John Gee on the recent Joseph Smith Papers volume, and Jonathan Neville on . . . well, ME

John Gee on the recent Joseph Smith Papers volume, and Jonathan Neville on . . . well, ME August 23, 2019


Whitmer family log cabin, rebuilt
The reconstructed Peter Whitmer home, near Fayette, New York, where much of the Book of Mormon was translated.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


Today’s new article in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship is John Gee, “The Joseph Smith Papers Project Stumbles”:


Review of The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, eds. Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018), 381 pages.

Abstract: Volume 4 of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers does not live up to the standards set in previous volumes. While the production values are still top notch, the actual content is substandard. Errors fill the volume, including upside-down photographs and numerous transcription errors beyond the more than two hundred places where the editors admitted they could not read the documents. For this particular volume, producing it incorrectly is arguably worse than not producing it at all.


This is, by my calculation, the 370th consecutive Friday, out of the Interpreter Foundation’s 381.5 weeks of existence, on which we’ve published at least one article in our journal.  Grateful thanks to Allen Wyatt and the others who have made that possible!




Sigh.  The ever more wearisome Mr. Jonathan Neville, one of the most vocal proponents of the so-called “Heartland model” of Book of Mormon geography, has me in his crosshairs again.


I don’t follow his writing.  But some people do, and not all of them are favorably impressed.  One of those has alerted me to Mr. Neville’s latest attack, which appeared this morning as an entry in a new Neville blog — he apparently maintains a number of active blogs — that is expressly dedicated to criticizing the work of the Interpreter Foundation.


In it, Mr. Neville criticizes my presentation at the 2019 FairMormon Conference.


During that presentation, I briefly discussed Mary Musselman Whitmer’s experience with the plates of the Book of Mormon and identified her as an unofficial witness of those plates.  So far as I can tell from my written notes for FairMormon, I myself never identified the messenger who showed the plates to her.  (It’s possible that I did so while ad libbing, but my notes for that portion of the talk are pretty much in continuous prose, so I likely read them as they stand.  We’ll see when the video appears.)  However, I did quote a passage from a someone else that implicitly identifies the messenger as Moroni.


Now, it’s a big deal for Mr. Neville whether that messenger was Moroni or was not Moroni.  I’m not quite sure why it matters so much to him.  I’m not sufficiently a student of Mr. Neville’s thinking to know that.


It doesn’t matter to me at all whether it was Moroni or some other person.  Not at all.  I take no stand on the question, and I freely acknowledge both that Mary Whitmer appears to have called him “Brother Nephi” and that her description of him contrasts somewhat with Joseph Smith’s description of the angel.  However, her account has only arrived to us via three separate informants at second hand, so I’m prepared to be agnostic on the matter.


But Mr. Neville claims that I’m ideologically driven (by my membership in the conspiracy or cartel that, according to him, seeks to mislead the Church and its leaders regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon) to claim that the messenger in the Whitmer barn was Moroni, and he now declares that the message of my 2019 FairMormon talk was that we should not believe women.  Which, as any reasonable person who was listening to me at the FairMormon Conference will readily see, is not only directly contrary to what I was saying but would utterly destroy my appeal in that talk to the experiences of Mary Whitmer, Emma Smith, Katharine Smith Salisbury, and Lucy Mack Smith as evidence for the Book of Mormon.


Mr. Neville should stop doing this sort of thing.  He should simply stop.


See this entry on the excellent — and, I increasingly think, the urgently needed — Neville-Neville Land blog:


“How to work together, and not to”



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