Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Christopher Columbus by Clark B. Hinckley

Christopher Columbus: A Man Among the Gentiles, by Clark B. Hinckley
2014, 276p, LDS Non-Fiction
My Rating=5 Stars
Source: Received a copy from the publisher for an honest review

The story of Christopher Columbus has become so enshrouded in myth over the centuries, and so distorted by political correctness in recent decades, that the facts of his life remain largely a mystery to all but a handful of scholars.

And yet, author Clark B. Hinckley reminds us, the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi suggests that Columbus stands out as "a man among the Gentiles." In fact, Lehi and Nephi describe only two specific individuals in their prophecy of the latter-day restoration of the gospel: Christopher Columbus and Joseph Smith.

Columbus himself wrote that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to undertake his great voyage of discovery; a claim some historians struggle to accept. But this candid and revealing look at the life of Christopher Columbus shows us a man with a great dream.

Through research into original Spanish texts and accounts written in Columbus's own hand, the author retraces the journeys of this dedicated explorer to uncover what may be the most remarkable aspect of Columbus's life: the degree to which he understood his prophetic mission and his place in history.

I almost passed on this book because it seemed like it would be a heavy read (and parts of it are). Then, I got thinking that I didn't really know much about Christopher Columbus, the man, and this would be a great opportunity to learn more about him. This book was fantastic and I figured today, Columbus Day, would be a perfect day to share my review!

I didn't know much about Columbus when I started. I knew that he discovered America by sailing West to get to the East. I also grew up believing that, during this period of time, the common thought was that the world was flat (which is false--they did not believe that at all). I also knew that in my religion, we believe that he was inspired to discover America. Over the past few years, I've noticed that on the day we honor him, many people disparage him. When I read the summary for this book, I felt drawn to it so when it came, I settled in to read.

I like that the author didn't whitewash anything. He shares the good and the bad. Columbus made mistakes (don't we all?) and put his trust in the wrong people at times. He was betrayed several times and the mistreatment of Indians didn't come at his hands, but at others who ignored his counsel. He was a man of God and wanted to share Christianity with the Indians, not harm them.

Columbus made the journey west four different times. After the first, he was praised and honored. By the time he arrived home from the fourth, he was extremely sick and few people seemed to care. He was a gifted sailor who had a great sense of where to travel and whenever his navigation was followed, they were okay. The problems came when he was overridden and a different route was taken. 

Some of the things I learned about him are: His early years and what motivated him to explore the Ocean Sea. He had two sons--one legitimate and the other illegitimate but he loved them equally and worked hard to make sure they were always taken care of. His health was poor the entire time but his life was spared until his mission was completed. I knew there was a spiritual side to his journeys but learned even more about that. I learned about his death and the controversy surrounding his burial site. And I gained a deeper understanding for why he matters.

If you're looking for the spiritual side of Christopher Columbus's journeys, this is a great book that you will enjoy reading! It is heavy at times, but I was taken in with the way the author described what was happening so I found it easier to read than I originally thought I would. When I finished, I felt that I had a greater understanding and love for him than I did when I first started and look forward to reading it again!

About the Author
CLARK B. HINCKLEY is a banker by vocation and a historian by avocation. A director of Zions First National Bank, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from the Harvard Business School. He is a graduate and former faculty member of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.

A former bishop and stake president, he presided over the Spain Barcelona Mission from 2009 to 2012. He and his wife, Kathleen Hansen Hinckley, have six children and eighteen grandchildren. They have lived in New York City, Michigan, and Arizona. They reside in Salt Lake City and serve in the baptistry of the Salt Lake Temple and teach Sunday School.


Unknown said...

I love books like this. On Monday I saw a friend post on facebook stating how she thought Columbus was such a "bad" man. I just had to laugh because EVERYONE makes mistakes...just like you said in your review.

Melanie said...

True! This is a great book to get a true picture of who he was.

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