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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Meldrum's X lineage Post 3: THE UGLY

This post is the last of three posts dealing with the X lineage DNA claims of Rodney Meldrum, who leads the Heartland apologetic movement. The first post summarised the science, the second deals with Meldrum's interpretation of the science and the third examines Meldrum's questionable salesmanship.


Post I. Meldrum's X lineage: THE GOOD
In the first post I introduce some of the key scientists who have researched the X lineage and summarise the X lineage research.

Post II. Meldrum's X lineage: THE BAD
In the second post I review Rodney Meldrum's Creationist agenda, how this impacts his interpretation of the science and his "creative' use of evidence in support of his Heartland movement.

Post III. Meldrum's X lineage: THE UGLY
In the third post I look at the controversy Rodney Meldrum has sparked in apologetic circles and the questionable way he is selling his ideas.



The Spirit of contention

Several years ago two LDS women I knew (Julie and Anne - not their real names) established a small business together. Julie was more practical and looked after the day to day running of the business, while Anne was the more creative partner. For a time the business was successful but eventually times got tough, the business struggled and their relationship soured. One day Julie explained to me what was causing her the most difficulty in the business relationship. At meetings when important decisions were to be made, Anne would frequently say that she had prayed and felt inspired about which direction the company should go in. Julie felt very uncomfortable about this because she also had strong feelings about her own point of view. After gently reminding Julie that the Spirit may have had more important things to worry about than the success of her business, I suggested that she was being emotionally (or spiritually) manipulated by Anne. 



When a Mormon says the Spirit has confirmed their decision, or they "feel" something is right, they are in effect saying the debate is over. In Mormon-speak they are saying God has revealed to them they are right. By claiming God had confirmed her decision, Anne placed great strain on the relationship and their ability to communicate openly. If Julie questioned Anne's decision she risked hurting her feelings because Anne would see that as questioning her ability to perceive the Spirit. In LDS circles this would be akin to questioning her worthiness. If Julie chose not to question Anne she would feel resentment because she has been unable to express her opinion. The truth is that the businesses of perfectly righteous people, both religious and irreligious, fail all the time and God turns a blind eye. Why would a God bother to help an affluent person in a developed Western country become even more affluent when millions of children are starving in Africa? 

The moment Rodney Meldrum set foot in the apologetic arena in about 2004 he was on a collision course with the apologists, in particular those wedded to the Mesoamerican Limited Geography Model. And that includes almost all of the apologists housed at the Maxwell Institute at BYU. The Mesoamerican LG model has effectively been the "official" Book of Mormon geography for decades by virtue of the fact that so many Mesoamerican apologists are employed by the church and the church has funded so much research in Mesoamerica. Not only did Meldrum openly claim that the Heartland model was correct, he openly criticised the Mesoamerican model, blaming it for the recent increased rate of apostasy among the youth. But his biggest mistake was to claim that the Spirit was on his side. This is what Meldrum told his followers in 2008.   
After fasting and praying about it with my family, and after reading my patriarchal blessing, . . . it was clear that I was going to have to leave [his job] to work on these projects full time, but I wanted more of a 'sign' from the Lord. So I had three big projects about to close with [his job], and I told the Lord that if he wants me to make this project my #1 priority to please cause that none of these jobs go through. . . . Well, within three days all three of the jobs were either terminated by the client, lost to another company, or delayed until next year! So on Monday, April 21st, I put in my two weeks notice and began my new life working full-time on this project.
- Meldrum (2008) via email 

Meldrum has also posted dozens of testimonials from people who have been convinced of the truthfulness of the Heartland model, using language more at home in a Fast and Testimony meeting. In many of these testimonies, people speak of how uncomfortable they felt with the Mesoamerican arguments and how the Heartland model just feels right.  

Claiming that the Spirit was on his side created immediate tension between Meldrum and the Mesoamerican apologists. And it was the same sort of tension  felt between Julie and Anne in the example above. By claiming that the spirit had confirmed that the Heartland model was right, Meldrum was also clearly implying that the Mesoamerican model was wrong. Unfortunately for Meldrum, Mesoamerican apologists only know one way to deal with people who challenge them and it wasn't long before the very public tension turned ugly. With the publication of his DVD in 2008 and book in 2009 Meldrum provided targets for the wrath of the Mesoamerican apologists. The response from the Mesoamerican crowd was immediate, voluminous and hostile. 

