Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Heartland research director: “Many members of our church [have] a cult mindset.”

About a year ago, Kimberly W. Smith, research director for the “Joseph Smith Foundation”—a DBA for the late James Stoddard’s for-profit company, Integrivizion LLC—was caught claiming on social media that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “off course.” Ms. Smith or Rian Nelson later deleted her comments, but not before my sources could grab some screenshots of what she had written.

Ms. Smith is back again, this time claiming that those who follow the repeated counsel of the First Presidency to be vaccinated against COVID‑19 “have fallen victim to a cult mindset.”

On the FIRM Foundation’s blog run by Rian Nelson for Rodney Meldrum, Ms. Smith—an anti-vax conspiracy theorist—writes:
Many people and churches accuse us of being a cult for believing in a living prophet. Of course, they don’t fully understand that prophets are a blessing from God and have always been his mouthpiece to guide his children, especially in times when the people were extremely wicked and did not have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

But the difference between a prophet and cult leader (aside from the obvious calling from God) is that a prophet will tell you his message and encourage you to seek the guidance from the Lord. Whereas a cult leader expects and often demands absolute loyalty to his words.

Obviously, we all know that our beloved prophet has offered his guidance and support in regard to the ‘thingy’. But he very carefully stated that it should be a decision between you, your medical advisor, and the Lord.

However, it has become abundantly clear that many members of our church have fallen victim to a cult mindset. After this past year, and some very disturbing comments under Elder Holland’s recent message I realized how bad it truly is. That many in our church would willingly “poke” or poison themselves without thought purely on the basis that the Prophet “said to”. As upsetting as this realization was, it quickly opened my mind to the immense opportunity we have before us, to encourage and develop spiritual growth within ourselves and our church. We have so much to do you guys!

I think our prophet and the Lord’s apostles know this; they’ve been trying to teach this principle for a long time. That personal relationship with the Savior takes work! A cult mindset really does not. It is a lazy path. We have a duty to help our families and friends recognize the true role of the prophet and our relationship with our Savior. [emphasis added]
Ms. Smith’s comments are the latest in a long line of irresponsible anti-vax statements made by prominent individuals in the Heartland movement. Despite the First Presidency’s counsel that members of the Church should be vaccinated against COVID‑19, their reassurances that “available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective, and the personal example they set by being vaccinated themselves, anti-vaxxers within the Church—including Rian Nelson and Kimberly Smith—have continued to spread lies and misinformation, calling COVID‑19 vaccines “poison” and even comparing vaccines to sorcery and the occult.

Anti-vax conspiracy theorists like Ms. Smith have also repeatedly distorted the true principle of agency by claiming “a prophet will tell you his message and encourage you to seek the guidance from the Lord,” thereby falsely implying that personal revelation overrides prophetic counsel. The First Presidency’s counsel is that “if members have concerns” about vaccinations, “they should counsel with competent medical professionals and also seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.” Irresponsible anti-vaxxers have twisted this counsel to suit their own purposes, telling gullible members of the Church that they can ignore prophetic counsel just because they falsely believe the Holy Ghost has told them the vaccines are “poison.”

As Apostle Dallin H. Oaks warned in October 2010 General Conference:
Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies, and he is ever anxious to frustrate the work of God by his clever imitations.
The Savior exhorted the people of Galilee and the descendants of Lehi to “beware of false prophets,” and that observant individuals could detect such impostors by their fruits. The individuals at the forefront of the Heartland movement are false prophets who wrest the teachings of true prophets and the scriptures “unto their own destruction.”

[To Jonathan Neville’s credit, he has stated that he believes “Church leaders have given common sense advice ever since the COVID outbreak started, regarding both the face masks and the vaccinations.”]

—Peter Pan


  1. To be honest, there are many members out there that have openly declared their intentions not to get the vaccine. They might get other vaccines but not this specific vaccine.

    Others still have gotten the vaccine yet don't want people to be forced from their livelihoods because they choose not to get the vaccine. I understand the furore about the vaccinations at the start when the death rate was significantly higher, but now the death rate has plummeted to below 1 percent and on occasions as low as 0.2 percent (which is a bad flu equivalent).

    What they (as well as I) don't get is the insistence of government officials to get everyone vaccinated and to restrict the livelihoods of people over a virus that has a death rate similar to that of a bad flu.

    Then you have antivaxxers that are against any vaccine. They will point to a scripture in the book of Revelation where they get the Greek word PHARMAKEIA and automatically point to pharmaceutical products being used as sorcery, and they will also point to quotes about Joseph Smith and other early leaders of the Church that disliked the medicines being formed at that time.

    To clarify I am NOT an antivaxxer, and for this specific disease, I do recommend getting vaccinated. But I am NOT one that is in favor of a mandate, especially one where one can lose their livelihood for not getting the vaccine.

    1. For what it's worth, I agree with your stated position re. vaccine mandates. My concern here is strictly limited to how some people in the Heartland movement have distorted the teachings and examples set by the First Presidency.

  2. On vaccination: I also generally think mandates are inappropriate. Death rates are a poor and significantly lagged indicator of disease severity. I would never recommend this as a valid argument against vaccination. While more people are surviving (as in not dying) the hospitals are still stretched to their limits and healthcare workers remain exhausted. Additionally, some businesses are having to temporarily cease operations simply because not enough of their employees are healthy enough to show up to work. Vaccine-hesitation isn’t just affecting the graveyards. It’s also impacting the economy. And all because of some of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever heard. Peter, from Dan’s blog you can figure out who I am. I always welcome questions.

    On following the prophet: We are not encouraged to be “blindly” obedient. Rather, President Marion G Romney taught that we should “intelligently” obedient. I take this to mean rather than asking “Lord, was the Prophet right in that council?” we should be asking “Lord, how can better follow the council of the Prophet?”


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