Board of Directors


John Lefgren – President

Dr John Lefgren from Pennsylvania is originally from Ogden Utah. After attending Weber State College John served a 2 1/2 year church mission to Finland and then studied at the University of Utah. John Lefgren is an Economic Historian and did his doctorate dissertation work in Helsinki. He worked six years in the American Embassy in Helsinki and he is fluent in Finnish. In 1980 John wrote an influential book titled April 6 about the birthdate of Christ and founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later John teamed up with John P Pratt to validate the date of the First Vision as March 26, 1820. John founded Heartland Research Inc in 2019.


Mike LaFontaine – Vice President

Mike LaFontaine is part Chippewa from the Turtle Mountain clan. Professionally, Mike is a builder and real estate developer from NE/Central Florida. He grew up in Florida but his family originally comes from the Minnesota Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Mike and Betty have five children plus adopted children and also 26 grandchildren. Mike and Betty are popular and well known public speakers, advocates of indigenous peoples and avid supporters of Heartland projects. Mike has a leading role in the reconstruction of the Phoenicia ship and in the ongoing research of ancient people in the Heartland of America.


Betty LaFontaine – Cultural Advisor

Betty Red-Ant LaFontaine, is from the Navajo tribe of the Dene Tha’ nation and originally from the four corners area in northwest New Mexico. She came from a challenging background of poverty on the reservation but was in the Indian placement program in Utah for eight years which opened many opportunities for her. Betty comes from a strong native family tradition of belief in the Book of Mormon, prayer, and Navajo traditions which teach that their ancestors came from the east and from across the great salt sea. Bettys role is to be a liaison to the public, help organize events and keep the team on-task and unified with our cultural and spiritual goals.


Mike Stahlman – Chief Engineer

Mike Stahlman, originally from Pennsylvania has lived for 33 years in Independance Missouri, the center place of Zion. He has an unshakable belief and faith in the Book of Mormon. A former RLDS member, he is now a follower of independant restorationist branches (South Crysler Restoration). Mike has assisted the Heartland Research Group in several expeditions and has been extremely helpful in proactive and clever ways. His professional background is in engineering and construction including timber frame construction. An excellent puzzle solver and craftsman, Mike Stahlman is the Chief Engineer of the Phoenicia ship reconstruction project.


Jeri Mackley – Secretary

Jeri Mackley is an entrepreneur and business woman with fourteen years of experience in owning and running a family fun center including an extensive Halloween haunt attraction. She knows how to work with the public and manage large groups of people and complex projects. Jeri is a strong promoter of the Book of Mormon and the Heartland model and has helped organize events for the Heartland Research Group, hosting activities in her home in Fort Madison, Iowa. Jeri and Jay are devout Latter-day Saints and advocates of the Book of Mormon. They also have a home in Oregon and have five adult children.


Jay Mackley – Treasurer

Jay Mackley is a graduate of BYU with a degree in Computer Science and served an LDS mission in French speaking Canada. He is the author of the Zarahemla Centric Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography which employs computer data analytics for validation and discovery. Jay is a computer consultant and software engineer recently retired in 2022 so he can pursue Heartland studies and research. With the ArcGIS and QGis LiDAR visualization programs he has discovered ten miles of extensive earthworks in Zarahemla that are being researched as the foundations for the ancient walls of Zarahemla.


Yuri Sanada – Explorer and Cinematographer

Yuri Sanada, from Brazil, is a writer, director, producer, cinematographer, author of several books, and a TV host. He has several international awards including 2 LumiƩre from the Hollywood Advanced Imaging Society. A navigator and explorer, Yuri was a crew member with Captain Philip Beale on the historic Phoenicia voyage to America and he is a Fellow Member of the exclusive New York Explorers Club. With his wife Vera, Yuri is an international speaker and environmental activist. His production company has been producing TV streaming series and feature films, including the first Brazilian Imax film.


Captain Philip Beale – Explorer and Sailor

Philip Beale is from the United Kingdom near Dorset. Always interested from his youth in sailing ships and the Age of Discovery, he joined the Royal Navy as a officer for three years before making his historic voyages. He has replicated three ancient sea voyages to international acclaim: 1) Indonesia to West Africa; 2) Circumnavigation of Africa in the Phoenicia; and then finally 3) Crossing the Atlantic in the Phoenicia from Carthage to Florida. Philip Beale is the author of the books Sailing Close to the Wind and Atlantic BC which recount his journey around Africa and then his Atlantic voyage to America. Philip is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and member of the Scientific Exploration Society.


Keith W Merrell – Film Maker

Keith Merrell is a film director and producer. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He received an Academy Award for The Great American Cowboy (1973) and a nomination for Amazon (1997). As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served as a missionary for the church in Denmark for two-and-a-half years. Keith Merrill was commissioned by the LDS Church’s First Presidency to produce the films Legacy and The Testaments for the 70 mm Legacy Theater at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. He has been married to Dagny Johnson since February 3, 1964. They have eight children.


Rod L Meldrum – Author and Lecturer

Rod Meldrum is a researcher, author, national lecturer, President of the Firm Foundation and has spoken to many thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on his findings in support of the Book of Mormon. He served as senior scientific researcher for seven years on the science book, The Universal Model. He was President and CEO of High Country Gourmet, Inc., and was Director of Business Development for Interact Medical. Rod Meldrum is the producer of the DVDs DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography and Book of Mormon Evidence. He is coauthor of the book Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America and author of the book Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant.


2 thoughts on “Board of Directors”

  1. I love the information the Heartland Research Group publishes in the emails I receive. I was, yesterday, discussing with the sister missionaries in our small branch in Somerset KY that there was this group doing scientific research that proves the truthfulness of the ancient peoples the Book of Mormon on the American continent. And, perhaps more especially, North America. So many members are drawn to the idea that the Book of Mormon people were based out of South America. I have always believed it was more North America. I am grateful for the work this team is doing. I look forward, eagerly, for more. I long to be able to bring my family north for a summer break to put our own hands to work in helping the restoration of that great ship!

  2. Thank you so much for your comments! We have many plans in store for research and for displaying the Phoenicia ship. We have had many visitors to see the ship restoration progress and we welcome you to come. We’ll be starting up again full time in the spring.

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