Friday, May 13, 2016

What About an Electric Wind Turbine for Nephi’s Ship? – Part II

Continuing with the overall question asked of us by one of our readers, we finish the explanation of wind turbines: 
Part of the problem in thinking this way, is in thinking of a stationary wind turbine needed to pump, like the old windmills that converted the energy of wind for a grinding mill or pumping water. The energy shift and direction of such is very different in usage than one needed to drive some type of shaft, like a propeller blade, and the first of these in Europe was in Yorkshire in 1185. From the very beginning, these windmills required a series of gears needed to convey the rotary motion of the sails to a mechanical device moving in a different direction.
    Modern wind turbines are used to generate electricity, but also wind pumps used to pump water or for land drainage or to extract groundwater. The first of these were produced by the Greek engineer Heron of Alexandria in the first century A.D., but the first practical windmill had sails that rotated in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis many centuries later.
    It should also be kept in mind that wind turbines do not start working until wind speeds of 4 to 5 meters per second (7.7 knots; 9 miles per hour to 9.7 knots; 11 miles an hour) are reached, with maximum power output at around 15 meters per second (29.1 knots; 33.5 miles an hour). At speeds of gale force, 25 meters per second (48.6 knots; 56 miles an hour), wind turbines shut down to avoid damage. And dependent on wind speed, the output generated varies considerably, thus not producing a steady stream of power.
    The point of all this is to show that it is one thing to say “Nephi could've built an electric motor which is similar to a wind turbine,” but it is something entirely different when you realize what would have been required for a 600 B.C. man to build a wind turbine that could convert wind into electrical power or move a shaft at speeds required to power a deep ocean going vessel. Could the Lord have told Nephi how to build this? Certainly. Could Nephi have worked the close tolerances of gears, gear boxes, drive shafts, propellers, etc.? Doubtful. But the real question is, “why go to that much trouble?” The Lord already built a world, designed the workings of winds and currents, land masses and where the Land of Promise would be located. When it came time for Lehi to travel to that promised land, the Lord merely had to lead him to the place where the winds and currents were located that would allow Nephi’s ship to reach the Land of Promise. All it took was showing him how to build a ship that could handle deep ocean sailing. Ahead of its time, for sure—but ships of that type would someday be built by man and would sail the oceans of the world.
    Comment #2: “It appears the Liahona, seer stones, Nephi's ability to shock his brethren, smelting of the rocks, iron ores etc. are "proof of electricity" in the Book of Mormon…”
Response: There is no suggestion in all of the scriptural record how the Liahona worked, other than through faith. How the instrument worked in “And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:15-16), we are not told, nor is it even suggested. When Lehi inquired, “the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written” (1 Nephi 16:26).
    As Nephi said, he “beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (1 Nephi 16:28). And to clarify, Nephi added, “And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it” (1 Nephi 16:29).
    How anyone can read that and come up with the fact that it was powered by some type of electricity is beyond me. As far as I’m concerned it requires no response whatever. Flippant, personal interpretations are far from acceptable to the Lord when it comes to reading and understanding his written word.
    Comment #3: “God could change the wind and ocean currents if he wanted to…”
Response: Why would he want to change the very winds and currents that he set up? Let’s see, God created the world and all that is within it. In doing so, he placed continents, islands and land masses where he did, knowing from the beginning that eventually he would show Nephi how to build a ship, and that ship would need to take Lehi and his party to the Land of Promise. So if he needed a different set of winds and currents, why not create that in the beginning?
    Passing off what a person feels is unexplainable as some mysterious miracle on the Lord’s part seems beneath the scholarly level the Book of Mormon requires for those who endeavor to explain what is meant by certain events.
    The point is, to one who knows, the ocean currents and wind systems are as clear as a road map to an experienced motorist. If you want to go from Point A to Point B, you simply choose a starting point and locate the road (current and winds) that take you along the path you want to travel. It is not rocket science. If the winds and currents leading off the coast of Southern Arabia did lead to the location the Lord had in mind for Lehi, then he just as easily could have led him somewhere else in those eight years in the desert so that there were winds and currents that would take him where the Lord wanted. What is so difficult in understanding such a simple concept?
    Thus, Lehi was led to Khor Rori in Salalah in Oman, where Nephi was shown how to build a ship. They entered the sea at that point, and were “driven forth before the wind,” directly to the location of the Land of Promise and where the Lord wanted Lehi to land in as direct and simple path as possible—the one required for a non-seagoing inexperienced crew.
    If you live in Utah and want to sail a ship to Hawaii, you don’t drive to Chicago and book a ship passage across Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island, anymore than you would board a plane in Salt Lake and fly to the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kenntucky.
    Comment #4: “It was not necessary for Nephi to sail because the Jaredites used barges and we do not know what type of boat Noah used. He told the Jaredites how to build barges.”
Response: The Lord said to Nephi, “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters” (1 Nephi 17:8). Nephi repeated the term “ship” several times (1 Nephi 17:9,17,1,19,49,51; 18:1,2,4,5,6,8,13,22). Since the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language states that a “ship” is basically the type of vessel that existed in that era, a wood vessel with masts and sails, built for either war or merchant business. As stated: “floating on water by means of sails. In an appropriate sense, a building of a structure or form fitted for navigation, furnished with a bowsprit and three masts, a main-mast, a fore-mast and a mizen-mast, each of which is composed of a lower-mast, a top-mast and top-gallant-mast, and square rigged. On the other hand, the Lord said to Noah, “Make of thee an ark of gopher wood” (Genesis 6:14) The dictionary claims an ark is “a large floating vessel.” More modern usage is “a boat used on American rivers to transport produce to market.” To the Jaredites he said, “build barges” (Ether 2:6), and also “Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built” (Ether 2:16).
    So only to Nephi did he use the word ship, and only “ship” in Joseph Smith’s time meant a sailing vessel with masts and sails.
    Now if it wasn’t necessary for Nephi to sail to the Land of Promise, what exactly is the point of all this discussion between Nephi and the Lord? In the maritime world, every word has a specific meaning, and this is especially true of classifications, names and designs of ships: Frigate, Yacht, skiff, cruiser, dinghy, outrigger, sampan, Luggar, Galley, Bireme, Cutter, Brig, yawl, Dreadnought, Caravel, Karve, pirogue, bark (barque), dhow, knar, Longship, Carrack, gig, multihull, dory, gondola, Catboat, Launch, Schooner, Clipper, ketch, raft, Sloop, Cog, Trieme,  Longship, corvette, etc.
    The Lord talked to Nephi about building a ship, that is, a sailing vessel with at least fixed sails for it is described by Nephi twice as being “driven forth before the wind,” which means to have the wind behind the vessel.
    Sometimes it is best not to try and overthink or out-think the Lord. Sometimes, his word is simple enough to understand without additional information or knowledge.


  1. I would greatly like to see someone build a ship in Khor Rori from local materials and local food stuffs, using the best wisdom we have, and sail it with a similar crew, following the currents of your model, and bring it to Coquimbo, Chile. It would take someone as committed as Thor Heyerdal but I am totally convinced it is doable. And today the risks would not be that great with worldwide communications and rescue organizations. It would also be an interesting news story that would get more people to read the Book of Mormon, and would set to rest any claim's against such a voyage.

  2. Good idea. I would also like to see someone take a fixed sail that pushes his ship forward and sail through Indonesia. That would be a catastrophe waiting to happen.

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