long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Misleading non-English-speaking Saints

There is an ongoing debate about the meaning of the phrase "head of Sidon." Does it mean the "headwaters" meaning "source," or does it mean the "mouth," meaning the place where Sidon empties into a larger body of water (such as a sea)?

This makes a big difference because the river Sidon flowed past the city of Zarahemla. Most people agree the head of Sidon was south of Zarahemla. If the head was the source, then the river flowed north. If the head was the mouth, then the river flowed south.

The entire M2C theory depends on this term meaning "source." If the River Sidon flows south, there is no scenario that fits Mesoamerica. 

Below, I'll show that the most likely meaning of "head of Sidon" is the modern concept of "mouth" of the river. Of course, this fits the upper Mississippi River. The M2C scholars insist there was a river flowing north from Nephi to Zarahemla, although the text never says this is the same river as Sidon. That's because the Tennessee River does flow north from Nephi to Zarahemla, but it is separate from the Sidon (Mississippi) River.

IMPORTANT: Translations of the Book of Mormon have changed the text to promote M2C.

Instead of translating the text literally, the translations use the foreign language equivalent of "source." This is an obvious error. The translator's edition, which gives interpretive guidance to translators, reflects this meaning.

Consequently, translations of the Book of Mormon are misleading readers throughout the world. 

The current translations are falsely imprinting M2C on members of the Church who don't read English.

I discussed this over a year ago here: http://bookofmormonwars.blogspot.com/2017/05/more-on-sidon-flowing-north-and.html

At the very least, the translations should remain faithful to Joseph Smith's translation. In English, the term "head of Sidon" is at least ambiguous. I can remain just as ambiguous in foreign languages.

There is no justification for changing the meaning of the text to conform to the M2C scholars' interpretation.

To make matters worse, it is much more likely that "head of Sidon" does not mean "source."

Theodore Brandley argues that "head of Sidon" means the mouth. I agree with him (as I've written about before). Brandley wrote a nice article on this here:


Here's an excerpt, followed by examples that support his approach. The examples are worth reading if you still question the meaning of the term.

The head of the river Sidon was south of Zarahemla near Manti and the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 6:7; Alma 17:1; Alma 22:27). It has been traditionally assumed that the head of the river Sidon was the “head waters” of the river and therefore its source in the highlands. This would mean that the river ran from south to north. However, a study of the context reveals that the “head of the river Sidon” is not its source. Dr. Hugh Nibley is the only one I am aware of to make note of this. Speaking extemporaneously about the head of the river Sidon mentioned in Alma 22:27 he said, “If that’s the head of the river, I suppose it’s the source of the river. Well, it may be the head of the river where it empties. Sidon goes the other way, I think.” ((Hugh Nibley, Teachings of The Book of Mormon–Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988—1990, Provo: FARMS, p.143))
Consider the text Dr. Nibley was referring to in Alma 22:27:
a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west (emphasis added)
From the above we find:
  1. The narrow strip of wilderness ran east and west round about on the edge of the seashore
  2. Zarahemla was north of the seashore and north of Manti (see also Alma 6:7, 17:1)
  3. Manti was near the narrow strip of wilderness, that was by the sea
  4. The head of the river Sidon was by the narrow strip of wilderness, that was by the sea
 Conclusion: As rivers run to the sea, the river Sidon ran from Zarahemla south to Manti and through the east-west narrow strip of wilderness to the “head of the river Sidon” near the sea. There is a second witness from the text in Alma 50:11 confirming that the head of the river Sidon was by the sea:
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, from the west sea, running by the head of the river Sidon (emphasis added)
As rivers run to the sea, the river Sidon therefore flowed from Zarahemla south to the “head of the river Sidon” and into the sea. That the Sidon actually ran to the sea is confirmed when we read that after a major battle the dead bodies that were thrown into the river Sidon near Zarahemla were carried into the sea (Alma 2:15, 3:3). Incidentally, the Sidon, Riverentry in the LDS Index To The Triple Combination used to read, “most prominent river in Nephite territory, runs north to sea.” The new 2013 Index now reads, “most prominent river in Nephite territory.” In the LDS Index, the Sidon no longer runs north.
In a recent Interpreter article and presentation ((Stanford Carmack, The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of MormonInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 14 (2015): 119-186)) Stanford Carmack makes a compelling case for the Book of Mormon being translated into Early Modern English of the 16th and 17th Centuries. A search of the phrase, “head of the river” in the library, Early English Books Online (EEBO), reveals that to a seaman in that time period it meant the mouth of the river, rather than its source. This agrees with the context of the Book of Mormon, which indicates that the “head of the river Sidon” was the mouth of the river.

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