Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Head, Source, or Headwaters of the Sidon – Part III

Continuing with the understanding of how rivers and how the Mississippi River is not the Sidon River, although Rodney L. Meldrum’s claims it to be in his Heartland Model.
    Though we have shown in the previous two articles how inaccurate is Meldrum’s theory of the “head” of the Sidon River (or Mississippi River), he keeps at it, citing another example that he claims proves his point. As he states about the two different usages of the word “head” which he claims can be interchangeable, he says: “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.” 
Alma 56: Yellow dots: Cities Nephites controlled; Green dots: Cities Lamanites controlled; Red dotted arrows: The three routes that the Lamanites dare not take; White dotted arrow: Helaman leads his small force toward then past the city of Antiparah; Green dotted arrow: Antipus with his army follows Helaman’s route a little later [map for illustrative purposes only]

It is understandable that the Lamanite army would be afraid to battle the Nephite army, or go against the Nephite capital city Zarahemla, and in so doing, pass by Judea where Antipus and Helaman had 10,000 warriors. But Meldrum asks the question: 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.”
    However, the problem with this thinking is that it does not agree with what Mormon, in his abridgement, clearly tells us. The reason the Lamanites “durst not cross the head of the Sidon,”—and it had nothing to do with fear or concern about crossing a river—was it brought the Lamanites in closer contact with the superior Nephite armies that outnumbered them. What needs to be done when Meldrum or other theorists begin citing scripture without providing the wordage, as in this particular case in Alma, is to check it out for one’s self.
    In this case, an epistle (letter or report) from Helaman who was dealing with the Lamanites in the “The Land of Manti, or the city of Manti, and the city of Zeezrom, and the city of Cumeni, and the city of Antiparah” (Alma 56:14), which sites the Lamanites occupied, when Helaman and the stripling (converted Lamanite) warriors arrived in the city of Judea close to these captured cities, and found Antipus and his men fortifying the city (Alma 56:15). By the following year Helaman and Antipus had “prepared our city and ourselves for defense” (Alma 56:20) and “were desirous that the Lamanites should come upon us; for we were not desirous to make an attack upon them in their strongholds” (Alma 56:21).
    Now, Helaman and Antipus had placed spies to watch the Lamanites, for if the Lamanites got past Judea and the Nephite army in the night or unawares, the Nephite cities to the north, which were not as well defended as Judea, Helaman and Antipus feared they would fall to the Lamanites (Alma 56:23).
    Now we come to Meldrum’s cited verses:
    “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” (Alma 56:24-25).
It is not difficult to see the problem the Lamanties faced in trying to move down into the Land of Zarahemla—their path was blocked due north by a main army at Zarahemla; Judea to the center, blocked by Helaman and Antipus 10,000 warriors, and by the city of Nephihah with access to a major army of four major cities along the coast [map for illustrative purposes only]

As can be seen, the Lamanites were fearful of encountering a Nephite army that was “sufficiently strong and they should fall.” Thus, the Lamanites could not leave their captured cities to march northward and attack the weaker Nephite cities because the Nephite armies of Helaman and Antipus blocked the way, as did the routes past Zarahemla (west) and Nephihah (east). Thus, “they [Lamanites] durst not pass by us [Helaman and Antipus’ armies] neither durst they [Lamanites] with a part [of their force] lest they [Lamanites] should not be sufficiently strong and they [Lamanites] should fall [be defeated by the Nephite armies].”
    The cited scripture goes on: “Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah.” In these two cited verses, Helaman is stating the predicament with which the Lamanite forces, protected within their captured cities, were faced. No matter what avenue they took, they were fearful of encountering a larger Nephite force that would defeat their current forces that could be mustered if they left their captured cities.
    Thus, an even more simple, and far more accurate, answer to the Lamanites not wanting to cross the head of the Sidon was the fear of exposing themselves to larger Nephite forces that could defeat them. Meldrum’s cited verses have nothing to do with fear of crossing the head of the river, or of there being two rivers to ford, etc. Besides, the heads of rivers are typically narrow and shallow streams that would not be a  hindrance to crossing, especially for warriors.
    The importance and responsibility of any reader, following or trying to understand any theorist’s ideas, locations, models, explanations, etc., is to check out their cited scriptural references, and read before and after and put the statements in context. When doing that with Meldrum, his arguments or points of view fall apart as anywhere from just being wrong, to downright ridiculous.
    Now, keep in mind that the entire purpose of Meldrum injecting these cited scriptures, is to validate his overall point, i.e., that the word “head” in the scriptural record is ambiguous and can mean different things. In fact, he concludes this line of thought with: “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.”
For anyone who knows anything at all about rivers, the simple fact is that an inflowing confluence (tributary) ends at the confluence (its mouth); and an outflowing confluence (distributary) begins at the confluence (head)—but that neither effect the stem or main river

Like most theorists when the scriptural record does not say what they are claiming it says, or what they want it to say, Meldrum tells us we need to speculate on the meaning of the word “head” as used by Mormon in his description of the Sidon River. However, no speculation is warranted. There are not two definitions of “the head of a river.” A river’s head is its source or beginning, and its mouth is its termination or end. Any river joining another either as a tributary or a distributary tells us whether that second river has its mouth (ending, like the Ohio River) or its head (beginning, like the Atchafalaya River), does not change the source and mouth of the stem or main river, in this case the Mississippi, no matter how much Meldrum wants it to or claims it does.
    So, lest we forget, Meldrum’s two definitions have to do with what is meant by “the head of the river Sidon.” However, what Meldrum and many theorists forget to do, or deliberately avoid doing, is to take the use of a word in its context. As an example, let’s take two normal words: “drive” and “write.” Most people would think they know what these two words mean; however, without a context, one might not find it so easy to describe.
    Drive: “I drive my Lamborghini,” “I drive my golf ball,” “I drive the campaign,” “I drive the agenda,” and “I drive the point.” Without a context, the phrase “I drive—“ carries no significance. It is the context of the use of the word that causes the word to be understood. Such as “I drive an SUV,” “I drive a tractor,” “I drive a lawn mower,” “I drive a submarine.”
    In addition, one could also say, “I drove home,” but that might not be significant if more is intended, such as “I drove home in my car,” “I drove home the winning run,” “I drove home the nail head,” “I drove home a wedge between them,” “I drove home my point in the meeting.”
    Or, take the word “Write”: “You write it,” means what? “Write a letter,” “Write a book,” “Write an apology,” “Write a law,” “Write graffiti.”
    It is the context in which the word is used that tells us what the speaker or writer meant.
(See the next post, “The Head, Source, or Headwaters of the Sidon – Part IV,” to continue with the understanding of how rivers are categorized with “head,” “tributary,” “distributary,” “confluence,” and “mouth”)

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