FYI: As a Mormon I am *required* to venerate Columbus. Maybe you didn’t know that, and not that that would have stopped you from denigrating a man who is essential to my faith. Well, Columbus veneration is a deeply held and authoritative tenet of my faith—I mean, it’s not *required* in the sense that I’ll be kicked out, but everyone knows what faithful people should *really* believe, if you catch my drift—that to believe in Columbus is to also believe in Christ, and to not believe in Columbus…Well. You see where I’m going with this.

Now, I don’t think historians are “evil.” I accept that there are documents detailing Columbus’ enslavement of thousands of natives and his initiation of the transatlantic slave trade, his torture of innocent people, his rape and pillage of Hispaniola, his fearful inspiring of mass suicide, his selling of little girls into sex slavery, his setting in motion events that would ultimately lead to indigenous human extinction—all these are just the facts of history. I’m not anti-history. But historians are also selective, and don’t often talk about the other facts, that Columbus was also really religious, and a great navigator of the seas, who had a bold and adventuresome spirit, and saw himself as spreading Christianity for the glory of God.

columbusSo no, the man wasn’t perfect. Who among us is? None of these imperfections change the fact that he was clearly the nameless man in the Book of Mormon whom the Spirit of God fell upon and then completely abandoned the moment he laid eyes on a native girl, who came to the Americas apparently alone, practically the only guy on the open seas, whom Nephi clearly foresaw, without whom the Restoration of the Gospel could never ever have happened ever. Yes, that figure is clearly Columbus and he’s an essential part of my religion.

Sure, his methods for spreading Christianity for God’s glory seem a bit unorthodox. And I’ll freely admit that without him, so many other bloodthirsty European psychopaths wouldn’t have learned of the Americas and continued the Renaissance tradition of taking genocide to the four corners of the earth, but on the other hand, look what we have NOW, everything that came AFTER Columbus, hundreds of years later? Isn’t that what really counts? Doesn’t that make it all worth it in the end, no matter how many people were brutalized? God really does work through less than perfect human beings, even those who engage in a little rape and torture now and then. Who among us can’t relate to that?

So I, for one, will honor Columbus, who is irrevocably attached to the founding of my religion, no matter how much one might not want it to be that way, or how unnecessary it might appear. Please remember that I have no real choice but to believe in Columbus—flawed though he was—when you sadly dishonor his holy name on this day.

Jacob is in a doctoral program in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University.

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