This page is about the Book of Mormon geography by Rodney Meldrum. He was interviewed by John Dehlin on Mormon Stories podcast (March 2022) during which time he demonstrated an unhealthy view of higher education:
- 2:15:40 Carah asking about education/credentials and responses
And denied he believes he has a special calling to do his work:
- 3:24:05 Mission calling inspired? Heartland path called of God?
FAIR clearly addressed:
While Mr. Meldrum may be the private beneficiary of God’s miracles, it is not appropriate to publicly reference such miracles to assert God’s support and endorsement for his efforts. (FAIR)
Why are these things important to know at the outset? Because he (and his followers) could benefit from the skill-set of higher education, especially critical thinking. To filter everything (as he does) through the lens of matching Book of Mormon geography locations with Church history locations—contrary to the text, IS turning a blind eye to TRUTH.
[Case in point, redefining the clear meaning of the word river “head” to mean, not “source” (as clearly defined in Lehi’s Tree of Life vision) but “confluence” (details below). ]
Meldrum is responsible for setting back the field of Book of Mormon Geography 100 years (it took 100 years for modelers to grasp the geographical area was small—not the whole continent), and birthing a new wave of deluded theorists who have zero respect for prior research and are once more espousing outlandishly large areas (see Size).
His model has the same deficiencies as Wayne May, Jonathan Neville, and other Heartland modelers:
- No sea directly west of Zarahemla
- No sea directly east of Zarahemla
Stated travel times make it clear Book of Mormon lands were small; consider the following:
- 1.5 days or 50 miles from the Sea West to the Sea East
- Less than a day (less than 30 miles) Bountiful to Manti
- Less than a day (less than 30 miles) from the City Zarahemla to the Sea East
Rodney Meldrum lacks the fundamental understanding that the River Sidon flowed only in the Land Southward and was never used for shipping like the Mississippi is.
What we do know is that the river ran either north or south as it had east and west banks. Alma 2:15, 2:17, 6:7, 16:7, 43:53 and 49.16 specify an east bank or side of the river, and Alma 8:3, 43:27, 43.32, 43.53 indicate a western side or bank. The Book of Mormon also indicates that shipping of lumber was being accomplished (see BoM Helaman 3:10) potentially indicating a navigable river (indicating a river without natural barriers to boat travel such as falls, etc.). The proposed river in this geography model fits beautifully into both of these criterions.
Rodney Meldrum continues to take advantage of the less informed Church members. Helaman 3 refers to the Jaredite Land Northward which was “desolate” of timber, and had its own waterways which they “sent forth for timber.” The lands of Zarahemla and Bountiful were in the Land Southward and were the only lands the River Sidon flowed through; they were not in need of timber, thus, NO SHIPPING OCCURRED ON THE RIVER SIDON.
Meldrum’s desperate attempts to substantiate the word “head” as meaning other than “source” is dishonest:
- He ignores the Book of Mormon use of the word in Lehi’s Tree of Life vision.
- He misinterprets the Bible’s use of “head” in Gen. 2:10 which refutes his use of “head,” and ignores the Hebrew meaning, which is: “top, beginning, and head.” It does NOT say “converge.”
- He misuses Alma 43:32 to imply the entire land leaned southward, therefore he reasoned, the river flowed southward. But his desperation shows in verse 31 which makes it clear the reference was to the Hill Riplah NOT THE ENTIRE LAND. Instead, he should explain why armies went to the “head” to get around the river if it wasn’t for dry ground!
- He ignores the CLOSE reference to Zarahemla of an East Sea, which was LESS THAN A DAYS DISTANCE (Alma 58:14, 24-25). WHERE IS MELDRUM’S EAST SEA?
- He ignores the LARGE DISTANCE from his Manti in Huntsville, MO to his river head in Cairo, IL – a whopping 321 miles, which would have taken EIGHT DAYS TO WALK!
