In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He was determined, faithful, and righteous. He was led by the Spirit of God in his desire to sail the oceans and to gain wisdom and knowledge. He was led by God to the Americas so that His blessed children could live in a blessed nation, one he created just for them, the righteous. Columbus had to go before the king and queen of Spain, who turned him down at first, but were then moved (by his effervescent righteousness and the Spirit. - unknowingly of course. They were evil Gentiles who couldn't understand God, you know). Columbus was so righteous he was chosen before coming to this earth and he fulfilled his mission, and then His righteous people sailed across the ocean to His blessed land. Just read about it in the Book of Mormon.
These are the things I learned about Columbus through school and church. I celebrated Columbus day, subconsciously smugly, knowing that I had been righteous enough to be born in His chosen nation in His chosen true church. Those poor people who were not. They could not celebrate the same freedoms and blessings I did. Well, if they lived righteously enough, God would bless them. (man was I subconsciously a judgmental jerk).
Then I took my American Society sociology class and that change my life forever. My professor has a famous (at least in the sociology department where I went to school) Columbus lecture that just blows you away. I had sort of already given myself permission to question the church (I made that decision in the temple, but that's another story for another time) and start looking for answers, but hadn't really taken many steps on my own yet. By the end of the lecture I thought to myself, “is this really my God? Do I really believe in a God that would do that? Or call a man righteous who would do that? Or lead him and other here knowing they would do those things? Would he really punish the "Lamanites," as he said he would, for their fathers sins? No, that is not my God.” It was liberating and frightening.
Here is the complete 1492 poem:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.