What Mormons Should Know About Christopher Columbus and the Restoration

What Mormons Should Know About Christopher Columbus and the Restoration

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What Mormons Should Know About Christopher Columbus and the Restoration
via ldsliving.com

At noon on the Ides of March, 1493, a small wooden ship rode the rising tide up the Río Tinto and into the harbor of Palos, Spain. She wasn’t much of a ship—her deck was only about 55 feet long. She was weathered but solidly built and appeared to be newly caulked. She was named the Santa Clara, but was usually called the Niña after her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer. The Niña had last been seen in Palos on August 3, 1492, sailing down the ebb tide with two other ships, the Santa María and the Pinta as part of an attempt to reach the Orient by sailing west across the uncharted waters.

A crowd quickly gathered to meet the crew as they rowed to shore in a small boat. The most momentous sea voyage in history ended where it began, at a small village on the Atlantic coast of Spain. The town of Palos de la Frontera remains relatively unknown, but the name of the Genoese sea captain who returned there is one of the most widely recognized names in history: Christopher Columbus.

“A Man among the Gentiles”

In recent decades, the story of Columbus has been largely forgotten. He has become not so much a person as a symbol of all that has gone wrong in the modern world. He has become politically incorrect in every way, to the point where on many college campuses, the former Columbus Day holiday has been renamed “fall break.” But for Latter-day Saints, Columbus will always have special place.

When I first read the Book of Mormon as a young teenager, Nephi’s prophecy about Columbus was one of the few verses that I clearly understood:

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

Years later, as a mission president in Spain, I took all newly arriving missionaries directly from the airport or train station to the top of a large castle that overlooks Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. While looking out over the “mission field,” we read together Nephi’s short verse about Columbus, who, like these new missionaries, came to a foreign land with a bold but unpopular idea and found success.

Upon returning triumphantly from his great voyage of discovery, Columbus traveled to Barcelona where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were holding court. There, in the old Palau del Rei, he reported to the monarchs on his world changing voyage. I often visited the small plaza facing the old palace and imagined the silver-haired Columbus, regal as a Roman senator, ascending the steps to greet the monarchs, followed by a parade that included live parrots, exotic Indians, and marvelous artifacts of gold.

It was in Barcelona that I first read a statement by Columbus in which he declared that he was inspired and motivated by the Holy Ghost to undertake his voyage across the sea. I was struck by his declaration of divine guidance, as he seemed to describe the literal fulfillment of Nephi’s prophecy. I became intrigued by this man who is so widely recognized but so little known, and I began to read and research the life of this famous discoverer.

Read the rest of this interesting article by Clark B. Hinckley at LDS Living


  1. While I’m sure he was moved by the spirit to go to the Americas, I doubt he kept the spirit with him for very long. He murdered people. Those “exotic Indians” were a fraction of those he captured to come back to Europe; the rest died on the way over. Like most, he was a mix of good and bad. He may have been brave and inspired to go to the New World. We can laud him for that. But let’s not forget that he did some wrong too.

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