Was Christopher Columbus Led by God to the New World?

Study Topics

This past week while people were studying the Come Follow Me lesson that includes 1 Nephi 13, I saw a post online that included some good quotes about Columbus and thought I would write a little about this man that warranted being in a prophesy of Nephi’s about being led by God to the New World.

Why did Columbus warrant being in Nephi’s prophesy and not some other explorer that came before him? Nephi wrote:

2 Nephi 1:5

5. But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.

The Lord told Nephi the chosen promised land was a land reserved for his people AND others the Lord would lead here. Who were these people led by the hand of the Lord?

Well one was Columbus. In 1 Nephi 13:12 we read:

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.

Columbus Led by God Quotes

Was Columbus led by the hand of the Lord? Nephi says so and Columbus himself recognized that guiding influence in his life. From: Kevin A. Miller’s, “Why Did Columbus Sail?” in Christian History, Issue 35 (Vol XI, No 3) we read:

“Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also the Holy Spirit who encouraged me with a radiance of marvelous illumination from his sacred Scriptures, . . . urging me to press forward?’. . . . With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible . . . and he opened my will to desire to accomplish that project . . . The Lord purposed that there should be something miraculous in this matter of the voyage to the Indies.”

Columbus saw his voyages as a fulfillment of a divine plan for his life—and for the soon-to-come Second Coming of Christ. As he put it in 1500, “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John [Rev. 21:1] after having spoken of it through the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it.” Columbus also cited various scriptures that he believed validated his mission: John 10:16–-‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them I also must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.’ And Isaiah 60:9–-‘For, the islands wait for me, and the ships of the sea in the beginning: that I may bring thy sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of the Lord thy God.’

Columbus also had revelations—encounters with the voice of God—on at least two occasions. In 1499, he said: “When all had abandoned me. . .in an attempt to escape death I took to the sea on a small caravel. Then the Lord came to help, saying, ‘O man of little faith, be not afraid, I am with thee.’ And he scattered my enemies and showed me the way to fulfill my promises.” In the Americas again four years later, he found himself alone. His worm-eaten ship was trapped by low waters from getting out into open sea. A local Indian cacique [ruler] had vowed to massacre the Spaniards. Some of Columbus’s men had been killed. Feverish and in deep despair, he wrote, “I dragged myself up the rigging to the height of the crow’s nest . . . Still groaning, I lost consciousness. I heard a voice in pious accents saying, ‘O foolish man and slow to serve your God, the God of all! What more did he accomplish for Moses or for his servant David? From the hour of your birth he has always had a special care of you.’ The voice continued at length and closed with “Be not afraid, but of good courage. All your afflictions are engraved in letters of marble and there is a purpose behind them all.’”

That’s an amazing set of statements. Columbus saw in the scriptures that the Lord wanted him to take a ship to a place where the Lord’s other sheep were to share the gospel with them. This next quote is also astounding.

“July 4, 1854 Elder Hyde gave a patriotic talk about America at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. That talk was a patriotic talk about America. He called Moroni the ‘guardian angel of America.’ He said, ‘that same angel of God that appeared to Joseph Smith presides over the destiny of the United States of America.’ Elder Hyde said that he [Moroni] was in the camp with George Washington. He [Moroni] helped George Washington when he had trouble. He said that same angel was with Christopher Columbus and gave him deep impressions and dreams and visions respecting the new world. He said that same angel was with Columbus on the stormy deep. He guided his frail vessel to the desired haven, and he calmed the troubled elements.” (The Angel Moroni by Elder Glen L. Rudd. Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, March 11, 2003)

“From my first youth onward, I was a seaman and have so continued until this day … Wherever on the earth a ship has been, I have been. I have spoken and treated with, learned men, priests, and laymen, Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and with many men of other faiths. The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He gave me in abundance, of astrology, as much as was needed, and of geometry and astronomy likewise. Further, He gave me joy and cunning in drawing maps and thereon cities, mountains, rivers, islands, and harbours, each one in its place. I have seen and truly I have studied all books–cosmographies, histories, chronicles, and philosophies, and other arts, for which our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?”
(Jacob Wassermann, Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas, pp. 19-20, 46)

Others may have come before Columbus to various parts of the New World, but Columbus was led by God in the divine timing of things to open up the way to the Americas.

Was Columbus an Evil Guy?

“But I was taught that Columbus did horrible things…isn’t that right?”