The publications that started it all

Both Meldrum publications are built almost entirely around Meldrum's fraudulent X lineage claims which he had been spruiking at firesides over several years. Those with the time and a stomach for Mormons arguing with Mormons can dive into this bunfight at the following links.
FAIR review of DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography

FARMS review of Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA

This third link contains a record of a heated exchange between FAIR apologists and Meldrum. Meldrum's Blog 

Readers wanting to get straight to the point need look no further than the concluding sentence of Greg Smith's 161 page FARMS review "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt
"The Book of Mormon, the Latter-day Saints, and the Church of Jesus Christ deserve far better than Meldrum's pseudoscientific snake oil and strained proof-texting."
— Greg Smith (FARMS)  
There are many things that Greg Smith and I are unlikely to agree on about the Book of Mormon, but with respect to Rodney Meldrum we are in complete agreement. Meldrum is in the snake oil business. While the reviews are filled with justifiable criticism of Meldrum's scientific atrocities, considerable ire was directed at Meldrum's abuse of the Spirit to bolster his claims.
"FAIR has unreservedly concluded the following: Mr. Meldrum has attempted to assert revelation for those outside of his stewardship, and has used that revelation as a substitute for solid scholarship" 
— FAIR  
"One aspect of Meldrum's work...is his implicit and explicit claim that his theories are inspired, and that his advocacy in their behalf is directed by God. Perhaps in response to this type of critique, Remnant through DNA contains disclaimers, as it must if it is to get any traction among Meldrum's target audience—believing Latter-day Saints... 
It is quickly apparent that, despite any formal disclaimers made, Meldrum's style of presentation is heavily laced with the implication that he is a special, chosen person on a divinely sanctioned mission... 
Either the disclaimers in Remnant through DNA are not offered in complete sincerity or the author is untroubled by mixed messages. ...despite his nod in the direction of restraint, he pursues his course with an evangelistic zeal and certitude. It is perhaps this aspect of his work that is most disturbing." 
— Greg Smith (FARMS)  
There is an unwritten law among mainstream LDS apologists that you never claim that the argument you are making is inspired. This is because it is not very inspiring to have one apologetic camp claiming the Spirit is telling them one thing and another apologetic camp claiming the Spirit is telling them something completely different. Because when this happens they run the risk that people will start to question how reliable the Spirit (feelings) is for determining all kinds of truth. And the answer to that question is that feelings are pretty much the least reliable means by which we can discern truth.


Shades of affinity fraud

In order to help sell the Heartland message Meldrum has also gone to considerable lengths to enlist the support of Mormon celebrities. Famous endorsers of the Heartland model include LDS General Authority (Emeritus) Hartman Rector Jr., Orrin Hatch, controversial talk show host Glenn Beck, singing star Alex Boye', filmmaker Kieth Merrill, several Osmonds, former Relief Society General President Mary Ellen Smoot, 9/11 conspiracy theorist Steven E. Jones and dozens of other well known Mormons. 



Meldrum has gone to great lengths to draw people's attention to the attendance of Elder Hartman Rector Jr. at his conferences. Rector served in the First Quorum of the Seventy, one step below the Apostles, from 1976 to 1994. The long retired General Authority sits right up front and lends that crucial air of "church approved" to the whole affair. But Elder Rector has done much more than just attend Heartland conferences. He has been intimately involved in the Heartland movement from the outset and publicly endorses Meldrum's workIn Meldrum's 2008 email to people who had purchased his DVD he recounted a blessing he had received from Elder Rector. Clearly, Meldrum feels he has been called by God to deliver the Heartland message to the world. 
[My wife] and I had the most incredible and special experience as we met with Hartman [and his wife] in their peaceful home. After talking for some time, and updating him on all the latest developments, he...gave us the most incredible blessing imaginable. 
They were incredibly powerful and caused both Tonya and I to no longer doubt the validity of work in which we are engaged. The only thing I can share from the blessings is that the overall understanding is that this information will go out to “millions” who will be touched by the work, and that this will “embolden” the saints to open their mouths and declare anew the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that millions will find and enter his kingdom! The spirit was overwhelmingly wonderful and we felt so blessed to have that privilege. (retrieved from FAIR website 

Emeritus General Authorities do not have authority to act on behalf of the church, but there can be little doubt that Meldrum is using Rector to give his movement the appearance of legitimacy. Many attending Meldrum's conferences could be excused for thinking that the church endorses the Heartland movement. 

As it turns out, Rector does not have a particularly good track record of discerning reliable Mormon entrepreneurs. Rector has links to Rick Koerber, the "Latter-day Capitalist," who is facing charges for federal affinity fraud in an alleged ponzi scheme (trial set for Feb 2014). Federal investigators allege that Koerber used Rector to imply church endorsement of his business. Hartman Rector attended many of Koerber's sales pitch seminars and lived in a house owned by one of Koerber's companies. Could it be that Rector is receiving kick backs from the very profitable Heartland movement?  

