Saturday, September 26, 2015

Evening at the temple in Independence





Far West

Some photos from Far West. All that's left here of a once-thriving town is the temple lot area, where there are four cornerstones. Here's a map for orientation:


It's a beautiful site. No wonder the Saints in the 1830s were happy to be here and had big expectations.





Adam ondi Ahman

We had a fantastic tour today of several sites, including Adam ondi Ahman. Alex Baugh explained everything and included some wonderful stories. Here are a few photos from the drone.

Here's our group, gathered at Tower Hill.



Tower Hill with the valley in the background.



The valley.

The river and the site of the original community.

The river looking west.


The valley with Tower Hill on the left center.
Tower Hill.

Independence, Missouri

Last night we flew the drone around. Here's one photo at sunset. The spiral building is the Community of Christ temple. The rectangular building to the left with all the columns is the LDS Visitors Center. The dome behind that is the Community of Christ auditorium.









JWHA Report - Roper and Fields

Yesterday at the John Whitmer Historical Association meeting in Independence, Missouri, Matt Roper, Paul Fields, and I presented in a combined session.

My topic was "Ghosts of the Times and Seasons: Authorship of an Article describing Central America as Zarahemla's Location."

Roper/Fields spoke on "Joseph Smith, Benjamin Winchester and Central American Archaeology: Assessing the Authorship of the 1842 Book of Mormon Articles in the Times and Seasons."

First, it was an honor for me to have been invited. The organizers of JWHA put together a fantastic program and my only regret was having to present at the same time as several other outstanding presentations were underway with speakers such as Alex Baugh and Kyle Walker.

Second, I'm fine with a conclusion that Joseph Smith wrote the letters, if that's what actually happened. All I care about is the truth. What I don't want is perpetuation of a false historical narrative that Joseph Smith wrote or approved of everything in the Times and Seasons. In my view, that's what has been presented heretofore by the "consensus" scholars in the citation cartel, so I was looking forward to the presentations.

I had 30 minutes to present. I went through the 7 historical assumptions in the Roper/Fields article (located here) and showed how every one of them was wrong or misleading. I will go through each of them in upcoming days (I have so much material for this blog I'll never post it all.)

When I finished, Matt stood and discussed the Bernhisel letter for a few minutes. Here's a link to it.

I thought Matt did a pretty good job, given what he has to work with. He put half of the letter on the screen and read it to the audience. I had shown in my presentation that no one knows who wrote the letter because we don't know whose handwriting it was in. This is according to a note in the Joseph Smith Papers, which I have independently confirmed with the Church History Department and by my own examination of the handwriting. (I'm not a handwriting expert but I have prosecuted forgery cases and I've had to explain to juries how we distinguish one person's writing from another's, so I know more than a little about the topic.)

By contrast, here's what Roper/Fields said in their paper:  "The letter to Bernhisel, written in the hand of John Taylor, belongs to a class of historical documents that are extant only in the hand of scribes but are included in the Joseph Smith corpus (see, for example, Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 527–28, 551–52). The letter could suggest that Joseph Smith either dictated the letter or directed the apostle to write to Bernhisel on his behalf. In either case, it would be unlikely for Taylor to knowingly attribute views to the Prophet that were not his own."

Because Taylor is one whose penmanship is not in the letter, anyone who reads Roper's paper is being misled. Roper knows this, but he has never retracted his paper or corrected it until, maybe, now.

The Second Edition of the Zarahemla book has an entire chapter on the Bernhisel letter. I won't get into the detail here except to point out that 1) the Bernhisel letter compares the Stephens books to "all of the histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country;" 2) apart from this anonymous letter, there are no accounts of Joseph Smith reading any such histories, let alone all of them; 3) There are no records in Joseph's or anyone else's journal in which Joseph mentions Stephens or even Central America; 4) Wilford Woodruff was known for having read history extensively even before he joined the Church; 5) Woodruff is the only person who actually read the Stevens books; 6) A few years later when he was crossing the ocean from England he was reading a history of Russia and compared the author to Stevens; 7) the letter itself reads like a simple thank-you note, and a generic one at that. IMO, the evidence suggests that Woodruff was the source of the letter. I have some ideas on who wrote it but haven't had time to make the comparison. I can see Joseph taking one look at 2 volumes of history adding up to 900 pages and telling Woodruff, "Send him a thank you note." It's unimaginable to me that no one would have mentioned Joseph taking the time to read these books; if he had, everyone would have wanted to read and discuss them. The only book that Joseph's journal mentions him reading is the Book of Mormon, and his scribes even mention what page he was reading. Regarding the Stephens books, there is complete silence.

Still, it is possible that Joseph spent the time to read 900 pages, plus all the other histories he compared the Stephens book to, and no one thought it was unusual enough to write about. Maybe Joseph spent all his time reading. I'll let anyone familiar with his life's history, his personality, and his heavy schedule and responsibility think about that one.

That said, Roper did a good job. He took only about ten minutes.

Then Paul Fields stood.

I anticipated that they were going to revisit their stylometry study. I had a few slides on stylometry but I skipped over them in the interest of time. I did mention that stylometry has just a few weaknesses and problems. I'll do a separate post on that. But it turns out I didn't need to mention the problems with stylometry.

To no one's surprise, Fields claimed his study (Matt, apparently, had little to do with it) verified that Joseph Smith wrote the articles. But I was surprised at what happened next.

Paul Fields impeached his own methodology.

He spent around 10 minutes discussing the Federalist Papers as an example of stylomtery. It reminded me of Jeane Dixon, who had predicted the assassination of JFK and forever after rode that single success, despite a long list of failed prophecies.

(FYI, the Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 essays about the Constitution written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. They all wrote under a pseudonym of "Publius," but shortly after publication, contemporary experts recognized the writing style of the three men, who had been publicly discussing these issues. Hamilton later took credit for most of the essays, Madison took credit for some that Hamilton had claimed, and some remained unclear. Numerous authorship studies have been done, most of which attributed the disputed essays to Madison, but some claim the disputed essays were a collaborative effort, which is what I think. I've referred to the Federalist Papers in some of my books on Constitutional Law.)

Fields, of course, has had nothing to do with the examination of the Federalist Papers. Stylometrists like to cite this case because it is famous and has produced a fair overall consensus. But this is nothing like the case with the 1842 articles. First, we know there were three candidate authors. Second, the authors themselves took credit for the papers. Three, the authors had publicly discussed the issues and were well-known experts on the topic (which is why we care about their opinions). Four, the corpus (the essays themselves) discussed a clearly defined topic. Five, the essays were of approximately the same length (900-1500 words). Six, the essays were all published. Seven, they were contemporaneous. Eight, they were all addressed to the same audience.

Fields pointed out elements 4-8 as being key to an effective stylometry analysis. He didn't mention 1-3, but in my view, those were equally as important. The Federalist Papers were an easy case, actually; even people in the 1700s without computers could identify the authors.

The fallacy in Fields' presentation, which left me wondering what he was getting at, was NONE OF THESE ELEMENTS IS PRESENT IN THE 1842 ARTICLES.

Granted, the Federalist Papers is a good example of stylometry. But the reasons it is a good example do not apply to the 1842 articles. I'll go through each element and show why I question his conclusions.

1. The list of potential authors for the 1842 Times and Seasons (T&S) articles, particularly those on Sept. 15 and Oct. 1, is unlimited. A majority of the material published in the T&S came through the mail. Anyone could have sent them in. There is good evidence that the extracts in the articles was proofread against the actual books (although even then there are some strange copy mistakes), but that is not evidence of the origin of the commentary (the 900 words in dispute).

2. No one ever publicly took credit for the T&S articles.

3. Some of the potential authors of the T&S articles had publicly discussed the topic, or would in the future. I identified five of them in my presentation: Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, W.W. Phelps, Benjamin Winchester, and William Smith. Arguably, Wilford Woodruff discussed the topic, although the only record is in his journal from a year previously. So far as I know, he never discussed it publicly. Besides, he and John Taylor were extremely sick in this time frame and didn't even come into the office. The one candidate for whom there is no record--zero--of ever having discussed Central America publicly (or even privately) is Joseph Smith. And, unlike the authors of the Federalist Papers, none of the T&S candidates were experts on Central America. At most, they had read the Stephens book.

4. The corpus in Fields' study is not comprised of other writings on the same topic. (Actually, no one knows what the corpus is. This was my complaint about the original Roper/Fields study. I haven't had time to read their paper; I'm only responding to their presentation here. Maybe in the paper they list every document they used in the comparison, along with their software and parameters. I hope so.) At any rate, if they confined their corpus to writings about Stephens, or even writings about Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon, they have a corpus consisting of Orson Pratt, several anonymous articles, and a few writings by the men I mentioned above. But they'd have nothing from Joseph Smith. Actually, they'd have nothing on the specific question of Zarahemla in Guatemala because on that point, the T&S articles are unique.

Roper/Fields even included the Bernhisel letter in their corpus! And we know it is not holographic for Joseph Smith. We don't know who wrote it.

5. Since I don't know what corpus they used, it's possible Roper/Fields came up with a statistically meaningful collection of 300-word essays and comments. That's what we're looking at in the T&S: 3 short pieces totaling about 900 words. I'm eager to see this corpus. But in the first article, Roper/Fields cut up longer works to come up with comparable chunks. That begs the question, though; is a 300-word sample valid? Is it a valid assumption that all three articles in the T&S were written by the same person? Someone in the audience astutely asked about this. Fields said they were all the same (although in their published data, Roper/Fields only show them combined into one). I answered that I had looked at them separately with stylometry software and got different results for the three pieces. But I question the validity of those results anyway, given how short the pieces are and the evidence of editing input.

6. During the Q&A, the question of what prior works of Joseph Smith the authors used. All Matt would say was they used holographic writings of Joseph Smith. Holographic? So they are comparing hand-written material by Joseph Smith to a published article. That directly contradicted Fields' own criteria. Maybe the analysis of the Federalist papers used Madison's letters to his wife, but I doubt it and Fields himself said that would be produce poor data. Or maybe Roper/Fields used holographic samples from Phelps, Winchester and the others, but I'm aware of only a few letters written by Winchester that I doubt add up to 900 words each. We do have quite a few holographic letters that Phelps wrote to his wife; maybe that's what Fields used? Presumably, this is in the paper, but they didn't elaborate during the presentation.

7. Fields made a point that comparison samples should be contemporaneous, so I'm eager to see what writing samples they used from Joseph Smith during 1842, plus or minus a year, as well as what contemporaneous samples they used from the other candidates. Actually, I'm sure every historian at the conference would have attended had Roper/Fields produced such a corpus.

8. The 900 words were addressed to the readers of the Times and Seasons. I'm not aware of any holographic writings by Joseph Smith that were published as such in the Times and Seasons, but maybe there were some. Many of the other writings by the 5 candidates were addressed to unbelievers (as part of a larger argument).

Bottom line, all the criteria Fields identified that made the Federalist Papers example so compelling are absent here.

Fields claimed their results are replicable and have all been published in peer reviewed journals. So far as I know (relying on this site), the only two things Roper/Fields have published in this area are

1) their original study of the Times and Seasons, linked above, published by the Maxwell Institute, which I don't think was peer reviewed or even copy edited (although I noted Roper had fixed the typo from the conclusion in the original published article). Certainly this article does not contain enough data to allow anyone to replicate the work.

2) a study of Earl Wunderli's book that Wunderli himself effectively rebutted, IMO, here. The Roper/Fields article was published by BYU Studies, but the link is broken so I can't cite it now.

