Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement

Saturday, April 8, 2023

My response to a thoughtful comment by Greg McIver

In response to my YouTube interview with Robert Boylan, I received a very thoughtful comment from Greg McIver. His comment was long enough and detailed enough that I thought it deserved the attention of a reply in a separate blog post.
Hi Mike,

I try to learn from lots of people and perspectives. I was watching Robert Boylan interview you on YouTube. I wasn’t going to say or write anything but you asked viewers to comment if we saw anything that we perceive as attacking Jonathan personally and you’d look at it and perhaps make changes. That prompted me to respond on your blog because Robert doesn’t have comments turned on.
I appreciate that you took the time and effort to comment, Greg. I’m especially thankful for the thought you put into your comment. After having dealt recently with some very noisome anti-Mormon critics, your message came as a breath of fresh air.
First of all, I am a so-called ‘Heartlander.’ Of course, I do not know everything and try my best to be open to all valid information. For me, there seems to be a lot of Mesoamerican information that just doesn’t fit.
And that is perfectly fine with me. I’m open to honest differences of opinion. I hope I came across that way in my interview and that I continue to do so in this response to your comment.
When I saw ‘Neville-Neville Land’ in Robert’s title, I wasn’t sure if it was referring to Jonathan Neville or not. I’ve never seen your blog before.

The title of your blog is not polite at least, and a snide attack at worst. The title is clever but indicates you have come to the conclusion that Jonathan Neville is delusional or his research and conclusions are pure fantasy. Your subtitle ‘…the Heartland hoax’ is also implying intentional deceit. You may disagree but I don’t think it is good to cast malice or bad intent on Rod Meldrum, Wayne May or anyone who embraces or leans toward the Heartland opinion. Wayne and Rod are clearly sincere and hold to the belief of divine authorization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

If you truly want to come off as a non attack website, you can get a respectful domain name and move the content. Tedious but doable.
I mentioned in my , blog post (which you may not have read yet) that the name of this blog is, indeed, a pun. It’s intended as a lighthearted one, much like the names of Jonathan Neville’s blogs that he uses to poke fun at those he disagrees with, including Book of Mormon Central America (a play on Book of Mormon Central, which advocates for a Mesoamerican geography), Fairly Mormon (a play on “FairMormon,” the former name of FAIR), and SITH sayers (a twist on “soothsayers,” with “SITH” referring to those who believe the historical evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a seer stone).

As long as Jonathan Neville doesn’t mind using website names to tease his ideological opponents, then I trust he won’t mind me doing the same. I try, however, to avoid descending into name-calling and demonization, something that (sadly) Neville himself stoops to on an occasional basis (for example, see here and here).

As far as the sincerity of those in the Heartland movement, I believe that claims of sincerity are overrated. There have been many people throughout history who have been sincere but also wrong in their beliefs.

Your concern about the subtitle of my blog did cause me to reflect, though. “Heartland hoax” is my reaction to Jonathan Neville’s term “M2C hoax,” which he has used in at least 29 individual blog posts on his sites. He clearly believes that that claims the hill Cumorah of Mormon 6 is not the hill in western New York constitute a hoax (“something intended to deceive or defraud”), so my first reaction is that two wrongs don’t make a right, but they do make things even.

After giving your objection some thought, though, perhaps you’re right—maybe I should take the high road instead. So, in part because of your thoughtful nature of your comment, I’ve decided to act on your recommendation and change the subtitle from Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax to Examining the claims of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland movement. Thank you for encouraging me to follow Karl G. Maeser’s advice to “Be yourself, but always your better self.”
Neville-Neville Land blog subtitle change 2023-04-08
Before and after
I am impressed with Jonathan Neville’s background and accomplishments as an attorney, law enforcement and business. He uses legal burdens of proof to guide his conclusions. I don’t ascribe perfection to him or anyone other than Jesus. He has stated many times that he is open to change.
You are correct that he uses legal burdens of proof, but he often misuses them. For example, he has relied heavily on hearsay evidence, has made up claims that have no evidence for them whatsoever, has discounted the testimonies of firsthand eyewitnesses when those testimonies have contradicted his theories, and has simply been dishonest in some of his claims (here’s just one example of the latter).

I’m afraid that his approach to history doesn’t meet the minimum standards set by historians, let alone legal standards.
On the YouTube interview at around 1:7:30 minutes: “…he’s either not aware of the implications of his arguments or he is aware of them but he’s not stating them. And I don’t know which one it is. And I’m not going to come out and say that he must, he’s either stupid or evil, I’m not going to do that but that’s…you know what’s going on here?…I really don’t know, I really don’t know.”

With your body language, it seems that you think Jonathan is either stupid or evil. I know Jonathan is not stupid and there is no evidence whatsoever that he is evil. There has been a decades-long struggle in the historical department starting with Arrington, to change the historical narrative. There have been disagreements between various apostles. Are they stupid or evil?
I apologize if my body language conveyed something I didn’t intend to communicate. I abhor the false binary of “stupid or evil,” in part because Jonathan Neville himself has used it.

What I intended to convey through my body language was the frustration I feel in trying to reconcile Jonathan Neville’s claims with the assumption that he is operating in good faith. He has repeatedly misrepresented the views and claims of those he disagrees with, to the point sometimes that I’ve been forced to call him out for lying. This will be my 353rd post on this blog; I back up everything I say with quotes and links, and yet he’s refused (by his own admission) to read any of my criticisms, let alone to respond to them.

I would very much like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s so often wrong that I don’t know what to make of it.

Also, for the record, the claims about Leonard Arrington made by Hannah Stoddard and other Heartlanders are distortions. Outside of some personal conflicts, there has been no “struggle” within the Church History Department, and certainly not a “civil war,” as Stoddard has called it. I don’t have the time to go into this at the moment, but I hope that someone who is qualified will critically review Stoddard’s books, because she makes a lot of false claims in them. (I hope you are sensing a pattern here.)
We are in the same camp believing in Jesus Christ. I think it is a good practice to withhold condemnation. I don’t condemn you if your opinion is different and hope you don’t condemn me for mine. I have great friends who disagree with me on things. There have been many disagreements with what people have said over the years. You know there are many topics that people and even the leadership have not agreed on without being stupid or evil.
I certainly do not condemn you—or Jonathan Neville, for that matter. As I stated in my interview with Robert Boylan, my problem with Neville isn’t that he and I disagree; the problems are that he affirms that anyone who doesn’t agree with his interpretations of Church history is “rejecting the teachings of the prophets” (a claim he has made dozens of times in his blog posts) and with his dishonesty, his frequent misrepresentations, and his irresponsible scholarship, examples of all of which I have repeatedly documented on this blog.
All the best,

Greg McIver
And to you! I hope this has given you additional insights into some of the problems with the claims made by the Heartland movement. I don’t think everything they advocate for is wrong, but there are some serious problems with their methodology and trustworthiness. I would like to see them retain the good they believe and discard the rest.

—Mike Parker [“Peter Pan”]


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