I did not start to question Columbus Day until my first history course at Brigham Young University in 2008, when an instructor discussed with the class the controversies concerning Columbus and the Quincentennial in 1992. We read The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters, and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives published by Penguin Classics in 1992. The class showed me how to search primary sources and understand the current debates about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. As a Latter-day Saint Native American, my complicated opinion of Columbus began to gel. I learned of his human weaknesses and impacts (both direct and non-direct) on indigenous peoples. As a historian, I came to recognize a historical figure?s context and the ?pastness of history.? I became increasingly uncomfortable with the appropriations of Columbus?s image, especially in the contests over Columbus Day and Indigenous Day.
These various debates and reactions to Columbus and his place in history expose the gaps in the reconciliation between Americans and their past. Dark episodes of indigenous genocide, indigenous removal, and indigenous and African enslavement mar this past. Rather than reconciling with this ugly side of history, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot explains in Silencing the Past (1995), privileged groups alter history to support certain power dynamics. The act of ?silencing? is forgotten, and people propagate particular perspectives of history without understanding the historiography, the origins of those viewpoints, and the silences.
Considering the controversies today, the celebrations of Columbus Day as a national holiday and the usage of American Indian mascots, I return to this ongoing discourse. With the announcement of Clark B. Hinckley?s book, Christopher Columbus: A Man Among the Gentiles, I reviewed how Mormon scholars have defined the LDS perspective of Christopher Columbus . Hinckley?s work reiterates the studies of Arnold K. Garr and De Lamar Jensen. Garr, Department Chair of Church History and Doctrine at BYU (2006-2009), wrote Christopher Columbus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective in 1992. Jensen, BYU emeritus history professor, contributed a foreword to the book and also published ?Columbus and the Hand of God? in the Ensign (October 1992). Regarding Columbus, Hinckley like most Mormons refer to the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13: 12 .
In 1992, during the controversial Columbus Quincentennnial, Jensen wrote,
?What, then, do we know of the real Columbus? What were his motives in pursuing his world-changing enterprise? Perhaps the greatest motivating feature of his life was his faith. His writings and the records kept by his contemporaries indicate that Columbus had unshakable faith that he was an instrument in God?s hands.
And, indeed, the Book of Mormon affirms that he was. In vision, Nephi ?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 ? 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 Nep. 13:12.)
Columbus?s understanding of that design may well have been limited, but his conviction of being a part of it gave him a self-assurance, even stubbornness, that both amazed and exasperated his contemporaries? .
The Book of Mormon does not name Columbus as the ?man among the Gentiles,? but several LDS leaders have made the connection between him and the scripture (as the works of Hinckley, Jensen, and Garr emphasize). They claim that the LDS perspective sees Columbus only in the positive light of a divinely chosen historical figure. Jensen concludes, ?In our day the maligning has increased in intensity, but our awareness of what Columbus accomplished under God?s direction ought to remind us of our own indebtedness and responsibilities as benefactors of his fortitude. His chief concern, as ours should be, was not what people would think of him, but what God would think of him? .
According to Peter Martyr of Anghiera, an early historian of the European explorations in the Americas, an indigenous elder once invited Columbus to reflect on the ?path? of his soul (or what some might interpret as divine judgment). In an excerpt, Martyr describes an exchange between a respectable indigenous leader and Columbus, in which the elder advised Columbus [as interpreted by Diego Colon, who was taken captive to Spain during the first voyage]:
?I warn you then to be aware that souls have two paths when they leap forth from the body: one gloomy and hideous, prepared for those who cause trouble and are the enemies of the human race; the other delightful and pleasant, among nations. If therefore you remember you are mortal and that rewards will be duly assigned to each in accordance with his present actions, you will attack no one? .
Columbus wrote in one of his logs,
?On 2 January in the year 1492? on the grounds of information I had given your royal Highnesses concerning the lands of India and a prince who is called the Great Khan? and of his and his ancestors? frequent and vain applications to Rome for men learned in the holy faith who should instruct them in it, your Highnesses decided to send me, Christopher Columbus, to see these parts of India and the princes and peoples of those lands and consider the best means for their conversion? Your Highnesses ordained that I should not go eastward by land in the usual manner but by the western way which no one about whom we have positive information has ever followed.?
Historians seek to understand Columbus in his context. Many indigenous peoples of America became ?Indians? because of Columbus?s aspirations to ?see these parts of India? peoples of those lands and consider the best means for their conversion.? We cannot reverse the past, as LDS author Orson Scott Card imagines in Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1996). By considering diverse perspectives, we can move forward toward reconciliation and healing together as Americans.
 Trent Toone, ?Author Clark B. Hinckley writes book about Christopher Columbus with LDS angle,? Deseret News (October 13, 2014).
 De Lamar Jensen, ?Columbus and the Hand of God,? Ensign (October 1992), accessed online, October 13, 2014, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1992/10/columbus-and-the-hand-of-god?lang=eng#pop_001-92910_000_003.
 Geoffrey Eatough, ed. and trans., Selections from Peter Martyr, vol. 5 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1998), 68.