Saturday, October 27, 2018

Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part I

When those who write, talk about or discuss the Book of Mormon geographical setting and their Land of Promise location and model, stray from the scriptural record to make their points, they are in deep water—and as time goes on and factual challenges based on the scriptural record arise, they move further away from Mormon’s descriptions in order to defend their erroneous, but believed scenario, and end up floundering more and more. This is generally the case when people embark on opinions or points of view that are not well founded in the facts of the scriptural record.
    Take Rod L. Meldrum the Heartland Theorist guru of late who wants to place the Land of Promise in North America, along the Mississippi River region, the Great Plains, and even to the Great Lakes. This has led Meldrum to claim that the Sidon River of the scriptural record being the Mississippi River that divides the Great Plains.
    Now the Mississippi flows from Minnesota in the north to the river’s delta and the Gulf of Mexico in the south, a distance of some 2,320 miles, with its length increasing or decreasing as deposition or erosion occurs at its delta, or as meanders are created or cutoff. 
Coupling the Great Plains with the High Plains, Great Basin, Coastal Plains and Central Lowlands, the area of land involved in more than 40% of the continental United States—all of which is extremely flat where no mountain ranges or peaks shoot up in the skyline, “whose height is great.” Most of this makes up the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri drainage basins

The river crosses through ten states, and with its many tributaries, as the Mississippi watershed drains all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains, and between southern Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.
    Thanks to the Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi River that used to be about one-mile-wide at its widest, is now flowing as a river two miles wide at the widest navigable point at Lake Pepin, about fifty miles south of Minneapolis, between Hager City and Reads Landing where it is the dividing border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
    While Meldrum, and other Heartland theorists, seem not to give any credence to Mormon’s description of the land around the Sidon, in order for one to evaluate such a claim, knowing what the land around it was like becomes critically important. As an example, Mormon gives us two major understandings of this land around the Sidon River where it flows past the Land of Zarahemla.
Suggested map showing the eastern portion of the Land of Promise along the Sea East where the Narrow Strip of Wilderness bisects the lands of the Nephites from the lands of the Lamanites (not to scale)

Two of Mormon’s points are:
1. The head or source of the Sidon River was in the narrow strip of wilderness, south of both the Land of Manti in the east, and the Land of Zarahemla, in the center and and west (Alma 22:27). Now since the northern border of the narrow strip of wilderness abutted against the Land of Zarahemla and the southern border abutted the Land of Nephi. Within this narrow strip, lay both the Nephite. city of Manti, and the head or source of the Sidon River. In addition, the Land of Zarahemla was west of the Valley and Land of Gideon, which means the city of Gideon was in the east, toward the sea, but not as far as Moroni, Lehi, Morianton and Nephihah. To place Manti then, we find that Alma was south of Gideon when it is stated: “As Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon, southward, away to the land of Manti (Alma 17:1), that Manti is way up in the Mountains or highlands or a high elevation, since: “Behold, the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon, in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti (Alma 16:6)—which also suggests that the head of the Sidon River was further south and higher up in the mountain from Manti, with Manti on the west of the Sidon  (Alma 43:32).
    Thus, Manti is near the head or source of Sidon but the actual head of Sidon is in the South wilderness "away up beyond" the land of Manti (Alma 16:6). That puts it on a higher altitude than either Manti or Zarahemla, which would result in a northward flow of water between Zarahemla and Manti, since Manti is south of Zarahemla. Obviously, then, if the source of the Sidon is above Manti and flows to Zarahemla, the direction of flow would be to the north, for Zarahemla is north of the land of Manti.
2. Since the Sidon ran by the Land of Zarahemla, and not through it (Alma 2:15), and near the Land of Gideon (alma 2:20), then the Sidon River high up in the mountains of the narrow strip of wilderness was to the east of the city and Land of Zarhemla. Thus, the source, or head, of the Sidon is to the south of Zarahemla in the wilderness strip and the Land of Nephi to the south of the wilderness strip, it is then necessary for the land of Nephi and the narrow strip of wilderness to be at a higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla. This is understood by the fact that the Lamanites, who later occupy the Land of Nephi, continually “came down” to the Land of Zarahemla to attack the Nephites
The Sidon River flowing northward down from its head or source in the mountains along the narrow strip of wilderness to the east of the Land of Zarahemla

