Monday, October 23, 2017

Limiting Distances and Other Criteria – Part I

A reader sent this article in to us recently and since it would take quite a bit to answer, we decided to make a complete post out of it. 
    The article has to do with limiting criteria about the Land of Promise, and lists James Warr’s 12 criteria for identifying the Land of Promise (which he places in Central America).
    Comment: “We must take the Book of Mormon at face value. To alter its directions, as some current literature suggests, or to demand unbelievable distances, as tradition outlines, is unacceptable.”
    Response: There is certainly agreement that we need to take the Book of Mormon scriptural record at face value, as well as in not altering its directions. However, when someone says to not accept the demand for unbelievable distances, as tradition outlines, being unacceptable, while I assume he means the tradition of North America being the Land Northward, South America being the Land Southward and Central America being the Narrow Neck of Land, which at one time was a tradition among most Church members, I think we need to be careful of saying what distances are involved in any one situation since, except for one instance in the entire record, no days and distance figures are given or implied that would allow any distance recognition.
    Still, we would agree that the Book of Mormon part of the Land of Promise is limited to a much smaller area than the entire Western Hemisphere. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that when Lehi’s trek in the wilderness that took 8 years and covered in the first 18 chapters of 1 Nephi, that distance actually covered some 2,600 miles from Jerusalem to Bountiful. Consequently, we need to be a little cautious in trying to limit distances and stick with the fact that we simply do not know.
    Comment: “We must be willing to accept existing maps at face value.”
    Response: Existing maps have been altered over the course of history, specifically since the Biblical days and the Great Flood, the division of the Earth during the days of Peleg, and the destruction outlined in 3 Nephi during the crucifixion that tells us mountains fell to become valleys and valleys rose to become mountains “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).
    Seemingly being ignored by Warr is the fact that our physical map of the world has changed numerous times over its history, and even in this past 20th century, areas like the Aral Sea, the world’s fourth largest lake, has become more than 90% smaller, almost disappearing entirely; and the Mesopotamia Marshlands in Iraq, once the world’s largest ecological region, lost 97% of its water 70 years ago, completely changing the physical map of Mesopotamia and the fertile crescent, and the entire northern coastline of the Persian Gulf; and going back just 300 years, hundreds of islands in the South Pacific were added to the world map, unknown to  have existed before their discovery. 500 years ago, the map of the world underwent a huge change, with entire continents being added not known earlier; and 1000 years ago, the huge area of Greenland was added to the map, having been unknown before that time, though the addition did not actually take place until 1502.
China has built three major islands and four smaller islands in the South China Sea in the past three years, altering the entire physical map of Southeast Asia

More currently, a 2010 map of the South China Sea would have just shown an open ocean with a few scattered reefs in the Spratly archipelago—an area of reefs, atolls, banks, cays, etc.—810 miles south of the Chinese mainland, but only 338 miles from Sabah in Malasia and Borneo, and 472 miles from Palawan islands of the Philippines. However, today, there are seven new islands in the area, created by China through dredging sand and rock from the sea floor and pumping it (depositing it) upon coral reefs until it breaks the surface and forms islands.
    On the other hand, we also need to look at the descriptions of Mormon when he discusses and talks about the Sea East so much in B.C. times, yet after the crucifixion it is never mentioned, not even once. Nor is the “narrow neck of land” ever mentioned after the crucifixion. The point is, we do not know what happened to the Land of Promise during the destruction written about covering the crucifixion and cannot put limitations on what changes may, and likely were, made at that time.
    Comment: “We cannot put water where none exists today.”
    Response: Again, there is no way to know what waters changed. However, when an entire city “sinks into the depths of the sea” (3 Nephi 8:9), and “many great and notable cities were sunk” (3 Nephi 8:14), we have to realize that something drastically changed and waterways or seas were effected (3 Nephni 9:4). As for the Sidon River, as mentioned in the previous series of posts, after the crucifixion it is not mentioned at all, and only once is the “waters of Sidon” mentioned as the location where the last war with the Lamanites commenced around 322 A.D. (Mormon 1:10). Also, when an entire mountain forms to bury an entire city (3 Nephi 8:9-10), again, we are talking about something drastic taking place, which had some effect on bodies of water.
    Comment: “We cannot create a make-believe narrow neck of land.”
    Response: However, we have to realized that land masses change over 2000 years and without knowledge of what has happened and where, other than the scriptural record, we have to keep in mind that changes during the crucifixion played an important role in the scriptural record and the events involved. Whatever map we create, or use, has to have geological backing and acceptance among the geological community, albeit the time frames would be far different from their world of 4.55 billion years and the Biblical account of about 13,000 years. Still, vast and major changes are described as taking place (3 Npehi 8:12,17).
    Comment: “We must not alter the directions of the map.”
    Response: Correct! Map directions as stated by Mormon do not change, and unless someone can show a change in the continental movement of such a significant degree, which none has ever been recorded since the continents were settled into their current position, we are pretty safe in agreeing with this point.
    Comment: Quoting from James Warr: “There is no evidence of the geological changes described in the text for the land northward, which took place at the time of the crucifixion" He then goes on to discuss the Yucatan as the Land Northward.”
    Response: The Disciple Nephi wrote: “But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 8:12). He then goes on to talk about roads and highways broken up, of cities sunk, burned, shook by the earthquake and fell, and the places left desolate (3 Nephi 8:13-14). It obviously sounds like the Land Northward underwent some extreme destruction. As for the Yucatan, while some Mesoamericanists have considered it the Land Northward, there is no way to fit Mormon’s descriptions into that model (see our previous posts on this issue).
