05) COLUMBUS CHARACTER: Was Columbus a selfish murderer seeking gold and fame at the cost of the Native American race?

Associated Locations:

  • Genoa, Republic of Genoa, in present-day Italy

Associated Dates:

  • Unknown, but before October 31, 1451 – Born
  • October 11, 1492 – Christoper Columbus arrives in America

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

“I lead the way like Columbus when he was invited to a banquet where he was assigned the most honorable place at the table, and served with the ceremonials which were observed towards sovereigns. A shallow courier present, who was meanly jealous of him, abruptly asked him whether he thought that in case he had not discovered the Indies, there were not other men in Spain who would have been capable of the enterprise? Columbus made no reply, but took an egg and invited the company to make it stand on end. They all attempted it, but in vain; whereupon he struck it upon the table so as to break on end, and left it standing on the broker part, illustrating that when he had once shown the way to the new world nothing was easier than to follow it.” 1

Brigham Young

“The Almighty . . . moved upon Columbus to launch forth upon the trackless deep to discover the American Continent; he moved upon the signers of the Declaration of Independence; and he moved up Washington to fight and conquer, in the same way as he moved upon ancient and modern prophets, each being inspired to accomplish the particular work he was called to perform in the times, seasons, and dispensations of the Almighty. God’s purpose, in raising up these men and inspiring them with daring sufficient to surmount every opposing power, was to prepare the way for the formation of a true Republican government.” 2

John Taylor

“Could we have been placed in any better position than we are today? No. What has been the object of God for sometime? In the first place He operated uponColumbusto come and find this land.” 3

Wilford Woodruff

“Columbus was inspired of God to persevere as he did to discover this continent, and thus prepare the way for the class of people upon whom the Spirit of the Lord moved to follow.” 4

“When Columbus was moved upon by the Spirit of God, to cross the ocean to find a new continent, his object and desires were unpopular with those by whom he was surrounded.” 5

I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 19: 229 – 230.)

Joseph F. Smith

“Christ taught the gospel to Adam, and made known his truths to Abraham and the prophets. He was the inspirer of the ancient philosophers, Pagan or Israelite, as well as of the great characters of modern times. Columbus, in discovery; Washington, in the struggle for freedom; Lincoln, in emancipation and union; Bacon, in philosophy; Franklin, in statesmanship and diplomacy; Stephenson, in steam; Watts, in song; Edison, in electricity, and Joseph Smith, in theology and religion, found in Christ the source of their wisdom and the marvelous truths which they advocated.”
(Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 31.)

Spencer W. Kimball

Columbus was led by God. I’m sure that he inspired a little boy, Christopher Columbus, to stand on the quays in Genoa, Italy, and yearn for the sea. He was filled with the desire to sail the seas, and he fulfilled a great prophecy made long, long ago, that this land, chosen above all other lands, should be discovered. And so when he was mature, opportunity was granted to him to brave the unknown seas, to find this land which had been cut off from the rest of the world long centuries, and to open the door, as it were. (50-05)
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 427.)

Ezra Taft Benson

“God inspired “a man among the Gentiles” 6 who, by the Spirit of God was led to rediscover thelandofAmericaand bring this rich new land to the attention of the people ionEurope. That man, of course, was Christopher Columbus, who testified that he was inspired in what he did.” 7

“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 interest to know that according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained High Priests at the time. When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to God for it.” 8

Supporting Research

Christopher Columbus

“With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. . . . This was the fire that burned within me. . . . Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit”
(Christopher Columbus, as quote in Christopher Columbus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective by Arnold K. Garr, [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1992], 3.)



1 Nephi 13:12 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.

Other Supporting Statements

George Q. Cannon

Not only have these religious reformers been inspired to do a work in preparing for the advent of the kingdom of God upon the earth; but others have been raised for the same purpose. Columbus was inspired to penetrate the ocean and discover this Western continent, for the set time for its discovery had come; and the consequences which God desired to follow its discovery have taken place—a free government has been established on it. . . .

We believe it was a preparatory work for the establishment of the kingdom of God. This Church and kingdom could not have been established on the earth if their work had not been performed, or a work of a similar character. The kingdom of God could not have been established in Asia amid the despotisms there; nor in Africa, amid the darkness there; it could not have been built up in Europe amid the monarchies which crowd every inch of its surface. It had to be built up on this land, hence this land had to be discovered. It was not discovered too soon; if it had been it would have been overrun by the nations of the earth, and no place would have been found, even here, for the kingdom of God. It was discovered at the right time and by the right man, inspired of God not to waver or shrink; but, undaunted by the difficulties with which he was surrounded, and contending with a mutinous crew, he persevered, and continued his journey westward until he discovered this land, the existence of which God had inspired him to demonstrate. 9

“Columbus was inspired to penetrate the ocean and discover this Western continent, for the set time for its discover had come, and the consequences which God desired to follow its discover have taken place—a free government has been established on it. The men who established the Government were inspired of God—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and all the fathers of the Republic were inspired to do the work which they did. We believe it was a prepatory work for the establishment of thekingdomofGod. This Church and kingdom could not have been established on the earth of their work and not been performed.” 10

