Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Monday, November 1, 2021

Jonathan Neville, Chief Captain of the Double Standard

High double standardsI’ve spent no small amount of time discussing the hypocritical way Jonathan Neville treats the views he’s opposed to—which he calls “M2C” and “SITH”—compared to how he approaches the claims of the Heartland movement. He regularly applies different standards to his opponents’ arguments than he does to those he accepts.

A shockingly tumid example of this can be found in his October 30, 2021, blog post, “BYU Studies strikes again—Part 2.” This is the second post Neville has written about his problems with Andrew Hedges’ BYU Studies Quarterly article about Book of Mormon geography.

I won’t test my readers’ patience by reviewing every line of his blog post. Briefly, he (of course) criticizes Hedges from the assumption that the hill Cumorah in New York has been identified conclusively and by revelation as the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon. I think I’ve thoroughly debunked that argument, so I’ll simply refer you to my other posts on that subject and also about his claims concerning Oliver Cowdery’s Letter VII, the Zelph incident, and the cave of plates story. I’ll limit this post to examining the numerous double standards Neville uses as he compares his beliefs with those of mainstream Book of Mormon scholars.
¶3 Critics claim the [Book of Mormon] is fiction, and their arguments are bolstered when the faithful disagree among themselves about where the events took place.
Neville asserts that critics’ arguments are helped when faithful Saints disagree about Book of Mormon geography. His implication, of course, is that it is people on the side of “M2C” who are the ones who are disagreeing and are therefore the problem. Neville doesn’t stop to consider that his aggressive, continual attacks on faithful Latter-day Saint scholars, Church employees, and Church publications contribute as much or more to this.
¶7 The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, and Cumorah is the keystone of Book of Mormon historicity. It’s an either/or question; either the prophets were correct about the New York Cumorah, or they were not. There is no middle ground.
The double standard here is Neville’s insistence on an either/or about “the prophets [being] correct” about the location of Cumorah while he ignores or overlooks prophets’ statements that he disagrees with.

For example, many prophets—including the living prophet, Russell M. Nelson—have taught that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon. Neville rejects that historical claim, yet he doesn’t hold to a strict either/or when prophets teach it. Likewise, President Nelson has taught that the Book of Mormon took place in Central and South America, but Neville doesn’t insist that either the prophet is correct about this or he is not; he simply avoids the issue altogether.
¶12 Critics say [BYU/CES teachers and the FARMS scholars] (and, by extension, the Church) “hide” historical information they don’t like. While I disagree with the critics on many of their assertions, it is undeniable that the M2C scholars and their citation cartel, including BYU Studies, have been far from forthright.
Again, that’s quite a bold statement, considering how Neville and his colleagues “have been far from forthright” about the teachings of the prophets about seer stones, Book of Mormon geography, and many other subjects. Covering up historical information is something Neville is well acquainted with.
¶21 We’re faced with M2C scholars who use their private, subjective interpretations of the text to justify rejecting the teachings of the prophets. Hence, the confusion that reigns.
Here again Neville points his finger at his ideological opponents without recognizing—or perhaps without admitting—that he and his comrades also engage in “private, subjective interpretations of the text” and many other things.

Neville himself has invented claims about Benjamin Winchester supposedly being responsible for the 1842 Times and Seasons articles about Mesoamerican ruins (this despite what wordprint studies indicate) and Joseph Smith supposedly using a seer stone only as a “demonstration” of the Book of Mormon translation process.

He also interprets Oliver Cowdery’s statement in Letter VII, “when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills,…both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed," to mean that Cowdery knew by revelation that it was a fact and that he wasn’t just stating what he believed to be true.

Texts do not interpret themselves. Everyone engages in “private, subjective interpretations” of texts, including Heartlanders. Neville admits this truth in paragraph 35, but he fails to apply it equally to himself as well as his opponents.
¶40 Mormon’s Codex, the book cited in the article as the “ultimate expression” of M2C, is a hodgepodge of speculation about illusory “correspondences” that no mainstream historian, scientist or archaeologist finds in the least persuasive or even relevant. Had anyone actually familiar with the Heartland model been involved with peer review of this article, the voluminous citations in Heartland literature to non-LDS historians, scientists and archaeologists would have been featured, not ignored.
Neville’s claims here are shockingly hypocritical. He asserts that trained non-Mormon archaeologists are not convinced by John Sorenson’s evidence in Mormon’s Codex, but he completely sidesteps the inconvenient fact that non-Mormon archaeologists are even less convinced by Heartlanders’ claims, which rely heavily on forged and unprovenanced artifacts.

