Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Jonathan Neville’s obsession with “conformity”

Among his many obsessions, Jonathan Neville holds to the odd belief that “M2C* intellectuals” demand “conformity” from other Latter-day Saints—in other words, he thinks that someone is insisting that he accept that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon is not the same hill as the one in western New York.

For example, in his July 26, 2021, blog post, “conformity and the LDS intellectual cartels” [sic], he quotes The Wall Street Journal’s criticism of the scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Increasing numbers of scientists “seem to fall prey to groupthink, and the process of peer-reviewing and publishing allows dogmatic gate-keeping to get in the way of new ideas and open-minded challenge.”
There may, of course, be something to the Journal’s critique. The period of the pandemic has been filled with examples of people with ideas outside of “mainstream science” being ridiculed and even “canceled” from social networks. The pandemic very quickly became politicized, and it remains politicized.

What any of that has to do with Book of Mormon geography is beyond me, however. Mesoamerican theorists don’t and can’t require any kind of “conformity” to their views. They even disagree among themselves about the specifics of various locations mentioned in the Book of Mormon. They don’t control what the Brethren teach on this subject, and the Brethren have clearly indicated that “the Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas.”

Neville may mistakenly believe that the rejection of articles about the Heartland theory by mainstream scholarly Latter-day Saint publications is a call for “conformity,” when the reality is those articles are routinely rejected because they lack even basic scientific or scholarly rigor. When you make claims based in pseudoscience, forged artifacts, and dubious anthropology, you’re not going to be published by reputable journals. That’s not conformity; that’s good scholarship.

The irony in all of this is that it’s actully Heartlanders who insist on “conformity.”

One example of this is how Rian Nelson, who runs the FIRM Foundation’s blog, today insisted that I provide answers to his list of 17 questions as an obvious test of my doctrinal orthodoxy or heresy. (I didn’t take the bait.) [This blog post and its comment have since been deleted —ed.]

Another example is this strikingly unfunny cartoon by Heartlander Val Chadwick Bagley, posted under “Fun Stuff” on Jonathan Neville’s website, Moroni’s America: It’s long been said that there’s a grain of truth in every joke. The grain of truth here is that Heartlanders would, if they had the power, require every Latter-day Saints to affirm his or her belief in a single hill Cumorah in order to receive a temple recommend.

True “conformity” at its most grim and unyielding.

—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. And not to mention Rian Nelson officially declared that Heartlanders believe (at least as a generalization) that Church employees "intentionally or unintentionally try" to lead Church leaders astray in that comment chain AND that Church leaders are indeed duped by them on some occasions.

    Unfortunately he hasn't offered any names of the duped leaders or examples of how they have been duped and likely will not provide either, at least not publicly. But if he is anything like Neville, who threw caution to the wind and publicly declared Elder Gong to be deceived for calling the angel Mary Whitmer saw "Moroni," I can guarantee he is on their list.

    1. In fairness to Neville, he didn’t come out and say anything directly about Elder Gong. He barely mentioned the incident and avoided using Elder Gong’s name.


  2. In that same post though, Neville said "Thanks to the fake history in Saints, we now have General Conference precedent for the principle that resurrected beings don't really have restored bodies, but instead can change their bodies at will for inexplicable reasons …This is an example of our scholars providing bad information to Church leaders."

    Even though Neville likewise doesn't outright say Elder Gong's name, his post makes clear he is talking about Elder Gong, and Elder Gong has been duped by bad information. I'm not sure there's any other way to reasonably read that statement.

    1. Good point.

      That will teach me what happens when I try to be nice to Jonathan Neville. ;-)

    2. I certainly didn't mean to come across like you were doing anything wrong, so please forgive me if you got that interpretation in my response. You are doing great, Peter :)

      I wrote about this in one of my first responses to Neville a few months ago



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