Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Friday, June 24, 2022

Spencer Kraus’s trenchant review of Jonathan Neville’s Infinite Goodness

cover of Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon by Jonathan Neville Following on the heels of last week’s review of A Man that Can Translate, Spencer Kraus has delivered his second knockout blow, this time to Neville’s most recent book, Infinite Goodness: Joseph Smith, Jonathan Edwards, and the Book of Mormon.

You can read his review, “Jonathan Edwards’s Unique Role in an Imagined Church History,” on the website of The Interpreter Foundation. Here is the abstract:
In Infinite Goodness, Neville claims that Joseph Smith’s vocabulary and translation of the Book of Mormon were deeply influenced by the famous Protestant minister Jonathan Edwards. Neville cites various words or ideas that he believes originate with Edwards as the original source for the Book of Mormon’s language. However, most of Neville’s findings regarding Edwards and other non-biblical sources are superficial and weak, and many of his findings have a more plausible common source: the language used by the King James Bible. Neville attempts to make Joseph a literary prodigy, able to read and reformulate eight volumes of Edwards’s sermons — with enough genius to do so, but not enough genius to learn the words without Edwards’s help. This scenario contradicts the historical record, and Neville uses sources disingenuously to impose his idiosyncratic and wholly modern worldview onto Joseph Smith and his contemporaries.
Kraus also recently published a blog post that’s a companion to his two reviews: “Joseph in the Hands of an Angry Pseudo-scholar,” which I enthusiastically recommend to all my readers.

Kraus has truly done yeoman’s work in the field of Neville Studies. His reviews are what I myself would have written, if I had the time and the patience to do so.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Neville has fired back at Kraus’s first review, delivering little gems like this nonsensical strawman argument:
According to the Interpreter, because I still believe Joseph translated the plates, I’m the one who “fails to deal with the historical record seriously or faithfully.”
What Neville’s personal beliefs have to do with his inability to engage in responsible scholarship is beyond me. Apparently, it’s beyond him as well.

—Peter Pan


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