Here’s a short 4 part video series from Wallbuilders that shows the facts. To summarize it, Columbus clearly wrote that he felt led by the Holy Spirit to take this voyage and wanted to bring Christianity to the Indians. We have both his testimony, and the testimony of Nephi regarding this. Columbus appears to have not committed the atrocities he’s accused of. He came as a friend and intended to proselytize the natives. The men who accompanied him on his voyages were not men he chose, and were not chosen men. Columbus was an Italian leading Spaniards and that undoubtedly caused problems for the men who wondered why they should follow him. They thought they were being led to their deaths on the first trip. On the second and third voyages, many more ships were assigned and Columbus ran into trouble. The men wouldn’t follow him. They committed atrocities and when Columbus protested, they accused him of doing the things they were doing and sent him back to Spain in chains where the King and Queen got the whole story and pardoned him. In other words, it’s highly probable that the stories used to bash Columbus today were recorded by his enemies and jealous watchers, and are as accurate as some of the lies told about Joseph Smith and the Founding Fathers of the United States of America (Oh, and some of the natives ate some of his crew…). I encourage you to watch these videos and perhaps copy/paste the links into the collection note you’ll create below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=957Zgnvk-1k (3 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omMzbYa75aU (3 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckeSjfne8HU (8 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihe-oQJsWPs (3 min)

Was Columbus a good man?

I believe he was a good man or he would not have been led by God to this country. From experiences of the prophets, I believe we can also conclude this. For example, the experience of President Wilford Woodruff when visiting the St. George temple:

“Before I left St. George, the spirits of the [Founding Fathers] 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 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.” (Journal of Discourses 19:229.)

At a conference in April 1898, after he became president of the Church, President Woodruff declared:

“Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. . . .
“Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.” (Conference Report, April 1898, pp. 89-90.)

From Wilford Woodruff’s journal, we learn that after these individuals’ work was performed for them in the temple, George Washington, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were all ordained high priests. Interestingly, from the St. George temple records, we also see that British admiral Lord Nelson was also ordained a high priest. Truly these were good men that must have been inspired and sought to do the will of the Lord and were permitted by the God of heaven to return to earth and request their temple work to be performed.

What do Prophets say about Columbus being Led by God?

For more evidence that this verse in 1st Nephi is talking about him and that Columbus was led by God, you may want to read the statements of prophets of God on the matter. At this link to the LDS Citation Index at BYU, you’ll find 22 statements from Brigham Young to Gordon B. Hinckley talking about this verse and Christopher Columbus being led by God.


There’s more quotes if you look for all the references that include 1 Nephi 13:12 in the range on this list.


What’s interesting to me about this chapter in 1 Nephi 13 is it’s clarity on the chosen land. Joseph Smith taught that the whole of North and South America would be part of Zion, but Nephi clearly identifies key events that would take place in the land he was led to, and the land of the seed of his brethren (who would outlast the Nephites).

In verse 13 we read about others led by the Spirit of God to escape captivity.

Kirk Cameron has a wonderful documentary called Monumental which details the persecution of Christians in Europe and how they came to America as pilgrims seeking refuge. You can check it out here: http://www.monumentalmovie.com/ and find clips on YouTube.

In verse 14 Nephi sees multitudes of Gentiles upon the promised land and the seed of his brethren (the Lamanites) were scattered by them.

In verses 16-20 Nephi sees the Gentile pilgrims upon the chosen land had humbled themselves before the Lord and the Lord’s power was with them and their mother Gentiles came to war but God’s power was with these settlers to push back the mother country. This is the American Revolutionary war, and Nephi sees that they were delivered from all other nations and they carried the Bible with them, signifying their faith in God.

You can read statements by the prophets about each of those verses on the BYU citation index site. Now you need to decide how you want to record this in your Scripture Notes record.

Setting up “Columbus Led by God” collection note

new collection noteYou could copy/paste some of the quotes you find right into the verse notes for 1 Nephi 13:12 about Columbus. Or you can click the button on the top right by the verse to create a collection note for that verse and have bigger space to work in and bring in other verses. That’s what I chose to do so here’s how to set it up and what else you can study if you choose to.

1) Copy/paste any relevant quotes you want into the master collection note.

2) Mark them up for easy scanning of the most important parts when you revisit this topic

3) Consider including the videos above. You can add one at a time as embedded links if you click on the video button in the master note area.

Insert video4) Do a search for this next line with a filter for only searching within the Book of Mormon and study the 47 verses it brings up. Make a separate collection note for those verses and study what else the scriptures teach about the Lord leading people to other lands.

other* and (land* or nation*)

5) Accept that Columbus was led by God. 🙂

(Featured Image by Goran Bogicevic @123rf.com)

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God, family, country, scriptures, soccer, Sanderson, disc golf, dessert, development. These are a few of my favorite things. :) - Oak Norton

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