It hasn’t been an especially pleasant week or two for Mike Parker, a friend of mine and a really good guy who, under the pseudonym of Peter Pan, has run a sadly necessary blog called Neville-Neville Land for the past several years. Mike has been taking quite undeserved hostile fire from a curiously symbiotic alliance of aggressive critics of the Restoration (most if not all of them atheists) and one or possibly two vocal believers in the “Heartland” model of Book of Mormon geography. It is an exceedingly odd partnership, though they must see it as a mutually beneficial one.
But not to worry! These folks wouldn’t be who they are if there weren’t also a number of accusations against me in the mix. To their revision of Amos 3:6 (“Shall there be evil in a city, and Daniel Peterson hath not done it?”), the supplementary rule “Shall Daniel Peterson so much as breathe and the city not be thoroughly filled with evil?” needs to be added.
Anyway, in this particular saga, I’m supposedly abandoning Mike Parker in his time of need and leaving him alone to twist in the wind. This is, apparently, what I do: I exploit people and then I abandon them. An illustrative example: I’ve had all mention of Mike Parker scrubbed from the Interpreter Foundation website. Except that this simply isn’t true. (It’s the same pesky little problem of fact that virtually all of these accusations — if not, indeed, all of them — run into: They’re false.)
Mike Parker remains a friend. I hope that he can eventually find his way back into the line-up for our Interpreter Radio Show, from which he felt that he needed to withdraw several months ago. In the meantime, I hope and trust that he will continue to maintain the invaluable Neville-Neville Land blog. Here are links to four of his recent entries there:
Unfortunately, there’s more than a trace of “inside baseball” about these. I look forward to the time in the not-too-distant future when “Peter Pan” can, if it continues to be necessary, return to his important work of chronicling Mr. Jonathan Neville’s unseemly accusations against prominent Latter-day Saint scholars, Church employees, Church publications, apologists, and even, it sometimes seems, Church leaders.
It’s a weird and unnecessary war that was initiated, so far as I’m aware, on the “Heartlander” side — though not, certainly, by all “Heartlanders” and probably not even by Mr. Jonathan Neville himself. I can still remember my astonishment, many years ago, back in the days of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), when a friend showed some of us a portion of a video featuring Rod Meldrum, one of the founders and principal figures of the “Heartland” movement. It included a clip from President Gordon B. Hinckley in which President Hinckley noted that some people have rejected the Book of Mormon and the blessings to be received through it. Thereupon, Mr. Meldrum helpfully identified the rejecters of the Book of Mormon to whom President Hinckley was referring: They were none other than those of us who were associated with FARMS. We were, I think I can fairly say, somewhat surprised at that.
I think that I recall hearing that, after receiving complaints about his accusation, Mr. Meldrum eventually (and to his credit) modified the video to remove that identification. But I can’t confirm that with any certainty; other than the portion shown that day, I’ve never watched that nor any other “Heartland” video. (For some information that seems to be consistent with such an attitude on Mr. Meldrum’s part, however, see this.)
I hope that it won’t irritate folks here if I reiterate, yet again, my attitude toward “Heartlanderism.” I want it to be clear beyond any reasonable doubt. (I can do nothing about unreasonable people.)
To me, the question of exactly where the events of the Book of Mormon took place is an interesting one, but of secondary or even tertiary importance. I have long leaned strongly toward a Mesoamerican setting, but I haven’t written very much on the subject and I have no particular problem with non-Mesoamerican models. I’m open to being persuaded but, thus far, I haven’t been.
I’m fine with partaking of the sacrament and praying with people who don’t share my view of Book of Mormon geography — as well as those who disagree with me on politics and economics and the greatness of Groundhog Day. I would happily sustain them as leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, for all I know, I may well be doing so right now. I have friends and relatives who accept the “Heartlander” model. I love and value them; they are, in more than a few cases, distinctly better people than I am. On this point, though, I do candidly disagree with their view. But I’m happy not to argue with them about it, or even, if it seems wise to avoid the subject, not to talk with them about it at all.
I surely don’t believe in breaking fellowship with other members of the Church, let alone with members of my family, simply on the grounds that we differ as to the location of the city of Zarahemla or the site of the final Nephite battle.
Yet I have seen a few committed “Heartlanders” — not even, I hope and believe, a significant minority of them — who seem effectively willing to do just that. And that disheartens, depresses, and disappoints me. It brings in a spirit of division and contention that I sincerely feel comes from a distinctly non-divine source, and that does not serve the purposes of God or help with the growth of the Kingdom.
That is what I have objected to in the work of Mr. Jonathan Neville. He has repeatedly insinuated that I and my friends are attempting to guide the leadership of the Church astray. He has even borrowed language from the ritual of the temple, on at least two distinct occasions, to compare me and my associates at the Interpreter Foundation with Lucifer and the hosts of Hell. Do I think that uncharitable and inappropriate? You better believe that I do. I had hoped that he would stop. I still hope that he will stop. But the signs right now are not promising. And baselessly assassinating the character of Mike Parker isn’t exactly a step toward the Kingdom of Heaven. For one part of the current defamatory alliance, that’s probably just fine. I hope, though, that it will give the other side at least a moment’s pause.