Growing up, my favorite subject in school by far was history. I enjoyed reading non-fiction biographies for fun and piecing together the storybook of our world. Specifically, I loved United States history, and 1 Nephi 13 was easily my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon.
I was nine years old when the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage was commemorated. I may be too young to remember, but it feels like it was around this time it came into vogue to criticize and belittle his accomplishments. Looking back on all of this I may have been blessed with the gift of faith because my deep confidence in the Book of Mormon always superseded whatever noise came out of the “academic” community.
I attended Utah State University around the turn of the century and majored in History, a natural choice for me. I loved history and I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. (Whether or not college was the right option for me at all is another topic altogether) You can already imagine the propaganda tossed around on a daily basis. “Christopher Columbus was an evil man who caused much harm.” Or, “the Founders of our Country were racists, not at all enlightened, and definitely atheists.” Now, while all three of those things put together make a ton of sense (atheists, not enlightened, racists), none of those applied to our Founders with any careful examination of primary source documents. But by all means, let’s not let the truth stand in the way of a convenient narrative.
Throughout all of my classes, I always reflected back on my faith. “But the Book of Mormon says otherwise,” I constantly reminded myself. Let’s examine a little further:
…Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land. (1 Nephi 13:11-12)
This is the passage widely accepted by Latter-day Saints as the vision of Christopher Columbus by the ancient American prophet, Nephi. Nephi was foretold by the angel the destruction his and his brother’s seed would endure because of their wickedness. Columbus was foreordained to bring to light the “New World” which would eventually lead to the Restoration of the Gospel. Nephi foresaw the Pilgrims, the American Revolution, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the same vision. He also saw the Lord would be merciful to his seed:
…wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren. Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren. (1 Nephi 13:30-31)
We read the Gentiles humbled themselves and were lifted up by the hand of the Lord. Then the Gentiles stumbled and because of the confusion of the Apostasy, but the Lord had mercy and brought forth the Book of Mormon. The seed of Lehi was brought down to humility by the Gentiles but was preserved by the Lord and is now reaping the blessings of the Everlasting and Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Does God favor one race or people over another? NO! His favors and blessing pour down upon all those who humble themselves before them. The Gentiles – from Columbus to the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers – humbled themselves before the Almighty and were instruments in His hand, to the fulfilling of all His words.
With a vast array of knowledge available to us through the Restoration, it is amazing that it is possible for members of the Church to still err like this:
The column Mr. Washburn links is a claim that Columbus isn’t a man worthy of Latter-day Saint admiration to the detriment of the Book of Mormon. It is suggested we look to other explorers who were perhaps sufficiently “woke” to be the man identified in 1 Nephi 13:12. It’s now evil that Columbus fulfilled the very measure of his creation and did exactly as he was prophesied to do. Like Joseph Smith, his name is known for good and evil the world over…but it is known. There is no doubt who Nephi saw in his vision. It was Christopher Columbus.
Furthermore, President Ezra Taft Benson explained the perils of speaking ill of those who laid the foundation for the Restoration:
The temple work for the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence and other founding fathers has been done. All these appeared to Wilford Woodruff when he was president of the St. George Temple. President George Washington was ordained a high priest at that time. You will also be interested to know that, according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained high priests—by proxy, of course—at that time.
When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of heaven for it.
Not only are “academics” guilty of disparaging men of God from the history of our Nation’s founding, but they’re also guilty of placing their own wisdom above that of chosen prophets of the Lord, both past and present. It’s the very definition of outthinking yourself – to what end? I’ve already written about the detriments of some modern academia in the Church, and this is simply another example of persons placing ideology over faith. It’s a foolhardy exercise and a waste of talent.
You either believe the Book of Mormon and have a spiritual testimony of it – or you don’t. What is the need to disguise your distaste of the doctrine behind beguiling “questions” or “doubts?” That, indeed, is the proper question. Simply put, Christopher Columbus did exactly as he was prophesied to do. Christopher Columbus did nothing wrong.
Addendum (January 22, 2020):
As part of this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson are the following excerpts:
The Lord clearly prepared this land and our founders so the Restoration could come forth. Disparagement of these men is done at the peril of the critic.
There is no question the man Nephi saw in his vision was indeed Columbus. Those who attempt to engage in presentism and who seek for other possible “acceptable men” are missing the mark.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, January 20-26.
- “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History” – President Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Devotional March 28, 1977
- “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming – My Hand Shall Be over Thee” -Elder Robert D. Hales, October 2005
- “Our Divine Constitution” – President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1987
You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @TheDMT1232.