(See the next post, “Limiting Distances and Other Criteria – Part II,” for more on the article sent to us and our responses)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

There is No Mention of the River Sidon or its Head After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part IV

Continuing from the last post, and answering the question “What other river in the Book of Mormon land fits so well [as the Mantaro River]?”
     So far, it seems that the Mantaro river does not fit Mormon’s description, other than the rope bridge stanchions—but there are other such stanchions, in fact they existed wherever there were rope bridges in Peru—and though there is only one such bridge left today, these suspension bridges over canyons, gorges and rivers existed extensively, especially over a narrow river or gorge called a pongo (a corruption of the Quichua puncu and Aymara ponco, meaning door). Pongos such as Manseriche, Mainique and Aguirre where water gaps were cut by ancient rivers that offered practical routes for such road crossings. These were all an integral part of the extensive road system of the ancient Andes.
One of the many pongos found in the Andes of Peru where crossing was impossible because of the steepness of the canyons and gorges. Such pongos are found throughout the Andes, including along the Apurimac River, requiring suspension bridges to cross. In fact, this canyon, today marking the boundary between the regions of Apurimac and Cuzco, is one of the deepest in America, and possibly the world

The last rope bridge still standing is over the Apurimac River, with stanchions still located on either side of the river where they were anciently built, with uprights over which the corded ropes were looped and secured beyond. Though the Apurimac today is too far south, running west and for many miles south of Cuzco through narrow gorges twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, we have no way of knowing how that river ran before the mountains fell and others rose. To the north today, the Apurimac joins the Mantaro River and becomes the Ene River, then the Perené River, then the Tambo River and joins the Urubamba and finally the Ucayali, which is the main headstream of the Amazon (see map last post).
    Sometimes the complete river from its source to its junction with the Ucayali, including the rivers Ene and Tambo, is all called the "Apurímac River," with a total length of 660 miles, and suggests that in this area very possibly the same as anciently, where what is now referred to as several separately named rivers, though all joining, was called by one name, such as was probably the Sidon. Thus, in trying to search for the Sidon’s ancient course, it could have been this river with different headwater location and feeders—but that is simply speculation.
    In any event, the Q’iswa Chaka (Quechua: Q'iswa [rope of twisted dried maguey or ichhu] Chaka [bridge], meaning a “rope bridge,” also spelled Keshwa Chaca, Keswachaka, Q'eshwachaka, etc.) were built over canyons and gorges (pongos) and the greatest of these bridges were across the Apurimac Canyon along the main road north from Cusco. One spans the Apurimac River near Huichiri in Canas Province; another was out of Machu Picchu, crossing the Urubamba River southeast of Cuzco in the Pongo de Mainique. Unfortunately, almost all of these ancient rope bridges no longer exist, though many still show the stanchions that supported them and are easily seen traveling the area.
    The one in Keshwa Chaca, known as Q’eswachaka, across the Apurimac Canyon, no longer has a bridge attached, just the stanchions along the Apurimac River.
    The numerous rivers in Peru cut pongos through the Andes along the river beds sometimes reaching 2000 feet deep and as narrow as 100 feet, throughout the cordilleras. When viewed from the river, the precipices seem to almost close at the top. Some of the rivers, like the Marañón through the Manseriche rushes along at twelve or more miles an hour. Often, these pongos cut such a long path, that it was almost impossible to get from one side of the river to the other, which led to the development of the q’iswa chaka rope bridges suspended over the rivers.
    The point is, there were suspension bridges all over the Peruvian Andes, built by the ancients and in use long before the Inca, but utilized by the Inca in the control and administration of their Empire. While the original bridges would handle llamas and mules, even horses, and sometimes two abreast, but sometime after the Conquest, most were reduced to a single one-person bridge and today, there is only one left.
    In regard to the Apurimac River, the word “apurimac” means in the Quechua language:
“Great Spirit Speaker,” because of the roaring waters that flow through the dry canyon, enabling the sound to be heard for miles and fits the idea that the river Sidon was known throughout the scriptural record, at least in Alma—obviously, this river could be heard from miles away and one could head toward it when traveling overland through the mountains, canyons and pongos.

    Forty-five miles northeast of Abancay is the division or boundary between Apurimac and Cuzco where a suspension bridge crosses the Apurimac River (about due west of Ollantaytambo) and where the Apurimac Canyon is located. The deep ravine here is a Category II and IV for white water canoeing as the waters rush past in their 5,000 foot drop. Any bodies thrown into the river at this point would most assuredly flow out to the sea in the days of Alma as suggested in Mormon’s abridgement of these battles.
    In fact, the depth of the canyon makes throwing bodies into the river at this point more understandable. The simple process would only take pushing the dead off the suspension bridge where they would fall into the deep ravine and the Apurimac River below, making Mormon’s words much more realistic (Alma 44:23).
    In addition, where this battle also rages both into the waters of the Sidon as well as across a suspension bridge, we find this area has both the high mountains plateaus surrounding it. Elsewhere, there are also level valleys along the river, making the battle there very realistic to a location.
    It should also be noted in regard to “waters of Sidon,” that the term “great waters” or the waters they crossed (seas, ocean) never refers to a “river.” As an example, in "great waters" (1 Nephi 17:17, Omni 1:16, Ether 2:22; 6:3); "Irreantum" (1 Nephi 17:5); “many waters” (1 Nephi 1:10-13, 29); “deep” (Ether 3:3; 6:7; 10:2); "great deep" (2 Nephi 4:20; 2 Nephi 8:10; Helaman 12:16; Either 2:25; 7:27; 8:9). Consequently, just because one thinks of the word “Sidon” as a river, it does not necessarily mean that “waters of Sidon” is also a river, and more than the “waters of Mormon” is a river. We simply do not know.
