October 11, 2011
Geoffrey just finished a unit at school (4th grade) studying the explorers of the new world. He dressed up as Ponce de Leon and told his story. He got a bit dramatic, showing a scab and dying a fantastic death with each retelling, since Ponce de Leon died from an arrow wound to the leg.
Because of his study, he is particularly knowledgeable about the explorers that found America. To honor Columbus Day, we're going to share what we learned from him and his fellow students.
An Italian young man named Cristoforo Columbo, or Christopher Columbus, had big ideas. He grew up in the wool business. His dad owned a wool business and traded with other nearby countries. Christopher learned from his dad about trading, navigation and maps of the world. He was one of the few people who believed the world was round. Although he was laughed at a lot, he knew that the world could not be flat. Traders often sailed to exotic India to trade goods. Coming from Europe, they had to sail around the southern tip of Africa to get to India. That was a long and perilous journey.
Christopher Columbus knew that since the world was round, one could sail the other direction and hit the other side of India. Columbus first asked Portugal for funding to sail ships WESTWARD to India. Portugal refused because they were the ones who started sailing around the tip of Africa. It was their idea and they weren't about to abandon it. After three years of waiting, Columbus decided to ask Spain. They said no because they were fighting a war. After the war ended seven years later, Columbus asked Spain again. This time they agreed to fund his trip.
Spain gave Columbus 3 boats called the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The King and Queen of Spain ordered the crews to accompany Columbus, some of whom were convicts. They promised to erase their crimes after returning from this voyage. After all, it was experimental; some people still believed that they might fall off the world, since they thought the world was flat.
Columbus set sail in 1492 and after one month the crew became restless. Mutiny was brewing. Fortunately, after a second month at sea, they spotted land. It was AMERICA! Well, more specifically, what we now call the Caribbean. He thought he was in India because they didn't know anything about America being there, so he called the place West Indies and named the natives 'Indians.'
Columbus came back to Spain with big news of their discovery. Spain sent him on a second voyage with 15 ships. Columbus was supposed to set up a settlement in the new world. He brought Juan Ponce de Leon from Spain with him. They landed in Cuba and tried to set up a settlement there.
Other men besides Ponce de Leon were taking note: Giovanni Caboto (or John Cabot) from Italy and Jacques Cartier from France. They got funding and set sail soon afterwards. Cabot found Newfoundland and Canada and Cartier found the St. Lawrence River which leads to the Great Lakes. Vasquez Balboa from Spain and Henry Hudson of England got into the act. Balboa found the Isthmus of Panama and South America; and Hudson found the Hudson River, Hudson bay and the Hudson Strait. (He really liked his last name, didn't he?) And Ponce de Leon set sail himself, from the settlement in Puerto Rico, finding Florida. (We went to a cool monument in St. Augustine Florida devoted to him.)
Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, but he found the Americas. He had to have great patience—waiting 10 years for sponsorship of his trip. He also had amazing courage-- he was taking a great risk sailing into uncharted territory (that most believed didn't exist, in fact, that most believed the voyage would end in death by falling off the end of the world) with criminals as his crew, with worries of mutiny, hunger, sickness, sinking, bad weather, and so forth.
He was inspired to come, along with the others, as part of Heavenly Father's plan for the restoration of the Gospel in the latter days. Nephi saw it in vision in 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 awrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
Heavenly Father was preparing the land for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored and then preached unto all the world. Columbus and the other explorers would set the stage for later settlers to come, like the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth Massachusetts. Nephi is told further about the War of Independence to form the United States and the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith in a free land.
Columbus and the other brave explorers were inspired by God to find America. God needed to bring the gospel back to Nephi's seed through the Gentiles. Columbus was an important part in the step of bringing Gentiles to the Promised Land.
Did Columbus and the others know that they were fulfilling prophecy by sailing to unknown parts? If they didn't when they were alive, they probably do now. God knew that they would do it.