I don’t follow Mr. Jonathan Neville’s blogs, have never read a book or an article that he has written, and, although I met him once at a FairMormon conference, can’t remember what he looks like. But a friend — Mr. Neville would surely describe him as a fellow “M2C” conspirator — has just called my attention to a blog entry that Mr. Neville has recently posted attacking me. Again.
(“M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.)
I’ll respond to selected portions of Mr. Neville’s latest attack — they’re marked in green — below. In a few cases, I’ve regrouped them so as to treat repeated points in one unified location:
Apparently for a while now, brother Dan has used his blog to link to an anonymous troll who has been criticizing my ideas.
The site to which I’ve been linking is “Neville-Neville Land,” which represents the work of two anonymous writers whose identity I don’t know. I encourage anybody who is interested in the relevant questions to take a good look at it. They raise very legitimate issues:
I can see why Dan would refer people to this troll; the troll’s arguments are so irrational that they make Dan’s look good by comparison.
As I’ve said before, one of the problems that I have about certain exponents of the “Heartland” movement is their tendency to personalize disputes over what is, after all, a matter of distinctly tertiary importance compared to what we share, or ought to share, as believers in the Restoration. I worry that such contentiousness might even, someday, lead to schism or apostasy.
The whole thing is bizarre, really; brother Dan could contact me directly if he has a problem. I’ve tried to meet with him but he refuses.
So far as I’m aware, Mr. Neville and I have met just once, during a brief break between sessions at the annual FairMormon conference some years ago. I’m not at all interested in his arguments, but I’ve never “refused” to meet with him. He may perhaps have suggested during that brief conversation at FairMormon that we talk sometime in the future, but I can think of no invitation from him since then to do so. Still — I have to be honest — my interest in ever chatting with him again is at an all-time low just now.
The tactic I want to point out is this: if you disagree with M2C intellectuals, they’ll quickly play the “apostate” card, just as brother Dan did here. . . . [Y]ou’re supposed to believe Cumorah is in southern Mexico (or in BYU’s fantasy world) and if you don’t believe that, you’re an apostate. . . . Brother Dan wants to label me as an apostate. That’s how twisted M2C dogma has become.
I haven’t called Mr. Neville or any other advocate or adherent of the “Heartland” model an apostate. Never. Ever. Not once. I absolutely do not believe that holding “Heartlander” views constitutes apostasy. Theories of Book of Mormon geography don’t rise to that level of importance. Nobody’s salvation will depend upon knowing the correct GPS coordinates of the Jaredite city of Lib.
What worries me is the elevation of any secondary or tertiary Gospel-related topic to unwarranted prominence and then becoming contentious over it. (In the course of my absurdly long life, I’ve seen people turn such disparate topics as hot chocolate, vegetarianism, alt-right politics, and the Arab-Israeli conflict into hypertrophied Gospel hobbies.) When anger and accusations ensue, they can lead to bitterness, inactivity, schism, and even apostasy.
Here are the three substantive posts that, so far as I can recall, I’ve devoted to Mr. Jonathan Neville prior to today — all of them recent, within the past three weeks, and all of them replying to his explicit criticisms of me. None of them calls him an apostate. None of them calls believers in “Heartland” geographical models apostates.
That’s standard totalitarian tactics.
Pretty harsh, that! Even if I had called Mr. Neville an apostate — which I haven’t — linking me with Hitler and Stalin might be just a bit over the top. He could at least wait until my co-conspirators and I have actually opened up our planned concentration camps for “Heartlanders.” (Franchising will be available.)
None of this is personal, from my perspective.
Whew! Now that’s a relief! I’d hate to see the comparisons that Mr. Neville might deploy if it were personal. Fortunately, thus far, he’s only compared me to Nazis and Communists.
It fits with the actions of the M2C citation cartel over the last few decades.
One of the elements of Mr. Neville’s recent criticisms that I find most regrettable is his tendency to accuse some of us of conspiracy simply because we’re unpersuaded by his geographical theories.
The issue that brother Dan is worked up about is this: do we accept or reject what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah?
No, not at all. Nor am I “worked up.” We disagree about Book of Mormon geography, but I don’t find that, in itself, even remotely upsetting.
As I’ve said several times, I’m worried about contentiousness, and I don’t think that Book of Mormon geographical models — interesting though they are — justify fighting or splitting the Saints into factions.
The specific issue that prompted brother Dan’s latest blog post involves the phony story that it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer.
Not even close. I didn’t so much as mention or raise that issue. (See the links above.)
I cannot say with any certainty who it was that showed the plates to Mary Whitmer. And I don’t particularly care.
The question is, why would the M2C intellectuals and revisionist Church historians promote the Moroni story in the face of all this evidence?
I can’t recall ever having done so. I have nothing invested in the specific identity of the person who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer.
Here, for example, is a column that I published about Mary Whitmer in the 18 July 2013 issue of the Deseret News:
The name Moroni never even occurs in the article.
I only think the M2C citation cartel should follow the Church’s policy of neutrality and allow members of the Church (and investigators) to learn about alternative ideas that support the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.
I oppose censorship of the teachings of the prophets.
Brother Dan is one of the most prominent censors.
How in the world could I possibly have “censored” “the teachings of the prophets” or prevented members of the Church from learning about, say, “Heartlander” notions of Book of Mormon geography? What on earth is Mr. Neville talking about? I have absolutely no ability to control Church publications or conference talks or CES videos, no control over Mr. Neville’s blogs, no capacity to block publication of his books, no power to shut down “Firm Foundation” conferences, or anything of the kind. Even had I desired to do so, which I never have.
Before he was belatedly terminated from FARMS (after FARMS merged into the Maxwell Institute), FARMS had what I consider a well-deserved reputation for thin skin and ad hominem attacks. FARMS eventually disintegrated, but brother Dan took his donors and followers and created a new vehicle for his brand of rhetoric: The Interpreter Foundation.
Please remember that, as Mr. Neville says, “None of this is personal.”
It’s striking to see Mr. Neville join with John Dehlin and other critics of the Church in their hostile reading of the events that occurred at the Maxwell Institute in 2012. And it’s not exactly reassuring to see it.
There are many good articles on the Interpreter, interspersed with M2C apologetics and attacks on those who dare to question M2C. You can get a flavor for it here:
I hope that Mr. Neville’s readers will indeed go to the Interpreter Foundation website and discover the riches to be found there.
P. S. I see that “Peter” has now responded to Mr. Neville’s attack on me over at the “Neville-Neville Land” blog:
I’m sorry that Mr. Neville has felt the need to pick a fight with me. I’m at a loss to know what motivates it.