Sunday, May 17, 2015

What is in a Scriptural Description? The Sea East

In the scriptural record, Mormon makes many references to the Sea East or East Sea, from its running along the Land of Nephi (Alma 50:8), along the Land of Zarahemla (both of which were nearly surrounded by water, except for the narrow neck of land that separated the two lands). It is also described as being to the east of the narrow neck of land and the passage within it.
    A narrow strip of wilderness ran from the east sea to the west sea, dividing the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27), with the sea extended northward from the Lamanite lands past the city of Moroni (Alma 50:13), running past the East Wilderness (Alma 50:8), and past where the Lamanites had been driven (Alma 22:29), and past the borders of the Nephite lands (Alma 52:13). The east sea ran past the land of Antionum (Alma 31:3), and continued northward past the cities of Nephihah, Morianton, Omner, Gid, and Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore (Alma 51:26), as was Antiparah (Alma 56:31), with the east sea running all the way north to Mulek and the borders of Bountiful (Alma 51:32).
    The East Sea or the east seashore is mentioned in Ether, running northward along the east coast of the Land Northward. There is an east seashore beyond Ablom (Ether 9:3), and several battles took place along the seashore, though east or west are not specifically mentioned. In the north were the Waters of Ripliancum, meaning a large body of water that exceeded all—no doubt the Sea North mentioned by Helaman as the Sea North (Helaman 3:8).
In fact, in Helaman we find the overall description of the Land of Promise as running from the Sea South to the Sea North, from the Sea West to the Sea East (Helaman 3:8); and also that the Nephites “did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the Sea West to the sea East” (Helaman 11:20).
    It would seem, then, that the East Sea ran from the Land of Nephi, (which it surrounded) all the way to the far north of the Land Northward. Consequently, for any Land of Promise description, it should show an east sea that ran the length of the land during Jaredite and Nephite times.
    It should also be noted, that at no time in the entire record of both the Nephites and Jaredites, is there anything ever mentioned existing to the east of the Sea East, or to the south of the Sea South; however, it should be mentioned that at no time after the destruction outlined in 3 Nephi in conjunction with the crucifixion, the wordage Sea East or East Sea is ever again mentioned after the rise of the mountains “whose height is great” foretold by Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 14:23). The significance of that oversight is not disclosed, however it is interesting that following that period, when the final wars take place and Mormon is describing the Nephites retreating from the southern area of the Land of Zarahemla to the most northern parts of the Land Northward, one might think that such wordage would be useful and necessary, but it was never again mentioned.
    Now, for her Sea East, Phyllis Carol Olive takes the Genesee River, (spelled Zinochsaa by early writers) which is claimed to have  been much larger in times past; however, the actual size is debatable since the canyon the river cuts is quite narrow and high and would not have been under water at any time. So the width of this river seems hardly a match for Mormon’s East Sea.
Olive identifies the Genesee River in New York as the (white arrow) Sea East in her model 
    At the time the glaciers covered this area of New York, there were some 24 narrow, north-south valleys. The Glaciers are thought to have filled these valleys, cutting deeper into the valley floor. When the glaciers retreated and melted, rivers formed along these cuts, the Genesee River being one of those forming in the Genesee Valley. Because the glacier cuts were uneven, the river flows created waterfalls along their paths—the photo below showing the Middle Falls and the Devonian rock gorges of the Genesee River as it flows through what is now Letchworth State Park, an area in the very midst of Olive’s Sea East, where three large waterfalls and some fifty smaller ones dot the landscape and called “The Grand Canyon of the East.”
The Genesee River as it flows through Letchworth Park. Note the waterfall to the lower right; the Seneca called the land around this canyon “She-ga-hun-da,” meaning “Vale of the three falls” 
While the river is impressive, and the gorge spectacular to view, with numerous waterways and small rivers scattered about, it simply is not a “sea” and never was, nor would it ever be considered a sea. The river starts out as a trickle and meanders relentlessly down its valley from an elevation of 1610 feet at the Pennsylvania border with a grade of about 10 feet per mile, eventually running into Lake Ontario at 246 feet elevation.
    Valleys to the east and west of the Genesee are easily seen today, each filled with rivers looking much like the Genesee. In order to have the Sea East Olive envisions, this entire area would have had to be underwater at least 1000 feet in order to create a sea, which would have flooded everything across the entire land from west to east and north to south, making a Land of Promise impossible to begin with.
Even if this river was much larger in ages past, it would not have exceeded the width of its surface as shown in the top photo—the width this flowing river once cut would thus have been only a couple of hundred yards across 
According to geologists, the pre-glacial Genesee River followed much of its present course from Genesee, Pennsylvania, northward through Wellsville, Belmont, to Portageville, New York. Near Portageville the pre-glacial river turned eastward through Nunda and joined the larger Dansville River near Sonyea in the present valley of the Canaseraga. From here, the Dansville-Genesee River flowed northward past Genesee to Avon. Four miles north of Avon, the river encountered the relatively soft Salina Shales. The river turned eastward following the strike of these beds, along the present course of Honeoye Creek, through the town of Rush, and then northward again near Fishers. From Fishers the pre-glacial river followed the present course of Irondequoit Creek to the present Irondequoit Bay and then continued northward down the south side of the Ontarian River Valley into the Ontarian River. According to R. H. Whitbeck, “Pre-Glacial Course of the Middle Portion of the Genesee River” (Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol 34, 1902), the glacier covering the Genesee Valley river gorge was never more than a mile wide.
Red Arrows show the beginning in Pennsylvania and the end in Lake Ontario of the Genesee River, before, during the after the glacial period. The midway course, where it was widest in the ancient past, is only 17 miles long, with sides rising as high as 600 feet above its banks, and referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East 
    In the photo above, note that the Finger Lakes, Olive’s Land of Many Waters, is to the east of her East Sea (Genesee River). One can only wonder if she ever read the scriptural record and Mormon’s description of the placement of these lands.

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