    However, what we do know is the word “river” is not used, suggested or inferred in Mormon 1:10. Nor, does Mormon 1:10 suggest in any way that the river of Sidon was unchanged after the destruction in 3 Nephi. While it might have remained unchanged, we simply do not know that and cannot infer that from Mormon 1:10.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

There is No Mention of the River Sidon or its Head After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part III

Continuing from the last post, and answering the question “What other river in the Book of Mormon land fits so well?” as the Mantaro River? 
   To those who have so adamantly claimed that Mormon 1:10 states that the river Sidon continued to flow after the destruction stated in 3 Nephi, which, of course, is certainly possible, yet there is no indication that it did after that time. Mormon 1:10, as stated and covered in the previous two posts, shows that there were “waters of Sidon” following, but no mention of a “river Sidon,” “head or headwaters of Sidon,” etc., mentioned.
    While this is not proof the river was diverted, changed or eliminated by the rising of the mountains “whose height is great” or the “many mountains laid low, like unto a valley” (Helaman 14:23), there seems a lot more reasoning to claim the river did not continue to exist in its same manner, place or course.
    The next question that has been asked, as if to make the point the river continued, has been: “What other river in your Book of Mormon land fits so well?”
The red line is the extent of the Mantaro River, which, for most of its course, runs from north to south—the only one of these rivers shown that runs to the south and not the north

This is in reference to the location of the current Mantaro River that flows out of Lake Junin from the north of the city of Zarahemla, runs north for a ways, then loops completely around to run south past the Land of Zarahemla, then hooks around again to run northeast into the Apurimac River and then into the Ene, Tambo and Urubamba Rivers. The thread goes on to suggest that a stanchion and rope suspension bridge crosses over the Mantaro River.
    As he wrote in his history, this bridge was crossed by Pedro de Cieza de Leon in 1547 (Discovery and Conquest of Peru, translated Alexandra P. Cook and Noble D. Cook, Duke University Press, 1998, Introduction, p12)—“In 1547, a group of about one hundred horsemen including Cieza, led by Captain Palomino, took the road from Pachacamac to Huarochiri and quickly climbed to the 5,000 meter snowy passes to cross over the coastal section of the Andean cordillera—from Lima to Jauja and through the snowcapped peaks of Pariacaca. They then descended, crossing the suspension bridge over the Mantaro River, and entered the city of Jauja, where the King’s forces under Gasca were assembling. Marching southward, the combined forces arrived at Huamanga (Ayacucho), then continued the march southward as Cieza artfully observed and later described in detail the Inca religious center of Vilcashuaman."
    Continuing on Pedro de la Gasca’s forces finally crossed the Pampas River over a great suspension bridge—‘so strong that horses can gallop over it as though they were crossing the bridge of Alcantara, or of Cordova. There they waited on reinforcements at Andahuaylas, where on 2 February Belacazar caught up with the main camp and Gasca was now moving closer to Cuzco. Gonzalo Pizarros’ men had blocked access to the city by cutting our important suspension bridges. A new bridge was constructed by the Indians on a bend of the Apurimac River at Cotabamab  (p12-13).
    Since the “head” of the Mantaro River is located in Junin Lake, north of Zarahemla, we need to look elsewhere for a river Sidon. As one theorist wrote: “Mormon in a detailed geographical account places the river Sidon along the northern extent of the narrow strip of wilderness, which served as the northern boundary of the Lamanite lands (Alma 22:27–34). This border region, in turn, also served as the southern limit of the Nephite lands. Mormon twice mentions a prominent feature of the river Sidon, “the head of the river Sidon,” when describing the contentious border that “divided” the Lamanites and Nephites and positions the river Sidon and its “head” relative to the land of Zarahemla and the other Book of Mormon lands, such as the land of Nephi (Alma 22:27, 29).”
    This description follows a narrative in which Mormon interpolates eight verses, providing some 20 sequential geographical details, which are without equal for finding and matching a proposed location within the scriptural record. It is at this point in his abridgement that Mormon inserts a detailed description of the converted king’s land, including a description of the land of Nephi, the land of the people of Zarahemla and the lands previously occupied by the Jaredites (Alma 22:27–34). No explanation for the inclusion of this information is given, but in his own words Mormon defines the shape, directions, and overall layout of the Land of Promise, beginning in the south with the Land of Nephi, and working northward with the Land of Zarahemla, Land of Bountiful, narrow neck of land, and the Land of Desolation, including all their relationships to the Sea East and Sea West.
    In this inserted narrative, Mormon interjects after describing the land of the Lamanites in the Land of Nephi, goes on to say “and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west -- and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided” (Alma 22:27).
    While Venice Priddis, and other South American Land of Promise writers and historians want to place the Sidon River as the Mantaro River, it simply does not meet the requirements set forth by Mormon. Thus, we tend to conclude that the Sidon River, after the destruction in 3 Nephi at the time of the crucifixion, must have altered the river’s flow, since no river now identified in Peru matches Mormon’s description.
