] own conclusions." In contrast, I have found Heartlander sources, even on the rare occasion when they are actually included in a book, website, or blog, to be confused, jumbled, and biased. So who is really trying to mislead here?


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