Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Where Theorists Go Wrong – Part IV

Continued from the previous post, regarding the errors theorists make by not investing a little time in study and research regarding their treasured opinions and beliefs. For any theory regarding the geographical setting of lands in the Book of Mormon, it must meet two specific requirements: 1) Match the scriptural record in every detail, and 2) Match the current or earlier terrain and topography of the general geological studies of the area.
    When it comes to the Heartland Theory and the model of the Mississippi River being the Sidon River of the Book of Mormon, neither of these two factors are met. As an example:
1. The Sidon River mentioned throughout the Nephite record was a river that had its head, or the source of the river, in the highlands or mountains south of the Land of Zarahemla, within the Narrow Strip of Wilderness that separated the Land of Zarahemla on the north from the Land of Nephi on the south (Alma 22:27; 2:15).
2. The Sidon River was at a higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla, making the Narrow Strip of Wilderness at a higher elevation and the Land of Nephi south of there at a higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla. This is attested to by two facts: 1) The source or head of the river was in this area, and would have required an elevation higher than the land of Zarahemla in order to flow “by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15); and 2) It is continually mentioned that the Lamanites “went down” to the Land of Zarahemla from their Land of Nephi, and that the Nephites “went up” to the Land of Nephi from their Land of Zarahemla.
    Thus, the Sidon River flowed from south (higher elevation) to north (lower elevation). And the Land of Nephi, Narrow Strip of Wilderness, and the head of the Sidon River was at a much higher elevation that that of the Land of Zarahemla.
    To compare that with the Mississippi River, which runs from north to south, and the around the Mississippi River, throughout its length, are basically flat lands, with higher level bluffs along its banks, making the Mississippi River inconsistent with the Sidon River and not interchangeable land forms.
    To stress this, what we know from the scriptural record is that the Mississippi did not basically run east and west, as is shown in numerous statements indicating it had “east banks” (Alma 2:15, 2:17, 6:7, 16:7, 43:53, 39:16); and also had “west banks” (Alma 8:3, 43:27, 43:32, 43;53). Not only is there no mention of north or south banks, a river running north and south would not have north and south banks.
The Mississippi River runs basically and predominantly north to south, here shown passing one of the many bluffs along its bank 

Now, despite the fact that the head of the river is south of Zarahemla and runs past the east borders of the land of Zarahemla, which is a land that runs east and west, “from the east to the West Sea,” Heartland theorists, such as Rod L. Meldrum, has specifically said: “Rivers often make significant changes in direction over short stretches as they wind around geographic obstacles. One should not assume the River Sidon, or any lengthy natural river, would run exclusively in exactly one direction” (Meldrum, “The Mississippi: Could it have been River Sidon?” Book of Mormon Evidence, June 4, 2010).
    This is a surprising comment, since Meldrum’s river Sidon is claimed to be the Mississippi River, which American river runs predominantly north to south for 2,300 miles, from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. While twists and turns exist throughout its long course, there is no question looking at it on a map, that the river predominantly runs north to south. In addition, the Nile River in Egypt runs predominantly south to north for 4,258; the Yenisei River in China, runs predominantly south to north for 3,441 miles, and the Amazon in South America runs predominantly west to east for 3,976 miles, making three of the four longest rivers in the world run predominantly in one direction. Thus, Meldrum’s argument is faulty and completely without merit.
The plains of the lands between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian and far eastern mountains. Between the Great and Central plains, the various plains throughout the Midwest and central states, the land form is basically one of flat land with some low-lying and rolling hills 

However, the alluvial plains along the Mississippi River, is not the only matter. When it comes to the difference in elevation of the Book of Mormon lands surrounding the Sidon River from its course “running by the land of Zarahemla” to its “head” in the Narrow Strip of Wilderness, showing specific differences in land form and elevation, we do not find anything like that along the Mississippi. In fact, from its entire length, the river runs through one general open plain, stretching from the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, then 760 miles eastward to the system of mountains known as the Appalachians in which begin in eastern Pennsylvania and travel southward for 1500 miles to around the northern borders of Alabama and Georgia. 
    The approximate mean elevation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, of the ten states along the Mississippi River along the West Bank are:
Minnesota                1200
Iowa                           1100
Missouri                     800
Arkansas                    650
Along the East Bank are:
Wisconsin                  105
Illinois                        600
Tennessee                  900
Kentucky                    750
Louisiana                   100
Adjacent to these states to the east are:
Michigan                    900
Indiana                       700
Ohio                            850
Mississippi                 300
Alabama                     500
Further east are the states of:
New York                 1000
Pennsylvania           1100
North Carolina          700
South Carolina          350
Georgia                       600
In this part of the Midwest and Central United States, where the Mississippi flows, the land is predominantly flat, from state to state to state. Certainly there is no area anywhere close to the Mississippi River that equates to the elevated Land of Nephi or the elevation of the Narrow Strip of Wilderness from where the Sidon River flows downward 

The point should be obvious that when Mormon describes a land that is considerably higher in elevation, saying “the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness, away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti” (Alma 16:6), with Nephites going up to the Land of Nephi, and Lamaniates going down to the Land of Zarahemla, such would not be possible along the Mississippi for several 690 miles to the west and 750 miles to the east. There is simply no way that Meldrum, or other Heartland theorists, can claim that the Mississippi River is the Sidon River.
    This is where theorists go wrong—they start out believing that Zarahemla, Iowa, is the Zarahemla of the scriptural record and go to great lengths to quote from tee D&C about the Lord telling Joseph Smith to name that area by that name, then take the giant leap to believing that ergo that area must be the original Zarahemla. Then they look around for other means described in the land of Zarahemla, with the Mississippi their obvious candidate for the Sidon River, which makes a lot of sense to them.
    However, the fact is that neither Zarahemla, Iowa, nor the Mississippi River match the descriptions and land arrangement described in the Book of Mormon, as any search of the land and its terrain, as well as its history, would obviously show it was not compatible with Mormon’s descriptions. But still, they go with their interest rather than the scriptural record. And in that, they err.


  1. Alma 56:25 Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah.

    Thus, the army is somewhere between the west coast city, Zarahemla, which is "down," and east coast city Nephihah. They'd have to cross the head of the Sidon to go "over" to Nephihah. That means their location between, including the head of Sidon, is definitely at a higher elevation than Zarahemla.

    I really appreciate how Del has taught me to take the ups and downs seriously, since they are very consistently used. Thanks!