The southern borders of the Land of Zarahemla were at a higher elevation than the rest of the Land of Zarahemla since after the battle along the banks of the Sidon between the Valley of Gideon and the Land of Zarahemla, another Lamanite army arrived from the city of Zarahemla. At this time, Alma “sent up a numerous army against them; and they went up and slew many of the Lamanites, and drove the remainder of them out of the borders of their land” (Alma 3:20-23,emphasis added). In addition, when Amalickiah fled the Land of Zarahemla, he “went up in the land of Nephi among the Lamanites and did stir up the Lamanites to anger against the people of Nephi” (Alma 47:1, emphasis added). We also find on several occasions the Lamanites came down from the Land of Nephi to the Land of Zarahemla to battle the Nephites (Alma 49:10-11; 51:11-12; 63:15).
    To make sure it is understood that “went up” and “come/came down” meant exactly that in the scriptural record relating to elevation, we find this terminology used in that manner regarding the Lamanites and Amalakiah (Alma 47:12-14) going up and coming down mount the hill Antipas (Alma 47:9). In fact, at one point the Lamanite Lehonti was asked to “come down to the foot of the mount,” and that “he durst not go down to the foot of the mount” (Alma 47:10-11).
The head of the Sidon River (red arrow) was located "away up beyond the borders of Manti," and thus at a higher elevation than Zarahemla; consequently, the river, which "ran by the land of Zarahemla" would flow (blue arrows) down and to the north
The point is, the Land of Nephi was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla, and the narrow strip of wilderness between them was also at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zaarahemla, since the Sidon River’s head (Alma 22:29; 43:22; 50:11) or source, according to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, in which he states: “Head: to originate, to spring, to have its source, as a river.” This, then, makes the head or source of the River Sidon located to the south of the Land of Zarahemla and at a higher elevation. This means that the Sidon River flowed down toward the Land of Zarahemla, and then “ran by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15), which means the Sidon River ran from the south toward the north.
The Mississippi River Drainage Basin is the culmination of five different rivers, all moving sediment downstream toward the, four of the rivers converge with the Mississippi, which then drains into the Gulf, all the while depositing sediment along the river bed, causing the shallow river to alter its course slightly over the centuries through the meandering of the flow around these deposits 
With this in mind, let us return to the Mississippi River, which was originally formed from thick layers of the river's silt deposits, by both the Mississippi River itself, and five other tributary rivers: Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Red, and Ohio, making the Mississippi embayment—part of the alluvial plain—one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the country. This, in turn, resulted in the river's storied steamboat era, ushering in an extensive commercial and public transportation industry. During the Civil War, the Mississippi increased as an important route of trade and travel, and because of substantial growth of cities and the larger ships and barges that supplanted riverboats, the first decades of the 20th century saw the construction of massive engineering works such as levees, locks and dams, often built in combination—making the Mississippi for the first time, available to deep ocean ships. Prior to that time, the only river traffic on the Mississippi was in shallow or flat bottomed boat traffic, such as early canoes, barges and packet boats, followed by the big paddle wheelers. However, not until the river was dredged, deepened and widened, was it capable of handling ships of any draft, such as large wooden sailing vessels and the new steam boats and eventual diesels.
    So far, we have shown that, according to Mormon’s descriptions above, the Mississippi River and its adjoining lands do not fit the requirements of the Sidon River in the scriptural record, since it is basically flat land along the Great Plains, with no mountains of any kind around, nor is there any elevated land to the south of their area of Zarahemla, in Iowa, across from Nauvoo. Yet, this never seems enough to these theorists who insist that the Mississippi River drainage basin, especially near the River itelf, and eastward, from western New York to Pennsylvania, and around to Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, then east into Kentucky and Tennessee made up Lehi’s Isle of Promise and the land of the Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites.
(See the next post, “Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part II,” to see how in their not understanding the history of an area, that it does not automatically qualify for a Land of Promise site, because of its name or its proximity to other sites, but that there are facts involved in these areas that work against the models they design)

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