My VIP for this week is the real Christopher Columbus and not the “counterfeit Columbus” manufactured by “revisionist historians. Much of this essay will come from an article posted by Tad R. Callister. My purpose – like Callister’s – is to reveal the real Columbus. Callister wrote the following about the motive of Columbus to find the New World.
For many years Columbus sought financing for his desired voyage. Finally, Queen Isabella of Spain gave her approval. Even though the voyage would have profound financial benefits for Spain, Columbus was under no misapprehension about its purpose; he knew it was much more than a secular quest. He knew it was an integral part of God’s divine master plan. He was not alone in this understanding. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, Spain’s royal historian, referred to the king and queen’s “faithful service to Jesus Christ and their fervent desire for the spread of His holy faith.” He then added, “It was for this purpose that the Lord brought Christopher Columbus to their notice.”
While fame and fortune may have contributed to Columbus’s interest in exploration, his main motivation, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Samuel Eliot Morison, was his believe that he was an instrument in God’s hands: “There can be no doubt that the faith of Columbus was genuine and sincere, and that his frequent communion with forces unseen was a vital element in his achievement. … This conviction that God destined him to be an instrument for spreading the faith was far more potent that the desire to win glory, wealth and worldly honors, to which he was certainly far from indifferent.”
Not only did Columbus desire to spread Christianity among the natives whom he encountered, but he also sought gold and wealth for a very specific purpose – to finance a crusade that would conquer Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. In his own words, Columbus said: “I urged your Highnesses to spend all the profits of this my enterprise on the conquest of Jerusalem.” Being a devoutly religious man, Columbus believed this conquest and the rebuilding of the temple was necessary in order to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Christ. Delno C. West and August Kling, scholars on the life of Columbus, wrote: “We cannot deny that the Admiral wanted a comfortable income for himself and his heirs, but the primary motivation in his quest for gold was spiritual. On many occasions, he clearly stated that any gold found should be used first and foremost to propagate the faith and to launch the final crusade to Jerusalem.” Why is it that we seldom, if ever, hear of these sentiments from the revisionist historians?
At this point in his article, Callister asked a “key historical question: ‘Was Columbus divinely inspired or were his voyages nothing more than secular quests?’” Callister reminded his readers that God does not have any perfect mortals to do His work. He always used imperfect men with weaknesses and makes them equal to advancing His work.
The critic sees only warts and blemishes; God sees the beauty and strengths, and then uses such attributes to further His cause. And so it was with Columbus. To deny his God-inspired role in events which ultimately made possible the birth and founding of the United States of America is to suffer from a severe case of historical myopia.
Callister explained that he used the term “revisionist historian” to describe “those historians who would rather promote their own prejudices and perspective of history than actual facts as reflected in primary sources (meaning original sources created during the historical time under discussion). Some “primary sources” are the journal and letters of Columbus, “a biography by his son Ferdinand Columbus, contemporary historians such as Peter Martyr of Angleria, Bartolome de las Casas, and Andrés Bernáldez, and Columbus’s bitter enemy and rival – Francisco de Bobadilla.” Callister then expressed his surprise and disappointment at the revisionist history that is being pedaled by dishonest historians.
As I read about the life of Columbus, I was surprised and disappointed at the many times revisionists quoted passages out of context, cited other revisionists without reference to primary sources, or simply failed to quote primary sources that disproved or weakened their position. Lest there be any question, a partial truth presented as the whole truth is an untruth, and there is no doubt but that many revisionists have engaged in partial truths….”
Biased historians are teaching half-truths about Columbus. Callister shares examples of the partial truths of revisionists and shares the truth as follow.
Columbus did send some slaves to Spain but his motive was not nefarious.
It is true that Columbus did send some slaves to Spain but one needs to understand the context in which Columbus did so. For example, King Guacanagari was a native chief who sought the help of Columbus to defeat an enemy tribe of cannibals who were destroying his own tribe. Columbus did assist in this request and sent the captured cannibals as slaves to Spain….
… Likewise, it is important to understand that Columbus, who the revisionists accuse as a slave trader, never personally owned a slave. In other words, any natives sent to Spain were not for the personal benefit of Columbus, but for what he thought might be the ultimate education and conversion of these natives to Christianity.
Columbus wanted to make friends, not enemies of the natives.
It is true that Columbus did kill some natives, but this was largely in response to the death of 39 Spaniards (killed by these same natives) that Columbus had left behind to govern the island of Hispaniola. As to this event Las Casas, a contemporary of Columbus and historian, wrote: “Truly, I would not dare blame the admiral’s intention, for I knew him well and all I know his intentions were good.” … [Callister and Carol Delaney came to the same conclusion after reading original sources.]
Columbus brought the natives a much better way of life.
Some revisionists would have us believe that the natives with whom Columbus interacted were all peace-loving, free of all major diseases, and living in a Garden of Eden state before Columbus “destroyed” it all. The facts reveal, however, that many tribes were continually at war. Furthermore, the facts reveal that some of these natives were cannibals, some ate their own children, some were subject to major diseases, some possessed slaves, some used captured women as sex slaves, some were addicted to cocaine, some performed human sacrifices, the vast majority were uneducated, and some practiced witchcraft, among other atrocities. To suggest that Columbus destroyed their peaceful, civilized, and harmonious societies is pure, absolute fiction.
To the contrary, Columbus brought them a much better way of life— Christianity. That is why the Americas today are filled with Christian nations where cannibalism has been eradicated, slavery abolished, human sacrifices done away, major diseases minimized, women treated with greater respect, life expectancies extended, poverty reduced, and education made available to most. That is the true legacy of Columbus.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the Holy Ghost inspired Columbus as he discovered America. The histories referred to by Callister agree with this belief. “Historical references to Columbus as an instrument in God’s hands are numerous” even though revisionist historians minimize those references.
In the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a prophet named “Nephi
prophesied that a man would be wrought upon by the Spirit of God and cross the many waters unto the seed of his brethren (see 1 Nephi 13:12).” A latter-day prophet, even President Gordon B. Hinckley, observed, “We interpret [1 Nephi 13:12] to refer to Columbus.”
This could be the reason that Wilford Woodruff completed the temple work for Columbus when he did the work of the Founding Fathers in the St. George Temple. Callister wrote that Wilford Woodruff recorded that “Columbus was one of four men ordained [as] a high priest – certainly an indication of his worthiness.” Callister concluded with the following statement.
Columbus was an instrument in God’s hands to discover the New World and bring Christianity to its shores. In accordance with actual, not revisionist history, Columbus had the courage to follow God’s promptings, the daring to cross the seemingly impassible ocean, and the righteous desire to share Christianity with the natives. His discoveries led to a people that eventually abandoned slavery, cannibalism, and human sacrifices, and instead replaced it with religion, education, and a more refined civilization. What a colossal contribution to society and ultimately, the restoration of Christ’s gospel! It is now time for the real Columbus to stand up and be recognized and honored for who he really was.