“This land was kept secret until Columbus was moved upon by the Spirit of God, to go forth and penetrate the western ocean. Then the land was settled and a government was formed under the protecting aegis of liberty, and a place was found for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. 11

“This land was kept for this purpose. For centuries it was hidden from all the nations of the earth. It was not until the 15th century that God inspired Columbus to go forth and seek a passage across the Atlantic, and land upon some of the islands adjacent to this continent. His track was followed by other.” 12

Orson Hyde

“This same angel [Moroni] presides over the destinies of America, and feels a lively interest in all our doings. He was in the camp of Washington, and by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory; and all this to open and prepare the way for the Church and kingdom of God to be established on the western hemisphere, for the redemption of Israel and the salvation of the world. This same angel was withColumbus, and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and visions, respecting this New World. Trammeled by poverty and by an unpopular cause, yet his persevering and unyielding heart would not allow any obstacle in his way to great for him to overcome; and the angel of God helped him—was with him on the stormy deep, calmed the troubled elements, and guided his frail vessel to the desired haven. Under the guardianship of this same angel, or Prince of America, have the United States grown, increased, and flourished, like the sturdy oak by the rivers of water.” 13

“Observe Christopher Columbus in his silent meditations; mark his untiring and faithful observations! Behold him watching the western breeze, and marking, with zealous eye and anxious heart, ever substance that floated on the ocean’s eastward bound current. . . . Inspired of the Almighty God of Heaven, he encountered the ridicule and jeer of a faithless and unbelieving world. . . . The Spirit Angel was their guardian and their guide, and was with them on the stormy deep.” 14

“Compare the coming of the Saints here, with the banishment of Joseph intoEgypt, and the manner in whichColumbuswas sent off on his perilous exploration, and note the conclusion that follows. The world dreaded the germs of greatness which they saw.” 15

“There must needs be opposition in all things. We are told that in 1492 this American continent was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Look at the exertions made by him to obtain the necessary means to effect the discovery. It required ships, mean and men to enable him to make his way across the trackless deep. . . . The Spirit of God came upon him and had no rest day or night until he accomplished what the Spirit wrought upon him to do. . . . He applied to different crowned heads, and received rebuffs and discouragements. He was poor; the plans of Jehovah are mostly carried out by humble and poor individuals. So it was withColumbus; he was poor, but daring and persevering, and with a soul formed within his bosom to understand and prosecute the great enterprise that was to bring to light a vast content reserved in the providence of God.” 16

Orson F. Whitney

“We believe . . . that Joseph Smith was inspired to begin this work, just as Galileo [sic],Columbus, and other mighty men of old whom I have not mentioned, were inspired to gradually pave the way leading to this dispensation.” 17

John A. Widtsoe

“The world owes most to the men, great and small, who in the name of truth have dared to challenge tradition. . . . In the publicsquareofGenoa, 120 miles north ofPisa, stands a heroic monument to Christopher Columbus, one of the finest inGenoa, and dreamed his great dreams there. A few miles northward, a little village puffs and blows because in itColumbuswas born. Yet, when he challenged the geographical tradition of his day, he was scorned by his compatriots, and even when he had discoveredAmerica, jealousy and misunderstanding landed him in prison and left him broken-hearted. Nevertheless, the great era of geographical exploration and human progress is indeed but the story of the men who have loved truth above all else, and who have refused to be coerced by unsupported tradition, however powerful its advocates have been.” 18

Mark E. Peterson

“The vision [1 Nephi 13:12] then became more specific. Says Nephi:

“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.”

It was Christopher Columbus whom he saw, and he observed that the discoverer was guided by divine power on his journey.” 19

Parley P. Pratt

“Hence we contemplate that small beginning made by the American pioneers of religion and liberty; we contemplate how that influence has spread and increased in the earth, influencing the feelings of individuals as well as national institutions . . . until by and by the rest of the world is overwhelmed, that it is obliged to bow to their superior greatness.” 20

Orson Pratt

“Some of [the religious reformers] were wrought upon to come to this continent for the purpose of securing to themselves religious freedom and religious right; and inspired by the Almighty, as was Columbus, who discovered this land, they planted their feet upon the American soil.” 21

“While the iron hand of despotism thus held the nations within its withering grasp, enslaving both body and soul, the great God, near the close of the fifteenth century, moved upon the mind of Columbus, and inspired him to fearlessly launch forth upon the great expanse of unknown waters on the west of Europe; and guided by the invisible agency of the Holy Spirit, he revealed to the down trodden, despairing nations, a new world.” 22

  1. Teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith 304
  2. Journal of Discourses 7:13
  3. JD 23:19
  4. JD 23:82
  5. JD 24:4
  6. 1 Nephi 13:12
  7. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson 577)
  8. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson 604)
  9. George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 14: 55.
  10. JD 14:55
  11. JD 21:201
  12. JD 23:103
  13. JD 6:368
  14. JD 7:107-08
  15. JD 10:376
  16. JD 10:375
  17. JD 24:201
  18. (Man and the Dragon 67-69)
  19. (The Great Prologue 3)
  20. JD 1:43
  21. JD 3:72
  22. JD 7:214
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