Lessons on Freedom and Patriotism
Lesson No. Eight

Columbus and the Founders in the St. George Temple

Recent efforts to slander Christopher Columbus and the Founders – During most of our national history Columbus and the Founders were considered heroes with determination and foresight.  Cities, rivers, and many other places were named after them.  More recently there has been a wide spread effort, designed especially to indoctrinate young people, which slanders Columbus, the Founders and their accomplishments.  Columbus is held personally responsible for centuries of mistreatment of Native Americans.  The Founders are portrayed as being greedy and motivated by selfish interests. All of this is as astonishing as it is misleading.  

The Spirit of God guided Columbus and the Founders – From the Lord’s perspective among the most important events of the history of the world was the discovery and founding of America.  (See 1 Nephi 11-14)  Nephi was referring to Columbus when he wrote:  “I 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 came down and 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 Nephi 13:12).  By the Founders “the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation…even on the face of this land” (1 Nephi 22:7).  

Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in his excellent book The Great Prologue, explained that Columbus was an “inspired man, sent of heaven to make the voyage.”  Elder Petersen quotes several sources including Columbus himself who believed he was prepared by God and that his work was inspired by the Holy Ghost.  (See pages 24-31)  The Lord himself testified that the Founders were “wise men whom [he] raised up” (D&C 101:80). 

In August 1877, the Founding Fathers of the United States appeared to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple, asking that their temple work be done. President Woodruff reports that he "straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men."

Columbus and the Founders are now members of the Church – We have a unique insight concerning Columbus and the Founders.  Shortly after the dedication of the St George Temple, the first temple in Utah, President Wilford Woodruff received a vision:

“I will here say… that two weeks before I left St George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them.  Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us.  We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God….I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others.’

“Twenty years later in general conference, the experience was still fresh in his mind:  ‘Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as a Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them….I told these brethren that it was their duty to go into the Temple and labor until they had got endowments for all of them.  They did it.  Would those spirits have called upon me, as an elder in Israel, to perform this work if they had not been noble spirits before God?  They would not.    

“James G. Bleak, chief recorder of the St George Temple was a second witness to President Woodruff’s initial visitations:  ‘I was also present in the St George Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers… the spirits of the Presidents…. And also others, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley….[who came to Wilford Woodruff and demanded that their baptism and endowments be done.  Wilford Woodruff was baptized for all of them.  

While I and Brothers J.D.T. McAllister and David H. Cannon who were witness to the request were endowed for them.  These men…laid the foundation of this American Gov., and signed the Declaration of Independence and were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth to perform this work.  Martin Luther and John Wesley helped to release the people from religious bondage that held them during the dark ages.  They also prepared the people's hearts so they would be ready to receive the restored gospel when the Lord sent it again to men on the earth” (Quoted by Andrew Skinner, Temple Worship, p. 165-68).

President Benson personally examined the records stored in the St George Temple vault verifying this work had been done.  With regard to this experience he explained:

“I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington.  I was deeply moved on that occasion to realize that these great men returned to this promise land by permission of the Lord and had their ordinance work done for them.  If they had not been faithful men, if they had not been God-fearing men, would they have come to the elders of Israel to seek their temple blessings?  I think not.  The Lord raised them up, sanctioned their work, and proclaimed them ‘wise men.

“President Benson subsequently elaborated, stating that George Washington had been ordained a high priest at the time, adding, ‘According to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, George Washington, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin and Christopher Columbus were ordained high priests….When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of Heaven for it’” (Sheri Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, A Biography, p. 446-47).  

Normally men are ordained elders prior to receiving their temple endowments.  That Washington, Wesley, Franklin and Columbus were ordained high priests suggest to me that there are there priesthood quorums in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as it is organized in the spirit world, and that these four men were to be assigned to leadership roles in that Church consistent with the office of a high priest.  

Testimony – The reason Columbus and the Founders were prepared in the pre-existence and inspired and directed in their mortal missions was because, from the Lord’s perspective, the voyage of Columbus and the founding of this nation were two of the most important events in the history of the world.  Columbus brought two worlds into permanent contact and thereby set in motion a chain of events, which prominently includes the founding of this nation, and which led to the restoration of the gospel.  The restoration of the gospel will transform and prepare the world for the Second Coming.  

The truth about the discovery and founding of our nation by wise and righteous men whom the Lord raised up must be taught in our homes.  It is our responsibility to preserve this great legacy.  It is my testimony that if we do this the Lord will see that the truths of these things are planted in the hearts of our children and grandchildren.  These truths will give them a unique perspective and increase their gratitude for the blessings of freedom and the blessings of the gospel.