Friday, September 5, 2014

In Search of the Sidon River – Part II

There are few geographic locations in the Land of Promise mentioned as often as the Sidon River, and few that elicit such controversial opinions. Take Rod L. Meldrum’s attempt to make the north-flowing river Sidon the south-flowing Mississippi River in his Heartland model. In the previous post, we listed and responded to several of his comments as he tried to make his case. However, Meldrum is like a bulldog with a bone—he keeps at it no matter how often he is shown to be in error. 
     Even though his own source of definition (when looking at all of the information and not just one part) shows that “head of a river” means its source, he is at it again from a different angle.
A river flows downhill in a winding, meandering way, depending on its force of flow, the steepness of the topography and the obstacles in its way. Where the river begins is called its source, headwaters, or just “head.” There is only one head to a river, wherever that might be, either where it begins, or where it branches off from another river at a confluence. However, the main river is not renamed at a confluence, but continues to flow downward from its original source or “head”
    Meldrum: “While this [1828 Webster] is one definition, there is also another equally valid definition relating to rivers which is less well known but very important to a more complete understanding. Description 23. states 'Conflux'. (Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as) “A flowing together; a meeting of two or more currents of a fluid,” (and defines confluence as) “A flowing together; the meeting or junction of two or more streams of water, or other fluid; also, the place of meeting; as the confluence of the Tigris and the Frat, or of the Ohio and Mississippi.
    Response: While these two definitions are in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, and even given the probability that Joseph Smith knew these words and their definitions given above, they are not used anywhere in the scriptural record or even implied, suggested, or hinted! It does not say the “confluence of the river Sidon,” nor does it imply a second river anywhere in the entire scriptural record.
    Thus, these two words, upon which Meldrum stakes his future argument upon, are simply mute points. However, once again, that does not stop Meldrum. He goes on to add:
    Meldrum: “So the 'head' of the Sidon river of the Book of Mormon has two possible definitions…”
    Response: No, the Book of Mormon does not have two possible definitions regarding the “head of the river Sidon.” The scriptural record simply does not allow any room whatever for such an idea or conclusion. Meldrum here is desperately trying to provide a Segway between Mormon’s “north-flowing river Sidon,” and his own “south-flowing Mississippi River.” It is unconscionable for any scholar, writer, or member to try and twist the scriptural record to mean something it does not even suggest a possibility. Yet, Meldrum is not finished:
    Meldrum: “…one at the commencement of a stream or river and one which is defined as the location where two branches or tributaries of a river meet, or their confluence. Which definition did the Book of Mormon authors and translator mean…”
    Response: Mormon’s writing throughout the entire scriptural record is clear and precise. The problems over it always arise when someone comes along like John L. Sorenson and claims that “Nephite North” was different than our western-thinking "north and south"; or when Meldrum comes along and says that the head of the river Sidon really means to be the “confluence of the river Sidon.” But hold onto your hats, the best is yet to comer from Meldrum’s wild imagination:
    Meldrum: “…and is there a scriptural basis for the idea of the 'head' of a river being a junction of two or more rivers? In the Old Testament in Genesis 2:10, it states, "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads." (see also PoGP Moses 3:10) reference note b). There is a reference note b at 'parted' in the LDS King James Version of the Bible which reads "HEB (Hebrew) - divided into four heads (branches)" clearly indicating that the 'heads' of each of these four rivers were at the junction of two or more rivers.”
One river was parted into four rivers, that is, one river had three branches parted or split off of it, making four rivers in all. Where the three rivers parted or split off, became the “heads” of those three, however, the “head” of the original river was in Eden; thus “it was parted into four heads”
    Response: Meldrum seems to forget that such information is to explain an already stated fact. That one river divided into four parts, each having its beginning at the junction of the parting, which is not suggested in any way by the scriptural record of the river Sidon. Nor, in Mormon’s writing, is there any suggestion, hint, or thought that the river Sidon is part of any other river that it parted or divided from or had a source in another river.
    Meldrum: “A second scriptural basis for understanding that the word "head" could designate a "junction" can be had from several passages wherein attempts are made to cut off or "head" something (an army or flocks) at a certain junction.  Such occurrences can be found in Alma 17:32, 46:32, 50:33-3451:29-30, and Hel. 1:28-30. Therefore, there is scriptural evidence to support the use of 'head' of a river as where two or more rivers join, making this a perfectly legitimate choice among alternative definitions.”
