Thursday, September 25, 2014

Changing the Land of Promise—The Effect of Rising Mountains - Part I

One of the most important things to keep in mind about any model location of the Land of Promise is the world in which the Land of Promise existed. That is, what the world was like between the Jaredite times (just after the Flood), around 2100 B.C., through the Nephite and Mulekite times (600 B.C. to 400 A.D.), and then the Lamanite times afterward, from 400 A.D. to 1519, when the Spanish arrived in Mexico, and 1532 when the Spanish arrived in Peru, and what that world looks like today. 
    To think that the Land of Promise today would be exactly as it appeared then, would be a mistake. Many drastic changes took place in the Land of Promise around 34 A.D.
    1. Existing Mountains tumbling into pieces (1 Nephi 12:4) and fell down and became valleys (Helaman 14:23).
    2. Plains of the earth were broken up (1 Nephi 12:4).
    3. Valleys rose to form mountains “whose height was great” (Helaman 14:23).
Some fissures are huge and very deep, others bubble up from mud volcanoes, everything around them sinking into the depths
    4. Cities were sunk into the depths of the earth (3 Nephi 9:6).
    5. Cities were covered over by hills and mountains (3 Nephi 8:10; 9:8)
    6. Cities sunk into the seas and were covered over by the ocean (3 Nephi 8:9; 9:7).
At least two sunken cities have been found beneath Lake Titicaca along the Peru-Bolivia border
    7. Buildings and cities were shaken and fell to the ground and their places were left desolate (3 Nephi 8:14).
    8. Highways were broken up and level roads spoiled (3 Nephi 8:13). In 1828, the word "spoiled" meant "rendered useless."
    9. Numerous cities were burned to the ground (3 Nephi 9:3, 9-10).
    10. Solid rocks above and beneath the earth were “rent in twain” [split in two, creating fissures between] and broken up into seams [cracked, fissured] and cracks [to break without a separation of parts] (Helaman 14:21-22).
    11. The damage was exceedingly great” (3 Nephi 8:15).
    12. Changes were upon “all the face of the land” (Helaman 14:28).
    13. The whole face of the land was changed (3 Nephi 8:12).
    As a result of all this destruction and change, it would be imprudent to think that the Land of Promise of Nephi’s time would be similar to any map or location area of today. Consider, as an example, mountains disappearing and valleys rising into mountains of great height. That alone would require a tremendous change in the topography of an area, and would alter the flow of rivers and their courses, change size and location of mountain lakes, and the courses of water flowing to the sea.
    And since this occurred in the Land Southward (3 Nephi 8:11) and in the Land Northward (3 Nephi 8:12), we cannot relegate these changes to a local or limited area. They were widespread and covered a large area of the Land of Promise.
Now, consider cities sinking into the sea. What would cause such devastation? Obviously, the ground where the city was built had to sink into the depths of the sea, since seas don’t typically rise or lower permanently more than inches or a foot or two, and since the scriptural record says, “cities were sunk” we are not just talking about a tsunami tidal wave that returns to the sea, but of an entire city that “sinks” beneath the sea. In 1828, the word “sink” meant “to become deep; to retire or fall within the surface of any thing. To put under water, to immerse, as to sink a ship.” 
Thus, we can envision a coastal area that collapsed and sunk and, since there were several such cities (3 Nephi 8:14; 9:7), this coastal area might have been quite large. Obviously, such would have changed the coast line considerably. In addition, since the city of Moroni, situated along the east coast south, near the Land of Nephi (Alma 50:14), was one of these cities that sank (3 Nephi 8:9), it might be suggested that this east coastal area ended up quite different after 34 A.D. than before.
    Obviously, not only did cities sink into the sea, but the land around them sank as well, at least to the extent of the city itself. This makes sense when considering that when mountains rise from level ground, and a sea is involved, earth is displaced and water rushes in to cover the displacement. Most likely, this meant that the ground was fissured by the quaking of the earth, creating large enough clefts and chasms that the city fell into these deep canyons and the water rushed in to cover them up and form inland lakes or bays off the ocean.
    Consider the river Sidon. Is there any indication that it flowed in the same direction, from the same headwaters location, and into the same sea before 3 Nephi as afterward? In fact, we can’t say for certain the river Sidon existed after this time of destruction—we only know there were Waters of Mormon left.