    As an example, taking this statement one meaning at a time, it reads:
1. “and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness”—i.e., the Land of Nephi, the land of the Lamanites, was separated from the Land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wildnerness;
2. “which ran from the sea east even to the sea west”—i.e., this narrow strip of wilderness, which separated the Lamanites from the Nephites, ran from sea to sea across the entire Land of Promise;
3. “and round about on the borders of the seashore”—i.e., “roundabout” meant in 1828 “indirect, going round; encircling, encompassing,” and today means “circuitous, like in a roundabout route; meandering (zig-zagging, twisting, turning, or curving). Thus, the narrow strip of wilderness, which ran more or less in a straight path across the Land of Promise from sea to sea, at the ends near the seashore curved upward in a round about path or circuitous route into the Land of Zarahemla;
4. “and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla”—i.e., that is the narrow strip of wilderness ran more or less straight across the land from the Sea East to the Sea West, but at the edge of that narrow strip, the wilderness turned  upward and ran round about, that is it turned upward along both coasts into the greater Land of Zarahemla, areas in the Land Southward north of the narrow strip were also wildernesses, i.e., not occupied by the Nephites and had no permanent occupation, buildings, agriculture, etc. In fact, we learn later that the Lamanites occupied some of this area in these two coastal lands, living in tents, and were later driven out by Moroni (Alma 50:7,9);
5. “through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon”—i.e., the city of Manti was upland or elevated in the hills at the northern edge of the narrow strip of wilderness, where also the head of the river Sidon was located, i.e., in the narrow strip of wilderness separating the Land of Nephi on the south and the Land of Zarahemla on the north;
6. “running from the east towards the west”—i.e., this narrow strip of wilderness ran from the east toward the west with Manti toward one direction and the head of the river Sidon toward the other direction;
7. “and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided”—i.e., in this way, with the narrow strip of wilderness as the separating line, the Nephites and the Lamanites were north and south of one another (with the exception of some Lamanites encroachning on the lands of the Nephites in the wildernesses along the coastal areas where the narrow strip curved up or round about to the north. Later these Lamanites would be driven south by Moroni and back into their own lands in the land of Nephi, leaving the entire area of the greater Land of Zarahemla in the hands of the Nephites, including along both coasts, where Moroni later moved some Nephites into newly constructed coastal cities.
(See the next post, “There is No Mention of the River Sidon or its Head After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part IV, to see how the question “What other river in the Book of Mormon land fits so well?”)

Friday, October 20, 2017

The River Sidon, or its Head, is Not Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the “waters of Sidon” and how they are used differently than the “river Sidon” by Mormon in the scriptural record.
First of all, it cannot be said that because the “river Sidon” is mentioned 26 times in Alma prior to the crucifixion, and not once after that time (like the Sea East and the Narrow Neck of Land are not mentioned after the destruction) that these areas did not exist after the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi; however, it does suggest a possibility that the damage that “changed the face of the entire land” (3 Nephi 8:12) might have altered the river Sidon, its course, or its existence and such a fact cannot be arbitrarily ruled out.
    What is definite, is that the “river Sidon” and the “head of the river Sidon” are terms not mentioned after the destruction that followed the crucifixion and the only mention of the word “Sidon” in the scriptural record after this destruction period found in Mormon 1:10, does not suggest that the river Sidon still existed, only that there was a place Mormon called “the waters of Sidon.” In the previous post on this subject, the meaning of “waters” was described.
    Now, as far as the scriptural record is concerned, the term “waters of Sidon” is mentioned seven times in Alma, rather than the “river Sidon.” Those exceptions are: “waters of Sidon” (Alma 2:34), though in the same sentence he uses River Sidon. Why the difference? He follows this up a few verses later (Alma 3:3) with “waters of Sidon” but again in the exact same sentence uses River Sidon. Does this mean the Lamanites were slain on the banks of the river, but thrown into the waters, that perhaps formed a lake, marsh, or swamp? We do not know if there is a difference, but as a friend and scholar of the Book of Mormon used to tell me of the scriptures, “you have to evaluate each word—each word has meaning.” This suggests that there is a reason Mormon used “waters” and not “river” in some of these sentences.
    Another use of “waters of Sidon” is found in that “many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the Church of God” (Alma 4:4). Here again is a corollary to baptism like in the “Waters of Mormon.” Now one might want to keep in mind that all of these statements evidently have to do with the same general area of the Sidon. On the other hand, another mention of the Waters of Sidon is found in “Lehi and his men and they were driven by Lehi into the Waters of Sidon, and they crossed the waters of Sidon. And Lehi retained his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross” (Alma 43:40). And also in the same area is “the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled even to the waters of Sidon” (Alma 43:50)—why not “fled to the river Sidon”?
    We are not making this case—but a case could be made that all of this is in the same general area, and that there was a lake or body of water called after 3 Nephi “the Waters of Sidon,” to differentiate it from the earlier river Sidon, which possibly the river Sidon flowed into and out of, or that it flowed past with water seeping into the lake area. The point is when there is another possibility that the scriptures fit, we are not willing to make a commitment that something else is the case. Even later when it says “they did cast their dead into the waters of Sidon, and they have gone forth and are buried in the depths of the sea” (Alma 44:22), it could mean that this lake or seepage area drained into the river, at least before 3 Nephi.
    It also might be of note that the name “Sidon” is mentioned only in the Book of Alma (plus once in Mormon), while “river Sidon” is mentioned 27 times in Alma, and “waters of Sidon” is mentioned only 7 times in Alma and once in Mormon, and the latter seem to refer to the same general area as though the “waters of Sidon” might be a singular place, while the river flows from mountains to sea.
    A South American historian told me that he had spent several years studying the terms “up to the Land of Nephi” and “down to the Land of Zarahemla” and had not come to a conclusion about what exactly those terms meant. Many of us are quick to jump to conclusions, however, sometimes common phrases carry deeper meanings that we at first attribute to them. Take, as an example, the meaning of Moses term in Genesis: "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so" (Genesis 1:7). Much has been written and discussed about this statement, yet few satisfactory answers seem available.
    The point is, there is not a single mention of a river Sidon after 3 Nephi, and the only mention of Sidon is in regard to the Waters of Sidon. Thus one, in good conscience, cannot claim the River Sidon continued after the destruction of tumbling mountains and valleys that rose into mountains “whose height is great.” The changes that such dramatic changes might have altered the flow of a river seems too great to dismiss out of hand.