- He ignores the fact there was NO SEA SOUTH OF THE LAND OF NEPHI. Where is his river flowing to?? Until Meldrum produces an internal map, this nonsense will not end.
- The length of the land (Alma 22:29) from Bountiful on the north (Alma 27:22) to Manti on the south (Alma 16:7; 22:27) was one day (Alma 43:18-24). THE RIVER SIDON MUST FIT IN THAT AREA!
Until Rodney Meldrum produces an Internal Geography Map showing a sea west of the Land of Nephi and the Land of First Inheritance, and a sea east of the Land of Zarahemla it is not wise to accept his interpretations.
Book “Prophecies and Promises, the Book of Mormon and the United States of America” by Bruce H. Porter and Rodney L. Meldrum.
In their book, Bruce Porter and Rodney Meldrum accuse others of:
Scriptural research must be done without trying to redefine the words and statements in the scriptures for the purpose of any personal agenda. The Standard Works are the standards of truth and, therefore, supersede any and every personal or hypothetical interpretation (p. 21).
Unfortunately, they fail to follow their own counsel. Whereas the Book of Mormon defines how the word “head” is used, Meldrum ignores its meaning by “redefining” it according to an obscure dictionary definition (details below).
Perhaps the easiest way to discount their model is to ask, how and why the Mulekites who came from Israel via the Great Deep and the Sea North (Lake Superior to them) landing in the Jaredite Land Northward would travel all the way to Missouri to found Zarahemla when they could have stopped at Lake Michigan instead? Or how Lehi got to the Sea West (Lake Michigan for them), when their Lands of First Inheritance are in Louisiana along the Mississippi River? Map
The following are the more serious errors found in Rodney Meldrum’s DVD – “DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography.”
1. City Manti
Joseph allegedly identified Huntsville, Missouri as the ancient city Manti (Doctrines of Salvation 3:232).
Where is Manti? That is simple to explain. Manti was by the river’s head (Alma 22:27) in the Southern Wilderness (Alma 43:22) south of Gideon (Alma 17:1). Where was Gideon? East of the River Sidon (Alma 6:7), and east of the City of Zarahemla (Alma 6:7).
Instead of dismissing the alleged statement by Joseph Smith, Meldrum tries to defend it by postulating that “head” means “confluence” or where two rivers meet. In this case, Meldrum postulates the head of the River Sidon as the place where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers merge at Cairo, IL. Meldrum got the idea of “confluence” from BYU Studies, vol. 36 no. 2 (1996-97), “Light on the ‘Mission to the Lamanites'”:
“The phrase ‘borders of the Lamanites’ was uniquely Mormon and referred to the boundary line between the western edge of Missouri and present-day Kansas. The Shawnee and Delaware tribes of Ohio, foreseeing the inevitable, had reluctantly vacated their lands in 1828 and 1829 and resettled west of the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. The nearest white settlement was the newly platted village of Independence, Missouri, the seat of government for Jackson County.”
Was credit given for where he got the idea? No. How close is Cairo, IL to Huntsville, MO? 321 miles [a five-hour journey by car. That is hardly in proximity to Huntsville, MO!]. There is no river head in Huntsville—period! Huntsville cannot be the Book of Mormon Manti.
NEWS ALERT! MELDRUM SHIFTED HIS RIVER’S HEAD TO ST. LOUIS NOW:
2. MISSISSIPPI RIVER = RIVER SIDON?
Meldrum and others have identified the Mississippi River as the River Sidon. One of its many problems is that it flows the wrong way. To get around this problem, Meldrum interprets the word river “head” to mean “river mouth” [update: Meldrum now believes “head” means “confluence” as stated above]. But that’s not what the Book of Mormon says.
a. What Does Head Mean?
