In this particular article, we take a look at Mormon’s description of the Land of Many Waters, in which he places their location: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4). Thus we see that the hill Cumorah was in the Land of Cumorah, which was in the Land of Many Waters, which was full of rivers and fountains and, no doubt, lakes and other small bodies of water, such as ponds, streams, etc.
This area had to be a very large area, not just a large lake or two, for people could walk through it, and it was large enough to hold the entire Lamanite army as it marched toward Cumorah, with numbers so great they frightened the Nephites, whose own numbers were 230,000 fighting men in 23 commands (Divisions; today each commanded by a 2-star General) of 10,000 each (today equivalent of 3 Field Armies, each commanded by a 4-star General, and the total by a 5-star General, or General of the Army), plus wives, women and children. But the Lamanite army was perhaps twice their size, for every Nephite soul “was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers” (Mormon 6:7).
In fact, the numbers might have been three or four times that of the Nephites, for most experienced, battle-hardened fighting men feel that they can handle two-to-one odds, even three-to-one odds for the more hardened warriors, yet Mormon writes that “every soul was filled with terror.”
For those who have never been in a ground war battle with huge numbers, it might not seem so important to understand the terrain; however, with upwards of a million men fighting in this one battle, with one side having such devastating success, the topography would be extremely important to understand. You can’t just look on a map and say, there’s water, that must be the place!”
The point is that this land of Cumorah and the Land of Many waters the Lamanite army marched through to reach them, was very large, and the lakes, rivers, and streams were not so individually large that they could deter the marching ability of the Lamanite army.
As a side note, it might be of interest to recognize the greatness of Mormon as a leader. Though he was old (Mormon 6:6), he stood at the front (Mormon 6:11) of his Division of 10,000 men, who in the vanguard of the entire Nephite forces, to meet the overwhelming odds of the enemy. He was cut down in that first wave of fighting along with all his 10,000, “and [he] fell wounded in the midst; and they passed by [him] that they did not put an end to [his] life” (Mormon 6:10). His heroics reminds me of the stalwart General George Patton of World War II fame, though without the arrogance, boasting and bluster. Patton stood at the front of his men, as Mormon, where few Generals ever locate themselves.
Unfortunately, many theorists have merely interpreted this statement of a land of many waters as being a place a few huge lakes and some long rivers, such as the Great Lakes. But there is no way half a million men or more could march through the Great Lakes area—they could skirt it, but not be “within” it, as Mormon describes. Besides, the Great Lakes area is an overall water shed or drainage basin—one of the largest in the world—but is not a source of water. That is, it is not a provider of water, but a recipient of water from numerous rivers and drainage waters around it as the bottom map (below) shows. In fact, the lakes themselves contain about 5,500 cubic miles of water, covering a total area of 94,000 square miles, and are the largest system of fresh, surface water on Earth, containing roughly 21 percent of the world supply and 84 percent of North America's supply. These lakes are home to over 33 million people, and only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water.
The Great Lakes Water Shed or Draining Basin. Note that each lake, rather than being a source of water, is in fact fed by numerous rivers and waterways within its water shed, that is, as an example, the dark blue area around Lake Michigan feeds Lake Michigan—the drainage is from rivers and streams that flow into the Lake from this surrounding area. There are no fountains here. The sources, or “fountains” are much further to the north in Canada
There is obviously no question that this is a land of a lot of water—there are a number of rivers and tributaries connecting these lakes, with the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huran, where there is a steady flow of water between them, with the Niagara River connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, all of which flow downward through the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic Ocean.
Interestingly, though, the outflow from these great lakes is very small, less than 1 percent a year, in comparison with the total volume of water, which is just the opposite of what Mormon tells us.
As shown by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water in the Great Lakes and surrounding area is runoff from rain and rivers that flow down into the Great Lakes—there are no fountains in the area
Or, stated differently, this is not a land of fountains!
Many: “numerous, comprising a great number, a multitude” Thus, many waters means a multitude, a great number of individual waters.
Fountains: “a spring or source of water; the source or head of a stream; the source or origin, genesis or wellspring (a bountiful source of water).”
An upwelling fountain or spring is a source of water issuing from the earth, a fountainhead, or wellhead—a place where a spring comes out of the ground from groundwater at, or below, the local water table, below which the subsurface material is saturated with water, the aquifer
These “fountains” may be formed in any sort of rock or soil when geologic or hydrologic forces cut into the underground layers where water is in movement, which, in turn, discharges back onto the surface at the spring vent. The original source of this water, typically rains, can be many miles away, but the vent is where the “fountain” exists, which discharges the water, and forms pools, lakes and rivers—which Mormon called “many waters.”
Thus, any Land of Promise must have a “land of many waters,” within the northern extremity of its northern region (Land Northward), that contains such fountains, which are the origin of the “many waters” within the area. While many claim an area of "many waters" for their model, none show the “fountains” Mormon describes.
Large bodies of water, like ponds and lakes can be formed by fountains, i.e., upwelling or underwater springs that feed into a basin until it reaches its flow height and is then maintained in this manner. Top: This lake is being fed constantly from (yellow arrows) underground springs—Pruess Lake is a spring-fed lake in the arid Snake Valley of Utah; Bottom: If the volume of the spring is sufficient, it creates a noticeable movement (white arrow) on the surface
Before man began pumping water out of the aquifers in the ground, there was sufficient water fountains in numerous areas that no longer exist, or are at low levels today, and seldom seen except in unique areas like Florida. Evidently, in Mormon’s day, these were far more plentiful and were known and understood at least in the fact that they bubbled up and became the source of water, such as in ponds, lakes, and rivers.
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part XXVI,” for the continuation of this post and see where there is a place in the Western Hemisphere that meets Mormon’s description, in the land that matches all the other descriptions and scriptural references we have covered in this series)