    Another consideration of these changes is the wordage of Samuel the Lamanite when he said, as a sign for a future generation, that mountains would rise “whose height is great,” he obviously had in mind that these new mountains would be of a height greater than what was known in the land prior to this cataclysmic event. As an example, prior to 3 Nephi, Mormon mentioned the name “Sidon” 36 times; the “river Sidon” 27 times; and the “waters of Sidon” six times. After 3rd Nephi, Mormon mentions the name Sidon just once, and uses it in the sentence “waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10).
    Is that significant? We don’t know, but when you consider mountains “tumbling into pieces,” one might envision the headwaters of a river being altered in some way—and when mountains are formed, “whose height is great,” other headwaters or courses might be expected to develop. To better understand this, mountains have a major influence on climate, not only for mountain locations, but also the surrounding areas. When air flows over a mountain, it is forced upwards, and rising clouds moving over mountains can’t hold as much water, so they drop their rain, which causes more precipitation to fall on the windward side of the mountain slope, causing a “rain shadow.” (The higher the mountain the more pronounced the rain shadow effect is and the less likely rain will fall on the leeward side of the mountain; also, since temperature drops about 2 to 5 degrees per thousand feet of elevation, mountains “whose height is great” generally produce snow, which has a profound affect on mountain water sources).
    Imagine very tall mountains forming in a matter of hours and the profound influence this would have on both the immediate vicinity as well as areas hundreds of miles away, since these new mountains, jutting up into an otherwise orderly flow of winds around the globe, cause the winds to rise up over and around these new peaks and ridges. This, in turn, causes the air to cool and condense, forming clouds and precipitation, making the new mountain environment much wetter than before, and much more sodden than the surrounding lowlands.
The air then drops down the backside as warm air, which strips the moisture from the air resulting in a rain shadow effect for areas down wind from the mountain. Such change in airflow channeled through mountain canyons causes strong winds from air being squeezed between areas of higher elevations. These higher elevations cause cooler air, especially on the windward side, and such mountains can block or separate two different air masses from meeting.
    All of this effects snow and rain fall, creates or eliminates mountain lakes, establishes or eliminates sufficient moisture that builds headwaters of rivers, and determines the amount of water flowing down through canyons. Thus, suddenly, in a three hour period, mountains that might have had rivers flow down them tumbled to the ground, eliminating that water flow and river completely, or causing it to become a lake along a valley floor—“ there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley” (Helaman 14:23)—and other mountains rise to great heights—“there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great”—obviously, affecting future water sources, creating mountain lakes and rivers flowing down steep elevations, adding forks and eliminating others, raging through canyons, on their search for a path to the sea. Such rivers begin at their source in higher ground such as mountains or hills, where rain water or melting snow collects and forms tiny streams, with the water running downhill in rivulets, which collect into creeks, which collect into rivers.
Top: Rivers are formed by gravity and seek the path of least resistance. If that path changes, the river changes course; Bottom: Result of streams or rivers that have had their course changed, leaving dry beds
    While all of this is just a scenario, it should be recognized that eliminating mountains and creating others would have a tremendous effect on the climate, rain or snow fall and the flowing of rivers. To think that what Mormon writes about prior to 34 A.D. is going to be the same as after this destruction “in all the land” is not only poor scholarship, but quite self-serving.
(See the next post, “Changing Land of Promise—The Effect of Rising Mountains - Part II,” for more information on the changes wrought by the events described in 3 Nephi, and their effect on the Land of Promise before and after 34 A.D.)

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