    It might also be added that on occasion, some of the comments on this subject we receive state: “When Mormon moved from the Land Northward with his Father to the land of Zarahemla and that soon after a war broke out in the borders of the land, by the head of the River Sidon.” However, it seems a little odd that a war would break out high up in the mountains where the head of the river Sidon was located. First of all, we know this area was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla—and at a common elevation with the Land of Nephi, so what were the Nephites doing up in that area for a war to break out there?
    On the other hand, if the term “waters of Mormon” had reference to a standing body of water, such as a lake, pond, lagoon or even a seepage or swamp, where perhaps the river once flowed at a lower elevation, such as along the borders of Zarahemla and Gideon in the Valley of Gideon, it would make sense that a war could break out there where Lamanite armies were infiltrating northward into the Land of Zarahemla, and along what used to be the eastern seaboard or coast where the cities of Moroni, Lehi, and Morianton once stood and northward to Mulek, Omner and Gid in the northern coastal area and were often the subject of Lamanite attacks in the past (Alma 51:26) as well as the city of Nephihah (Alma 59; 59:5). It might be assumed that the three northern cities were much further northward, since the citizens of the three southern cities (Moroni, Lehi and Morianton) fled to Nephihah for protection when the Lamanites attacked, but when the three northern cities (Mulek, Omner and Gid) were attacked, they did not flee to Nephihah, suggesting that city was too far away. While this is simply a guess, we might say that the distance between these two groups of cities might have been as much as 200 miles.
    Since the “head of Sidon” or even “the river Sidon” is not in any way mentioned in Mormon 1:10 or at all after the cataclysmic destruction in 3 Nephi, it seems very possible not only did the river not exist, but that the “waters of Mormon” as indicated were at a much lower elevation, and along the path the Lamanties took to attack the eastern cities, which now would not have been along the coast, for that sea, too, is not mentioned, and very possibly had been replaced in the east by the rise of the range of mountains prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 14:23) where mountains rose out of valleys “whose height is great,” and covering a large enough area in both the Land Northward and the Land Southward to be a “sign” to all the occupants of the Land of Promise, “to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).
    One reader on this subject wrote: “I feel that you are rejecting too much information that exists right in front of you.” Yet, nowhere after 3 Nephi 9, and the description of the destruction that “changed the face of the entire land” is the word Sidon mentioned in connection to a river or its head (headwaters), only the “waters of Sidon.”
    The river Sidon is simply not mentioned anywhere after that destruction. Nor can it be said that the statement in Mormon 1:10 makes a claim of a “river.” The scripture simply does not say “river” or “head” or “headwaters” or “source” or anything to lead one to believe that the river Sidon is being described by Mormon there.
(See the next post, “The River Sidon, or its Head, is Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part III, to see how the question “What other river in the Book of Mormon land fits so well?”)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The River Sidon, or its Head, is Never Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part I

From time to time we get comments about our stand that the Sidon River is not mentioned after the destruction which occurred during the Crucifixion of the Savior. As an example, some of the comments are: “…a war broke out in the border of the land by the head of the River Sidon” (Mormon 1:10); or “But the prophet knew where the head of the River was because it was mentioned in Mormon 1:10”; or “…it was the one by the head of the River Sidon”; or “It was obvious. The river was still there, and still flowed unchanged since its beginning”; or “Judging by Mormon 1:10, the Sidon River still flowed much as it had been before the catastrophes mentioned in 3 Nephi 8 and 9”; or “Some have felt that during the judgments poured out in AD 34, when “the whole face of the land was changed” (3 Nephi 8:12), the river Sidon changed also perhaps even disappeared. Yet to judge from Mormon’s comment three hundred years later, the river remained in his day, as did many cities and towns.”
Perhaps this is a good time to clarify Mormon 1:10 and the stance we take that the destruction, which occurred in 3 Nephi 8 and 9, possibly suggests that both the Sea East, the Narrow Neck of Land, and the River Sidon, did not exist, at least in their earlier form or path, after the crucifixion, since they are never again mentioned, having been listed prominently and in some cases, frequently, before that cataclysmic event.
  The problem is often that people read the scriptural record, and insert in their mind’s eye what they think it says or want it to say, when in reality it does not say that at all! Take, for instance, the first of these comments, that “a war broke out in the border of the land by the head of the River Sidon” and referencing Mormon 1:10 as the source of the comment.
  However, that source does not say “river” or “head” but merely Sidon, i.e., “the waters of Sidon,” waters being a rather generic term and not related to river any more than it is related to lake or ocean. Let us take a look at Mormon’s statement word for word:
   “And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10, emphasis added). Notice that it says nothing about the “head” of the river Sidon as was stated in three of the comments above—it says waters.
   Therefore, all we know is:
1. “Now the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites were called Lamanites, and the two parties were Nephites and Lamanites. And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10)
2. In the eastern border of the land of Zarahemla, presumably where that border ran by the Land of Gideon (Alma 6:7), and where the battle with the Amlicites took place to the east of the valley in the hill Amnihu (Alma 2:15), after the crucifixion there was a body of water called Sidon.
    We know nothing more than that. Putting our own interpretation onto the scriptural reference is neither scholarly nor educational, and certainly not helpful.
    So what does “waters” mean? In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, which lists the English of the New England area where both Webster and Joseph Smith lived in the time frame involved in the translation, the word “waters” is defined as:
    “The ocean; a sea; a lake; a river; any great collection of water; as in the phrases, to go by water to travel by water.”
