Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

My reply to Rian Nelson of the FIRM Foundation

On December 18, 2022, Rian Nelson published a post about me on the FIRM Foundation blog. I responded to his post the next day with an open letter. Rian replied with a comment on this blog. The following is my reply to his comment.
Mr. Pan, I appreciate you responding to by blog. Just a few responses.
There’s no need for formalities. Please, call me Peter.
Calling the CES Map a “Fantasy Map” is accurate. It does not relate to any current geography in the world.
Come now, Rian; be honest. You use that term as a derogatory label. We both know it.

The name of the BYU Book of Mormon Conceptual Map explains its purpose and goal, and its website informs us that it was designed and prepared to give “a basic idea of approximate directions and theoretical relationships between various geographical features mentioned in the stories.” It is not a “fantasy map” like the one of Middle-earth created for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Calling it a “fantasy map” misrepresents the intent of the project. This is similar to how you and Jonathan Neville use terms like “SITH,” which has sinister origins. It’s an unfair practice that demonstrates that you and your associates are not acting in good faith.

I have always referred to your book, Moroni’s America – Maps Edition, by its full title. The least you can do is refer to the Book of Mormon Conceptual Map by its proper name.
There is not one scriptural quote about Joseph using a stone in a hat to translate, and there are at least 4 or 5 scriptures that say he used the two stones fastened to a breastplate.
Your argument is a non sequitur. There are many events in Church history that happened but are not mentioned in the scriptures. For example, Joseph Smith began the translation of the Book of Mormon in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he and Emma and Oliver Cowdery struggled financially. David Whitmer invited them to come to his father’s home in Fayette, New York, where they would receive free room and board and also assistance with writing while Joseph translated. Joseph took David up on his offer, and they moved there in early June 1829. There is nothing about any of that in the scriptures—not in the Book of Mormon, not in Joseph’s revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, not in the canonized portion of Joseph’s 1838 history that’s in the Pearl of Great Price. Therefore, according to your logic, Joseph either never moved to Fayette or he was not authorized by the Lord to do so.

Joseph, of course, did use the Nephite interpreters/Urim and Thummim to translate portions of the Book of Mormon, but he also used a seer stone. Martin Harris—who was Joseph’s scribe for a time, an eyewitness to the translation process, and one of the Three Witnesses—said that “the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.” Either Martin was correct, or he was mistaken, or he was lying. The fact that so many other eyewitnesses to the translation (including Emma Smith, David Whitmer, Joseph Knight Sr., Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, and others) also reported that Joseph used a seer stone indicates that Martin was neither mistaken nor lying. (Jonathan Neville’s “demonstration hypothesis” is nothing more than an ad hoc way to dismiss the overwhelming eyewitness testimony that doesn’t fit with his beliefs.)

There are many things that are not in the scriptures but are nonetheless true.
I have no problem with those of you who believe differently in the geography and the translation than I do, as we all have that freedom.
But you and your associates clearly do have “a problem with those of [us] who believe differently,” because you keep claiming that if we don’t agree with your beliefs, then we’re “rejecting the teachings of the prophets,” promoting anti-Mormon claims, causing a loss of faith leading to apostasy among members, and are responsible for a decline in growth of Church membership.

Until you and your collaborators stop making these false assertions, please don’t claim that you “have no problem” with those who don’t agree with you.
When people say we are a hoax, or an apostate sect, or we are critical of the Brethren, or say we think we are racially superior to some, those are incorrect and small statements.
I disagree. Jonathan Neville has repeatedly claimed that Church leaders and Church employees are censoring Church history, misleading members, and publishing anti-Mormon arguments. These statements (among many others) are clear evidence that he is promoting an apostate form of the restored gospel that is critical of the Brethren.

Your own racially charged statements about the people of Latin America are directly at odds with what the prophets have taught.

I think the evidence demonstrates that my assertions are correct. And as long as Jonathan Neville can claim that “M2C” is a hoax, then I think it’s only reasonable that I can make the same claim about the Heartland movement.
Let me rephrase when I called you a “small person”, and say your comments are small minded.
Thank you for rephrasing that.
I know The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon, as the Lord chose it. He did not chose it because those who live here are better people, or because it is a more beautiful place than other parts of the world, but He chose it to be the place of the Restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days. Why? Because He chose it!
First, your statement is an example of circular reasoning and is thefore logically fallacious.

Second, I also believe that the United States was set apart by God to be the cradle of the Restoration—not because the Book of Mormon teaches that but because Joseph Smith’s revelations do.

