Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Friday, July 16, 2021

Spencer Kraus challenges Neville’s translation theories

At the end of 2020 I became acquainted with Spencer Kraus and his excellent blog. (I’ve mentioned both of them before—see here, here, and here.) I’m grateful that he has joined the ranks of Latter-day Saints who are pushing back against Jonathan Neville’s devisive and unorthodox beliefs.

This week, Kraus published a review of three of Neville’s assertions, namely:

  1. That Joseph Smith was always separated from his scribes by a curtain, with Oliver Cowdery being the exception to this practice.
  2. That Joseph only used a seer stone as a “demonstration” of the translation process.
  3. That Oliver Cowdery wrote his series of letters in 1834 to show that Joseph Smith did not use a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.

In response to Neville’s claims, Kraus ably shows that:

  1. The eyewitness evidence indicates that Joseph and his scribes were separated from other people in the same room by a curtain, and that Joseph was only veiled from his scribes when he used the Urim and Thummim, not when he used his seer stone.
  2. Neville’s “demonostration hypothesis” fails because the source Neville relies on—David Whitmer—explictly said that, at that the event, Joseph was using the Urim and Thummim, not a seer stone.
  3. Rather than rejecting Joseph’s use of a seer stone, Oliver Cowdery’s 1834 letters are best interpreted as “reclaiming the narrative” from the anti-Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed, by using the term “Urim and Thummim” as a term for all translation instruments.

Bilbo's pocket Throughout his blog post, Kraus identifies how Neville “misquotes and misuses historical sources to attempt to paint a history that exists only in his imagination.” Just one example of this is how Neville has claimed that Oliver Cowdery “had [Joseph’s] little seer stone, the brown seer stone we see pictures of, in his pocket when he rejoined the Church.” Kraus hasn’t found a single source for this claim; he therefore concludes that “this detail comes directly from Neville’s imagination.”

I warmly recommend Kraus’s recent review to all readers of this blog.

—Peter Pan


  1. Another comment Neville makes that comes straight from his imagination that I have responded to previously is that rivers can be seas and the word sea can mean river in Hebrew - which, speaking Hebrew (ancient and modern), I wholeheartedly object to that claim. Your readers may also be interested in my response to this Heartland geography claim found in Neville's book Moroni's America


  2. Not on topic but you might find this of interest & also worth checking for other temples. The dedicatory prayer for the San Diego temple specifically indicated it would be a place where the descendants of Father Lehi would come. It's a bit distant from the traditional Heartland lands. Did the Nauvoo temple dedication prayer (old or new) reference Lehi's descendants I wonder? Or did any in that part of North America do so?

    1. Here is a transcript of the dedicatory prayer of the original Nauvoo Temple:


      And here’s the dedicatory prayer of the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple:


      Not a word in either about Lamanites, children of Lehi, Zarahemla, or lands of the Book of Mormon.

      Just one more piece of evidence that the Church is out of the way, I guess! 😁

    2. The Mexico City Temple's dedicated prayer says the same thing

      "Bless Thy saints in this great land and those from other lands who will use this temple. Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise. Many thousands 'that walked in darkness have seen a great light.'"


      Other temples in Mexico have had similar statements (I believe Quetzaltenango is one).

    3. You both don’t know The Book of Mormon, very well.

      “1 Nephi 12
      20 And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land.”

      Nephi saw in vision that after the destruction of the Nephites at Cumorah, the seed of his brethren went forth in multitudes upon the face of land.

      Just because there are descendants of Lehi in Mexico, Central America and South America, doesn’t mean The Book of Mormon occurred in those locations. People can travel.

      Either of you ever heard of The Mormon Battalion and The Mormon Pioneers? It didn’t take them long to travel.

      The seed of Nephi’s brethren had at least 1400 years.

    4. TCS: It’s at least equally likely that Cumorah was in southern Mexico and the Lamanites “went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land” northward into the Great Plains.

    5. TwoCumorahSolution,

      I wholeheartedly agree with that scripture you shared (I think that you would find that we agree in various places should you be willing to have a friendly discussion, and you would also recognize that I am well-versed in the Book of Mormon even though we have differences in opinion regarding Book of Mormon geography and there would be no reason to launch with quick ad hominem attacks as you do here).

      I also agree with Peter Pan, especially given the multitude of references to northward migrations found within the Book of Mormon text. Travels from Mesoamerica to the Great Plains (i.e., northward) would easily fit into this context offered by the Book of Mormon.

    6. One small quibble: Quetzaltenango (Xela to the locals) is in Guatemala, not Mexico. But that makes it more, not less relevant, than Mexico (in my mind anyway).


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