    In today’s dictionaries we find a very similar meaning: “a stretch or area of water, such as a river, sea, or lake,” and considered to be synonymous with “sea” and “ocean.” It is also stated that: “Often, waters is an impure state as obtained from a mineral spring,” also “content of a river, inlet, etc.,” “waters moving in waves,” “the seas bordering a particular area.” In addition, “any body of sea or seas regarded as sharing some common quality, as in the “waters of…”
    In scripture, we find “the Waters of Mormon are defined as: “The Waters of Mormon, in the 18th chapter of the Book of Mosiah (in The Book of Mormon), is a body of water where about two hundred Nephites were baptized.” It is interesting at the similarity of this statement in Mosiah as it reads: “they came to a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested…” (Mosiah 18:4), and “Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now as you are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people…” (Mosiah 18:8), and “they were baptized in the waters of Mormon and were filled with the grace of God” (Mosiah 18:16).
    There is nothing in these scriptures to suggest that the Waters of Mormon were part of anything more than a standing body of water, a lake, pond, lagoon or inland sea. In the same way, there is nothing in Mormon 1:10 to suggest the Waters of Sidon was anything more than a lake, pond, lagoon or inland sea.
    In fact, throughout the scriptural record, there is nothing to suggest that waters means anything other than an ocean, sea, or large combination of waters, i.e., several oceans or several seas running into one another, such as Irreantum, meaning “Many Waters,” and in fact at least the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, but probably also the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean.
    Now, let’s be realistic about this. Not only is there nothing in the scriptural record to suggest that the “waters of Sidon” referred to a river in Mormon 1:10; there is also nothing in the record to suggest it was not a river. In fact, the word “Sidon” is found 34 times in Alma, and one time in Mormon and nowhere else—of the 34 times in Alma, 22 times it is mentioned as the “river Sidon,” 4 times as the “Head of the River Sidon,” 1 time as “Head of Sidon,” and 1 time as just “Sidon.” It is also mentioned 7 times as the “Waters of Sidon.”
    For those who want it to be a “river,” there is nothing to favor or preclude that point; however, it is simply a matter of choice, i.e., whether you choose to add the word “river” to the “waters of Mormon.” On the other hand, there might be sufficient to suggest that the “waters of Mormon” meant something other than “river.”
    The “waters of Sidon” could just as easily have become a great lake, or a huge waterfall that now fell into the Sea East, some other standing body of water. It could also be a separate body of water than a river, if the river Sidon still flowed, i.e., it could be a gathering of water, such as a lake, where the river Sidon flowed into and out of, or it could have been a seepage of a previous river area that was diverted, or the outflow altered, or it could be an area by which the river flowed. In any event, Mormon chose to call it the “waters of Sidon,” not the “river Sidon,” and we simply do not know why.
    On the one hand, a person could make it be anything they want because the wordage is not conclusive; however, Mormon 1:10 cannot be claimed to say “River Sidon” when it does not. It may be implying, but at the same time, it may be exactly what the words claim, a body of water then named Sidon.
    What we do know from Mormon 1:10 is that the “waters of Sidon” sound as if they are in the same general area as the river once flowed. Naturally, water has to have some source, but it could be that while water flowed down from the mountains into these waters of Sidon, that the river from these waters elsewhere did not exist, or was not the same. It seems interesting that Mormon chose the wordage “Waters” of Sidon when throughout the entire Chapter of Alma (Sidon is mentioned nowhere else but Mormon 1:10) he used Sidon River with only a few exceptions.
(See the next post, “The River Sidon, or its Head, is Never Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part II, to see how the term “waters of Sidon” are used differently than the “river Sidon” is used in the scriptural record by Mormon)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part III

Continuing from the previous post, regarding who wrote the lessons delivered in the School of the Prophets. We concluded the last post on the meeting held in the translation room of the Kirtland
Temple on the same day following the receiving of Section 88 of the D&C.
    Now, another point Reynolds makes in his lengthy article that was sent to us by one of our readers is that Joseph Smith was not in Kirtland at the time of the School of the Prophets, which was held in the Winter of 1833 and until the Spring of 1834, so could not have written the Lessons in the school
    However, Joseph was in Kirtland in December 1832 when he received the 88th Section of the D&C, in which the “Solemn Assembly” (D&C 88:70) was introduced to the Prophet by the Lord, what was later called the School of the Prophets, to which was immediately called the conference of High Priests that assembled in the translating room in Kirtland, Ohio, on the very same day—27 December 1832, to discuss the revelation and the school, as outlined above.
Consequently, we should recognize that the revelation, in which the School was commanded by the Lord to Joseph Smith, and the meeting Joseph called of the Church leadership to discuss the revelation and its various parts, including the School, was discussed, occurred under the direction of Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio.
    According to Bruce A. Van Orden, in his article Sidney Rigdon (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p1233), states: “In 1834 Rigdon assisted in recruiting volunteers for Zion's Camp and, while Joseph was away on that undertaking, had charge of affairs in Kirtland, including the construction of the temple. He was a leading teacher at the Kirtland school and helped arrange the revelations for publication in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. Under the Prophet's direction, Sidney helped compose and deliver many of the doctrinally rich Lectures on Faith. He often preached long, extravagant biblically based sermons, notably one at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. In the persecution that followed the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, Rigdon, along with Joseph Smith and other Saints, fled for their lives to Far West, Missouri, in 1838. There Rigdon delivered two famous volatile speeches, the Salt Sermon and the Independence Day oration, both of which stirred up fears and controversy in Missouri and contributed to the Extermination Order and the Battle of Far West. With Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Rigdon was taken prisoner and locked up in Liberty Jail, but was released early because of severe apoplectic seizures” (emphasis in original). 
    Note the comment above: “Under the Prophet's direction, Sidney helped compose and deliver many of the doctrinally rich Lectures on Faith. Not only is this consistent with Church leadership of today, it is consistent with Joseph Smith’s leadership of his day, and suggests to us that Sidney Rigdon did not, on his own, create and write the Lectures on Faith that were delivered in the School of the Prophets.