Certain statements in the Book of Mormon can be interpreted to be references to the United States, but most of them are so nonspecific that they could refer to other nations as well. For example, the prophecy of the “mighty nation” that would scatter Lehi’s descendants (1 Nephi 22:7–8) cannot refer to the United States because that scattering was prophesied to take place before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the expulsion of the American Indian tribes from the Eastern United States didn’t take place until after the Book of Mormon had already been published. (I wrote about this here.) Likewise, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Mark E. Peterson both declared that the “choice land” prophecy in Ether 2:9–12 refers to the entire Western Hemisphere, not just the United States.
May the Lord bless you in sharing the love of Christ, as I will try and do a better job of doing so as well.
Thank you! I also hope the Lord blesses you in your righteous endeavors. I also pray that he will hinder me, you, and anyone else who tries to lead people away from the truth of the restored gospel and the teachings and authority of living prophets.

—Peter Pan 


  1. I don't believe we will ever agree on the Fantasy Map idea so lets move on after a short comment. The way the map is, you should have simply shown any shape and just listed the order of the cities from bottom (Where Lehi landed) to the top where (hill Cumorah is located). In other words your fantasy map could be called instead, an "accurate list of Book of Mormon cities from landing place to extinction place."

    We know the purpose of the scriptures is to teach truth. I will never believe David, Emma, and Martin over the the two first hand witnesses, Joseph and Oliver, nor over the scriptures. The scriptures say what instruments came with the plates, and that they were used to translate. No need to add conjecture.

    I really don't have a problem with your opinions as you are free to have them.

    The Book of Mormon speaks to a specific land, not Greenland, not, Guatemala and not Peru. I Nephi 13 is obviously speaking of the United States. The Church approved header to Chapter 13 says, "Nephi sees in vision the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles, the discovery and colonizing of America, the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible, the resultant state of gentile apostasy, the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion."

    This statement above and common sense says, I will stick with my quote of, "I know The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon, as the Lord chose it. He did not choose it because those who live here are better people, or because it is a more beautiful place than other parts of the world, but He chose it to be the place of the Restoration of the Gospel in the Latter-days. Why? Because He chose it!" It's what I believe.

    No need to respond as we have agreed to disagree. May the Lord bless you.

    1. Rian: Even though you wrote that there is no need for me to respond to your last comment, I decided to anyway.

  2. Peter, your experiences with Rian Nelson and Jonathan Neville closely parallel my own...unfortunately. I think my old English grandmother may have had them in mind when she said: "There's none as deaf as them's that don't want to hear."

  3. You know it's entirely possible that the sith was used as a demonstration to others to show 'something' when he wasn't allowed at all to show the interpreters, breastplate, or plates. It could have even been his hat to hide the interpreters & plates for the initial translators. Even if it was used, it'd have been for the translation of the 116 pages that were lost. The current version we have today would have been by the interpreters, breastplate, and plates with joseph and oliver. Their testimony is true, no doubting that. This understanding also adds validity to the other testators. They are all right, but need to be understood in the context it was given. Mysticism, witchcraft, weird arts; none of those things belong to the Lord. Where the geography of the BOM happen is not dictated by understanding of how it was translated. Only that the BOM is internally consistently significant in the retelling of events as they transpired geographically. Anyone claiming to know or speak for those who they are not, and then on top of it to make money from it needs to reevaluate their motives and methods and see to whom it is they serve. We are building up Zion in the Lords way and in his methods. It will not come in any other way.

    1. There are substantial and substantive problems with Jonathan Neville’s “demonstration hypothesis.” When examined in the light of all the historical evidence, it simply falls apart; it’s not possible that Joseph Smith could have done such a thing.

      I recommend that you read Spencer Kraus’s explanation of why it doesn’t work:

    2. Thanks for the link. It has a lot of information that helps to explain all the various criss-crossing of documentation that has to comply with each other in order for a particular viewpoint to hold. I'm not familiar with Neville's work, and it seems very important that we don't pick and choose what we'd like to view or we make the same mistakes as almost all those that fall away. :-)

  4. Rian, if you can show me where in the Book of Mormon it declares unequivocally and unambiguously (i.e., with no possibility of any other interpretation or conclusion) that the land promised to Lehi is limited to the future United States of America (and not los Estados Unidos de México), I will consider your other claims as well. Until then, I will continue to hold that the Heartlander movement is Mormonism's fringe, jingoist, flat-earth equivalent -- in other words, fundamentalist nationalists.


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