Monday, February 19, 2018

Is There a Difference?

Since the River Sidon is a landmark of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise that many theorists write about, perhaps we should clarify a point of discussion before getting further into the subject, and that is the misunderstanding between the descriptive words used at times to describe a river, such as head of a river or headwaters of a river or the confluence or tributary of a river, as used by theorists to try and describe the river Sidon in a way that it matches their belief and location of the Nephite river. 
     First of all, it should be noted that Mormon used only one description to describe the river and we need to understand what the word means as opposed to other words bandied about by theorists. Mormon tells us: “…by the head of the river Sidon…” (Alma 22:27)
    So what is the “head” of a river?
    A head is: “The source or headwaters of a river or stream is the furthest place in that river or stream from its estuary or confluence with another river, as measured along the course of the river.” In 1828, the word “head” when associated with a river, meant “its source,” as in “to originate,” “to spring.”
The yellow circle on each photo shows the area of the estuary of that river—all of these rivers (yellow arrow) flow into the sea through the circled estuary

An estuary is “a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.”
    A confluence is “the point where a tributary joins a larger river, called the main stem, or where two streams meet to become the source of a river of a new name, such as the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania creating the Ohio River. A confluence is also known as a conflux.”
The confluence of a river—the main river (the one that contains its name before and after the joining) is joined or fed by a secondary river—where they join is called the confluence

A tributary is: “is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. It is also known as an affluent.
    A stem is: “the main river. The Mississippi is a main river, called the stem of the water system that flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico with several tributaries joining it along the way.”
This puddle is the source of the Yellow River in China, called “All of China’s sorrow arises from this puddle”

A source or head is: “the headwaters of a river. That is, where the river or stream begins. It is the furthest place in that river or stream from its estuary or confluence with another river, as measured along the course of the river.” In fact, the “U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) states that a river's "length may be considered to be the distance from the mouth to the most distant headwater source (irrespective of stream name), or from the mouth to the headwaters of the stream commonly identified as the source stream.” It should also be noted that in 1828, the word “headwaters” was not used and is not listed in the dictionary—the word “head” was the preferred word at that time.
    A watershed is: “the area of land that contains a common set of streams and rivers that all drain into a single larger body of water, such as a larger river, a lake or an ocean. For example, the Mississippi River watershed is an enormous watershed.”
Now, having looked at head and headwaters as both meaning the “source” of a river or stream, we need to understand arguments about the use of “head” by Mormon and “headwaters” by a theorist, when both referring to the “source” or beginning of a river or stream, would be correct.
    Since one theorist wrote: “Since Sorenson always writes ‘headwaters’ instead of ‘head,’ so okay. Let's say, for sake of argument, that the "head of Sidon" is the same as "headwaters of Sidon." Now let's look at how the term was used in Joseph's Smith's day,” we should recognize we are being set up with a strawman argument, since both words are used today to mean the same thing, and in Joseph Smith’s day, the word “headwaters” was not a word in use, having been in use in 1530s as a word meaning “head of a stream” but then fell into disuse until 1792 when found in descriptions of Kentucky. Assuming the modern word is a re-formation of the original, the word headwater would mean “origin of a river,” as in “head,” a noun meaning “origin of a river” plus “water” also as a noun.
    Evidently, when Noah Webster compiled his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, he felt this was not a word in use in New England, which can only be attributed to the meaning of “the beginning and upper part of a stream, usually used in plural.”
The head or source of the River is in the foothills as shown, the river flows toward the viewer, and all these various branches of water are called “headstreams,” i.e., streams that lead to the headwaters or source

We should note that the word “headwaters” is not to be confused with the term “headstreams” which is described as “the set of streams that feed into the river’s beginning,” and can either be used for a headwater stream, i.e., one of the streams that leads into a headwaters or is the headwater stream,” i.e., the source or one of the sources of a river. However, for those who like to confuse matters by claiming the term “headwaters” was used in 1828 America to mean what “headstreams” meant in England, should consider that neither word “headwaters” or “headstreams” were words used in common usage in the United States in 1829 when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.
    Webster goes on to write: “We call the water of a spring, where it issues from the earth, the source of the stream or rivulet proceeding from it. We say also that springs have their sources in subterranean ponds, lakes or collections of water. We say also that a large river has its source in a lake. For example, the St. Lawrence has its source in the great lakes of America.”
    Thus, Webster’s 1828 definitions provide us with “head of a river” meaning with the definition of “source of a river” as “The principal source of a stream; as the head of the Nile,” “to originate,” “to have its source, as a river,“ “the part most remote from the mouth or opening into the sea.” Thus the word Mormon used was correctly translated by Joseph Smith as “head.” In this sense, then, the “head of Sidon” is the same as saying the “source of Sidon,” since the word “source,” meant in 1828: “The spring or fountain from which a stream of water proceeds,”
As already mentioned, in 1828, the word “head” when associated with a river meant the same thing as “headwaters” or more accurately, the “source” or beginning of a river. Thus, when Mormon wrote: “Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah” (Alma 56:25), which tells us that the Lamanites did not dare “march down against the city of Zarahemla” or neither did they dare “cross the head of Sidon” and head over toward the city of Nephihah. At this point, that is at the head or source of the Sidon, it was easily marched across by an army or military force, its beginning small and in its beginning stages, possibly little more than a small stream.
    Consequently, it is correct to use the terms “head of a river” “headwaters of a river” and “source of a river” as all meaning the same thing. It is a shame that theorists, trying to prove their personal views, will so misconstruct the meaning of language known in 1829 New England in order to try and substantiate their models. We need to keep in mind the meaning of the language Joseph Smith knew and the meaning of the language used by Mormon in his abridgement before we start making such erroneous claims.

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