Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Elder Marion G. Romney identified the people of Latin America as descendants of the Lamanites

Jonathan Neville and other Heartlanders do not believe that the peoples of Latin America are the Lamanites of the last days that are prophesied of in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, as Elder Gerrit W. Gong taught in April 2021 General Conference. Because Heartlanders have a highly nationalistic view of the role of the United States in prophecy, they reject the teaching of modern prophets and apostles that the modern descendants of the Lamanites are found throughout North and South America.

Neville, for example, believes that Lamanite ancestry is concentrated in the northeastern United States, with any Lamanite connections south of the United States being “in relatively low concentrations” through interaction with true Lamanites. The most he is willing to admit is that “the dilution theory” leads to the belief that “Lehi’s descendants can be found everywhere in the world.”

Heartland blogger Rian Nelson takes a disturbingly racist approach to this matter, denying that the peoples of Central America could be the Lamanites of prophecy because of the migrant crisis currently taking place at the U.S. southern border:
The illegal immigrants coming from our southern border are mostly Asian and if they were chosen by the Lord to come to America, the Lord would allow them here without a lot of legal hankering.… The Lord works in an organized way not in chaos. We already allow over 1 million legal immigrants each year, how many should we allow illegally before we will be overrun? Besides…those in Central and Mesoamerica are not the people spoken of in the Book of Mormon, these illegal immigrants just received some of the blood of Lehi from actual Nephites much later in about 900 AD.
Neville appears to agree with Nelson’s repugnant views, having posted this annotated political cartoon on his blog, only to remove the page sometime later. (I guess it’s not just “M2C scholars” who try to “erase history,” is it, Brother Neville?)

Heartlanders, of course, love Marion G. Romney for his October 1975 General Conference talk in which he declared that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon is the same hill in western New York where Joseph Smith received the gold plates from the angel Moroni. Neville has quoted from or cited this talk nearly one hundred times; he considers it a “General Conference classic.”

Yet I would suppose that Jonathan Neville, Rian Nelson, and other Heartlanders would be perfectly willing to throw Marion G. Romney under the bus for testifying that the people of Latin America are modern descendants of the Lamanites.

In April 1963 General Conference, Elder Romney, who was then overseeing the missionary effort in Latin America, taught from the pulpit:
Elder Marion G. Romney, April 1963
Elder Marion G. Romney, 1963
Mis queridos Hermanos y Hermanas de los países dónde se habla Español. Me da mucho gusto a veros aquí con nosotros esta dia. Con todo corazon, muy bienvenidos. [translate]

To you who wonder, I have just greeted and welcomed our people from Latin America. My Spanish may not have been such as they could understand, but you are in no position to challenge my interpretation of it.

I love these, my brothers and sisters. To me they are white and delightsome. And of course I love you, too.

Pursuant to assignment from the First Presidency of the Church, I have for the past two years been supervising the Latin American missions. It may not, therefore, be wholly inappropriate for me to say something about the Lamanites, many of whom live in these missions. With this intent, I take for my text the following statement made by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith in March 1831.

“…before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.” (D&C 49:24.)
Elder Romney followed this by quoting many of the prophecies connected with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days and the role it would play in the descendants of the Lamanites learning the covenants of their fathers and receiving the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Returning to the subject of the people of Latin America, among whom he had been ministering for the previous two years, Elder Romney concluded his talk:
Now, with this foreknowledge as an interpretative guide to the signs of the times, all who have seeing eyes and understanding hearts may rest assured that the fulfillment of the promises to the Lamanites is at hand. Most of the foregoing prophecies have already been fulfilled, and others are now in course of fulfillment. The apostasy and fourth generation destruction, the degeneration of the remnant, the coming of the gentiles, their establishment by the power of God as a free people in this land, their harassment of the remnant [of the Lamanites], the preservation of the promised record, and its coming forth by way of the gentiles are now all documented history.

For more than a hundred years the record of their fathers, the Book of Mormon, has been going to the Lamanites by way of the gentiles. And it is now being carried to them with increased tempo.

Today the Church has in operation in lands inhabited, at least in part, by the remnant [of the Lamanites, i.e., Latin America], twenty-one missions. Others are being organized. Working in these missions during 1962 were, on an average, 2,424 missionaries a month. These missionaries brought into the Church 22,909 people in 1962, an average of 9.45 a missionary. This is well above the average of other foreign missions of the Church. So you see, my brethren and sisters, the Lord is pouring out his spirit upon the Lamanites. They are accepting the record of their fathers and are coming to a knowledge of the “things” referred to by Jesus. It is true that they are poor, they are downtrodden; they are in large part uneducated. In these and many other respects they still suffer under the curse brought upon them by their apostasy from the gospel once so richly enjoyed and strictly obeyed by their fathers. But they are now accepting the gospel. And they will continue to accept it in ever-increasing numbers. As they receive and live it they are certain to regain their favored status in the house of Israel and participate in the redemption of Zion and the building of the New Jerusalem here in America. Jacob, even now, flourishes in the wilderness, and shortly the “Lamanites shall blossom as the rose,” heralding “the great day of the Lord,” which God grant may not be long delayed, I humbly pray.
Fifty-eight years later, Elder Romney’s observation that the Lamanites in Latin America have “continue[d] to accept [the gospel] in ever-increasing numbers” has only accelerated. According to statistics released by the Church in April 2021, there are 6,468,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the countries of Central and South America, a figure that will soon eclipse Church membership in the United States (now 6,721,000). There are also forty-five temples in operation, under construction, or announced in those countries.

The Lord’s gospel is going forth in great power among the remnant of the Lamanites in Latin America. Hopefully our Heartlander brothers and sisters will be able to see and understand the importance of this truth, as it has been taught and testified by modern prophets and apostles of Christ.

—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. I served my mission in Central American (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama) back in 1972-74, which is to say, nearly half a century ago. At that time, in those four countries combined, there were roughly 10,000 members of record and probably about 2,000 active members. One mission covering all four countries; no wards, no stakes, just one or two districts in each country. At one point in 1974, I served (with my companion) as the zone leader for the entire country of Nicaragua, with the mission president (the late, great President Quintin Hunsaker) living in Costa Rica. It was truly a different era.

    Those same four countries today have over 390,000 members. They contain nine (9) missions and three (3) functioning temples, with two more announced/under construction. All this has happened in my adult lifetime, after I served there.

    But, yeah, let's talk about some scattered Native American tribes and reservations in the northeastern United States. And what exactly is growth of Church membership among those groups? How exactly have they 'blossomed like the rose'?

    1. EXACTLY. Great observation.

    2. Heartlanders would probably chalk up the lack of growth among Northeastern American Indians to the "conspiracy" in the Missionary Department to focus efforts on Mesoamerica and thus help support M2C...


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