Here’s something I wrote over a decade ago. It was a little controversial then. It’s considerably more controversial now, but it’s still my opinion and you’re free to agree or disagree with me either way.
Christopher Columbus – “Christ bearer”
For most of us Columbus Day is nothing other than a few sales here and there, no mail delivery and the inconvenience of having the banks closed. That’s a shame. Most our holidays have become more of that and less about the people or events we honor on those days. Maybe it’s because they’re all lumped onto Monday’s now, but I think it’s more likely a result of our increased failure to know history and to appreciate the contributions others have made for us and our country. It troubles me. It saddens me. And I’m as guilty as the next guy for failing to pay attention to things that matter most.
Regardless of your age you were probably taught “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and the name of the 3 ships he commanded. Depending on your age, you were either taught he was a courageous man who dared to venture where others wouldn’t or a greedy European who stole land and brought disease to native tribes. But I’m pretty sure you were never taught that he was a deeply religious man who felt he was led by God to venture out in service to Him. I wasn’t taught that in school, but that’s who I think he really was.
In 1 Nephi 13:12 of the Book of Mormon Nephi saw Columbus in vision. He testified that Columbus was led by the Holy Spirit, and now we have confirmation of that in Columbus’s own words. An authentic Columbus manuscript had gone virtually unexamined until recent years. In 1991 Columbus’s Book of Prophecies was translated into English. Two English translations are now available. It is a collection of personal letters, scriptures (both Old and New Testament) and quotations from Biblical commentators. It was prepared for the benefit of the King and Queen of Spain to assure them that his mission, and their support, had been a fulfillment of prophecy. It reveals that he spent a lifetime of deep religious conviction and intense scriptural study and interpretation.
Columbus was an Italian whose sailing career began when he was 13 or 14 years old. He became a skilled seaman and navigator on merchant ships traveling the Mediterranean Sea. Later he joined his brother in Lisbon Portugal where they worked together as mapmakers. His Portuguese name was Cristovao Colom. During his eight years there he gained sailing experience on the Atlantic Ocean. He married, fathered a son, Diego, and shortly thereafter was widowed. It was during this period that his “vision” of sailing to new lands and saving lost souls germinated. He approached King John II of Portugal with his proposal and was denied.
He traveled to Spain with his son and was befriended by friars in a monastary who embraced and encouraged his ideas. There his name took on the Spanish form, Cristobal Colon. With the help of the friars he approached Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. They agreed to finance his venture and their interest didn’t wane although it took 7 years to come through with the money. During that time he married again and fathered a second son, Ferdinand. (Note: He is still known throughout the Spanish-speaking world as Cristobal Colon. Christopher Columbus, is the English form. But whatever the version of his name –Cristoforo, Cristovao, Cristobal or Christopher — the meaning is the same: “Christ bearer”)
Columbus was skilled in mariner’s arts, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, geographies, histories, chronologies, philosophies, and other subjects. In addition to that he had a fervent conviction that he had been chosen by God to fulfill one of the most significant missions in history, a “holy enterprise” – taking the message of Christ to the nations, which would then usher in the return of the Savior. Until recently, this spiritual side of Columbus was dismissed as “mad ravings,” “delusions,” “bizarre” .. or a clever ploy to deceive the queen.
But his own words confirm what Nephi saw in vision:
Nephi: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles which were 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 which were in the promised land.” 1 Nephi 13:12
Columbus: “…our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense his hand upon me), so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies; and he unlocked within me the determination to execute the idea….Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that he (the Spirit), with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures….encouraging me to proceed, and, continually, without ceasing for a moment, they inflame me with a sense of great urgency.”
Another reference quotes Columbus this way: “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my enterprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?”
Columbus even saw himself in a poem by a first-century Spanish-Roman writer who prophetically described “An age will come after many years, when the Ocean will loose the chains of things, and a great land will lie revealed; and a mariner…will discover a new world.” Columbus’s son, Ferdinand, made a marginal note beside Columbus’s copy of the poem which reads, “This prophecy was fulfilled by my father…the Admiral in the year 1492”
Obviously there is more, much more. But hopefully this is enough to leave us all looking at Columbus in a favorable light. According to numerous references in the Book of Mormon, this is a promised land, and God has had His hand in it all along. For a period, it was hidden from others intentionally. It was prepared and preserved to provide the climate where the Gospel could be restored in it’s fulness. Heavenly Father directed and inspired the Pilgrims and our founding fathers. The Constitution is an inspired document and we are promised no others can conquer us or this land so long as we remain humble and righteous. I hope we always remember what that promise and protection hinges on.
If you study your history you’ll discover Columbus wasn’t a perfect man. For one thing, he was proud. Painfully proud. God humbled him and he grew proud again. But in spite of his imperfections, and during his period of humility, he acted on promptings from the Spirit and God helped him along. While sailing on that inspired voyage his seamates grew discouraged and frightened and wanted to turn back. He convinced them to continue another 3 days and promised if no land was spotted, they’d turn around. During those 3 days the winds increased, and they covered more distance than previously possible. On the third day, someone spotted a seagull and later land. Columbus didn’t think that was coincidental and neither do I.
Maybe Columbus’s imperfections disappoint you. But in some ways, they should encourage us. He was an imperfect man, but he was an instrument in God’s hand for good. If God only used perfect people to accomplish His will, nothing would ever get done. Because none of us is perfect or ever will be in this life. What I learn from Christopher Columbus is that even though you and I are imperfect, if we recognize and act on promptings from the Spirit, regardless of what others think, God can use us to accomplish great things. And I for one am glad there’s a Columbus Day every year to celebrate a courageous, spiritual man who did just that.
ps (about 95% of what is written above is pure plagiarism. I stole it off several sites and was too lazy to re-write it in my own words)
Happy Columbus Day!