Christopher Columbus, Inspired Seaman
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“Christopher Columbus, Inspired Seaman,” Friend, Oct. 1992, 38–39

Heroes and Heroines:

Christopher Columbus, Inspired Seaman

The Spirit of God … 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 (1 Ne. 13:12).

From the time he was a young boy growing up in Genoa, Italy, Christopher Columbus knew that he wanted to be a seaman. Coming from a family of weavers, however, it was expected that Christopher would follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father. But the curious boy was more interested in the sea and the stars, and instead of weaving cloth as his brothers and father did, Christopher spent much of his time weaving dreams of adventure and discovery.

He listened to the tales of the sailors who came to the marketplace. They talked about exotic people of the Orient and of the great amounts of gold and spices in China, Japan, and India. Christopher dreamed of someday going to those strange, faraway places.

As soon as he could, he began working on ships. Studying hard, he learned as much as he could about sailing, maps, and navigating by the stars. At the age of thirteen, he left home to seek his fortune as a seaman.

He traveled throughout Europe and the Mediterranean and became an expert navigator. By the time he was 25, Christopher was made captain of a ship. It was then that he started to formulate a plan.

In the 1400s, many seamen were reluctant to go after the wealth of the Indies because it was thought that the only way to get there was by sailing a difficult, circuitous route around Africa. Christopher believed that there was another way. He thought that he could get to Japan by going west across the Atlantic Ocean.

Most people laughed at Christopher’s idea, and he had a hard time getting anyone to support his proposed trip. It took him six years to finally convince the king and queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, to provide him with ships and money.

On August 3, 1492, Christopher set sail from Palos, Spain, with three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. It was only after a long and difficult journey that land was sighted. October 12, 1492, was the happy day when he set foot on dry ground—not in Japan or China or India, but on an island in what is now called the Bahamas, in the western hemisphere.

It has now been five hundred years since Christopher Columbus made that trip, and modern history books all give an account of the famous journey. But long before Columbus was born, another historian wrote of this navigator’s future travels. The prophet Nephi, son of Lehi, had a vision of Columbus. He recorded the vision in 1 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” (1 Ne. 13:12).

The scriptures indicate that Columbus’ voyages to the lands of North and South America were not made by chance but were directed by the Spirit. Columbus himself acknowledged several times that he was motivated by divine influence. In a letter to the king and queen of Spain, he wrote, “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but the Holy Ghost inspired me?”*

Weeks into their voyage, the crews that were with Columbus grew restless and fearful, and the captains of the Nina and the Pinta both wanted to turn back. Columbus would not give up, however, and he finally promised that if land was not sighted in forty-eight hours, they would turn back. That night in his cabin, Columbus “prayed mightily to the Lord,”* and on the very next day, October 12, land was sighted.

Because of his strong determination, courage, and faith, Christopher Columbus was able to make his dream of adventure and travel to distant lands come true. He didn’t discover a new route to the Indies, as he had hoped to, but his discovery of America was inspired by God.

  • See Ensign, May 1976, page 49.

Illustrated by Dick Brown