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Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon$
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Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190221928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190221928.001.0001

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“I Lead the Way, Like Columbus”

“I Lead the Way, Like Columbus”

Joseph Smith, Genocide, and Revelatory Ambiguity

Chapter:
(p.391) 16 “I Lead the Way, Like Columbus”
Source:
Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon
Author(s):

Zachary McLeod Hutchins

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190221928.003.0017

Readers of The Book of Mormon have long identified Christopher Columbus as the “man among the Gentiles” whose divinely prompted journey to the Americas is foretold therein; Columbus thus became a model for the prophetic leadership of Joseph Smith. But if Columbus was inspired to discover the New World, that inspiration was imprecise, as the admiral sailed for China, suggesting that revelation is necessarily an ambiguous, messy process whose conclusions are uncertain and provisional, subject to correction or revision. Because his arrival in the Americas precipitated the genocide of Native peoples, identifying Columbus as a prophetic figure has forced faithful readers of The Book of Mormon to grapple with the question of theodicy. Some, like the novelist Orson Scott Card, have suggested that the Amerindian genocide is compatible with the justice of a loving God, while others have argued that The Book of Mormon celebrates prophetic weakness and promotes hermeneutic humility.

Keywords:   The Book of Mormon, William Cullen Bryant, Alexander Campbell, Orson Scott Card, colonialism, Christopher Columbus, genocide, Washington Irving, Native Americans, Parley Pratt

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