To answer that question, we can use the Book of Mormon. In the dream of Lehi, he saw a river that had a head, which head was “the source” (1 Nephi 8:13-14). Head means source—where it begins. Mouth means opening, or where it ends.
b. Southern Wilderness
What about the Southern Wilderness that was around the head? That does not make sense if the head was the mouth, i.e. the Gulf of Mexico. Or worse, where two rivers converge, i.e. the Mississippi and Ohio (Alma 43:22).
c. Way for Armies
Why would the armies purposely go to the head to get around the river if the head was a gulf, or a turbulent place of convergence (Alma 43:22)?
d. Not a Boundary
Meldrum points out that the Mississippi River was a barrier for animals (prior to dams, locks or levies), in particular the Buffalo. He said the river was SO WIDE that the animals could not see the other side, therefore they would not cross. We do not read about the River Sidon EVER acting as any sort of land barrier—either for animals or people. The Nephites freely crossed the River Sidon regularly.
e. Too Long
It is far too long – over 2300 miles long. Book of Mormon lands were only 125 miles long, and the River Sidon flowed through only a portion of it—NOT ALL OF IT.
f. Too Deep
The “Mighty Mississippi” has always been used for shipping. It is far too deep for people to quickly cross as they did in Book of Mormon times.
g. No Banks
The Mississippi River does not have banks that armies could fight upon. For most of the Mississippi River in Missouri, the land is flat clear to the water’s edge—THERE ARE NO BANKS.
h. Two Rivers – Wrong Place
The River Sidon had two branches, however, his placing them south of the City of Mati is incorrect. It clearly states they were on each side of the City of Zarahemla, which was NORTH of Manti (Alma 2:15-37, 6:7). They are not even on each side of the Manti in his own model as shown on the map above.
i. Shipping – Never Happened
Meldrum confuses the land northward of the Nephites with the Land Northward of the Jaredites:
Meldrum: Alma 22:29 does indicate that the head of the Sidon river was in the north as it states ‘the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon.’
Thus, he believes this verse referring to shipping occurred on the River Sidon:
Meldrum: The Book of Mormon also indicates that shipping of lumber was being accomplished (see BoM Helaman 3:10) potentially indicating a navigable river (indicating a river without natural barriers to travel such as rapids, falls, etc).
Unfortunately, that verse in Helaman is referring to the Jaredite Land Northward, which was separated from the Nephite land northward (lower case)—properly called Land Southward—by a Narrow Passage/Neck of Land. It had its own rivers up there that were used for shipping, because the Jaredite Land Northward was desolate of timber. There was never a lack of timber in the Land Southward. The River Sidon does not have any mention of shipping. There is no way for the Mississippi River to fit the Book of Mormon geography, no matter how you slice it.
Meldrum wants to use the SINGLE REFERENCE of whirlwinds AT THE TIME OF CHRIST to try to show a pattern to match those along the Mississippi Valley, in support of his model. This is VERY disingenuous and a SERIOUS stretch. Those whirlwinds were a ONE TIME SIGN:
a. One Time Sign
3 And after the Messiah shall come there shall be SIGNS GIVEN unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them. 4 Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble. 5 And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and WHIRLWINDS shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder (2 Nephi 26:3-5).
b. Land Northward Only
If we wanted to allow this one time reference to reflect a pattern, it says they ONLY occurred in the Land Northward – NOT the Mississippi Valley (Meldrum’s Land Southward):
12 But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the LAND NORTHWARD; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the WHIRLWINDS, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth (3 Nephi 8:12);
c. Selective Damage
Who was carried away by the whirlwinds? The wicked:
12 And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—
13 And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away in the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness.
14 And now, whoso readeth, let him understand; he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets. (3 Nephi 10:12-14)
This SELECTIVE DAMAGE is evidence that these whirlwinds were a ONE-TIME ACT OF GOD—not a pattern to base a model on.
4. MAMMAL MIGRATIONS
For support of seasons in the Book of Mormon, Meldrum uses “migratory beasts” as evidence in Ether 9:34:
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord. (Ether 9:34)
What Meldrum fails to mention is this was a ONE-TIME EVENT instigated BY GOD:
28 And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them—that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land; yea, even there should be a great famine, in which they should be destroyed if they did not repent.
