Your proposed river Sidon is not flowing northward. Why is this contrary to what is portrayed on many Book of Mormon maps?

Yes, this is true on both counts. Our proposed river Sidon, the Rio San Ignacio, does not flow northward. And we also hasten to point out that we have found no clear evidence in the Book of Mormon account that indicates which direction the river of Sidon flows. And we are not the only researchers who have made this observation and claim. How then can we show with confidence a direction of flow for the river Sidon? We do this by successfully matching what we do know from the Book of Mormon about the river Sidon and its surrounding features to an actual river in Baja California, the Rio San Ignacio. The flow of the water in this river then provides us with the direction from its head to the Pacific Ocean on the west.

There has been a general tendency for others to portray the river Sidon flowing towards the north. There are at least five explanations for this prevalent orientation:

  1. Almost all the rivers that are proposed for the river Sidon—such as several in Meso-America—flow northward. Out of necessity, the proponents of these rivers often claim that the Book of Mormon account prescribes a north-flowing river Sidon. As we have stated, we have found no such evidence. Moreover, these north-flowing rivers appear not to match several of the Book of Mormon descriptions of the river Sidon and its surrounding area.
  2. As suggestions for a north-flowing river, it is frequently noted that the Book of Mormon account mentions features located on the east and west of the river Sidon. Here are references: On the west, Alma 2:34; 8:3; 43:27, 32, 53. On the east, Alma 2:15, 17; 6:7; 16:6-7; 43:53; 49:6. We, of course, accept these features as being located on the east and west, but this alignment is not evidence that the river Sidon flows north. A south-flowing river would also have features located on the east and on the west. Moreover, the straight alignment of a river seldom continues along its entire course. The Missouri River, for example, flows in all four cardinal directions before reaching the Mississippi River. And east and west features along a river could occur in several locations, but it might not be typical of the alignment along the entire course of the river or even over most of its course.
  3. Some Book of Mormon maps place the headwaters of the river Sidon in the south wilderness, an area to the south of the land of Zarahemla on the northern extent of the narrow strip of wilderness. The proponents of these maps then reason: Because these headwaters are located towards the south, the river Sidon would, by necessity, flow northward. A southern location for the headwaters and the resulting flow of the river Sidon northward, however, present several challenges. First, predicting the actual directional course of a river, through knowing only its headwaters location, is not possible. Rivers flow where they have to, not where we wish them to. Second, the Book of Mormon does not mention that the river Sidon has headwaters; it states in several places that it has a head, “the head of the river Sidon.” In our discussion of the features of the river Sidon, we explain the difference between a “head” of a river as its source and the “headwaters” of a river as a source. Third, according to the Book of Mormon account, there was not only a wilderness on the south, but wilderness areas were also located on the north, east and west of the land of Zarahemla. Here are the references: Wilderness on the north, Alma 2:36-37; 22:29. Wilderness on the east, Alma 25:5, 8; 50:7, 9, 11; 62:34. Wilderness on the south, Alma 16:6-7; 22:31; 31:3; 62:34. Wilderness on the west, Alma 2:36; 8:3; 22:28; 43:27; 52:22. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, any one or more of these four wilderness areas, if they are watersheds, could be the source of the “head of the river Sidon.” Many rivers are fed from multiple upland regions. We propose the wilderness of Hermounts on the west and north (Alma 2:37) as the primary source of the water at the head of the river Sidon—not because this information is in the Book of Mormon account, but because of the actual flow of the Rio San Ignacio, a river which matches all the other features of the river Sidon that are recorded in the Book of Mormon.
  4. There are schematic maps of the internal geography of the Book Mormon, some with wide circulation, that show the river Sidon flowing northward. This alignment appears to be based on the north-flowing rivers in areas such as Meso-America. Again, the orientation of the north-flowing rivers on these internal maps would need to be justified, based on evidence from the Book of Mormon account.
  5. In the Index to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Price, in the standard works, under the entry for the river Sidon, it states: “Most prominent river in Nephite territory, runs north to sea.” This statement, “runs north to sea,” appears to be based on the north-flowing rivers on the internal maps mentioned above and on the north-flowing rivers in areas such as Meso-America and not on any evidence from the Book of Mormon account. The Index entries are intended as helps to scripture reading. They are based on the works of individuals and are not official pronouncements on the subject.

As we have indicated, there are many features of the river Sidon recorded in the Book of Mormon. If we can match these features to an actual river, the flow of that river will yield its direction. The results of our applying this approach to our proposed river Sidon in Baja California can be found in our main article, An Approach to the Geography of the Book of Mormon. See the sections on The Head of the River Sidon; Wilderness of Hermounts; Crossing the River Sidon; Hills, Valleys and Banks; Bodies are Cast into the River Sidon; and City of Zarahemla and the City of Gideon. We should note that we have only one candidate river because there is only one river we can place on the ballot. This river has no competition in our proposal because there are no other appropriate rivers in the central area of Baja California.
Updated: Tuesday, 13 July 2010

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Your proposed river Sidon is not flowing northward. Why is this contrary to what is portrayed on many Book of Mormon maps?