Christopher Columbus

A Latter-day Perspective


It has been a difficult year for Columbus in most respects but not within the LDS Church. Special firesides, sacrament meeting talks, a fifty-foot, four-panel mural in the Los Angeles Temple Visitors Center, and even a laudatory statement in President Gordon B. Hinckley’s discourse in the October 1992 general priesthood meeting have been part of the commemoration of the discovery of the Americas. Columbus would have appreciated the affirmation that he was inspired by religious motives and experiences to make the voyage. The way Mormons, in general, view Columbus is probably similar to the way he would have wanted.

Curiously, although Latter-day Saints have long used Book of Mormon prophecy to identify Columbus as a man “wrought upon” by the Spirit of God, members of the Church have done little research prior to this past year on the religious elements of Columbus’s life. Even though recent Columbus scholars generally have not taken his religious views and belief of spiritual guidance seriously and consequently have not written about them, those views have been available in his published diary and his work Libro de las profecías (Book of Prophecies). Typically, LDS commentators have used limited secondary sources to support the claim that Columbus felt himself to be inspired, rather than drawing from the rich primary documents where Columbus several times alluded to his feelings of spiritual guidance. Given this weakness in Mormon Columbus research, the volume by Arnold K. Garr, assistant professor of Church History at Brigham Young University, was anticipated.

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