29 But the people believed not the words of the prophets, but they cast them out; and some of them they cast into pits and left them to perish. And it came to pass that they did all these things according to the commandment of the king, Heth.
30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.
31 And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla.
32 And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward.
33 And it came to pass that THE LORD DID CAUSE THE SERPENTS that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents.
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord.
35 And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before THE LORD HE DID SEND RAIN upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine. (Ether 9:28-35)
As it says in this full account, it was a ONE TIME DROUGHT and not a regularly occurring “migratory season.”
b. Poisonous Serpents
To further substantiate that these animal movements were anything but migratory, verse 31 says it was BECAUSE OF THE POISONOUS SERPENTS that the animals went south.
c. God Caused It
And third, to show how rare this movement was—both the drought, and the serpents were CAUSED BY GOD. Meldrum then cites Alma 22:31 as a support, which it is not:
31 and they came from there up into the south wilderness thus the land on the northward was called Desolation and the land on the southward was called Bountiful it being the wilderness which was filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind a part of which had come from the land northward for food (Alma 22)
Notice how it clearly says why the animals left the Land Northward—it was desolate. This is a far cry different from animals seasonally migrating. This was a non-seasonal, one time movement due to the land becoming desolate for many generations.
21 and they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness to get game and the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants (Ether 10)
This makes it clear that the Land Southward, (Bountiful) was set aside as a “Nature Reserve” and that is why the animals went there AND stayed there from Jaredite times through Nephite times.
It had nothing to do with seasonal changes. Though Meldrum should be applauded for wanting to tear holes in Mesoamerican models, his use of half-truths is less than helpful.
5. WHAT PROMISED LANDS?
On our Prerequisites page, we note the many promises associated with Book of Mormon lands that have already been fulfilled. The land where the Book of Mormon would come forth was ON Book of Mormon land. Meldrum has failed to acknowledge the following facts associated with that land:
a. What Indian nation possessed the lands where the Book of Mormon came forth?
[The Iroquois Nation]
b. What were the boundaries of that Indian Nation? Did they include the Mississippi River Valley?
c. What Indian Nation jointly founded the government of the United States with the Gentiles fulfilling Book of Mormon prophecy that they would jointly found a New Jerusalem on Book of Mormon lands?
The Iroquois Nation. See the Albany Plan of Union on our Prerequisite page. The New Jerusalem is primarily a government.
d. What Indian Nation sold the land that the Book of Mormon was on to the Gentiles fulfilling Book of Mormon prophecy that the Gentiles would “obtain (i.e. purchase) it?”
The Iroquois Nation. See the book Holland Land Purchase on our Bookstore page for those details.
These Book of Mormon prophecies and more find fulfillment in only one place—western New York with the Iroquois Nation. To deny the reality of these facts of the founding of our nation is to deny that America is, in fact, the Land of Promise.
There is a host of other errors that can easily be surmised by reading this website. His orientation of the Land of First Inheritance and the Land of Nephi along the Mississippi River (his River Sidon) is NEVER stated in the Book of Mormon. His lack of a Sea west AND east of Zarahemla is intolerable. And most importantly, he fails to point out how his lands were HIDDEN, and why the Nephites thought they were on an ISLAND.
Though archaeological discoveries in Mesoamerica are FASCINATING—they have NOTHING to do with the fascinating Book of Mormon. Though archaeological discoveries of the Hopewell’s are FASCINATING—they have almost nothing to do with the Book of Mormon.
People assume places in the Book of Mormon were “fascinating” because the Book of Mormon is fascinating. The truth is, their lands were NORMAL, and they were hidden—off the beaten path by land, river, or sea.
1. “This Idea: The ‘This Land’ Series and the U.S.-Centric Reading of the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner” (FARMS Review: Volume – 20, Issue – 2, pp. 141-62)
2. Misguided Zeal and Defense of the Church