Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Monday, July 4, 2022

Jonathan Neville continues to mislead about the Church’s position on seer stones

Jonathan Neville has repeatedly quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s teaching, “Good inspiration is based upon good information.

President Nelson’s counsel is true. Would that Jonanthan Neville would put it into practice. Instead, he withholds key pieces of information, leaving his readers uninformed in order to mislead them.

One example of this is Neville’s July 4, 2022, blog post, “The seer stone in Harmony.” In this post, Neville disputes the historical narrative on display at the Priesthood Restoration Site in northern Pennsylvania. Neville complains:
The display nudges visitors toward accepting SITH, even to the point of misrepresenting what both Joseph Smith and Lucy Mack Smith actually wrote.

Because it’s an overview display, we can’t expect it to relate the entire history in any detail. But visitors should be able to rely on the display being at least accurate, instead of teaching the opposite of what the sources tell us.
Following this, Neville critically reviews the historical record on display at the visitor center, concluding by mentioning “the SITH exhibit of the table with the hat and the covered plates.”

Because “good inspiration is based on upon good information,” one could expect that Neville would mention that President Russell M. Nelson agrees with the narrative at the Priesthood Restoration Site and has taught it himself in a Church video recorded at that very site. But Neville didn’t mention this key piece of information, potentially leaving his readers to be misled into thinking that it was renegade Church employees who were responsible for the narrative at Harmony.

Jonathan Neville has opined before on what he believes is wrong information being taught at Church visitor centers. So far, Church leaders have wisely ignored his criticisms.

—Peter Pan


  1. Neville does bring up good questions about things many people have wondered about for many years. Is it possible that President Nelson could be misinformed by history department and BYU academics? It’s no secret that anyone who has gone to any university to find over-zealous academics types. What’s your guys’ take? Why should we blindly trust the professional church history employees and BYU academics at their word? There is precedent for church leaders being misinformed/tricked (see the link). What if the tricksters are good intentioned, faithful members of the Church? They’re just… myopic?


    1. Claiming that President Nelson (along with all other living members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) is “misinformed” or “myopic” is a very dangerous position to take. You’re skating on thin ice if you’re arguing that all of the leaders of the Church have been “tricked” into teaching false doctrine.


      Furthermore, it’s absurd to claim that Church employees and educators at all levels throughout the Church are part of some grand conspiracy to mislead the Brethren and the Saints for some undefined reason. Comparing good, faithful, and accomplished Latter-day Saint scholars to the fraudulent con artist Mark Hofmann is not only ludicrous, it’s insulting. (It’s also ironic, because Heartlanders accept forged artifacts like the Michigan Relics as authentic.)


    2. Unfortunately, you are not the first to compare (or imply through your questions) the Apostles' acceptance of actual historical records involving the seer stone to the Hofmann forgeries. And, frankly, this is a strenuous comparison that fails to deliver anything sound to stand on.

      Ignoring the fact that there is a clear difference between authentic historical records upon which all historians must rely should they provide an authentic retelling of events and documents made in the basement of a psychotic murderer’s home and the apparent conspiracy among CES employees to hide this from Church leaders, looking at the events surrounding the Hofmann forgeries, it is clear that Church leaders were not entirely convinced of their authenticity. Many statements by President Hinckley affirm his thoughts on the matter and reflect his suspicion towards their forged status. He procured them so that these documents could be examined by experts and the truth made known–something that could not be guaranteed would happen should they be in the hands of a private collector. Some Church leaders may have believed they were authentic, that is always a possibility–but making umbrella claims like this simply does not fit the public statements made by the Church or its leaders at the time.

      I am related to someone who was even brought in by the Church to help determine whether or not the forgeries in question were authentic (with many who brought him on doubting the authenticity themselves), and he and other historians reached the conclusion that they were not. The Church was not blindly taken in by every wisp of new historical documentation. Historiography is not done in such a weak manner.

      See https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Forgeries_related_to_Mormonism/Mark_Hofmann

  2. I seem to have struck a nerve. Please accept my apologies. Whatever you thought I was claiming wasn’t intended. I honestly can’t see those claims in my questions. I just wanted your opinion and I would say I got it! It’s all good. I’ll just chalk this one up to a misunderstanding.

    Lastly, I didn’t ask anything about heartlanders. You offered that dis yourself.

    1. No nerve has been struck. You wrote that “Neville does bring up good questions about things many people have wondered about for many years,” so you seem to believe that Neville’s questions have value. I responded to the questions you asked—“Is it possible…?”, “Why should we…?”, “What if…?”—by pointing out how the claims implicit in them are both dangerous and foolish. I’m not sure where the supposed misunderstanding is.


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