    Also stated in Van Orden’s article, found in the Harold B. Lee Library, he states: “In the summer of 1831, Joseph, Sidney, and other leaders journeyed to Independence, Missouri, which a revelation identified as the location of the latter-day Zion and the New Jerusalem. Sidney was instructed to dedicate the land of Zion for the gathering of the Saints and to write a description of the country for publication.
    Upon their return to Ohio, Joseph and Sidney resumed the translation of the scriptures, and on February 16, 1832, they jointly received the vision of the degrees of glory that is now Doctrine and Covenants Section 76. In March 1832 they were brutally attacked by a mob and tarred and feathered. Sidney received head injuries that occasionally affected his emotional stability for the rest of his life. His friend Newel K. Whitney said that thereafter he was "either in the bottom of the cellar or up in the garrett window" (Daryl Chase, Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon, University of Chicago,1931, p115).
    Rigdon took an active part in the founding of Nauvoo and in 1839 accompanied Joseph Smith to Washington, D.C., to present the grievances of the Saints to the federal government. He was elected to the Nauvoo City Council and served also as city attorney, postmaster, and professor of Church history in the embryonic university projected for the city. Despite his many appointments, however, he was nearly silent during this time and often sick. He was accused of being associated with John C. Bennett and other enemies of the Church in their seditious plans to displace Joseph Smith, but this he always denied. He did not endorse the principle of plural marriage, although he never came out in open opposition to it.
    Joseph Smith eventually lost confidence in Rigdon and in 1843 wished to reject him as a counselor, but because of the intercession of Hyrum Smith, retained him in office.” This is included not to demean Sidney Rigdon, but to show, even in his most important assignments, he was involved with Joseph Smith, not in absence from him.
    Continuing with the scribes, George W. Robinson, a son-in-law of Sidney Rigdon, became general recorder in 1837 (HC 2:513). He accompanied Joseph Smith in visiting Church settlements in northern Missouri and kept a brief record captioned "The Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr.," so named because it was a repository for various “scripts,” or written texts, most of which recorded in April 1838 that document the events leading up  to the excommunications of Church leaders Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. Robinson was released in 1840 when he moved across the river from Nauvoo.
    It is also known that added to these men who acted as scribe to Joseph, the Prophet used numerous others for his letters, journals, personal history and business records, making the total 14 in all—a list that sounds like a “Who’s Who” of early Mormon history, i.e., W. W. Phelps, William Clayton, James Mulholland, George W. Robinson, Willard Richards, Warren Parrish, Thomas Bullock, and Robert B. Thompson—with only Bullock, Richards and Clayton staying in the Church the entire time.
    All of these men helped to create a “monumental amount of history” to which we owe a great deal and to which both the early Church and today rely on to better understand the workings of Joseph Smith’s time and the doctrines of the Church as have been passed down to us.
    According to Nick Newman, (“Scribes Recorded Prophet’s Words,” Deseret News, Faith Section, January 28, 2010), “Despite their contributions, the Prophet said the one thing that hampered the keeping of his history was that so many of his scribes fell away or died.” The list is saddening: Whitmer, Rigdon, Parrish and Robinson all left the church, never to return.
     Cowdery, Williams and Phelps were ex-communicated but came back into full fellowship, though Williams was ex-communicated in absentee while on a special unknown mission for Joseph Smith, and wrongly accused, which the Prophet reinstated immediately upon returning from his absence. And Thompson and Mulholland died in Illinois. As a side note, Whitmer even took some of the documents with him on the way out of the church. This leaves only Richards, Bullock and Clayton stayed in the church the whole time.
    What is remarkable in all of this is that despite all the problems, the fact Joseph had to rely on so many others to write down his thoughts, ideas, directions and history, and getting it all recorded to fulfil the revelations and commandments that he do so, yet not having enough hours in the day to accomplish it all himself, and not having the writing and grammar skill that is far more common in our day than his, he still accomplished and compiled a record, albeit through others, that has lasted this nearly ninety years, providing us with a consistent and understandable record of all these events.
    Where we should be grateful for its existence, some tend to want to quibble over who did what and exactly how. This is not only true of the Book of Mormon and early Church history, but also of the Biblical scriptures and ther numerous events of antiquityconsequently, whose actual handwriting on any one document, lesson, or record should never be the point of any commnet, since it is so well known that Joseph had all these scribes that recorded his writing for him.
    Obviously, then, in the case of early LDS record keeping, it was not perfect by any means, and consisted of the personal input of numerous people while Joseph dictated and assigned the process, but the Joseph Smith Papers “have been very careful to try and understand all of these things on their own terms in the context in which they were originally created. This can be very important in terms of understanding some things in church history.” What we have today is a very complicated though imperfect record, but the its very existence testifies to the importance Joseph Smith placed upon it and the constant calling of his scribes to carry out the work he dictated and assigned them.
    Our apologies for making this subject so long, but it seemed prudent to quote all these Church sources in some detail to show that what one person might think is a “smoking gun” as Reynolds claims in his article, is simply what it really is, one person’s opinion, albeit based on some lengthy research, but still just speculation or assumptions that seem to deliberately ignore what everyone at the time well understoodJoseph Smith wrote little but directed and dictated much. Consequently, when you have numerous people more or less saying the same thing, chances are there is some weight behind it—not always, but in this case, Reynolds’ singular opinion has no more credence than another person’s opinion, or in this case, many people’s opinions who are not aligned with the subject in any way, but have each approached the subject from their own viewpoints and their own research based on known facts.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, regarding who wrote the lessons delivered in the School of the Prophets. We concluded the last post on the meeting held in the translation room of the Kirtland Temple on the same day following the receiving of Section 88 of the D&C. 