They also have published three articles in the Interpreter, which as I've shown is about as far from peer-reviewed as a publication can get. I'll go through Roper's third article as soon as I get a chance.

Maybe Fields has published more about stylometry. I'd very much like to see his other articles; they didn't come up in a google search, and they're not otherwise cited that I can find. Fields portrayed himself as an expert during the presentation, so I'm quite curious to see what his representation is based upon. When he finished his presentation, I was itching to conduct cross-examination.

Well, I'm out of time on this. Maybe I'll pick up more later.

At the end of the session, I suggested to Matt that we get together and discuss these things. I think we agree about more than we disagree about, and I'd like to narrow ad define the disagreements so we can evaluate them rationally. I barely had time to scratch the surface in my presentation. He claimed he was too busy here at the conference, and that we could meet back in his office in Utah, but only when Paul Fields is available.

We'll see if/when that materializes.

Conclusion.

Roper/Fields want us to believe that Joseph Smith wrote these three short comments, accompanied by extensive excerpts from the Stephens books.

This is in the same issue of the Times and Seasons (15 September 1842) in which we find this:


"The following letter was read to the Saints in Nauvoo, last Sunday week, and a copy forwarded to us for publication:-and cordially we give it a hearty welcome, and a happy spread among those who love the truth for the truth's sake."

The letter referred to was written by Joseph Smith on 1 Sept 1842 and became D&C 127. Roper/Fields would have us believe  that Joseph sent this letter to himself to publish. During his presentation, Matt referred to Joseph as the nominal editor, so maybe he's conceded that Joseph wasn't acting as editor at this point. Hopefully everyone can agree that Joseph did not send D&C 127 to himself for publication.

However, Roper/Fields still want us to believe that the editor who gave Joseph's letter a "hearty welcome" also received these three articles from Joseph Smith that he didn't even identify as coming from Joseph. Is that plausible?

The next issue, 1 Oct. 1842, includes a letter from Joseph Smith dated Sept. 6 1842 that is titled "LETTER FROM JOSEPH SMITH." We're supposed to believe the editor used such a headline to tout this letter, but left Joseph's other supposed article, the one on Zarahemla, anonymous.

It defies credulity to propose that the same editor would emphasize Joseph's authorship of two letter but suppress his authorship of 3 supposed articles.

Then there is the problem that none of Joseph's papers mention him reading, discussing, or writing about the Stephens books. His journal includes the creation of the Book of the Law of the Lord and other material, but says nothing about Stephens. We're supposed to believe that while Joseph Smith was evading extradition, setting forth temple doctrine, overseeing the construction of the Nauvoo temple, welcoming new members, developing Nauvoo real estate and so forth, he was lugging around the 900-page Stephens books, making selections to extract anonymously in the Times and Seasons.

No doubt there will be some people who believe this. Apparently Roper and Fields do.

But I don't.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Kudos to FairMormon for helping to build a consensus.

As I've shown, FairMormon usually takes a strong stance in support of the Mesoamerican theory. However, the times, they are a-changin'.

Now FairMormon is helping to help prove Joseph Smith did not write the 1842 Times and Seasons articles that spawned the Mesoamerican industry.

Right on this page, they cite a source in the Millennial Star that says Joseph had little to do with the Times and Seasons. 

This is a huge step toward consensus.

Well done.

Here's the quotation from the source FairMormon cites:

"Sometime previous to the year 1842, Mr.Smith established a printing office in the city of Nauvoo, for the purpose of printing the various publications of the church, and executing job work for the convenience of the public. He placed a foreman over it to take charge of the printing department, and although the business was done in his name, it was frequently the case that he was not inside the office once in a month."

Here's the link to the original source in the Millennial Star.

Now that FairMormon acknowledges Joseph had nothing to do with the September/October Times and Seasons articles, we're one step closer to consensus.

Now I'm hoping someone at FairMormon will come out in support of what David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery said about Cumorah. Oliver Cowdery even said it was a fact that the Book of Mormon Cumorah was in New York. Every early Mormon leader and writer accepted Cumorah in New York.

It was so identified even in Orson Pratt's 1879 footnotes in the Book of Mormon. It wasn't until the 20th century when the limited Mesoamerican geography was proposed by scholars that the so-called Two Cumorah theory was developed.

So on the one hand, we have the people who met Moroni and translated the Book of Mormon saying Cumorah was in New York. On the other hand, we have scholars a hundred years later saying Oliver, David and Joseph were merely repeating a rumor or tradition some unidentified people started.

The choice between the two is easy for me.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Letter VII continued

This is the photo that we used for the cover of the book. I flew over the area with my drone. The Hill Cumorah is in the upper right of the photo. The light green triangle is where the annual pageant takes place. At the peak, just to the left, is the statue of Moroni. The white building on the left is the Visitors Center.

Yesterday I listed a few of the things covered in the book. Here are some more items of interest it contains.

1. Oliver's letters are the only source for many details about the early events of the Restoration.

2. Oliver's Letter I is excerpted in the Pearl of Great Price.

3. Joseph had his scribes copy Oliver's letters into his personal history.

4. Oliver's Letter VII was re-published several times through 1844.

5. Oliver describes Moroni by saying "the stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age."

6. Oliver says Moroni's "garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam."

7. Oliver says Moroni "said this history was written and deposited not far from that place."

Think about that last one. We know the plates were deposited not far from that place (i.e., Joseph's home where Moroni was speaking to him). But if the history was also written "not far from that place," then it was not written in Mesoamerica.

8. On April 3, 1836, just a few months after Oliver published Letter VII and Joseph's scribes copied it into Joseph's personal history, Moses, Elias, Elijah, and the Lord Himself appeared to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple. "Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice." D&C 110:5.

9. Oliver remained a faithful witness of the Book of Mormon throughout his life.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Letter VII: Oliver Cowdery's Message to the World about the Hill Cumorah

Today is Book of Mormon day (the anniversary of Joseph obtaining the plates from Moroni). To celebrate, here's my new book, Letter VII: Oliver Cowdery's Message to the World about the Hill Cumorah.

This is the "soft release," meaning we're not doing any marketing for two weeks. It is available on Amazon Kindle now, paperback soon. In a few weeks, it will be available in stores.

The book discusses the background, content, and significance of Oliver Cowdery's letters. It includes observations by Richard L. Bushman, John W. Welch, and others. I included edited versions of all eight of Cowdery's letters, along with timelines and numerous references for those interested in additional research.

Some of the key points covered in the book:

1. Oliver wrote these letters with the assistance of Joseph Smith and "authentic documents now in our possession."

2. Oliver declared the letters are founded on facts.

3. Oliver unequivocally identified the Book of Mormon Cumorah as being in New York.

4. Oliver describes the vale between the Hill Cumorah and another ridge about one mile west. [Note: this is the vale shown on the cover. In the hard copies of the book, the photo continues on the back cover so you can see the entire vale.]

5. Oliver writes about "the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed." (emphasis mine)

There's more that I'll discuss tomorrow.






Sunday, September 20, 2015

Building out of wood

There was an overview of the Moundbuilder culture in today's Deseret News here. It included this statement: "The eastern United States and the greater Mississippi River valley are a beautiful land with widespread forests. Unfortunately for archaeologists, this means that the region’s ancient Indians mainly built using wood, which inevitably decays, leaving, at best, marginal archaeological evidence."

That reminded me of Mosiah 11:9. "And he [King Noah] also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things."

This is the only palace described in the Book of Mormon, and it was made of wood. That's exactly what we would expect to find in a North American setting.

Verse 8 is also interesting. "And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper."

From what I can find in the text, the only thing the Nephites built out of stone were "walls of stone to encircle" their armies, their cities, and their borders. (Alma 48:8). 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Commemorating Book of Mormon anniversaries

This time of the year brings us three notable anniversaries:

Sept 15, 1842: The date of the first two Times and Seasons articles that have misled some LDS scholars into believing the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica.

Sept 22, 1827: The date Joseph Smith obtained the plates from Moroni.

Oct 1, 1842: The date of the third Times and Seasons article that claimed Zarahemla as in Quirigua, leading some LDS scholars on a wild-goose chase through Central America.

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To commemorate Sept 15, I posted a comment about the RAGS translation of the Book of Mormon, the one used by Mesoamericanists instead of Joseph's translation. In the last few days, I've seen additional variations on the RAGS translation, in which Mesoamerican proponents substitute their own words and phrases to "fix" what Joseph translated so it will "fit" into a Mesoamerican setting. If you don't know what I'm referring to, take a look at John Sorenson's book, Mormon's Codex, Brant Gardner's book Traditions of the Fathers, or pretty much anything published about Book of Mormon geography by FARMS/Maxwell Institute, the Interpreter, or FairMormon (Fairlds). None of these stick to Joseph Smith's translation. If they did, they wouldn't be looking in Mesoamerica.

To commemorate Sept 22, I'm going to release a short book on Amazon/Kindle titled Letter VII: the letter every Latter-day Saint needs to read. There will be a Spanish version as well. I hope that every member of the Church will read this before beginning the Book of Mormon course of study in 2016.

To commemorate Oct 1, I'm going to release a short book on Amazon/Kindle titled The Treason of the Geographers: excerpts from LDS scholars on the Book of Mormon. That one will feature some of the "greatest hits" from FARMS/Maxwell Institute, The Interpreter, FairMormon (FairLDS), BMAF, and other works published by the Mesoamericanists.
_____________

What are you doing to commemorate these anniversaries?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Translation of the Book of Mormon



Most members of the Church don't realize there is a new translation of the Book of Mormon available. This is not merely a translation into another new language.

It's in English.

The new translation did not originate with the discovery of more plates in Cumorah or the manuscript Martin Harris lost. It is purely the product of the imagination of scholars such as Mike Ash, Brant Gardner, John Sorenson and Matthew Roper.

I'm going to call it the RAGS translation (Roper, Ash, Gardner, Sorenson*).

The RAGS translation is the last resort of proponents of a Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography. (The name RAGS also evokes the tattered state of the Mesoamerican theory.) Because the Mesoamerican theory does not align with Joseph Smith's translation, these scholars felt a better translation was needed. They don't even bother with Joseph's translation, actually. They invent an entirely new text.

RAGS is being promoted by people such as Scot Proctor at LDSMag. The latest example is an article by Michael R. Ash, here.

[BTW, Meridian is an ideal venue for the RAGS translation. Meridian is "Latter-day Saints Shaping their World." The RAGS translation is "Latter-day Scholars shaping their own Book of Mormon."]
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The RAGS translation adds an entirely new section that explains how "the Lehites were a small group who migrated into a land full of already existing populations. When the Lehites intermingled with these larger populations, their DNA disappeared."

Do not look in Joseph Smith's translation for this passage. Anyone who reads Joseph's translation can see that Lehi landed in a promised land that was "kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance." (2 Ne. 1:8). A reader can also see that the Nephites were a distinct nation: "And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations." (Mosiah 12:8)

To be clear, there is room within the text for some other occupants of the promised land, such as distant descendants of the original Jaredites. Moroni explicitly stated his account was only about the "ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country." This leaves room for ancient inhabitants outside "this north country."

Actually, Lehi said nothing about land that was outside his inheritance. Assuming as I do that Cumorah was in New York and the main setting for the text was between New York, Missouri, and Florida, Lehi's statement and the other prophecies in the text have nothing to say about lands to the west and south of this area. IOW, the "other nations" to which Lehi referred inhabited what we now call Latin America, as well as western North America. The Book of Mormon text is therefore fully consistent with the the archaeology, the DNA, etc.

But the RAGS translation doesn't like what Joseph's translation says.

