Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Peter’s hiatus and three brief notices

Things have been quite busy at the Pan household recently, and consequently this blog has suffered for want of attention. I can’t guarantee that will change any time soon, but I’ll do my best to continue exposing the distortions, misrepresentations, and fallacies of the Heartland movement.

Here are three recent examples of such from the keyboard of Jonathan Neville:

1. Correspondences

Neville recently visited Louvre Abu Dhabi where, he tells us, he “spent some time in the opening exhibit that celebrated similarities among cultures around the world and throughout time.”

His takeaway from this exhibit? “It reminded me of the futility of finding ‘correspondences’ as evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.” (Because everything for Neville is an allegory of “M2C” in some way.)

Neville again attacks John Sorenson’s, Mormon’s Codex, a book about which he complains much but never actually rebuts or even engages. Neville sums up:
The basic M2C logic works like this:

Nephites were farmers.

Mayans were farmers.

Therefore the Nephites were Mayans.

Neville’s laughably oversimplified version of Sorenson’s 714 pages of evidence and argumentation betrays that he either hasn’t read Mormon’s Codex or, if he has, he hasn’t understood it.

What’s worse, however, is that Neville considers it “futile” to find correspondences “as evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica,” yet he’ll gladly accept such supposed correspondences as long as they’re found in North America and confirm his own biases. The Heartland Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon is full of such parallels that are questionable at best and laughable at worst, so it’s more than a bit hypocritical of Neville to misrepresent Sorenson’s correspondences while offering up his own bogus ones.

2. Jonathan Neville on John Dehlin

John Dehlin has made a very comfortable living by accepting tax-deductible donations from people who dislike The Church of Jesus Christ for one reason or another. Jonathan Neville has a blog where he’s posted a handful of lackluster reviews of Dehlin’s claims. Seemingly, the worst he can say about Dehlin is:
Mormonstories provides a useful service for people to vent, form a community of like-minded people, and confirm their respective biases. That’s all fine. People can believe and do whatever they want.
Neville keeps his powder dry, as it were, for the real problem—believing, faithful Latter-day Saint scholars who haven’t fallen for the claims of the Heartland movement:
In a sense, Dehlin has an easy job. He just has to point people who have a faith crisis to the writings of LDS scholars in the citation cartels who have repudiated the teachings of the prophets. Then he asks, if Joseph and Oliver were wrong about the translation and historicity of the Book of Mormon, what’s left?
I honestly don’t know if John Dehlin has ever connected the dots in the way the Neville frames it. (Let’s just say I have my doubts that Neville is accurately describing Dehlin’s approach.) By a strange coincidence, however, Neville’s friend and fellow-traveler Rod Meldrum recently went on Dehlin’s MormonStories podcast. The entire podcast is seven hours long (!), and it’s a cringe-fest from start to finish. Here are just a few examples of how jaw-droppingly awful their conversation was. [Comments in italics are mine.]

  • Dehlin claimed that before FARMS was founded, there weren’t any theories about a limited Book of Mormon geography. [Limited geography theories have been around since the late 19th century, and John Sorenson developed his in 1955, over twenty years before FARMS came into existence.]
  • Regarding limited geography theories, Dehlin claimed it was Daniel Peterson, Lou Midgley, and “the apologist Egyptian guy…. I’m spacing his name…. [5 second pause] …oh, Hugh Nibley started the movement.” [This is a wonderful example of the level of Dehlin’s knowledge base. For someone who is arguably the best-known critic of the Church today, Dehlin’s handle on basic facts is shockingly low. Not only could he not recall the name of Hugh Nibley—the best-known Latter-day Saint scholar of the 20th century—but he also incorrectly believes that Nibley contributed to the development of Book of Mormon geography.]
  • Dehlin gave Meldrum this backhanded compliment: “If you read the scriptures, the Book of Mormon and the Bible, seriously, and take them literally, there’s little wiggle room for there having been a global flood, Adam and Eve being literal, etc. And there’s also little wiggle room for the prophets, seers, and revelators who have taught that these things are literally true for centuries.… [Because Heartlanders believe these things are literal] there’s a level of integrity that I think fundamentalist Mormons [i.e., Heartlanders] have, that I think apologists like FARMS and Maxwell Institute, and even neo-apologists like [Richard] Bushman, [Terryl] Givens, [Patrick Mason], they lose integrity because they massage words in ways that make words lose all their meaning. And in that sense I’m giving you and other ultra-orthodox Mormons credit. I’m tipping my hat because you’re saying that when prophets, seers, and revelators say something, they mean it.” [This exposes an important fact: John Dehlin and Rod Meldrum are not that far apart in their thinking. Both of them are hyper-literalists. Dehlin’s inability to use nuance and think below a surface-level reading led him out of the Church; Meldrum’s similar inability led him to double-down on fundamentalist, literalist readings and interpretations of history and scripture.]
  • [Meldrum explaining how the FIRM Foundation came into being]: “So I start doing these firesides [about the Heartland theory], and I’m running around, it’s costing me gas, it’s costing me time, it’s costing me money, I’m getting emails left and right, and I realize that there’s no way I can continue to work full time while doing this.”
    [Dehlin]: “Oh, I relate to this part.”
    [It’s amazing and wonderful to see two grifters empathizing with each other’s experiences.]

Who’s more on “team Dehlin”? Latter-day Saint apologists or Heartlanders? You be the judge.

3. Jonathan Neville on Jeremy Runnels

Speaking of grifters, Jeremy Runnels, author of the past-its-expiration-date anti-Mormon Letter to a CES Director was the subject of one of Neville’s recent blog posts. Neville wonders:
It has always seemed strange to me that CES [the Church Education System] never responded to Jeremy Runnels’ questions.

Jeremy was entitled to answers to his questions (at least, to his original, non-snarky questions).

Instead, he gets silence from CES and a torrent of sophistry from FAIRLDS and other apologists.
This statement pulls back the curtain and reveals how truly ignorant Neville is about Runnels. Neville actually believes Runnels’s fabricated history of how the CES Letter came to be! He accepts at face value Runnels’s lie that he was a sincere truth-seeker who took his questions to a real, honest-to-goodness CES director.

The truth is that, two years before he invented that fiction, Runnels was circulating a draft of his document on Reddit’s exmormon forum, claiming that he wanted input from others who were critical of the Church of Jesus Christ and that he wanted the document to “go viral.” (You can read the real history of the CES Letter in this Reddit post.)

The worst part of all of this is that Jonathan Neville believes that Jeremy Runnels is honest and sincere while Scott Gordon of FAIR and other faithful apologists are the real cause of lost testimonies. Neville truly lives in a bizzaro world where up is down, black is white, anti-Mormons are just misunderstood, and defenders of the gospel are conspiring to destroy faith. —Peter Pan

1 comment:

  1. It seems that those with an axe to grind, most often don't care which tree they end up chopping down, so long as they get to use their trusty axe to do it. Jonathan Neville, John Dehlin, and Jeremy Runnels are but a few with what they think are the sharpest axes in the toolshed, although none of them are actually the sharpest tool left behind.


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

Popular Posts

Search This Blog