Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Monday, April 26, 2021

Is the Church neutral or not, Jonathan Neville?

Jonathan Neville can’t seem to make up his mind on whether or not the Church is neutral about where the events of the Book of Mormon took place.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints logo overlaid on Switzerland Back in 2019, I documented how Neville has been critical of Church leaders for not being neutral. He’s snarked that “this position of ‘neutrality’ really means nothing more than ‘neutrality’ about where in Central America the Book of Mormon took place,” and he’s criticized the Church for posting a video lecture of Dr. Mark Wright explaining how the Book of Mormon fits into a Mesoamerican setting.

Now he’s claiming that the Church does, in fact, have a position of neutrality that it upholds:
Most Latter-day Saints accept the Church’s position of neutrality regarding Book of Mormon geography, which recognizes multiple working hypotheses. We think that position best promotes harmony and unity in the Church.
I question whether “most Latter-day Saints” are even aware of the Church’s position on Book of Mormon geography, but one thing is certain: The Church is not neutral on Book of Mormon geography, nor does it recognize “multiple working hypotheses.” That is Neville’s tortured reading of the Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon geography. As I pointed out in 2019:
Although “the Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events,” that does not mean that the Church may not or should not use representations of ancient structures found in the Americas, nor does it prevent individuals from expressing “their own opinions regarding Book of Mormon geography,” even in Church settings, as Dr. Wright did.

What the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have actually said is that Church leaders and members should not “advocate those personal theories in any setting or manner that would imply either prophetic or Church support for those theories.” In other words, it’s perfectly fine to discuss different geographic theories in Church settings, only one should not state or imply that either revelation or the Church support one particular theory over another.

The real problem for Jonathan Neville, of course, is that “M2C* intellectuals” (as he calls them) are following the Brethren’s counsel while he and the Heartlanders are not. Dr. Wright, in his presentation, never claims that the prophets or the Church have declared that his Mesoamerican view of Book of Mormon geography is correct. For Neville and other Heartlanders, however, cherry-picked statements of dead prophets form the entire foundation of their claim that the Heartland hoax is the Lord’s revealed Book of Mormon geography.
One should also take note of Neville’s continued use of passive-aggressive language: In his latest blog post he claims that “We [i.e., Heartlanders] accept the teachings of the prophets that the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is in New York,” which he says is “only one working hypothesis.” Of course, by (mis-) characterizing his view as being the one held by prophets, he’s really implying that it’s the only acceptable hypothesis. Meanwhile, he informs us:
Other Latter-day Saints insist that the only possible setting for the Book of Mormon is in Mesoamerica. They teach that the prophets were wrong about the New York Cumorah because they have decided that the “real Cumorah” of Mormon 6:6 is in Mexico. This is the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).

We recognize M2C as a working hypothesis and we are fine with people believing M2C if they want to. We hope they are engaged learners and not merely lazy learners whose beliefs are assigned to them by scholars.
Not only does Neville continue to straight-up lie when he claims his opponents “teach that the prophets were wrong,” he also continues to disingenuously assert that “we”—I assume by we he’s referring to other Heartlanders—“are fine with people believing M2C if they want to.”

So, Neville is “fine” with other Latter-day Saints “rejecting the teachings of the prophets” on what he believes is one of the most important doctrines of the Restoration, which he believes is leading to mass defection within the Church, especially among youth and new converts? Of course he’s not “fine” with that; he’s just playing a dishonest rhetorical trick to appear as if he’s fair and open-minded.

I’m honestly not sure which is worse: That Neville tries to hide his true beliefs behind amiable prose or that some of his readers actually believe what he writes.

—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. I don't trust pseudo-scholars who also cannot meme. Thanks for covering this one.


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

Popular Posts

Search This Blog