Neville also trumpets “the voluminous citations in Heartland literature to non-LDS historians, scientists and archaeologists,” but he doesn’t tell his readers that these citations are almost exclusively from 19th- and early 20th-century sources that have long since been superceded or disproven. Most Heartland views and claims do not withstand scientific or historical scrutiny, yet Neville casually neglects to deal with that in his broadside at Dr. John Sorenson.

Neville is also ignoring the fact that so-called “M2C” scholars also cite extensively from much more up-to-date scholarship from non-Latter-day-Saint scholarship. In doing so, he is employing a coy bait-and-switch, where the standard for “M2C” scholarship is acceptance by non-Latter-day Saint scholars, while the standard for Heartlanders is just citing non-Latter-day Saint scholars. A truly absurd double standard, if ever there was one.
¶46 [Book of Mormon Central’s] employees patrol the Internet to aggressively attack criticism of its M2C (and SITH) ideologies, at one point insisting that any criticism of BMC’s scholars constitutes criticism of Church leaders because Church leaders have hired these scholars to guide Church members. They regularly label those who don’t accept M2C as “apostates.”
Neville provides no citations for any of his claims in this paragraph, so it’s difficult for me to assess if he’s being truthful or not. Needless to say, I have serious doubts about his claim that BMC employees have insisted that “any criticism of BMC’s scholars constitutes criticism of Church leaders because Church leaders have hired these scholars to guide Church members.”

Likewise his claim that BMC employees “regularly label those who don’t accept M2C as ‘apostates’” doesn’t withstand scrutiny. This blog is the only source I’m aware of that has leveled the charge of apostasy at Jonathan Neville. But, once again, Neville looks the other way and fails to notice how he regularly and continually claims that “M2C scholars” and Church employees are repeating anti-Mormon arguments and leading members of the Church astray. He also neglects to inform his readers that charges of apostasy against faithful Latter-day Saint scholars were first leveled by his friend and colleague Rod Meldrum in 2008 and have not ceased since that time. Neville should clean his own house before telling others how dirty theirs are.
¶47 BMC has an M2C-driven scripture app (ScripturePlus) that directly competes with the Church’s own Gospel Library app, using the donations from Latter-day Saints to lure unsuspecting Church members away from the Gospel Library by glamorizing M2C with attractive videos and links to its “Kno-Whys” that promote M2C.
If Book of Mormon Central’s ScripturePlus app “competes with the Church’s Gospel Library,” then what does Neville believe that the Heartland Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon does? Would he admit that their attractive, expensive volume “lures unsuspecting Church members” away from scripture editions published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I suspect not.
¶48 BMC’s donors finance the M2C-promoting “Come Follow Me” series that features BYU professors and, in many wards around the Church, has become the curriculum for the Come Follow Me classes. People are watching these indoctrination videos instead of engaging in interpersonal, local involvement and discussion in families and wards.
Pray tell, what does Jonathan Neville think about Rod Meldrum’s weekly “Gospel Doctrine Answers” video podcast, in which Neville himself has participated? The very title of Meldrum’s podcast indicates that he intends for it to be used in Come, Follow Me Sunday School classes. Do Heartlanders “watch these indoctrination videos instead of engaging in interpersonal, local involvement and discussion in families and wards”? How is Meldrum’s effort any different than Book of Mormon Central’s? This is a massive double standard that Neville simply evades.
¶57 I’m fine with people believing whatever they want. Not everyone will reach the same conclusions even when looking at the same evidence. But it is inexcusable to hide, censor, or even obscure relevant evidence.
You mean in the same way that Neville has repeatedly hidden, censored, and obscured evidence?

In addition to his many other methodological faults, Jonathan Neville is guilty of rank hypocrisy.

—Peter Pan

1 comment:

  1. I love how Neville claims that faithful scholars hide information when I have documented him literally changing a historical source and inventing details that don't exist to add credibility to his demonstration hypothesis. Neville's own worst enemy is himself, it would appear.


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

Popular Posts

Search This Blog