And why is that?
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Essentially, the RAGS translators have decided that the Book of Mormon took place in Central America (Mesoamerica). Inconveniently, that setting conflicts with Joseph's translation in the following respects, among other things:

1. Cumorah in New York.
2. Nephites practicing the law of Moses and retaining Hebrew identity
3. DNA evidence that everyone in Mesoamerica was Asian
4. "Many nations" existing there before Lehi arrived
5. Prophecies that Lehi's descendants would not utterly be destroyed.

So rather than adjust their preferred setting to match the text, the RAGS translators have adjusted the text to match their preferred setting. 

It's a clever approach, actually.

You take a slim thread of possibility--that there were remnants of Jaredites within Lehi's land of inheritance--and explode it into a complete contradiction to the text.

In the RAGS translation, instead of Lehi obtaining a land of promise and inheritance that was kept from the knowledge of other nations, Lehi landed smack-dab into a vast, well-established Asian civilization that completely absorbed his people.

IOW, Lehi's descendants didn't inherit anything but the customs and genes of the "other nations" Lehi said didn't even know about his land!

What makes this all the more perplexing is the RAGS translators purport to be helping people who have on-going faith crises. In what way does coming up with a new, flexible version of the Book of Mormon build faith?

The entire premise of the RAGS translation is that Joseph didn't do it right. Either he missed something, or Oliver didn't write it down, or maybe Nephi, Mormon and Moroni overlooked it. Or, maybe, it was Lehi who made a mistake.

So far, the RAGS translation is only cultural; they haven't taken the next obvious step of issuing their own version of the text. But believers in the RAGS translation such as Scot Proctor surely cannot be satisfied with that. Here's the kind of specificity I expect to see in the next issue of Proctor's LDSmag: a more correct text, starting with 2 Nephi 1:8:

RAGS translation:

"And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be densely occupied by other nations; for behold, many nations will absorb your people, that there would be no chance for an inheritance."

Compare to Joseph's translation:

"And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance."

________________________________

The RAGS translation is not a response to critics of the Book of Mormon; it's a response to critics of the Mesoamerican theory.

Here is how Ash explains his rationale, with my comments in red.

Critics reluctantly agreed with the basic LDS scholarly position—that if the Lehites were a small group who mingled with a larger Native American population, that Lehite DNA most likely would have disappeared. 
[Here Ash claims the RAGS translation has succeeded; i.e., unnamed "critics" have conceded that the "basic LDS scholarly position" must be correct. This is appalling on several levels. First, it is circular reasoning--the RAGS translation was invented specifically to defeat the argument of these unnamed critics. Second, the "basic LDS scholarly position" is not actually a position; it's merely a hypothetical. And it's not even really a hypothetical; it's an axiom. By definition, if a small group (by small, Ash means around a dozen) mingles with a larger group (by larger, Ash means in the millions), the DNA will mathematically disappear. That's not an LDS position; it's a universal position, based on genetic science. Third, what Ash represents as a "basic LDS scholarly position" is held by only a tiny minority of LDS scholars; i.e., the few who still adhere to and promote the Mesoamerican setting.]
In order to salvage the argument, however, critics try to attach the DNA argument to the beliefs (not doctrinal beliefs, mind you) of early Latter-day Saints. 
[This is a diversion. Ash doesn't name the critics, so it's impossible to assess whether these are actual critics or merely foils for his argument, but critics I can think of, such as Earl Wunderli, focus on the text specifically, not what early LDS thought.]
Most early Mormons, for example, believed that the Book of Mormon peoples were responsible, entirely, for populating the Americas. 
[There is no way to tell what "most early Mormons" believed. All we have are the writings of a dozen or so men who described a hemispheric model. By comparison, someone reading LDS Magazine might conclude that "most Mormons in 2015" believed in the RAGS translation, but that's not the case. I doubt even most readers of LDS Magazine accept the RAGS translation. More importantly regarding "early Mormons," we have Joseph Smith expressly rejecting Orson Pratt's hemispheric model when he wrote the Wentworth letter. We have Joseph Smith embracing Oliver Cowdery's detailed discussion of the final battles taking place in New York, identifying Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as the "plains of the Nephites," etc. The one early Mormon we know who never expressed belief in a hemispheric model was Joseph Smith.]
Well, if this was true, than the DNA argument would have some teeth (not a full set of teeth, but possibly a few incisors).
[Not even Lehi claimed his people were responsible, entirely, for populating the Americas. He spoke only of the promised land he occupied. Nothing in the text excludes extensive population and civilization outside Lehi's promised land. So the DNA argument can only have teeth in a Mesoamerican setting.]
By the early twentieth century, however (long before DNA science came on the scene), some LDS leaders and scholars were already moving away from the faulty position that Book of Mormon peoples were the sole progenitors of all Native Americans—a position that is based on an erroneous reading of the text.
[This is another straw man argument. At most, Joseph claimed the Book of Mormon was the history of the ancestors of the Indians living in what was then the United States. He never said or implied that "Book of Mormon peoples were the sole progenitors of all Native Americans." To the extent there was a "faulty position" to be moved away from by LDS leaders and scholars, that faulty position did not originate with Joseph Smith. In that sense, Ash makes a good point. The problem with the RAGS translation, though, is they kept the faulty part of the position; i.e., they adhered to the faulty Mesoamerican setting and rejected the correct New York/North American setting.]

________________________________

*I've previously discussed the "Sorenson translation," in which Mesoamerican proponents insert their own terminology, such as "headwaters of Sidon" instead of Joseph Smith's translation that reads "head of Sidon," volcanoes and huge mountain ranges, new "equivalent" animals and directions and so forth. The new RAGS translation is more comprehensive than the mere substitution of a few terms. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

BMAF on Zarahemla





BMAF (Book of Mormon Archaeological Foundation) has posted a response to The Lost City of Zarahemla on its web site here. It was written by Joe V. Anderson. Joe is a really good guy. 
I enjoyed meeting him some time ago and having a productive discussion. He was kind enough to send me his review in Word format, so here I'm posting my interlinear comments.
I look forward to additional discussions and interaction with Joe in the future. There is a lot of potential to reach a consensus.
Here are my comments to Joe's response:


Response to Neville's The Lost City of Zarahemla
 Copyright © 2015 by Joe V. Andersen





Here’s my overall reaction. It must be very difficult to change one’s paradigm. For me, abandoning the Mesoamerican ideology took several years, so I understand the process. But I didn’t have a coherent, text-based explanation of the North American setting that explained every passage as I do now.

It was a good exercise to re-evaluate these passages in the text, but ultimately, Joe’s analysis reinforces the North American setting. Every iota of evidence for Mesoamerica he cites is a product of 1) a fixed mental map based on Mesoamerica and 
2) Sorenson and Sorenson-like translations; i.e., Joe repeatedly inserts his own terminology into the text to make it fit.

I gave up on page 18 because the argument was getting redundant and further and further removed from the text. I understand the necessity of “supplementing” the text to support a Mesoamerican setting; the actual text just doesn’t fit there. But I don’t think that’s a valid excuse.

Instead of adapting the text to fit one’s preferred geography, I prefer to adjust the geography to fit the text. IOW, if the geography doesn’t fit the text—and as Joe demonstrates here by changing the text, the geography doesn’t fit Mesoamerica—then find another geography.

I’m still looking for just a single Mesoamerican advocate who will actually stick to the text.

Anyone?

That said, the last part of Joe’s analysis is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what I’m proposing about Book of Mormon geography. Maybe it wasn’t clear in the first edition, but it is clear in the second edition, where I explain the River Sidon, the narrow strip of wilderness, the sea west, and the other issues in detail, with illustrations, all based on the text without inserting anything the way Joe does here. I encourage Joe to revisit this because there is plenty of room for consensus among those who stick with the text.


Jonathan Neville proposes[1] that the once faithful, dynamic missionary, and friend of Joseph Smith, Benjamin Winchester, was the author of the 900 editorial words contained in three articles in the September15 and October 1, 1842 issues of Times and Seasons. These 900 editorial words identify Central America and Guatemala as the geographic area where the Book of Mormon took place.  Even though he admits that this conclusion is based almost exclusively on circumstantial evidence, I found that the evidence was very informative, nicely presented and plausibly accurate. Neville's presentation met the prima facia threshold by a preponderance of the evidence.  Perhaps there is another side of the story, however for purposes of this article I am willing to admit to the possibility that Benjamin Winchester probably wrote, or at least initiated and promulgated, the said 900 editorial words.
Having said that it is also clear that all three Prophets and Presidents of the church who had knowledge of and participated in the publishing of the Times and Seasons never officially recanted, rejected, modified, or disputed those 900 editorial words. [More importantly, they never cited them or repeated the idea of Zarahemla being in Mesoamerica.]
Neville's book reaffirms the conclusion— and all scholars and authors of Book of Mormon geography should now be in agreement with the fact— that neither Joseph Smith, nor any other prophet, has ever claimed to have received definitive revelation as to where the geography of the Book of Mormon took place. [I don’t agree; Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer were all present when Moroni said he was taking the plates to Cumorah; Joseph helped Oliver write his Letter VII (about the final battles taking place in New York), which Cowdery stated was based on fact, and Joseph had his scribes copy that letter into his personal journal as part of his story. Letter VII was published 3 times during Joseph’s lifetime. Identifying the New York Cumorah is not a “model” of Book of Mormon geography; I think Joseph didn’t understand chiasmus and so he couldn’t recognize how the text described what he knew and recognized, such as the plains of the Nephites.] Had he done so there would be no discussion today by those faithful in the Church. [Regarding Cumorah specifically, there should be no discussion; everyone should agree New York was the scene of the final battles. The two-Cumorah theory is not the product of any error or uncertainty on the part of Joseph Smith; it’s the product of those who reject Joseph, Oliver, and David.] There would be no 'Lost City of Zarahemla.'  There would be no need to 'Decipher the Geography of the Book of Mormon.'[2]   He did not know where it took place. [I don’t think this conclusion follows at all. Joseph expressly stated he never told the people everything he knew. “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand. I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions.” This is the situation we see today with respect to the Mesoamerican theory.] Neville points out at page 266, that "Joseph Smith never expressly embraced the hemispheric, Mesoamerican, or any other model." however, as Neville also points out "he did occasionally comment about particular locations as being related to the Nephites and on several occasions he referred to North American Indian tribes as Lamanites" (Lost City 265 and 266). [He not only never embraced the hemispheric model, he expressly rejected it in the Wentworth letter—along with the Mesoamerican component. FWIW, I clarified this sentence in the Second Edition. J]
I agree with the following facts and conclusions in Neville's book:
·         That the lands of Desolation and Bountiful are not synonymous with the greater lands northward and southward, respectively (see maps on pages 304, 332 and 333) but were relatively small subdivisions thereof.
·         That if the "head of river Sidon means the source of the river, then the river would have to flow north; i.e., from Manti north past Zarahemla" and could not flow south past city/land of Nephi (page 314).
·         That the land of Zarahemla was located directly north of the land of Nephi and both lands were divided by a narrow strip of wilderness (page 332).
·         That Manti was located south of Zarahemla between Nephi and Zarahemla (pages 313–314).
·         That the east sea was an ocean and was located to the east of the land of Zarahemla, east of the land of Nephi, and east of the narrow strip of wilderness (page 297).
·         That even though his map does not show it, Neville describes Desolation and Bountiful as "northward/southward of each other."  He says at page 304 "They are not due north or south of whatever Mormon is using as a reference point."
·         That the "terms 'up,' 'down,' and' 'over' in a geographical context refer to elevation" (page 311).
·         That the Book of Mormon uses cardinal directions, "What the Nephites called "east" is what most human societies have always called "east;" i.e., the direction in which the sun rises. The other cardinal directions, as used in the Book of Mormon, are the same as those in use today" (p.321). 
However, many of the geographic conclusions proposed by Neville are not supported by Book of Mormon evidence, as will be discussed hereafter. And there can be no argument that all facts contained in the most correct book, the Book of Mormon, trump all other evidence, statements, and conclusions, including those of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Neville correctly states on pages 357-8:
            "People respond to the truth. The more we learn about The Book of Mormon, the more      the truth becomes apparent. A correct understanding of Book of Mormon geography and       anthropology will facilitate acceptance of the book on a broader scale than ever before...."
However, Neville incorrectly states on page 267 that "The "Mesoamericans" rely initially on the 1842 Times and Seasons articles." The Mesoamericans rely initially and primarily upon the evidence contained within the covers of the Book of Mormon. [This is false as a matter of historical fact, at least with regard to “initially.” Once the hemispheric model was rejected, no one would have looked at Mesoamerica but for those articles. Every single source cited by Mesoamericans also believed the New York hill was the Book of Mormon Cumorah. The limited geography required people to reject either the New York Cumorah or the 1842 articles. They are incompatible, and the Mesoamericanists chose the articles over Letter VII.]  I will show evidence and truth from the Book of Mormon, that will prove, not just by a preponderance, but beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Book of Mormon does not support the proposition described in Neville's book that all the events and geographic locations described in the Book of Mormon took place exclusively in the United States and Canada.   
The geography of the Book of Mormon must be determined from within the pages of the Book of Mormon. [This is a fallacy because the text identifies no site known today. At most, the text can lead to creation of an abstract map. But no two people will independently come up with an identical abstract map because the text doesn’t give us specific distances or directions—basic information every boy scout needs to traverse terrain.]  Every relevant scripture must be studied with all other Book of Mormon scriptures as to where specific events took place and as to the spatial interrelationship of these events. [This I agree with.] Authors should not pick and choose which scripture supports their conclusions and leave out those that do not support it— such as Rod Meldrum does in refusing to identify and discuss the prophecy and promise of 1 Nephi 23:13 which clearly identifies "Columbus," representing the southern European Gentiles, and their role in purging the "seed of thy brethren" — the Lamanites— in the areas of Central and South America.[3] [Whoa. I thought we just agreed to stick to the text. The text does not “clearly identify” Columbus in any sense of the word. That’s pure tradition, based on subjective interpretation.]
This article will discuss many foundational scriptures that have been excluded from consideration, or misstated, resulting in a wrong conclusion being drawn about where the narrow strip of wilderness must have been located and the nature of it.  It will further prove that the river Sidon must flow north. Other omissions will also be cited and discussed. For convenience and accessibility all Book of Mormon scriptures will be italicized and other emphasis will be by bolding by the author. [Okay, let’s see.]
It seems apparent that the foundational geographic differences between the Mesoamericanists and the North Americanists are twofold, (1) the nature and location of the narrow strip of wilderness, (2) the direction of flow of the river Sidon.
Therefore, according to the Book of Mormon, if the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous and ran from a west sea to an east sea, and if the river Sidon flowed northward then the Heartland Model is false. [Granted.] Conversely, if it was not mountainous and if the Sidon flowed south then the Mesoamerican model is false. [Granted.]  It is that simple and Neville agrees with this premise (page 314 and by personal conversation).
As the reader considers the following Book of Mormon criteria, keep in mind the following directional orientation from Zarahemla on the north to Nephi on the south:


