Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zarahemla in Iowa? Part I

I have been traveling much of the past year and a half, most of which has been in the east and through the areas of the early Church development and historical sites. Just returning from my last trip this week, I decided to do a global search on this blog site to see if I had missed anything. To my surprise, I found a note written by Eric Checketts clear back in June of 2010, which I find I did not answer regarding his objection to my article about present day Zarahemla, across the Mississippi from Nauvoo, Illinois, was not the Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon.

So, asking forgiveness for such a delay and not knowing it was completely missed in the blog, I would like to answer it now. First, his note is shown below in total:

“Huh? I'm not sure that you've even put a dent in the assertion that Zarahemla was anciently located across the river from what is now Nauvoo. So Joseph Smith had already instructed the Saints to call the town 'Zarahemla' before the Lord instructed as much in D&C 125, so what? That's the entirety of your argument? Your comments seem directed at the work of Rod Meldrum, so you must be at least vaguely familiar with his research. Meldrum often points to the fact that JOSEPH KNEW about the Nephites and the Lamanites, and that he was intimately acquainted with their culture, customs, and their LOCATION. So, the way I see it, the fact that Joseph named the town 'Zarahemla' and then the Lord gave His own nod of approval for the name, only strengthens the argument that ancient Zarahemla was located in what is modern Iowa. It does actually matter where the Book of Mormon took place. But my biggest beef with your post here is that you speak with a tone that suggests total authority on the subject, while using one single argument - a very weak argument - that actually strengthens the opposite view. And finally, you use this weak argument to attack the character of a man who appears to be doing nothing less than searching for truth and right.”

It will probably be easiest to answer this item by item:

1. While it is true that an assertion was made by Mr. Meldrum that the ancient city of Zarahemla was located across the river from Nauvoo, it should be noted that nothing in the area suggests a huge city of antiquity. There are no remains in the area to equate in any way to the early Nephite capital which lasted from around 200 B.C. to 400 A.D. under Nephite control, and probably another 300 to 400 years before that under Mulekite control. So we are looking at a city some 900 to 1000 years old. This is the same city where Samuel the Lamanite stood upon the high ramparts while those below tried to shoot him with arrows, suggesting an outer wall of stone several feet high and certainly thick enough at the top for a man to stand. Such walls do not deteriorate and disappear. Nor should we think that a city with a stone wall about it would not have had stone buildings within. And as any archaeologist could tell you, huge stone walls and buildings made of stone anciently do not disappear—remnants of such would not only in existence today, but their very noticeable purpose would be clearly understood.

It should also be noted that the area around Montrose, Iowa, where Zarahemla of Joseph Smith’s time was located, was first settled in the 1780s by Quashquame, the Sauk Indian chief who established villages on both sides of the Mississippi River (present day Montrose and Nauvoo). It is interesting that in all of the contacts with Quashquame and his Sauk Indians, no mention is made of any time of ancient settlement there, no mention of the ruins of walls, buildings, etc., even though Quashquame was an intelligent man who, at one time, signed the treaty of 1804 as the leader of the delegation to St Louis that ceded lands in western Illinois and northeast Missouri to the U.S.

In addition, though Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Erastus Snow lived in this Montrose area only fifty some years after it was first settled by the Sauk, no mention in any of their writings shows any indication they found any ruins of walls and buildings representing a city the size and scope of ancient Book of Mormon Zarahemla.
In 1837, when Fort Des Moinse (#1) was built outside Montrose, there was no use of, or discovery of, rock or stone ruins to help build the fort. In fact, prior to 1780, the area of Montrose and Zarahemla was an open field showing no previous occupancy.

The area itself, part of where the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Southern Iowa Drift Plain meet, which is essentially the northward continuation of the fluvial sediments of the Mississippi River Delta along the river area, and the low-rolling hills covering most of southern Iowa. Two thousand years ago, this area of today’s Montrose and Zarahemla were in the wetlands stretching as far north as present day Fort Madison. This area also has the heaviest rainfall in the state, averaging 30-inches annually, and is considered a Pleistocene glacial landscape.

Archeology in the State of Iowa has not uncovered any major settlement areas, such as cities of great size, nor anything more than the type of Indian cultures found there when the Europeans first came into the area. As late as 3,000 years ago (1000 B.C.), during the Late Archaeic period, American Indians in Iowa began utilizing domesticated plants, and much later an increased dependence on agriculture. Not until around 900 A.D. did the culture in Iowa develop dependence on maize (corn) and begin to develop “nucleated” settlements; however, not until after the Europeans settled in the area did the earlier cultures develop into any semblance of sophisticated social complexes.

This can hardly be considered the background of the 1000-year history of Zarahemla in the Book of Mormon.

(See the next post, Zarahemla, Iowa? Part II, for more of the rationale behind dismissing Zarahemla in Iowa from being the Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon)

No comments:

Post a Comment