    Response: The head is not where a river joins another river unless it is where one or the other begins (where a branch flows away from the main river). A confluence, such as the Ohio and the Mississippi is where the Ohio ends, or is its mouth (into the Mississippi), and the Mississippi continues to flow in its original direction. In the case of one river flowing that branches (splits or parts) into four rivers, the head is still where the rivers begin, in this case, three of the rivers (or all four if the original does not continue so named) are beginning at the split. If the Mississippi River flowed northward, and split off into the Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, and these other three rivers were to flow northward as well, they the three new rivers would have their heads at the Mississippi, but that is not the case in the rivers cited, so the point is mute.
All of these rivers in the United States flow into the Mississippi River directly, or they flow into rivers that do flow into the Mississippi. None flow out of the Mississippi. Consequently, all these rivers have a head (beginning) that are to the west, north or east of the Mississippi
    Meldrum: “This also provides further insight into Alma 56:24-25 which reads, "They durst not pass by us with their whole army, neither durst they with a part, lest they should not be sufficiently strong and they should fall.  Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah."  It is understandable that the Lamanite army would be afraid to battle the Nephite army, or go against the Nephite capital city Zarahemla, but why would crossing a river at its "head" or source (presumably a stream) cause such dread?  The simple answer could be that the "head" was a junction of two rivers, thereby making it a fearfully difficult and dangerous point to attempt a crossing.”
    Response: Perhaps they “durst not cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah,” is meant to show that if they did that they would be confronted with another Nephite stronghold like Zarahemla and the other cities where the Nephite army lay in wait that if the Lamanites "should pass by us, to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front” which is stated in the scriptural record (Alma 56:23).
    Meldrum: We can only speculate as to which of the two definitions were meant by the Book of Mormon authors. But it appears that each definition is valid.”
    Response: Since there is not a single mention, hint, or suggestion that there was another river, or that any confluence existed, or that the head of the river Sidon was anything but what is said, what is there to speculate about? And why would anyone entertain a thought of such an invalid definition that is not supported by the scriptural record? This is not scholarship, but fanciful imaginations meant to confuse and open the door for a Heartland Model that simply does not exist. However, let’s take a look at such a model where rivers (Missouri, Ohio, Illinois) flow into a main river (Mississippi).
White Arrow: head of the Missouri River; Green Arrow: head of the Mississippi River; Yellow Arrow: head of the Ohio River; Red Arrow: Where Missouri and Illinois River flow into the Mississippi River—this is not the head of any river, but a confluence; Blue Arrow: Where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River—again, this is not the head of any river, but a confluence. The heads of these rivers are to the north, their mouth (end) is where they flow into the Mississippi River, which is one river flowing 2350 miles to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans. It should be noted that all four of these rivers flow in one general direction (once the Missouri turns toward the south)
    However, Meldrum is not finished with his scenario in which he claims that because there is a branch, the main river changes course.
    Meldrum: “This being the case, it cannot be said with confidence that the river Sidon flowed north.  It could have been flowing in either direction.  Therefore, the Mississippi River, based on this criterion, is a valid alternative to be considered to be the Book of Mormon's River Sidon." 
    Response: How interesting. Suddenly, by introducing that the head of the river Sidon, as a confluence of another river, the river somehow flows in the opposite direction? However, no matter how you define the head of the river Sidon, whether as a branch of another river, or the beginning of its own, the head is still in the highlands south of Zarahemla adjacent to the Land of Nephi and flows past Zarahemla to the north! Talk about trying to cloud the issue. After all, if the head of the river Sidon is to the south of Zarahemla (in the narrow strip of wilderness) and it flowed south, as Meldrum wants us to believe, then it would never be found in the Land of Zarahemla, which was to the north of the narrow strip. In that case, everything Mormon wrote about the river Sidon would be in error. Thus, as it usually boils down to these weird Theorist ideas, you choose—Mormon or Meldrum. They both can’t be right.
    Let’s take a look at Meldrum’s Mississippi model and its rivers to perhaps clarify this a little more.
Top: If the parting or branching (white arrow) of a secondary river is in the same general flow as the main river (yellow arrow), then that creates a beginning of the branch or secondary river and becomes the head of the secondary river, which is what is being described in Genesis 2:10, where a river went out of Eden; Bottom: If the secondary river (white arrow) flows into the main river (yellow arrow), then it is the mouth or ending of the secondary river. The latter is the case of the Missouri, Illinois and Ohio rivers flowing into the Mississippi River. In this case the main river (Mississippi) retains its name and has no change in its head, or beginning as Meldrum claims
(See the next post, “In Search of the Sidon River – Part III,” for more of Meldrum’s fanciful explanations as he tries to change the flow of the river Sidon and make it the Mississippi River)


  1. I agree with your description of Rod Meldrum. He and I have had several discussions and once it is set, and regardless of the facts presented, he will not change his mind.

    Why do you believe the river Sidon flows to the north?

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