·         Zarahemla on the north of the narrow strip of wilderness [Agreed.]
·         Minon south of Zarahemla [Agreed.]
·         Manti south of Minon and within the narrow strip of wilderness [The text does not support this. The text refers to Minon once and says nothing about Minon in connection with the narrow strip of wilderness or Manti.]
·         Nephi south of Manti and south of the narrow strip of wilderness [Agreed, but the text doesn’t say Manti is directly north of Nephi.]


The Nature of the Narrow Strip of Wilderness
All of the relevant facts pertaining to the narrow strip of wilderness must be disclosed in order to understand its nature and where it was located, and for purposes of this response, where it could not have been located. The Book of Mormon requires that the narrow strip of wilderness meet all the following criteria:
·         It ran from “the sea east even to the sea west,” [Well, I disagree right here, as I explained in the narrative. The “which” clause refers back to the king’s land, not to the narrow strip of wilderness.] the referent being the city/land of Nephi where the Lamanite king lived and sent out his proclamation (Alma 22:27–28).
o    A sea in the Book of Mormon is always used in its literal sense as defined in the 1928 Webster's dictionary as a large body of water connected to an ocean and of the same level.[4] [I disagree here, as well. This is an arbitrary definition that doesn’t take into account the Hebrew background of the men who wrote the text (who frequently quoted Hebrew scriptures).]
o   The west sea was located west of the land of Nephi, west of the land of Zarahemla and west of the west end of the narrow strip of wilderness. Alma 22: 28. [This verse doesn’t say the west sea was west of the land of Zarahemla.]
o   The east sea was located east of the land of Nephi, east of the land of Zarahemla and east of the east end of the narrow strip of wilderness.[5] [As mentioned, the verse does not say the narrow strip of wilderness, or the land of Zarahemla, extended to the east sea. One can infer the east sea was east of the strip and Zarahemla, but not that either bordered on the east sea; i.e., only the land of Nephi extended to the sea.]

·         It divided the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27).

·         It ran “in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea](Alma 50:8–11). [If we keep supplying our own terms to the text, we’ll never get this resolved.] If the land of Nephi ran in a straight course from the east sea to the west sea then the narrow strip of wilderness did not curve in a circle but continued from the same sea east to the same sea west that defined the land of Nephi, in a straight or perhaps "direct" course. [This doesn’t follow. The text says the land of Nephi ran in a straight course, not that the narrow strip of wilderness did.]

·         It was within which Moroni established the military defensive 'line' [ca. 72 BC]: "And thus he cut off all the strongholds of the Lamanites in the east wilderness, yea, and also on the west, fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites, between the land of Zarahemla and the land of Nephi, [the line going] from the west sea running by the head of the river Sidon—the Nephites possessing all the land northward [of the line] yea, even [possessing] all the land which was northward of the land Bountiful [being Desolation and the Jaredite land northward], according to their pleasure." (Alma 50:11) [why insert brackets? Let’s stick to the text.]

·         It supported a military defensive line dividing the Nephites on the north from the Lamanites on the south (Alma 22:33–34, Helaman 4:7–8). This line of defense was effective only from 72 BC to 35 BC, a period of less than 37 years when the Lamanites and Nephites dissenters joined forces and conquered all the land of Zarahemla, thus destroying the effectiveness of the defensive narrow strip of   wilderness (Hel. 4:8). [The narrow strip of wilderness is mentioned one time, in Alma 22. Helaman says nothing about it.]

·         It must be surrounded by evidence of "many cities" that existed between about 200 BC and AD 400 [Which is exactly what we find along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers] and in which a written language was used as documented in the books of Omni to Mormon: [This makes no sense. Moroni had to hide the records because the Lamanites wanted to destroy them. There is no evidence of permanent writing other than the plates and the single engraved Jaredite stone found by the people of Zarahemla. At any rate, the mounds in North America demonstrate sophisticated math repeated over long distances, which suggests they had to have writing. But the text claims the Lamanites sought to destroy all evidence of the Nephite civilization (like ISIS today). The last thing the text supports is extensive permanent writing such as the engraved temple walls, obelisks and sculptures in Mesoamerica.] Zarahemla, Gideon, Melek and Ammonihah on the north; Nephi, Shilom, Shemlon, Ishmael, etc. on the south; Nephihah, Moroni, Jershon, etc. on the east; and Cumeni, Antiparrah, Judea, etc. on the west. [All good.] Manti was located right in the middle, up in elevation and southerly from Gideon and Minon and up farther southward near but northward from the head of the river Sidon (Alma 22:27). [Alma 22 says nothing about Gideon or Minon.]

·         It Was Mountainous and Therefore The Sidon river Flowed North: The following is a sampling, in chronological order, of the many scriptures indicating that the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous:—meaning that Gideon, Minon, Manti, the head of river Sidon, city/land of Nephi, and the entire narrow strip of wilderness  were all higher in elevation than Zarahemla—conclusively proving that the river Sidon had to have flowed northward and not southward. [The narrow strip of wilderness is mentioned exactly once, in Alma 22, which says nothing about mountains.] These scriptures also prove that the areas where the majority of the Lamanites and Nephites resided were located very near—if not within— mountains:

o   Ca. 200 BC, Omni and Mosiah state: “He [Mosiah] did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land [of Nephi] into the [narrow strip of] [If we’re going to keep inserted our own translation, there is no possibility for a meeting of the minds.] wilderness (Omni 1:13),...(up to) the hill north of the land of  Shilom, which had been a place of resort for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land… (Mosiah11:13) [Of course, this verse says nothing about the narrow strip of wilderness. It doesn’t even say anything about Mosiah. At most, it says the hill (not mountain) was a temporary place of resort.]  [then Omni 1:13 continues] “…through the [narrow strip of] [If we’re going to keep inserted our own translation, there is no possibility for a meeting of the minds.]  wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land [or city] of Zarahemla.” [I have to say, this is getting ridiculous. There is no point in continuing if I’m going to have to keep reading some private translation of the scripture. The text says land, not city. Certainly leaving Tennessee to the land of Zarahemla is a descent; you simply go downstream, not upstream.] [The area south of Zarahemla was higher in elevation than Zarahemla] [Yes, Tennessee is south of Illinois and Missouri, and higher in elevation.] [Until about 124 BC the city and the land of Zarahemla —to which Mosiah came down—could not have encompassed an area greater than about the size of the Salt Lake Valley, and therefore the narrow strip of wilderness was very visible from Zarahemla].[6] [I read this reference and the conclusion is constructed from a series of inferences not justified by the text.]

o   ca. 200 BC; King Noah " caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom, which had been a place of resort [gathering place] for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land [of Nephi]...(Mosiah 11:13)."[The area north of the land of Nephi was higher in elevation than Nephi]. [Hmm. So evidence of a hill is supposed to prove it was mountainous? Why would they build on a hill if they were surrounded by mountains? Certainly the text says this hill was north of the land, but every hill is north of somewhere. The same hill is south of somewhere else.]

o   87 BC: the spies of Alma said  "we followed the camp of the Lamanites and to our great astonishment, in the land of Minon, above the land of Zarahemla, in the course of [southerly toward] [I tend to agree Minon was south, but the text does not require that so long as Minon was “in the course of” or along the way. The course could have veered in any direction before eventually turning south.] the land of Nephi ...the Amlicites have joined them [Lamanites]  Alma 2:24." [Therefore, because Nephi was higher in elevation[7] than Zarahemla and Minon was also higher than Zarahemla and Minon was in the pathway to Nephi and because Manti was also in that pathway and was located south of Minon and within the narrow strip of wilderness, then Manti also must have been higher in elevation than Zarahemla]. [The glaring fallacy here is that nowhere does it say Manti was along the course to Nephi. Nor does it say anywhere that Manti was within the narrow strip of wilderness.]

