Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Inaccurate Theories Opposite of the Scriptural Record

Most theories on the location of the Land of Promise are inconsistent with the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, yet those various theories are defended vociferously by their adherents. As an example, in the case of the Heartland or Great Lakes theories, there are at least eight specific models or writers who adamantly defend those theories: Duane R. Aston, Delbert W. Curtis, Edwin G. Goble, Paul Hedengren, Wayne N. May, Rodney Meldrum, Bruce H. Porter, and Phyllis Carol Olive. All of these authors stretch the credibility of their ideas beyond the clear and simple language and understanding of the geography of the scriptural record as left to us specifically by Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni.

Theories should be based not on an idea or belief simply because it seems to make sense, or matches a map, but it needs to be compared to the scriptural record—a criteria that has precedence over all others.

Red Arrows indicate “between” the seas; and the dotted circle is the land “inbetween” the seas that this map suggests

Take the first name on the list, Duane R. Aston, who tries to arrange the five Great Lakes, and the numerous finger lakes, into four seas. First of all, the scriptural record of four seas is stated in Helaman, where the North, South, East and West Seas are mentioned. He writes regarding the expansion of the Nephies in his time: “they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8, emphasis added).

Note that Helaman did not say “around the sea south and the sea north, or to the sea west and to the sea east,” but “from the sea south to the sea north,” and “from the sea west to the sea east.” Keep in mind that the word “from” is a function word indicating “a starting point,” such as “from a distant place,” “from this place, or from that place.” The word “to” means “towards a place; opposed to from.”

Thus, from the sea east to the sea west means that these two seas are on the opposite end of a line, as in “from sea to shining sea,” referring to this land (United States) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, which covers all the land in between. Consequently, when Helaman boxes in the east-west and north-south directions for the Land of Promise, he is referring to all the land in between. Now, having said that, we can see that Helaman is referring to the expansion and location of the Nephites, from the north to the south seas, from the west to the east seas, meaning all the land inbetween was the extent of the Nephite people.

North American theorists’ map showing the vast majority of the Land of Promise NOT between the four seas as Helaman stated

Thus, Heartland and Great Lakes theorists’ map models showing the four seas (lakes) in the north, and much of the Land of Promise south of there are not consistent with Helaman’s words or Mormon’s abridgement. Stated differently, by 46 BC, the Nephites had spread from the South or Sea South, to the Sea North, beyond the Land Northward; and from the West Sea to the East Sea—in other words, the Land of Promise contained Lehi’s descendants throughout all the land promised to Lehi.

Again, Helaman states quite clearly that the Nephites: “did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8, emphasis added). In this, Helaman tells us that the entire Land of Promise was between these four seas. Also that the growth of the Nphites was no idle comment, but an explanation about how much of the land the Nephites had covered in their growth and expansion, connected to the overall comment on the growth of the Nephite Nation in the Land of Promise.

To make sure his future readers understood the growth of the Nephites and how much they had spread, he states: “That they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward” obviously meaning the entire Land of Promise, not just one portion of it. He tells us they spread from “sea to sea,” just as we in the United States say “from sea to shining sea,” referring to the entire land.

Yellow Arrows show Nephite movement until they covered the face of the land from sea to sea


At the time of this great expansion, the Nephites had already spread throughout the Land Southward, a land that was completely surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land that connected the Land Southward to the Land Northward (Alma 22:32). Thus the children of Lehi had occupied the entire Land Southward.

So, as they now expanded into the Land Northward, and over a short period of time, had spread throughout that land as well. Helaman tells us they covered both the Land Southward and the Land Northward, from sea to shining sea, or more accurately “from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.”

However, somehow that clear and simple understanding is lost on Aston and many other theorists, who try to surround a portion of the Nephite nation in numerous seas that are neither connected, nor form any semblance of a surrounding water course, such as an island would be surrounded, like Jacob describes in 2 Nephi 10:20, that the Nephites were on an island.

Or as Mormon states in an insertion into his abridgement when he says, “and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). Earlier he states that the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Nephi from the Land of Zarahemla ran from the sea east to the sea west.

These are all clearly stated points in the scriptural record, yet ignored or down-played by the Heartland and Great Lakes theorists because they do not agree with their models and theories.

The Grijalva and the Usamacinla rivers considered the Sidon River by Mesoamericanists


Then there are the Mesoamerican theorists who claim the Grijalva River or the Usamacinla River in Southern Mexico is the Land of Promise Sidon River. It is interesting, that while both rivers flow basically from south to north on a map, that is not true in their Land of Promise map. Based on the Mesoamerican theorist change in directions of their Land of Promise, where they claim cardinal north is really west and cardinal south is really east, making these two rivers on their map and therefore in their Land of Promise flow east to west.

As for North American theorists, they claim the Sidon River flows north to south so it mathes their Sidon River, which Mississippi River. However, that is not what is in the scriptural record.

Phyllis Carol Olive claims that the Sidon River is the Buffalo Creek, in New York, which has three tributaries: Cayuga Creek 5 miles from its mouth at Buffalo),  Buffalo Creek, and Cazenovia Creek—following their confluences, the creek is called a river. The Buffalo River drains a 447-square-mile watershed in Western New York state, emptying into the eastern end of Lake Erie at the City of Buffalo.

Four different areas of the Buffalo Creek/River in New York—certainly no match of the Sidon River of the scriptural record


However, the final 20 miles (about 60%) of this river flows east to west into Lake Erie, not south to north. For most of the distance of this creek/river, it is little more than a shallow creek (sometimes referred to as a brook), certainly, not a current strong enough to carry bodies down river to the sea since most of it is just ankle deep, some parts more shallow that that.

However, the Sidon River in the Land of Promise flows south to north. We know that from Mormon’s comments about the location of the city of Manti, which is south of the Land of Zarahemla, and near the head (source) of the Sidon River, "away up beyond" the land of Manti. That puts it on a higher altitude than either Manti or Zarahemla, which would result in a northward flow of the river between Zarahemla and Manti, since Manti is south of Zarahemla in the Narrow Strip of Wilderness (South Wilderness), and if the source of the river is above Manti and flows to Zarahemla, the direction of flow would be northward (from south to north), for Zarahemla was north of the land of Manti.

There are numerous descriptions of the Sidon River in the Land of Zarahemla, including the fact that the “river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15), and “as they were crossing the river Sidon (Alma 2:27). Also is the description of Manti in the South Wilderness: “Alma inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And Alma returned and said unto them: Behold, the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. And behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon, and there the Lord will deliver unto thee thy brethren who have been taken captive by the Lamanites” (Alma 16:6).  And also: “Zoram and his sons crossed over the river Sidon, with their armies, and marched away beyond the borders of Manti into the south wilderness, which was on the east side of the river Sidon” (Alma 16:7, emphasis added). Thus, the Sidon River has to flow south to north, yet this is ignored by North American theorists.

It is always a matter of interest to see how often theorists neglect simple comments and descriptions in the scriptural record in order to defend their opinions and beliefs. Certainly this is a disservice to the Church and to those who diligently search the Book of Mormon.

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