Friday, November 17, 2017

Are These the Waters of Mormon?

It has never been our nature here to speculate on locations of such fleeting areas as rivers, lakes, cities where limited information in the scriptural record does not provide sufficient descriptive information to provide more than just an educated guess. However, in regard to this particular area, the Waters of Mormon, has provided sufficient information after lengthy study to allow us to suggest at least a strong possibility. 
   Though we have tried every possibility to disprove this possible location, it is interesting that a turn of events worked its way into our grasp with answers falling into place almost of their own accord, and the possibility seems sufficiently strong to offer our opinion on this. After all, there just might be a chance to pinpoint the Waters of Mormon in the Peruvian landscape outside Cuzco, the City of Nephi.
“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light... if this be the desire of your heart, what have ye against being baptized in the name of the Lord?” (Mosiah 18:8, 10)
First of all, we know very little about the Waters of Mormon, and typically not enough to say this is where the Waters of Mormon were located; however, what we do know is quite consistent with an area in south-central Peru, a little north of Cuzco.
    In suggesting these might be the Waters of Mormon, we need to review what is known about those waters:
1. In the borders of the land (Alma 5:3)
2. In a land called Mormon (Alma 5:3)
3. The waters were so configured, that a large number of baptisms took place there in a short time (Mosiah 18:16; Alma 5:3)
4. It had a fountain of pure water (Mosiah 18:5)
5. There was a thicket of small trees near the water (Mosiah 18:5)
6. The natural cover of the thicket was sufficient for Alma to hide in during the day from searches by the king’s guard (Mosiah 18:5)
7. The overall area was called Mormon, a name given it by the king (Mosiah 18:4)
8. It was located in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, with wild beasts (Mormon 18:4)
9. The waters were by a forest, called the forest of Mormon
10. The area was large enough to sustain 450 people in the final days before they left.
    So the area had a large enough pool or lake to be named, a small enough area of water fed by a fountain of pure water (probably meaning mountain water from a spring) that was separate enough for the water not to be mixed or influenced by the lake water; had a small stand of trees near where the baptisms took place, plus a forest of some size in which 450 people could hide and live.
    It also had to be a place where this number of people could sustain themselves, either through hunting or some type of planted groves; where people could move in an out without drawing attention to themselves; where their movements were well enough masked by undergrowth that when the king’s army searched for them, there was no trace of them.
    Now, since we know what we are looking for, we also have to consider that this area existed prior to the destruction signaled by the crucifixion, where mountains tumbled to the ground, and flat areas rose into mountains, whose height was great. If the lake or waters survived, they might not look exactly like what they had before, on the other hand, when Mormon introduced himself around 25 A.D., he does so by saying, “I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people…” (3 Nephi 5:12), which sounds like the area of Mormon was still in existence and had not changed much, if at all. Still, Mormon’s father was also called Mormon (Mormon 1:5), so we don’t know if he was named after his father, or both of them named after the land.
    According to Mormon’s words, the people Alma baptized, assembled together as often as it was in their power to do so (Mosiah 18:25), suggesting they not only traveled from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon to be preached to by Alma and then baptized, by him afterward, as often as they could manage it, they traveled there to assemble together and hear more about God, for all of this was done in the land of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, and the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30). And by the time the king discovered them so meeting and sent his army, they numbered 450 people (Mosiah 18:35).
    So has been discussed in earlier articles on this subject, the distance from the City of Nephi to the Waters of Mormon should have been within a one to two-day journey—for they did take their tents and overnight stays are evident (Mosiah 18:34).
    Typically, historians have placed this area to either the north or northwest of the City of Nephi. While we have no confirmation of this in the scriptural record, we have found a lake to the north of Cuzco, the City of Nephi. That lake is 18 miles distance (shorter as the crow flies), which means it would take about a day and a half to travel there over the type of mountainous terrain existing in the area. It might also be assumed that the converts would have left at night when unobserved, and likely pitched their tents when a few hours from the city, for travel over uneven ground at night is very difficult, especially with women and children.
Puray Lake, with the yellow arrows showing the lengthy forest stretching out for miles along the lake front, and impassable mountains beyond low-lying hills. It is a haven for birds much of the year

Consequently, about a day or day and a half journey north of the City of Nephi in the Sacred Valley of Peru, lies a lake at 13°25’48.98" S  71°59’58.30" W, called Puray Lake (Laguna Piuray), at an elevation of 12,877 feet, about 8 miles southeast of Chincero.
    This is a forested area with sparsely-covered, low lying hills, and barren mountains jutting up behind. Between the hills and the lake is a long, wide forest running the entire length of the water. To the northeast along the lake shore, the forests have long been removed and terraced planting installed, as well as along the east shore and hills as well.
    Within the forest are several waterways, mostly fed by the Puray Falls, where fountains of pure water exist higher up and spill over into the pools deep in the forest completely secluded from exterior view.
    Lake Puray is 18 miles to the north of Cuzco deep in the Sacred Valley, surrounded by the Andes on three sides, with a large forest between the lake and the mountains in which are found the Puray Falls, and perfect pools of water for baptizing. The Falls flow more heavily in the winter, and less in the summer, providing a perfect, pleasant pool collection where baptisms could easily be conducted. Today, this area is used as a swimming pool, where kids jump off the rocks above into the deeper end of the pool. However, most of the pool is about waist-high in depth, with river rock on the bottom and allow for easy walking in and out.
Left: Puray Falls back from the lake and within the forest of trees drops into a pool of pure water and provides a perfect place for baptism; Right: Today this area is used as a local swimming hole

This is a very isolated region, even today a couple of small villages with only a couple of dozen families live around the lake, with Chincera about eight miles away. Much of these highlands are fed by natural spring water.
Isolated Lake Puray showing the forest around it and how difficult it would have been for Noah’s army to find people hiding there
While this area may not be the Waters of Mormon, given the location of the City of Nephi and the land of Shilom, it fits in with the scriptural record descriptions, complete with being in the borders of the Land of Nephi and Shilom, a perfect location for baptisms in an isolated pool of fresh, pure water, where thickets of small trees grow nearby—new growth of the forest beside the area, and the natural cover would have provided security for more than four hundred people.
The boulder-rimmed pool of pure water around Puray Falls, which would have been ideal for baptism, containing pure water from the falls, and before people began swimming in it, you could have drunk this mountain water without hesitation

Again, while this is all assumptive and we are not suggesting this is definitely the area of the Waters of Mormon, it certainly meets the requirements of the location specified, though briefly, in the scriptural account.

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