o    About 85 BC: The borders of (or the defensive line) went “through the borders of Manti by the head [beginning] [another private translation] of the river Sidon (Alma 22:27).[Webster's 1928 dictionary defines head as "18. The principal source of a stream; as the head of the Nile." [It serves no purpose to cite one of multiple definitions from Webster’s 1828 dictionary when other definitions in the same dictionary contradict your choice. There is support for a variety of meanings, including source, confluence, most important part, and others. The text uses the term to mean a meeting or intersection, as when the Moroni sent an army to “head” the people of Morianton (Alma 50:34). This issue has been long debated from multiple angles. As I point out in the book, even “headwaters” was used in the 1840s to refer to when a river joins another. I realize why Mesoamericanists insist the term means a source; what they don’t explain is why Joseph didn’t write source if he meant source, and why he used “head” with the connotation of meeting or joining.]

o   In 81 BC Alma told captain Zoram where to find the Nephite captives taken from the city of Noah: Alma returned and said unto them: behold the Lamanites will cross the river Sidon in the south wilderness [southern part of the narrow strip of wilderness] [seriously?], away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti. and behold there shall ye meet them, on the east of the river Sidon. (Alma 16:6) [Therefore, the place where they crossed the Sidon was south of Manti and it was higher than Manti.  The river Sidon must have been shallow enough for the Lamanites to have crossed on foot. The river Sidon must flow north]. [None of this follows from the text. But the text does fit the topography of the Midwest. Southern Illinois is higher in elevation than the land on the other side of the river. (And there is a string of ancient hilltop forts there. So it makes sense for Alma to go up into that area, on the east of the river, and fight the Lamanites there. It’s a complete fallacy to think south=higher, north = lower because in most areas of the world, terrain is more variable than that. Rivers flow through terrain, such a mountain passes, that can be higher than the river’s sources. That’s why they have tributaries. A perfect example is the U.S. Rivers flow south, generally, but Tennessee is higher in elevation than Ohio. Columbus Ohio, at 781 feet, is about 450 miles north of Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain in Chattannoga is 2,391 feet. The Tennessee river flows north until it meets the Ohio river, then it flows west and finally south.]

o   About 77 BC the Ammonites, camping near Manti, received word they would be going eastward down to Jershon: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea. 26...and it did cause great joy among them and they went down into the land of Jershon”. (Alma 27: 22) [The east part of the narrow strip of wilderness was higher than the land of Jershon]. I would expect the east part of the narrow strip to be higher, because the Ohio River flows mostly west and south, but I don’t know where the text specifies that. At any rate, “down into” has nothing to do with mountains; there are valleys throughout the Midwest, surrounded by hills or even slighter elevations.]    

o   74 BC: Moroni " concealed [the remainder of his army] in the west avalley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti (Alma 43:32).[This was the second battle within the narrow strip of wilderness south of Manti near the head of Sidon (Alma 16:6). Therefore, the valley of Manti was lower in elevation than the head of river Sidon.[8] The river Sidon must flow north]. [Any area of a substantial size has low and high places. Nothing refers to any “valley of Manti;” to the contrary, it refers to the “west valley,” which implies multiple valleys, as we would expect in most places. Even in the Salt Lake valley, there are high and low spots. Nothing in the text says this valley was higher or lower than the head of the river Sidon.]

o   72 BC, "Amalickiah and those who fled with him into the [narrow strip of] [is this going to continue throughout this analysis?] wilderness; for, behold, he had taken those who went with him, and went up [south from Zarahemla] in the land of Nephi among the Lamanites (Alma 47:1). [The area south of Zarahemla including Minon, Manti, and the land of Nephi were all higher in elevation than Zarahemla]. [Yes, generally, although I’m not sure about Manti. Definitely the land of Nephi, overall, is higher than the south part of Zarahemla; you have to paddle upstream to get to Nephi.]

o    64 BC: The Lamanites had captured Manti and considered their next city to conquer from Manti, however, "Neither durst they march down [north] [it doesn’t say north—it says down. Down can be in any direction in a given terrain. I can’t figure out why this is so difficult. I have a cabin in Big Cottonwood canyon. If I go north, I go up. If I go south, I go up. There are even places where I can to west and go up, or east and go down, even though the river generally flows east to west.] against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon [which also must have been up in elevation from Zarahemla], [Not according to the text.] over [east] to the city of Nephihah" (Alma 56:25).  [located eastward near the city of Moroni which was located near the east sea.  This would have been the same crossing referenced in Alma 16:6 and Alma 43:32] [Just think if the Heartland Model is correct than the Lamanites would have to have gone from Huntsville, Mo.(Meldrum's Manti) then cross the Mississippi south of Nauvoo (being Meldrum's "head of Sidon") then over 800 miles to near the Atlantic coast, (Neville's east coast) to attack Nephihah? I don't think so!] [This scripture further proves that Manti was located higher in elevation than Zarahemla]. [Well, this is a straw man, but not even a very good one. The Atlantic is the east sea in Alma 27, as the ultimate east border of the Lamanite territory. But the text does not say there is only one east sea, or sea east. The bodies of water aren’t named because the terms are relative to the context. Furthermore, Nephihah is one of the changes made in Skousen’s critical text (along with Mulek). Skousen’s rationale makes sense, but I think his proposed changes are unnecessary because nowhere does the text say there is only one city with the same name. I think a better solution is the simple premise that two cities can have the same name. If we’re in Utah, we think we know where Pleasant Grove is, but there is also a Pleasant Grove in Texas and Alabama. A name such as Nephihah would hardly be uncommon. And we already have the confusion of Lamanites possessing the Land of Nephi and the Anti-Nephi-Lehis being former Lamanites.
·         Skousen’s rationale: Alma 53:6 says that the city of Mulek was in the land of Nephi. That is simply not true. The city of Mulek was in the greater land of Zarahemla north of the narrow strip of wilderness. It was temporarily controlled by a Lamanite invasion force, but it was clearly located in traditional Nephite territory. Royal Skousen's critical text corrects this obvious error to read "the city Mulek which was one of the strongest holds of the Lamanites in the land of the Nephites."
·         Alma 51:26 says that the Lamanites under Amalickiah took posession of the city of Nephihah. That directly contradicts the previous verse and disagrees with the phrase in verse 26 that the named cities were all on the coast. It also contradicts Alma 59:5-11 that describes Nephihah's fall. The critical text corrects this error by replacing "Nephihah" with "Moroni" which was definitely the southernmost Nephite city along the east sea coast.
·         Alma 24:5 has Alma and his brethren going to the land of Midian. This is the only occurrence of this Biblical name in a Book of Mormon New World setting. Verse 5 tells us that Midian was near the land of Ishmael. The critical text takes issue with the name "Midian," replacing it with the well-attested "Middoni" that was definitely close to Ishmael.] http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2011/10/scribal-error.html


o   63 BC: Helaman and his sons had taken many prisoners from near the west sea [not in the text, and vague] and from the city of Cumeni—located within the narrow strip of wilderness— and had decided  to "guard them, sword in hand, down to the land of Zarahemla", "we did resolve to send them down to the land of Zarahemla...and gave them charge over our prisoners to go down to the land of Zarahemla (Alma 57:15,16)" [The area of the narrow strip of wilderness near the west sea was also higher in elevation than Zarahemla]. [Nothing in this passage refers to the narrow strip of wilderness or the west sea.] 

o    61 BC:  "Moroni "and Pahoran went down with their armies [from Gideon] into the land of Zarahemla (Alma 62:7)." [Since both Minon and Gideon were higher in elevation than Zarahemla, and since they were only about 5 miles apart, and since the river Sidon ran between them then it must have flowed from there down northward past Zarahemla.] [9] [Nowhere does the text say Sidon flows between Minon and Gideon. No problem with the part of the land of Gideon where Moroni and Pahoran met up being higher than the part of the land of Zarahemla they attacked.]     

o   12 BC: Nephite and Lamanite dissenters converted to become Gadianton Robbers "And they did commit murder and plunder; and then they would retreat back into the mountains, and into the wilderness and secret places, hiding themselves that they could not be discovered, receiving daily an addition to their numbers, inasmuch as there were dissenters that went forth unto them."(Hel. 11:25)  3 Nephi 1:27) [Therefore the mountains were located in close proximity to the population areas of both the Nephites and the Lamanites and therefore the narrow strip of wilderness between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla was mountainous and was the area where the Gadianton Robbers secreted themselves]. [This is a fantasy. The narrow strip hasn’t been mentioned since Alma 22. The text doesn’t say which side of the border the Gadianton robbers were on, assuming the border was still relevant at this time. And what is a “mountain” here, anyway? D&C 117:8 refers to the “mountains” of Adam-ondi-ahman. We would call those hills, but people living in the Midwest may consider them mountains. Does this make southern Illinois mountainous? Maybe so. But that says nothing about the nature of the narrow strip of wilderness.]    

o   12 BC: 32.And the robbers did still increase and wax strong, insomuch that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites and also [the armies] of the Lamanites, and they did cause great fear to come unto the people upon all the face of the land. (Helaman 11:32) [The dissident Nephite and Lamanite robbers were hiding within the narrow strip of wilderness because they were affecting and proselytizing among both the Lamanites and the Nephites.  [Pure fantasy, completely detached from the text.]

o   11 BC: The robbers did make great havoc, yea, even great destruction among the people of Nephi and also among the people of the Lamanites... Sent an army...into the wilderness and upon the mountains to search out this band of robbers, [the Nephites and Lamanites were] "obliged to return out of the wilderness and out of the mountains unto their own lands, because of the exceeding greatness of the numbers of those robbers who infested the mountains and the wilderness" (Helaman 11:28, 31);[Since the robbers were bothering both the Lamanites and the Nephites and since the closest mountains to both of these lands were located within the narrow strip of wilderness between these two lands then the narrow strip of wilderness must have been mountainous]. [This is better. At least it’s tied to the text, sort of. But by this point, there is no border between the Nephites and Lamanites. “many of the Lamanites did come down into the land of Zarahemla… many of the Lamanites did go into the land northward… there was peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites. And it came to pass that the Lamanites did also go whithersoever they would, whether it were among the Lamanites or among the Nephites; and thus they did have free intercourse one with another, to buy and to sell, and to get gain, according to their desire” (Helaman 6, 6-8.) In Helaman 11, there were wars among the people of Nephi, but not with the Lamanites. That’s why no one is talking about the narrow strip of wilderness. The robbers were affecting both Nephites and Lamanites because both groups were living everywhere, not because the Gadianton robbers were attacking from the narrow strip of wilderness. That would be nonsensical anyway. They were attacking the cities, and the whole armies of the Nephites and Lamanites worked together to fight them. Such battles could hardly take place in a narrow strip.

o   AD 3: And it came to pass that the ninety and third year did also pass away in peace, save it were for the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did do much slaughter among the people. (3 Nephi 1:27) [The Gadianton robbers must have lived in the vicinity of both the Nephites an Lamanites and therefore the mountains must have been located between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla, which by definition was the narrow strip of wilderness] [There are no mountains within 300 miles of both Huntsville, Mo. and Nauvoo] [This conclusion defies the text and the terrain. First, regarding mountains. If Adam-ondi-Ahman (in Missouri) contains mountains, so does Illinois. It’s a relative term, of course. Second, as already mentioned, the text shows the people were intermingled. None of this has anything to do with border lands.] 


o   AD 13:  And it came to pass in the thirteenth year there began to be wars and contentions throughout all the land [of the Nephites and the Lamanites]; for the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them. (3 Nephi 2:11) [Clearly the area where these robbers lived was within the narrow strip of wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla]. [Clearly, they didn’t. Nothing here refers to the narrow strip; no border is even mentioned. To the contrary; the two peoples unite.]

