Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Zarahemla in Iowa? Part II

Continuing with Eric Checketts comment on an earlier blog about present-day Zarahemla in Iowa, the following covers his points of disagreement:

He wrote in part: “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.”
I began answering that in the last post, in pointing out that no early development in the Montrose-Zarahemla area has ever been found in Iowa to suggest a city the size of ancient Zarahemla. In addition, the following points out the differences in the River Sidon and the Mississippi River.

In Alma, we learn that while the Nephite army was following the Amlicites, “in the land of Minon above the land of Zarahemla, in the course [line or direction] of the land of Nephi, we saw a numerous host of the Lamanites,” whom the Amlicites joined (Alma 2:24). Fearful that the Lamanites would reach Zarahemla before them, the Nephite army “took their tents and departed out of the valley of Gideon toward their city, which was the city of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:26).

As the army and the people of the land fleeing before the Lamanite-Amlicite army crossed the River Sidon from east to west (Alma 2:27), a battle took place in which the Nephites were strengthened by the Lord (Alma 2:28) and a great battle took place as they were crossing the River Sidon (Alma 2:34). When all had crossed over the River Sidon and onto the west bank, the Lamanites and Amlicites, being in number so numerous that they could not be numbered began to flee (Alma 2:35) to the Wilderness of Hermounts, to the north and west of Zarahemla and to the west of the River Sidon.
Now, since so many thousands of both armies had crossed over the river near Zarahemla, one might want to consider the size of that river and whether or not an army of men on foot could have waded across.

The Mississippi River around Zarahemla, Iowa, is about a mile and a half wide, is swiftly flowing and measures at nine-foot in depth. It would be very difficult for an army on foot to have forded this area since the water would be about three feet deep over an average man’s head. To consider the river might have been lower in 87 B.C. is without merit, since one might say it could have been deeper as well—we simply have no data on the river two thousand years ago, and would probably say it was deeper before man began to damn it, drain from it, create locks in it, etc., for the benefit of shipping.

As has been pointed out in numerous earlier blogs, the Sidon River flowed south to north; however, the Mississippi obviously flows north to south.

The Mississippi River flows directly past present day Zarahemla, with the actual settlement directly on the bank of the river; however, there is no indication in the scriptural record that Zarahemla was directly on the banks of the Sidon River, or even very close, and it might even be considered some distance away since when the Lamanite army reached the west bank (the side on which Zarahemla was located) they fled to the northwest toward the wilderness of Hermounts. However, we only know that the Sidon River was to the east of the city of Zarahemla.

Another, most important point about the location of the city of Zarahemla, is that it was located down from the Land of Nephi, and that the Sidon River had its head or headwaters in those mountains south of Zarahemla, and that an obvious strip of wilderness separated the two lands creating a natural barrier. The problem with Zarahemla, Iowa, there is no such topography to the south of that area, either in Iowa, Missouri or Illinois. The area is basically rich farmland that was sought by both Iowa and Missouri and resulted in the so-called “Honey War” and eventually caused the United States Supreme Court to decide the exact boundary of the two states, and eventually referred to as the Missouri Compromise.

To the south of this area is the Des Moines River, and south of that is Clark County, a basically flat land covering approximately 512 square miles along the western shore of the Mississippi River.

In no way does any of this topography even come close to Mormon’s description and the narrative of the Book of Mormon describing Zarahemla and the land to the south.

(See the next post, Zarahemla, Iowa? Part III, for more on Eric Checketts article disagreeing with an earlier blog about Zarahemla, Iowa, not being the location of the Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon)

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