Monday, May 28, 2012

Were There Two Sidon Rivers? Part I

One Theorists claims that there were two River Sidons. He writes: “The River Sidon had two forks which ran along each side of the City of Zarahemla.This, he claims, is based on two scriptures—Alma 6:7 for the Eastern Fork, and Alma 8:1, 3) for the Western Fork.

Alma 6:7 states: “And now it came to pass that when Alma had made these regulations he departed from them yea from the church which was in the city of Zarahemla and went over upon the east of the River Sidon into the valley of Gideon."

Now this Theorist adds: “And now it came to pass that Alma...returned to his own house at Zarahemla…Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek on the West of the River Sidon (Alma 8:1,3). The way he writes this, it sounds like these are two immediate, simultaneous events, which is entirely misleading, since these two events (verse 1 and verse 3) are not immediate.

To better understand this, let us read the entire scriptures involved:

Alma 8:1 states: " And now it came to pass that Alma returned from the land of Gideon, after having taught the people of Gideon many things which cannot be written, having established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla, yea, he returned to his own house at Zarahemla to rest himself from the labors which he had performed."

Alma 8:2 (which this Theorists conveniently skips over) states: “And thus ended the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi."

Then, in the following verse, this Theorists leaves out the beginning of the verse, which reads in total:

Alma 8:3 states: “And it came to pass in the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness."

Stated different, Alma, after preaching in the Valley of Gideon (chapter 7), which is on the east side of the River Sidon (6:7 as stated above), he returns to his home in Zarahemla “to rest himself from the labors which he had performed” (Alma 8:1). Then Mormon’s abridgement states that the Ninth Year of the Judges ended. Then Mormon begins verse 3 with the statement: “And it came to pass in the commencement of the tenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi,” which tells us there was a time break between verse 1 and verse 3--i.e., the end of one year and the start of another. How long that time break was, and what Alma did during the time break, is not recorded. He could have been out and around in the days, weeks, months between the end of the Ninth Year and the Commencement of the Tenth Year. 

Alma may have been involved in mundane events which Mormon chose to skip over in his abridgement. We do not know at what point in the Ninth Year Alma returned to his home to rest up—certainly there was a space of time involved since Mormon states it so. In between these events, Alma may have gone back to Gideon to see how his instructions were carried out. He may have started out to the east and retraced his steps to cross back over to the west. We simply do not know what, if anything, occurred between the close of one year and the beginning of the next. After all, Mormon was abridging Alma's record and had to choose what to include and what to leave out.

The preaching of Alma and Amulek make up an important portion of the Book of Alma

It should be kept in mind that the Book of Alma is the longest book in the scriptural record, consisting of sixty-three chapters. The first four chapters deal with some rebellions of the Nehors and the Amlicites. At the end of chapter four, Alma realizes that the affairs of the Church requires his entire concentration and resigns from his political office (chief judge and governor of the land) and concerns himself with missionary travels in Chapters five through sixteen, taking his message of the atonement of Christ, overcoming the natural man, retaining conversion, and the resurrection of all men. With such a bulk of material, Mormon obviously had to cut out writings about these travels to concentrate on the main messages of Christ.

In addition, the meaning of “commencement” has more than one understanding: one of the meanings of “commence” is “beginning or introduction.” Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, states the meaning of “commence” is “beginning, to originate, to enter upon. The meaning of commencement is “beginning, rise, origin, first existence.” Thus, in addition, to there being a time break between these two events, which might lead us to believe Alma was not still in Zarahemla when the Tenth year began, but possibly visiting, preaching, officiating, or organizing in his calling as the leader and high Priest of the Church, the statement might mean that Alma, being elsewhere, commenced the Tenth Year by leaving where he was and going over into the Land of Melek, which was an event Mormon thought important to mention.

The point is, we do not know for certain where Alma was when the Tenth Year began, nor do we know for certain where he was at the end of the Ninth Year. We only know that after Alma preached in the Valley of Gideon, he returned home to Zarahemla to rest.

(See the next post, “Were There Two Sidon Rivers? Part II,” for more on this idea of there being two Sidon Rivers, though there is no mention of a fork in the river or any other indication other than the scripture in Alma 8:1-3). 

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