o   AD 14:  And it came to pass in the commencement of the fourteenth year, the war between the robbers and the people of Nephi did continue and did become exceedingly sore; nevertheless, the people of Nephi did gain some advantage of the robbers, insomuch that they did drive them back out of their lands into the mountains [in the narrow strip of wilderness between the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla] and into their secret places. (3 Nephi 2:17) [Nope. Still completely wrong here.]

o   AD 17: Lachoneus prepared against the time when the "robbers should come down out of the [narrow strip of] wilderness against them (3 Nephi 3:17)." [Still using a personal translation of the text.]
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o   AD 17: The People requested “let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness that we might fall upon the robbers and destroy them (3 Nephi 3:20);Lachoneus advised against the people's request that they go on the offensive against the robbers in their mountains up in their own lands instead of down in the city/lands of Zarahemla]. [There should be no doubt that the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous.] [Because none of this has anything to do with the narrow strip, the best inference is that the narrow strip is not mountainous. Otherwise, someone would have mentioned it in connection with mountains.]  

o    AD 18: "[the] robbers had prepared for battle, and began to come down and sally forth, from the hills, and out of the mountains... and began to take possession of the lands, both which were in the land south [of the narrow strip of wilderness] and which were in the land north[10], [of the narrow strip of wilderness], and began to take possession of all the lands which had been deserted by the Nephites [including the Lamanites], and the cities which had been left desolate." (3 Nephi 4:1) [This is more clear evidence that the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous]. [Not at all. Inserting one’s own translation does not constitute a text-based argument. To the contrary; this passage shows there were hills, and mountains, and wilderness, and strongholds, and secret places, all of which were distinct, in both the north and the south. All of this contradicts the notion that the narrow strip was mountainous.]

o   Clearly the Gadianton Robbers were infesting the mountains between the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla within the narrow strip of wilderness.(3 Nephi 2:11–17; 4:1, 3:17–20) [No, clearly a “narrow strip” could not contain hills and mountains and wilderness while also being so vast that the combined armies of the Nephites and Lamanites could not conquer the robbers. Such a concept inverts the meaning of narrow, strip, and wilderness. What you’re proposing is an enormous border consisting of hills, mountains, wilderness, etc., not a narrow strip.]


Look at the following map showing the elevations and distances of pertinent locations proposed along the Mississippi River. There is no place within 300 miles on either side of the Mississippi River where all these events could have taken place. Clearly the term "head of river Sidon" is referring to the beginning or source of the river Sidon and therefore, as stated by Neville, the Mississippi River could not have been the river Sidon. [I addressed this above. This was a goofy argument when Sorenson first proposed it decades ago, and it’s no better now. It relies on a combination of selective dictionary definitions and defiance of ordinary topography. At most, one could argue the term “head” is ambiguous, according to the dictionary. But in common usage (e.g., Riverhead, NY) and in the Book of Mormon itself (e.g., heading armies), it means a confluence or joining or intersection, not a source.]

For purposes of this map the area of Zarahemla across from Nauvoo will be referred to as Nauvoo for ease of reference and recognition for the reader.

[This is a useful map, but it’s difficult to respond to the questions in this format. Here’s a simple answer about up and down. If you are at the Nauvoo temple, you go “down” to the west and “up” to the east. You go “down” to the south (where there is a reservoir and dam) and “down” to the north. But you can go “up” if you go far enough in any direction, and there are valleys throughout the area. Nauvoo itself is at 670 feet; Huntsville is at 781 feet. The further south you go in Missouri, the higher the terrain. The area south and west of St. Louis is much higher than the area north. Bixby, Mo., for example, is at 1411 feet. This is obvious on the elevation map below. So even though the river flows south, the terrain around it rises; it’s the river valley that is lower, and that’s all that matters in terms of river flow.

Questions from the red boxes.

No one knows how old Cahokia is. Like in Mesoamerica, ancient sites in North America were covered up and occupied by successive civilizations.

The text does not mention any “narrow strip of mountainous wilderness” so why would we expect to find it in the actual Book of Mormon setting? True, Mesoamericanists have found such a strip in Mesoamerica, but that’s just more evidence that Mesoamerica cannot be the setting described in the text.

Samuel the Lamanite prophesied of the “mountain whose height is great,” but the fulfillment of that prophecy is never mentioned. How can anyone locate it if the text doesn’t even mention it? The mountain in 3 Ne. 8:10 is more evidence for North America and against Mesoamerica. “Earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah.” It doesn’t say lava flowed there. How is earth “carried” if not by strong winds? And where does such earth come from? The sand blows along the Mississippi river that erupt when there are great earthquakes are the only source of such sudden accumulation of earth that I’m aware of, although they could be combined with events such as the 1930s dust bowl in the midwest.

The “sea west” is south because the text mentions both a sea west and a separate sea west south at different times. Again, these are not named features; the directions tell the reader what he/she needs to know, based on the perspective of the author at that point in the narrative.

The Lamanites had to go down from Tennessee to attack Zarahemla. They knew they were going down because they were going downstream.


Additional Truth and the Proof: River Sidon Ran North, Not South

Jonathan Neville correctly states the following:




The disagreement between the Mesoamerican and Heartland advocates revolves largely around the meaning of the phrase “head of the Sidon,” which is mentioned in connection with both Manti and Nephihah. If “head of the river Sidon” means the source of the river, then the river would have to flow north: i.e., from Manti north past Zarahemla. This interpretation also means the river could not flow through the land of Nephi.[11]

In addition to the fact [this not only is not a fact, the text shows the contrary] that the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous and that the “head of river Sidon” is described in the Book of Mormon as the beginning of the Sidon up in the narrow strip of wilderness [this is pure fantasy, based on a new translation of the text]— rather than the confluence of major rivers as suggested by Rod Meldrum and Jonathan Neville—the following scenario from the Book of Mormon further forecloses any possibility that the Mississippi River could have been the river Sidon.

In 74 BC, Moroni was appointed chief captain of the Nephite armies. He was stationed on the east seacoast preparing for war with the Nephite dissenters and the Lamanites—including the Zoramites at Antionum— who had become Lamanites—in the east-sea area. Because the mostly naked Lamanites feared the armaments, breastplates, etc. of the Nephites, the Lamanites feared to go against them in the land of Antionum, and their leader Zerahemnah decided to go into the narrow strip of wilderness and “up” (see Alma 43:34) to the area of the head of river Sidon and then to proceed down northward to the land of Manti to attack the weaker Nephites in that area.

Moroni, with the help of spies and prophetic advice from Alma, arrived in the area first and secreted his armies in a valley in which the river Sidon flowed. Readers should remember, and Neville admits on his maps, that the directional relationship was from Zarahemla south to Minon, then south to Manti, [this is incorrect and doesn’t follow the text] then south to the head of Sidon, and then south to the land of Nephi. It is the elevation relationship that must be deciphered from the Book of Mormon. Readers should also ponder and ask how the following events could have occurred along the Mississippi in the area  Neville and Meldrum propose as the “head of Sidon,” being the confluence of the Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers:

22. Behold, now it came to pass that they durst not come against the Nephites in the borders of Jershon; therefore they departed out of the land of Antionum into the [narrow strip of] [Okay, I’m done with this. I concede that this revised translation of the text does what the translator wanted—proves his own theory of geography. But I don’t have time to keep pointing this out.] wilderness, and took their journey round about in the [narrow strip of] wilderness, away by the head of the river Sidon, that they might come into the land of Manti and take possession of the land; for they did not suppose that the armies of Moroni would know whither they had gone.

24. And it came to pass that the word of the Lord came unto Alma, and Alma informed the messengers of Moroni, that the armies of the Lamanites were marching round about in the wilderness, that they might come over [the head of river Sidon (see Alma 56:25)] into the land of Manti, that they might commence an attack upon the weaker part of the people.

27. And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his army should be secreted in the valley which was near the bank of the river Sidon, which was on the west of the river Sidon in the wilderness.

28 And Moroni placed spies round about, that he might know when the camp of the Lamanites should come.

31. Therefore, he divided his army and brought a part over [east of river Sidon] into the valley, and concealed them on the east [of Sidon], and on the south of the hill Riplah; [the valley of Manti was located in the narrow strip of wilderness and north of the head of Sidon]. [Hill Riplah was located near the east bank of Sidon].

32. And the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti [therefore, not only was Manti located on the west of Sidon but also it was lower in elevation than the head of Sidon]. [This scripture requires that the river Sidon flowed northward from its head down to the land Manti].

34. And it came to pass that the Lamanites came up on the north of the hill, where a part of the army of Moroni was concealed.

35. And as the Lamanites had passed the hill Riplah, and came [down] into the valley, and began to cross the river Sidon, [near its head as prophesied by Alma] the army which was concealed on the south of the hill, which was led by a man whose name was Lehi, and he led his army forth and encircled the Lamanites about on the east in their rear.

36. And it came to pass that the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi.

37. And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke.

39. And it came to pass that the Lamanites became frightened, because of the great destruction among them, even until they began to flee [west] towards the river Sidon.

40. And they were pursued by 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 [east] bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross.

41 And it came to pass that Moroni and his army met the Lamanites in the valley, on the other side [west] of the river Sidon, and began to fall upon them and to slay them.

42. And the Lamanites did flee again before them, [down, see verse 32] towards the land of Manti; and they were met again by the armies of Moroni. [Manti was clearly lower than where they crossed near the head of Sidon.]

50 And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled [east] even to [not in] the waters of Sidon.

51 Now, the Lamanites were more numerous, yea, by more than double the number of the Nephites; nevertheless, they were driven insomuch that they were gathered together in one body in the valley, upon the [west] bank by the river Sidon.

52 Therefore the armies of Moroni encircled them about, yea, even on both sides of the river, for behold, on the east were the men of Lehi. [the river Sidon must have been very narrow and shallow at that point near the head of Sidon for the Lamanites to have felt like they were "encircled about" and to so easily have crossed on foot with their entire army].[This could not have happened anywhere near the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers.] (see photo below) [Nothing in this passage says the battle was at the head of Sidon, but let’s say it was near there. Nothing says they crossed on foot, either. Anyone wanting to see how this battle took place should follow the Mississippi River on Google earth and you’ll see exactly where it would happen today. The river circles back on itself several times, and it changes often, so there is no telling what it looked like 2,000 years ago. But even today, an army can be on the east bank, another army on the west bank, and there is an area in between like a peninsula where the Lamanites could be trapped—encircled—quite well. There aren’t many rivers in the world where this is possible.]

3 Therefore when Zerahemnah saw the men of Lehi on the east of the river Sidon, and the armies of Moroni on the west of the river Sidon, that they were encircled about by the Nephites, they were struck with terror.

54 Now Moroni, when he saw their terror, commanded his men that they should stop shedding their blood. (Alma 43:20–54; emphasis added)

The truth as contained in the Book of Mormon is that the river Sidon in the area of this battle in the year 74 BC was a relatively small river that the armies could cross easily and quickly on foot. [Nowhere in the text does it say this, except in proximity to Zarahemla, but it doesn’t matter.] Zerahemnah and his army would have crossed it twice in one day but for the fact that he saw Lehi and his army standing on the east bank of Sidon.

In one day Zerahemnah had come down with his army from the head of Sidon into the valley, fought Lehi on the east bank of Sidon, crossed the river, fought Moroni on the west bank of Sidon, fled down north toward Manti in the valley of Manti, and engaged in battle the third time—where he was “met again by the armies of Moroni.” The fighting stopped for a while, and Moroni tried to negotiate a peace with Zerahemnah. This failed, and the battle continued until Zerahemnah finally gave up.

