CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: MAN OF VISION AND FAITH PART II
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(Shirley R. Heater, a frequent contributor to BMAF, was born and
Restoration Branch. She has contributed many articles for the
Zarahemla Research Foundation and other Book of Mormon publications.
Book of Mormon footnotes in this article are from The Book of Mormon:
Restored Covenant Edition Two of her articles presenting the research
that she did on
these manuscripts and editions have been referenced by Royal Skousen
in his two articles in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Editions, pp.
175-176; Manuscripts, pp. 185-186). You will note that Sister Heater
gives the RLDS verse references first, with the LDS in brackets
by Shirley R. Heater
man credited with discovering the New World—Christopher Columbus.
These new insights come from Columbus’s Book of Prophecies, a
collection of prophecies and commentary which he compiled to show that
he was fulfilling God’s plan. We saw specific confirmation from The
Book of Mormon that the discovery was a direct fulfillment of
prophecy. It was God’s plan and timing to bring the Old and New Worlds
the prophecies of Isaiah, isles of the sea, and the restoration of the
lost tribes of Israel) which have meaning for Book of Mormon
prophet most often quoted or referred to in both Columbus’s Book of
Prophecies and The Book of Mormon. More intriguing is the fact that
Nephi and Columbus selected the same portions of Isaiah and that each
saw himself fulfilling those prophecies.
found three times in The Book of Mormon and twice in Columbus’s
writings). These three verses summarize the primary subjects of all
the selected Isaiah passages: the Lord will set his hand a second time
to recover or redeem the remnant of His people from the islands of the
sea, set up a standard or ensign and restore the house of Israel.
of the same coin”: one (The Book of Mormon peoples on the “isles of
the sea” who “dwindled in unbelief”) as those who will be restored,
and the other (Columbus) as an instrument used by God to play a role
in bringing about the restoration of his people.
broken off which will be restored to the knowledge of their covenant
and their Redeemer (e.g., 1 Nephi 4:15-17 RLDS [15:12-14 LDS]). Nephi
and his brother, Jacob, are the only Book of Mormon writers who
crossed the ocean, and they uniquely view their promised land as an
island. Nephi, who delighted in the words of Isaiah (2 Nephi 11:8
[25:5]), “likened” them to his people (2 Nephi 8:3 [11:2]) in their
mentioned subjects, not only in Isaiah but in many other scriptures
and commentary which he compiled. Columbus saw himself as having a
servant’s role in fulfilling these key prophecies. He wrote, “. . .
for the execution of the journey to the Indies I was not aided by
intelligence, by mathematics or by maps. It was simply the fulfillment
of what Isaiah had prophesied” (West and Kling 1991:111; Brigham
earth, of which he spoke in the Book of Revelation by St. John, after
having spoken of it by the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the place
where to find it” (Brigham 1990:50).
to the lands occupied by the remnant of The Book of Mormon people.
This set events in motion for the eventual restoration of the
knowledge of the covenants.
find the lost tribes of Israel (Wiesenthal 1973:61). He saw himself as
“Christ-bearer” (the meaning of his name Christopher), God’s messenger
to bring a knowledge of the Savior to the lost tribes and ultimately
to the world as part of God’s grand scheme of “the final conversion of
all races” (Watts 1985:93).
house of Israel and the promised land. He desired to assist Jerusalem
in regaining her freedom and in restoring the temple, and he
personally identified with the writings of Abbot Joachim who “taught
that ... there would be ... an age of restoration and renewal for the
kingdom of Christ” and that “the restorer of the House of Mt. Zion
would come out of Spain” (West and Kling 1991:111, 261, note 14).
Book of Prophecies: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen
[fold], and I must bring them also; they will hear my voice, and there
shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Brigham 1991:264-265). It is
with great foresight that he believed that the “flock” would not just
be “Israel after the flesh” but that a “spiritual Israel” would be
formed of all who would come to Christ (208-209).
teaches that “[t]he restoration of the house of Israel is probably the
best scriptural term to describe God’s plan for the last days” and
that “the restoration of the house of Israel involved all the tribes
of Israel and not just one or two” (Treat 1992:52-53). All those who
accept Christ, whether literal descendants or adopted, are the house
other sheep of which he had spoken and that he had still other sheep
(3 Nephi 7:20, 24-26 [15:21; 16:1-3]). He also told them that those
Gentiles who repented would also be numbered among his people (v. 37
[16:12]). There are specific promises in The Book of Mormon to restore
the Lamanites to “the knowledge of their Redeemer, ... and be numbered
among his sheep” which are yet to be fulfilled (Helaman 5:104
[15:13]). This restoration was set in motion when Columbus was led to
the New World, followed by Gentiles who brought the “record of the
Jews” (1 Nephi 3:155-161 [13:19-23]). It will culminate when they
receive The Book of Mormon and the two books “grow together” (2 Nephi
heritage, with varying viewpoints. Some believe “[t]hat there is
abundant circumstantial evidence that Columbus was of a Jewish
background, at least on one side of the family” (Fuson 1987:16). The
description of Columbus in The Book of Mormon as “a man among the
Gentiles” could be interpreted either as a Jew or a Gentile (1 Nephi
1949:54-65,119-135), or a marrano, a professing Christian who was
still a secretly-practicing Jew (Wiesenthal 1973:124-133). Whether or
not he was of Jewish ancestry—an interesting proposition—Columbus’s
writings are abundantly interwoven with professions of faith and
belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior (Brigham 1991:179-181), and he
affirms his faith in a letter to the king and queen of Spain
completely covered me whenever I have called [on him] for them. I
found the sweetest consolation in casting away all my anxiety, so as
to contemplate his marvelous presence.”