Hartman Rector Jr. is no stranger to dodgy marketing methods and has frequently employed them himself over the years. In the late 1970s Rector was the mission president of the San Diego Mission and during his period at the helm the mission became the highest baptising mission in the church. Rector was extremely proud of this achievement and has written about how to convert people to the church. But Rector's less well publicised methods were very questionable. Extremely high baptism rates were achieved by importing Mexicans by the busload, giving them a 1st discussion and baptising them in swimming pools. Once baptised they were immediately taken back over the border on the same day. San Diego members who suffered through Hartman Rector's rule look back with embarrassment at the actions of this deluded general authority. 

Mesoamerican "propagandists"

Its now a few years since the FAIR and FARMS reviews of Meldrum's Heartland model were published and the reviews have had the impact you would expect. The two Mormon camps despise each other. Meldrum now openly ridicules the Mesoamerican apologists, claiming on Alan Osmond's blog in August 2013 that they are "misguided" "propagandists" who are "misleading" Mormons with "bankrupt" theories based on "anti-Mormon" facts that "distort" the truth. 
"Unfortunately, some LDS members are blinded by the false and misleading findings of anti-Mormon’s which are being perpetuated by Mesoamerica theory propagandists. These unofficial apologist organizations such as FAIR, BMAF and the now defunct FARMS organizations (they were all summarily fired from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute in June 2012), are literally promoting the anti-Mormon claims in order to protect their sacred Mesoamerican theories. Please Alan, continue to share the truth and don’t allow these Mesoamerican theory zealots to cast aside the DNA evidence that is prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon prophets proclaimed that their seed would “never be destroyed according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 9:53) yet these LDS apologists proclaim that the DNA evidence has been diluted out of existence and that there is no DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon claims. They are misguided and are misleading the membership of the Church. The lack of DNA evidence is a primary issue of members who are “leaving [the Church] in droves” according to Elder Marlin K. Jensen and ex-Mormon John Dehlin who conducted an eye-opening survey of some 4,000 former Mormons and shared the results of why they left the Church HERE . It once again reared its ugly head in a recent interview with a former General Authority from Europe in a New York Times front page article and video interview. The Mesoamerican theories are bankrupt as to DNA, archaeological, geographic, linguistic and prophetic evidences. The Heartland Model of the Book of Mormon offers a refreshing new level of evidence in all of these fields! This is why it is growing exponentially across the membership of the Church. 
Don’t let the “Guatemala is the Promised Land” promoters, using anti-Mormon “facts,” distort the truth. “The United States is the Promised Land foretold in the Book of Mormon” (Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Dec. 2012) and it is the nation that was being prophesied about. It is also the nation that was desperately being warned not to allow the secret combinations that destroyed earlier civilizations to get above it. The overwhelming evidence points to the Heartland of North America as the primary and only lands of the Book of Mormon. This is where the covenant with God resides (see article, The Scriptural Basis for the Heartland Model HERE. This is where the New Jerusalem will be built. It is where the Garden of Eden resided and where the gospel was restored. The pattern is clear. This is the sacred land of promise and covenant. It is the “nation above all other nations” and the “mighty Gentile nation above all other nations” spoken of in prophecy. 
It is time for the truth about the Heartland Model Geography to be made available to every member of the Church and allow them to conduct their own analysis and research as to which they feel is better able to defend the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. From our experience with hundreds of thousands of members of the Church, the answer is clear; the Heartland Model offers orders of magnitude more powerful evidences for the historicity of the Book of Mormon than speculations about narrow necks of land and grand piles of stone in Mesoamerica. 
Please feel free to forward this information to as many as you’d like.
Rod Meldrum President – The FIRM Foundation

All humility is now gone. Meldrum is convinced that he is on a mission from the Lord to save the Book of Mormon and he is perfectly comfortable slagging off mainstream LDS apologists who stand in his way; apologists who have enjoyed the patronage of apostles for decades. It appears that no hallowed hand is capable of stopping him. 


Conclusion

Rodney Meldrum displays all of the characteristics of a charlatan. He is reckless with the evidence he uses and completely blinded by his fixed anti-evolution, young-earth creationist mindset. He is now in the business of swindling gullible Mormons out of their money by exploiting their earnest desire for physical evidence to prop up their faith. If Meldrum was to retreat from his fraudulent X lineage claims he would be concerned about the impact on books sales and attendances at his conferences. The Meldrum show will go on because it must go on.