How could all of these events have happened anywhere near the Mississippi—especially at or near the confluence of the Ohio and/or Missouri and Mississippi Rivers? How could the events have happened in one day unless the river Sidon was very small and shallow as it was near its beginning? [This is such an easy answer I have to conclude someone hasn’t looked on a map.]

Text Box: How could Zarahemnah and army cross this river twice in one day? on foot? Where is Hill Riplah? Could one see Lehi on the other side? Impossible!?
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Text Box: Confluence of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers 
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rivers

Another Truth and Proof That the Mississippi River could Not Have Been the Mississippi

The following comments seem repetitious but necessary and are specifically what is required by the Book of Mormon. One route between Zarahemla and Nephi went northerly from Nephi up to the hill north of Shilom, then through the narrow strip of wilderness to the head of Sidon, then down northward to the valley of Manti, then northward down to Minon and then northward down to Zarahemla. [I’m not sure this is even a reasonable inference, but it’s definitely not what the text says.] The other route went from Zarahemla east across the river Sidon, then southerly up to Gideon, then southerly up to Manti, and then southerly up to the head of river Sidon,[12] then through the narrow strip of wilderness to the hill north of Shilom and then southerly down to Nephi. [I’m not sure this is even a reasonable inference, but it’s definitely not what the text says.]

The distance between Gideon and Minon was less than a half night’s march at night—four or five miles—and the river Sidon ran right between them. [Nowhere does the text say this.] The tired Amlicite remnant-army crossed the Sidon from Gideon to Minon at night, joining the Lamanites about midnight at Minon. [I’ve read this assertion before, but it’s not in the text. It’s a Sorenson-like translation.] Moroni’s scouts, following the Amlicites, crossed the river Sidon twice at night within twelve hours in that same area between Gideon and Minon (Alma 2:22–27). [Okay, this is fishy. I’ve had this conversation recently with someone else who said the exact same thing, even calling these “Moroni’s scouts” when they were actually Alma’s spies. This entire argument is completely bogus—nowhere does the scripture say these spies crossed the river.] The river Sidon was still relatively small and shallow at that area; therefore, it could not have been at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. There is no possible way that the Amlicite army and Moroni’s scouts could have crossed the Mississippi River south of Zarahemla—Montrose/Nauvoo area—let alone that Moroni’s scouts could have crossed it twice in one night!

There is not one piece of information in the Book of Mormon to indicate that the river Sidon flowed south from Zarahemla [except every passage in Joseph’s translation. Only Sorenson and Sorenson-like translations have Sidon flowing north.] or that Manti was located lower in elevation than Zarahemla. Rod Meldrum disagrees, without citing a single scripture in support, saying:

To recap: The Sidon River in the Book of Mormon flowed past Zarahemla southward and “down” toward Manti which was at the head or confluence. . . . The “headwaters” could refer to the confluence of present day Missouri [Ohio] and Mississippi rivers.[13]

To come to this flawed conclusion, Meldrum must misconstrue or misstate what the Book of Mormon actually says and means as stated above. Neither Meldrum nor Neville cite any scriptures supporting their erroneous conclusions that Sidon flowed south or that it flowed down from Zarahemla toward Manti. [This is all bogus and copied from another site. I’m going to end here. I’m not going to consider any more analysis that relies on Sorenson and Sorenson-like translations (e.g. headwaters), that inserts Mormon where the text refers to Alma, etc. If Joe will stick to the text, I’ll be happy to pursue the discussion.]

In a vain attempt to support Meldrum's unsupportable conclusion that Mormon meant that the "head of Sidon" referred to the confluence of the Missouri or Ohio rivers with the Mississippi Rivers, Neville makes the following incredibly erroneous statement on pages 315–316:

However, Alma 56:25 refers to a problem [false] crossing the head of Sidon. "Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla neither durst they cross the head of Sidon over to the city of Nephihah." Consequently, the "head of Sidon" must have been a significant feature. We can't tell whether the Lamanites avoided [false] crossing the head of Sidon because of an inherent difficulty [false] or because of strategic fears [false], but the many other references to crossing don't mention the head of Sidon [false]. A reasonable inference is that the "head of Sidon" was either fortified [false] as part of the border[false] or was an especially impassable section of the river border [false]. (emphasis by this author)

As shown in the scriptures cited above, the head of river Sidon was very easy to cross; Moroni and his army crossed it twice in one day; Zerahemnah and his huge army—without any fear at all— would have crossed it twice that same day but for the fact that he saw Lehi standing on the east bank of the river and he also saw that he was "encircled about by Nephites." There is no evidence that this area was fortified at that time or that it was a border.  The narrow strip of wilderness, running in an east to west direction, was the defensive "line" not the river Sidon.  Pray tell where is the "inherent difficulty" or the "especially impassable section" in crossing the head of river Sidon? Neville is trying to make his readers believe that that "inherent difficulty" and the "especially impassable section" was the confluence of the Ohio river with the Mississippi River. That dog won't fly.

 In fact, nowhere in the United States area can all the Book of Mormon requirements as cited above be met. The head or beginning of Sidon was located above Manti. It was so shallow and narrow that both armies could cross it twice in the same day on foot. The River Sidon ran north not south..

The truth and the proof, from the Book of Mormon, are that the Mississippi is not, was not, and could not have been the river Sidon. Therefore, the Heartland Model is fatally flawed

Does anyone really believe as stated in Lost City:
·         that the narrow strip of mountainous wilderness from the east sea to the west sea (1) could have been over 800 miles long extending from the Atlantic to beyond Nauvoo? or (2) could have extended from the New York city area south to Neville's "west sea" at the Gulf of Mexico?
·         that if the Gulf was the west sea and the Atlantic was the east sea, then the city Bountiful located on the east sea—perhaps in the New York area— and could have been located more than 800 miles from the city/land Zarahemla?
·         That the Lamanite land of Nephi could have extended from about New York to New Orleans? (from the east sea to the west sea as required by the Book of Mormon)
·         That Hagoth built his ships on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and then sailed them from there in a "course northward?"
·         That Moroni could have created a defensible military division line (from the east sea to the west sea) from New York to New Orleans?
·         That Moroni could have sent all the Lamanites (Mounds people?) living north of that military line to the south of that line?

Where within 300 miles of the Mississippi River is there a "Mountain whose height is great (Hel. 14:23)?" Or where there is the "great mountain" that replaced the city of Moronihah (3 Nephi 8:10)?

If the west sea was the Gulf of Mexico, how could Hagoth have sailed from the Gulf of Mexico and taken his course "northward" as required by the Book of Mormon? 

Hagoth built his ships on the shores of the west sea within the land Bountiful. How is that possible if Bountiful was located north of Nauvoo?

            5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an aexceedingly curious man, therefore he       went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land bBountiful,            by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the cnarrow neck    which led into the land northward.
              6 And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth     with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year.
              7 And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built aother ships. And the first ship did          also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions,       and set out again to the land northward. (Alma 63:5–7)
Where is the west sea that borders Desolation and Bountiful?  Where is the "narrow neck" or "narrow pass"  that led by the west sea into the land northward? How could they have taken their course northward from the Gulf of Mexico? And, according to Neville's maps, there is no sea available northward from the land Bountiful? Remember Desolation was adjacent to, and northward, not north, from Bountiful. And remember that the definition of "sea" requires it to be the same level as the ocean.
Since the Book of Mormon describes the land Desolation  as "being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed" (the Jaredite land northward) then according to Neville's maps the land northward must have been north of lake Michigan and  north of Lake Huron?  Since Cumorah was the same place were the Jaredites were destroyed then Cumorah must have been located in Canada instead of Palmyra?
Where in Neville's map or geography is the required "line" aka Treaty line, between Desolation and Bountiful which 'line began on the west sea and extended about 15 miles eastward, as mandated by the Book of Mormon? There is only one "west sea" identified in the Book of Mormon. In the heartland model therefore, either the west sea is the Gulf of Mexico as claimed by Neville, or it was the Lake Michigan as claimed by Meldrum.  It cannot be both. And both are impossible according to the Book of Mormon.
Where is the "small neck of land" between the land northward and the land southward within which must be located the 'line' between Desolation and Bountiful?
Look at all the events that had to have taken place near this' line' that started on the west sea and extended "only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite" as required by the Book of Mormon; The reader should ask as to each of the following, where could these events possibly have happened in the United States, let alone in the northern United States?
The "Line"/Treaty Line of AD 350: Its Nature and Paramount Geographic Importance
Understanding the nature of the “line” between Desolation and Bountiful is central and controlling for Book of Mormon readers who are trying to comprehend the geography of the Book of Mormon—especially as they attempt to locate the “small neck of land.” Following are all the Book of Mormon references and associated events that geographically relate to that “line:”

·         It began on the west sea and ran eastward a distance of "only the distance of a day and a half's journey" —about fifteen miles or so (Alma 22:31–33, Helaman 4:6–7).

·         It never bordered any other sea.

·         It was located northward from Joshua, which was also located near the west sea (Mormon 2:6).

·         It divided Desolation from Bountiful, both of which also began on the west sea (Alma 22:31–33).

·         The “line” was not the same thing as the “narrow neck of land” or “small neck of land.” or  the pass, passage, or narrow neck as discussed above because the line only led eastward from the west sea 15 miles or so to an undisclosed identifiable geographical feature

·         It was not the same as the two passes, the passage, or the narrow neck, all of which did not divide anything but each of which led into the lands northward/southward:

o   “the narrow pass which led by the [west] sea into the land northward” (Alma 50:34).
o   “the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5).
o   “the narrow passage which led into the land southward” (Mormon 2:29.
o   “the narrow neck which led into [did not divide] the land northward” (Alma 63:5).

·         It did not lead into Desolation or Bountiful because the “line” went from the west sea eastward "only the distance of a day and a half's journey" to some identifiable landmark —not a sea but probably the Sierra Madre Mountains. Desolation was located, not north or east, but northward from that line.  Bountiful was located, not south or west, but southward from that line (Helaman:4:6–7).

·         Desolation was part of the Jaredite land northward beginning at the “line” (Alma 22:32).

·         Bountiful was a part of the Nephite land southward, and it began at the same “line” (Alma 22:32).

·         It was the Jaredite entrance or gate into the land southward. “And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward [from the line] was covered with inhabitants.” Lib built his city by the entrance ['line'] into the land southward to preserve the land Bountiful (Alma 22:31) “to hunt food for the people of the land” (see Ether 10:19–22). The dividing “line”—as opposed to a pass or passage leading into something— between the land northward/southward was always the same “line” that separated Desolation from Bountiful because the line was located within the "small neck of land" that was located between the lands northward/southward.

·         It was the area where Morianton was stopped and killed by Teancum ca. 67 BC "by the borders of the land Desolation...by the sea on the west..." (Alma 50:33–36).

·         It was the area where Moronihah, son of Captain Moroni, took refuge with his armies for two years, ca. 35 BC, while the Lamanites controlled all the land southward, including Zarahemla and all the east-sea locations. "The armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful;" (Helaman 4:5–10).

·         It was the defensive line or a strategic feature that Moronihah “did fortify against the Lamanites from the west sea even unto the east: it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north countries (Helaman 4:7; emphasis added). [This 'line' clearly ran almost perpendicular to the west sea and surely not parallel to the west sea because Moronihah used the 'line' to  block the transportation corridor]

·         It was near where Lachoneus and his people (together with the Lamanite and Nephite armies (3 Nephi 3:14) took refuge for eight years (3 Nephi 6:1) while the Gadianton robbers controlled all of the land southward, ca. AD 17–26 "yea, to the line which was between the land Bountiful and the land Desolation" (3 Nephi 3:22–26, 4:1–5). 