    A further revelation was received in which the Keys to Administer the School were given in D&C 90:6-8).
This should impart to all an understanding that whatever ended up being taught in the School of the Prophets was basically the result of the Lord’s direction and Joseph Smith’s organization and creation of the school and its curriculum, enlisting the help of his counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, as well as certain others.
    It is always important to understand fully the workings of the Priesthood and that it is not something that underlings usurp from time to time, i.e., act without direction from higher authority. The Prophet directs the affairs of the First Presidency; the First Presidency directs the affairs of the Quorum of the Twelve; The Twelve direct the affairs of the Church in general; a Stake President for his stake, and a Bishop for his Ward.
    For Noel Beldon Reynolds, a political science professor at BYU, to claim that Sidney Rigdon wrote the Lessons pertaining to the School of the Prophets, as stated by the reader, suggests that he did so without direction and completely on his own, is without merit. Such is simply not the way the Church has ever acted and does not act today. The fact that Reynolds uses a writing expert to evaluate the written words of the Lessons and claim they were all written by Sidney Rigdon does not address the reality of who created the information in the first place.
    After all, Joseph Smith rarely wrote matters himself, using numerous scribes and secretaries over his life to write down his dictations and directions, including his correspondence, experiences and history. He used such people as Frederick G. Williams, a counselor in his initial First Presidency, he also used his wife, Emma, to scribe for his translation, etc. According to Nick Newman, in Scribes recorded Prophet’s words, from the Church History Library, “Joseph Smith was not an accomplished writer. As [he] transitioned into his role as Prophet of God, capable men served as his personal scribes, assistants and secretaries until at the time of his death, he had amassed an entire office staff. In his collection of 10 journals alone, which consist of 1,500 pages, a mere 35—or 2 percent—are in the Prophet's own handwriting.” 
    Alex Baugh, professor of church history and doctrine at BYU added, “In Joseph Smith's day, for men of prominence—and in his capacity as president of the church—it was absolutely vital that he had the proper individuals under him who could take accurate notes, dictation and make transcriptions…it was almost impossible for Joseph to keep his own personal record. He needed help." And Robin Jensen, co-editor of the Joseph Smith Papers Revelations series, says “the need for record keeping and scripture drove the Prophet to choose the scribes he did.”
    Mark Ashurst-McGee, co-editor of the JSP's Journals series, added: “According to the Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1, Joseph wrote in a journal for nine days, then not again for 10 months…He understands the importance of record keeping, feels strongly about it, and understands its part of the mission of the church, but he doesn't love it…And that's why he starts getting scribes to help him. He's so busy. And (having scribes) builds up more and more in the history of the early church, so that by the time he dies, he has an office staff."
    In addition, according to the scholars that have spent much of their time pouring over Joseph Smith’s life and his history in the early church, each appointed scribe had unique talents that fit their callings—each made contribution that was well-suited to that person's abilities. As Baugh said: "The Lord got the right scribe at the right time."
    An example of the Lord’s involvement in the picking of Joseph’s scribes is pointed out in the incident of Martin Harris, a financially well-to-do farmer, who helped the Prophet with the translation of the Large Plates encompassing the first 116 translated pages of the Book of Mormon. As Newman point out; “He used his education in scribing duties and his farm to subsidize the printing of the book.” When Harris lost those first 116 pages, the Lord told Joseph to wait a while until He could provide another scribe: “Stop and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee" (D&C 5:34). And according to his mother, Lucy Mac Smith, Joseph responded to the revelation, saying: “I trust his promise will be verified” (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations, S.W. Richards, Liverpool, England, 1853, p126).
    As Church History then points out: following Martin Harris came Oliver Cowdery on April 5, 1829, a well-educated 22-year-old school teacher arriving in Harmony after the school term ended.
    Then came the 27-year old German farmer John Whitmer from Fayette, about thirty miles southeast of Palmyra, who helped move Joseph and Oliver to the Whitmer home in Fayette, and offered the assistance of one of his brothers, 26-year old John as a scribe, who assisted in the remainder of the work, and later became one of the Eight Witnesses.
    When the Church was organized the following year, on April 6, 1830, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith, “There Shall a Record be kept among you”(D&C 21:1), and  To Oliver Cowdery was appointed the first Church historian (Howard C. Searle, “Historians, Church,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols., Macmillan, New York, 1992), 2:589).
    According to John Whitmer’s history (1831-1834 p22), regarding the fact that Joseph’s revelations formed a significant part of the historical record, wrote that during the early days of the Church, “the Lord blessed his disciples greatly, and he gave Revelation after Revelation, which contained doctrine, instructions, and prophecies.”
    We should note that in July 1830, Joseph Smith “began to arrange and copy the revelations that he had received thus far,” with Whitmer acting as scribe (Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, pp37–38).
    Following Whitmer came Sidney Rigdon, the Campbellite preacher-turned-counselor to the Prophet, who was one of Joseph Smith’s closest friends and advisers, one of the Church’s most persuasive orators in the first decade, and counselor in the First Presidency from 1832 to 1844. He knew the Bible so well, that in 1830 he was called to scribe for the Prophet on his "new translation" of the Bible then under way.
    Frederick G. Williams was the primary scribe for the Kirtland Revelation Book, the second revelation book, what is today called the Doctrine and Covenants. In the summer of 1833, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were formally set apart as counselors to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. Sidney had already been called as a counselor to Joseph a year earlier, before there was a First Presidency.
(See the next post, “Revisiting the School of the Prophets and the Revelation that Established it – Part III,” regarding who wrote the lessons in the School of the Prophets)