Friday, March 9, 2012

How Do We Read the Book of Mormon Geography? – Part II

According to Lynn and David Rosenvall, in placing The River Sidon, wrote:

“Located to the north of the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:30–31). The land of Nephi is positioned to the south of the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:28, 33–34). Mormon’s description leaves little question as to the river Sidon’s relative location within the center of the north south trending Book of Mormon lands. And this pivotal location accurately matches the position of the only river of significance within central Baja California—the Rio San Ignacio.”

The yellow arrows were added to Rosenvall’s map to point out the error of the map—the narrow strip of wilderness as indicated in the scripture runs east and west, not north and south as the map shows. According to Alma 22:27 the Land of Nephi:

“…which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore…”

In addition, this map shows that (1) is the location of the River Sidon, which flows mostly east and west on their map, and (2) is the location of their City of Zarahemla, which is basically to the north of their Sidon River—not the west of the river as the scriptures indicate in several places. According to another map, showing the head of the river Sidon and where it flows past Zarahemla, it, too, shows that Zarahemla is on the north of the river.

Then, when we look at the overall concept, Rosenvall has his River Sidon flowing from the north to the south (actually, to be accurate, it is from the northeast to the southwest. But the point is, he has his River Sidon flowing in the opposite direction of the scriptural account.

To try and justify his River Sidon’s course that does not match the scriptural text, and to confuse the issue, Rosenvall claims: “The Book of Mormon does not mention that the river Sidon has headwaters; it states in several places that it has a head, “the head of the river Sidon.” In our discussion of the features of the river Sidon, we explain the difference between a “head” of a river as its source and the “headwaters” of a river as a source.”

Rosenvall uses the contemporary Oxford American Dictionary for his definitions, but as has been pointed out in numerous posts here, a current dictionary of current words and meanings has no value in understanding the words Joseph Smith knew and used in 1829 in translating the plates. Consequently, the only dictionary of any value is the 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language” by Noah Webster.

Even so, the modern terminology of “head” and “headwaters” seem quite clear. From the 14th century onward, the term “head” meant the “source of a river or stream” and sometimes used in the form “fountainhead” which means the “fountain or spring that is the head of a stream.” The contemporary definition of “head of a river” in all dictionaries used today, is defined as “the source or headwaters of a river or stream is the place from which the water in the river or stream originates.” The United States 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."

Thus, the “head of a river” or the “headwaters of a river” is defined as the furthest point from the mouth, no matter what branch of the main river is considered. The Army Corps of Engineers establishes the point where headwaters begin as that point on the stream where a flow of five cubic feet per second is equaled or exceeded 50% of the time. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “Headwaters are the source of a river or stream, the literal waters which feed the river” and “a tributary stream of a river close to or forming part of its source: these paths follow rivers right up into their headwaters.”

As stated in an earlier post, the 1828 definition of the language known to Joseph Smith was: “the principal source of a stream” and “the part most remote from the mouth or opening into the sea.”

In addition, Rosenvall makes a point that the word “headwaters” does not appear in the Book of Mormon. The reason for this might be that in 1828, according to the best known American dictionary of the day, the word “headwaters” does not even appear, suggesting that the word was not in use at that time. However, as stated above, the word “head” of a stream or river, was in use since the 14th century, and was the term known to Joseph Smith in 1829.

Thus we might conclude that the word “head of the river Sidon” was the correct word for Joseph Smith to use in his language in 1829, and not “headwaters.”

While Rosenvall likes to make some claims that the head of a river is different form the headwaters of a river, the point is that both (even if you want to claim them different) were in the south wilderness. There is never a mention of the Sidon River to the north of Zarahemla, nor beyond the borders to the north in the Wilderness of Hermounts, the location he claims for the headwaters of the Sidon River. Therefore, no play on words is going to change the scriptural record that shows the river Sidon commencing, beginning, having its source, within the narrow strip of wilderness separating the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, and with the city of Zarahemla to the north of this wilderness, is there any question that the river flowed north?

Thus, with the river Sidon in the south wilderness, which ran from the east sea to the west sea and separated the Land of Nephi (to the south) from the Land of Zarahemla (to the north), as Mormon states (Alma 22:27), and we know that the river Sidon flows through the Land of Zarahemla, which is to the north, it stands to reason then that the river Sidon flowed northward.

No comments:

Post a Comment