supported his venture, providing maps, instruments and finances. Many
crew members are believed to have been Jewish. In anticipation of
finding the lost tribes on his first voyage, Columbus took along a
converso, Luis de Torres, an experienced interpreter who “knew how to
speak Hebrew, Chaldean, and even some Arabic” (Fusan 1987:100-101).
Upon arrival in the New World, Hebrew was probably spoken in an
attempt to communicate with the natives.
voyage to America (early morning of August 3rd) and the expulsion of
all professing Jews from Spain (effective at midnight of August 2nd)
(Fusan 1987:52). The Jewish people were hopeful of finding a new place
of refuge (Wiesenthal 1973:88). The New World was to become a haven
for Jews and a new promised land. In fact, the first refugees came in
the late fifteenth century; many were marranos (Sachar 1992:10).
the Holy Land to the Church. This could only be financed by
discovering new lands and gathering enough gold, silver and precious
stones (Fusan 1987:34). However, he knew that his desire to bring
freedom to the people of the Old Testament could ultimately come only
through their conversion to Jesus Christ.
that “there are but 155 years left for the fulfillment of the seven
thousand [years from creation] ... at which time ... the world will
come to an end. Our Savior said that before the consummation of this
world, all that was written by the Prophets must be
fulfilled” (Brigham 1991:181).
that “remained yet to be fulfilled ... are great events for the
world” (West and Kling 1991:111). He believed that one particular
prophecy which was essential before the return of Christ applied to
himself and his experience, that of taking the gospel to the ends of
the earth. He wrote, “I believe that there is evidence that our Lord
is hastening these things. This evidence is the fact that the Gospel
must now be proclaimed to so many lands in such a short time” (West
and Kling 1991:111).
convinces me that our Lord is hastening the end of the world is the
preaching of the Gospel recently in so many lands” (Brigham 1991:183).
“man among the Gentiles” would be led by the Holy Spirit and that
knowledge of the New World would be kept from other nations until the
people had “dwindled in unbelief.” The Book of Mormon has sharpened
our understanding of the restoring of the house of Israel in these
latter days. We observe that this is precisely the purpose Columbus
saw as his calling, to assist in this great enterprise. It should not
be surprising that Nephi and Columbus quote the same scriptures.
average person of his day; most “laymen” did not even read scripture.
He portrayed his vision and mission as ushering in a final gathering
of the “Jews” or lost tribes just prior to the return of Christ.
of the purpose of The Book of Mormon and the future prophecies to be
fulfilled, he unquestionably was an instrument in the hands of God, an
essential link in the chain of events which are even now setting the
stage for the final end-time prophecies to be fulfilled.
forth of The Book of Mormon. Among the scriptures quoted to young
Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni were the eleventh chapter of Isaiah
(found in Columbus’s writings and in Second Nephi) and Joel 2:28-32,
which Columbus also included in his Book of Prophecies.
linguist shared the heart-cry of her people for cultural liberty and
political rights. Real liberty will occur when they are finally
restored to a knowledge of their Redeemer and their fathers as part of
the house of Israel. When this occurs, we can truly say of Christopher
Columbus: “Mission Accomplished.”
Light of His Prophecies. CLIE Publishers, Terrassa, Barcelona.
1991 Christopher Columbus’s Book of Prophecies: Reproduction of the
Original Manuscript With English Translation. Quincentenary Edition.
CLIE Publishers, Terrassa, Barcelona.
International Marine, Camden, Maine.
the Very Magnificant Lord Don Cristobal Colon Hollis and Carter,
Knopf, New York.
of the House of Israel. Recent Book of Mormon Developments. Vol. 2,
Origins of Christopher Columbus’s “Enterprise of the Indies.” American
Historical Review 90 (Feb):73-102.
Christopher Columbus: An en face edition. Vol. 2, Columbus
Quincentenary Series, University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
Christopher Columbus. Trans. from the German by Richard and Clara
Winston. Macmillan, New York.