·         It was near where Hagoth built and sailed his ships in the years ca. 55–54 "on [within] the borders of the land Bountiful by [but not in] the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea..." BC (Alma 63:4–10).

·         It was the treaty “line” of AD 350, which treaty gave the Lamanites/robbers all the land southward, including the passage that led into the land southward (Mormon 2:29).

·         It was the same “line” from which the treaty gave the Nephites all the land northward, from the “line” where “the narrow passage which led into the land southward” began (Mormon 2:28–29).

·         It was near and to the south of the place where the “sea divides the land” (Ether 10:19–21), because it was located near the entryway into the land southward which entryway was always located at the 'line'.

·         The length of the line—“from the east to the west sea” in Alma 22:32—was "only" about fifteen miles or so. This was also the approximate width of the small or perhaps the narrow neck of land. This was also the approximate distance as the width of the west-sea land Bountiful, which was “inhabited,” according to Alma 22:33, “even from the east to the west sea.” Notice that it does not say that the land Bountiful was inhabited from the east sea to the west sea—a distance of about 250 air miles. And notice also that this inhabitation was exclusively by the Nephites because after 72 BC, to which this event is referencing, “all” of the Lamanites had been chased to the south of the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:34).

·         It was the defensive area near, and to the south of, where the city Desolation was located, where the Lamanites, between AD 360 to AD 375, took fifteen years and five major assaults to permanently force Mormon and the Nephites out of Desolation northward to Jashon/Jordan (the Chivela Pass area) in the year AD 375 (Mormon chapters 3 and 4).

·         It was also near the place where the Nephites beat the Lamanites in AD 362 and dumped their dead bodies into the west sea (Mormon 3:8).

These events were not happening within the confines of the United States of America.  It was also not happening within the Isthmus of Tehuantepec but adjacent to it within the west-sea Bountiful area, and within the city Desolation area located within the southwest border area of Desolation. None of these events and locations could possibly have been associated with the Gulf of Mexico area either.

The Book of Mormon requires that the narrow strip of wilderness was mountainous; That Manti, Gideon, and Minon and the head of Sidon were higher in elevation than Zarahemla, and that the head of Sidon was the source of the river and not the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi Rivers.  Therefore, beyond any reasonable doubt the Sidon river must flow north and therefore the Heartland Theory is fatally flawed.

Notes




1.  Neville, Jonathan, Lost City of Zarahemla  (Cottonwood Heights, Utah: Legends Library Publishing, 2015)

[2] . Richard Hauck, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988)

[3]. Joe V. Andersen,  The “Heartland Model”: The Rest of the Story    (http://www.bmaf.org/articles/heartland_model_rest_story—andersen)

[4].  A large body of water, nearly inclosed by land, as the Baltic or the Mediterranean; as the sea of Azof. Seas are properly branches of the ocean, and upon the same level. Large bodies of water inland, and situated above the level of the ocean, are lakes. The appellation of sea, given to the Caspian lake, is an exception, and not very correct. So the lake of Galilee is called a sea, from the Greek.

[5] . 27. And it came to pass [about 85 BC] that the king [of the Lamanites] sent a proclamation throughout all the     land [the territory of the land of Nephi over which he was king],
Amongst all his people who were in all his land,
Who were in all the regions round about,
Which [the king’s territory in the land of Nephi] was bordering even to the sea on the east [of the land of Nephi from where the king dwelt] and on the west [of the land of Nephi from where the king dwelt],
And which [land of Nephi] was divided from the land of Zarahemla
By a narrow strip of wilderness, which [narrow strip of wilderness] ran from the sea east [of the land of Nephi] even to the sea west [of the land of Nephi],
And [the narrow strip of wilderness continued] round about on the borders of the [west] seashore, and the borders [of that part] of the [narrow strip of] wilderness
Which was [located] on the north [of the narrow strip of wilderness] by [near] the [city/]land of Zarahemla, [and continued] through the borders of [the city/land of] Manti,
By [near] the head of the river Sidon, [the borders of the narrow strip of wilderness continued] running from the east towards the west—
And thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided. [The narrow strip of wilderness divided them—not the river Sidon, which ran north. Therefore, the narrow strip of wilderness—not the river Sidon—ran from the east to the west.]
28. Now, the more idle part [distinguishing from the more industrious part who lived in the city/land of Nephi, which was located south of the narrow strip of wilderness] of the Lamanites lived in the [narrow strip of mountainous] wilderness, and dwelt in tents;
And they [the idle Lamanites] were spread through the wilderness on the west [the western and southern part of the narrow strip of wilderness, and therefore], in the land of Nephi;
Yea, and also [the idle Lamanites were spread] on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore [because these idle Lamanites were spreading west of the city/land of Zarahemla, they were then beginning to surround the Nephites on their western side],
And on the west in the land of Nephi, [therefore south of the narrow strip of wilderness] in the place of their [the Lamanite] fathers’ first inheritance [Lehi’s landing place],
And thus bordering along by the seashore [the west seashore south of the narrow strip of wilderness (see Helaman 6:10 where “the Lord did bring Mulek into the land north and Lehi into the land south” of the narrow strip of wilderness)].

29. And also there were many Lamanites on the east [from the city/land Zarahemla] by the seashore,
Whither the Nephites had driven them. [The east-sea Bountiful area was not yet part of the Nephites’ territory, and none of the east-sea cities had been built at this time prior to ca. 72 BC.]
And thus the Nephites were nearly [on three sides, east, south, and west] surrounded by the Lamanites;

[6]See my article, Zarahemla: Its Size and Its Rise and Fall: (http://www.bmaf.org/zarahemla_rise_fall—andersen).

7. There are many more scriptures that clearly show that Nephi was higher in elevation than Zarahemla: Mosiah 28:5 And it came to pass that they did plead with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi. Alma 29:14 But I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren, who have been up to the land of Nephi. Mosiah 7:2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted that sixteen of their strong men might go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi, to inquire concerning their brethren. Mosiah 7:4  And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander.


[8] . Alma 43:20-54:
20. Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites;
  21 But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites.
  22 Behold, now it came to pass that they durst not come against the Nephites in the borders of Jershon; therefore they departed out of the land of Antionum into the [narrow strip of] wilderness, and took their journey round about in the [narrow strip of] wilderness, away by the head of the river Sidon, that they might come into the land of Manti and take possession of the land; for they did not suppose that the armies of Moroni would know whither they had gone.
  23 But it came to pass, as soon as they had departed into the wilderness Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp; and Moroni, also, knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites.
  24 And it came to pass that the word of the Lord came unto Alma, and Alma informed the messengers of Moroni, that the armies of the Lamanites were marching round about in the wilderness, that they might come over [the head of river Sidon (see Alma 56:25)]into the land of Manti, that they might commence an attack upon the weaker part of the people. And those messengers went and delivered the message unto Moroni.
  25 Now Moroni, leaving a part of his army in the land of Jershon, lest by any means a part of the Lamanites should come into that land and take possession of the city, took the remaining part of his army and marched over into the land of Manti.
  26 And he caused that all the people in that quarter of the land should gather themselves together to battle against the Lamanites, to defend their lands and their country, their rights and their liberties; therefore they were prepared against the time of the coming of the Lamanites.
  27 And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his army should be secreted in the valley which was near the bank of the river Sidon, which was on the west of the river Sidon in the wilderness.
  28 And Moroni placed spies round about, that he might know when the camp of the Lamanites should come.
  29 And now, as Moroni knew the intention of the Lamanites, that it was their intention to destroy their brethren, or to subject them and bring them into bondage that they might establish a kingdom unto themselves over all the land;
  30 And he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem; therefore, he found by his spies which course the Lamanites were to take.
  31 Therefore, he divided his army and brought a part over [river Sidon]  into the valley, and a concealed them on the east, and on the south of the hill Riplah;
  32 And the remainder he concealed in the west a valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti [Therefore not only was Manti located on the west of Sidon but it was lower than the head of Sidon]. [Valley of Manti was located  in the narrow strip of wilderness and near the hill Riplah] .
  33 And thus having placed his army according to his desire, he was prepared to meet them.
  34 And it came to pass that the Lamanites came up on the north of the hill, where a part of the army of Moroni was concealed.
  35 And as the Lamanites had passed the hill Riplah, and came [down] into the valley, and began to cross the river Sidon, the army which was concealed on the south of the hill, which was led by a man whose name was Lehi, and he led his army forth and encircled the Lamanites about on the east in their rear.
  36 And it came to pass that the Lamanites, when they saw the Nephites coming upon them in their rear, turned them about and began to contend with the army of Lehi.
  37 And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke.
  38 While on the other hand, there was now and then a man fell among the Nephites, by their swords and the loss of blood, they being shielded from the more vital parts of the body, or the more vital parts of the body being shielded from the strokes of the Lamanites, by their breast plates, and their arm shields, and their head-plates; and thus the Nephites did carry on the work of death among the Lamanites.
  39 And it came to pass that the Lamanites became frightened, because of the great destruction among them, even until they began to flee towards the river Sidon.
  40 And they were pursued by 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.
  41 And it came to pass that Moroni and his army met the Lamanites in the valley, on the other side of the river Sidon, and began to fall upon them and to slay them.
  42. And the Lamanites did flee again before them, [down]  towards the land of Manti; and they were met again by the armies of Moroni.
43 Now in this case the Lamanites did fight exceedingly; yea, never had the Lamanites been known to fight with such exceedingly great strength and courage, no, not even from the beginning.
  44 And they were inspired by the Zoramites and the Amalekites, who were their chief captains and leaders, and by Zerahemnah, who was their chief captain, or their chief leader and commander; yea, they did fight like dragons, and many of the Nephites were slain by their hands, yea, for they did smite in two many of their head-plates, and they did pierce many of their breastplates, and they did smite off many of their arms; and thus the Lamanites did smite in their fierce anger.
  45 Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
  46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
  47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.
  48 And it came to pass that when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts—yea, the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage.
  49 And it came to pass that they turned upon the Lamanites, and they cried with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage.
  50 And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled even to the waters of Sidon.
  51 Now, the Lamanites were more numerous, yea, by more than double the number of the Nephites; nevertheless, they were driven insomuch that they were gathered together in one body in the valley, upon the  [west] bank by the river Sidon.
  52 Therefore the armies of Moroni encircled them about, yea, even on both sides of the river, for behold, on the east were the men of Lehi.
  53 Therefore when Zerahemnah saw the men of Lehi on the east of the river Sidon, and the armies of Moroni on the west of the river Sidon, that they were encircled about by the Nephites, they were struck with terror.
  54 Now Moroni, when he saw their terror, commanded his men that they should stop shedding their blood. .
[9].  See my article "FootPrint of Zarahemla, Article One" (http://www.bmaf.org/articles/footprint_zarahemla_one__andersen).

9. See my article, “Land North” and “Land South”: How These Terms Are Always Used in the Book of Mormon
9HTTP://www.bmaf.org/articles/land–north–south–how-used—andersen)

[11]. Jonathan Neville, The Lost City of Zarahemla: From Iowa to Guatemala—and Back Again (Cottonwood Heights, UT: Legends Library, 2015), 314.

[12]. See my article, “FootPrint of Zarahemla, Article One,” http://www.bmaf.org/footprint_zarahemla_one__andersen.

[13]. See www.bookofmormonevidence.org (accessed August 11, 2015); emphasis added.