Sunday, December 2, 2018

Prophecy Fulfilled 006

Nephite general and historian, Mormon, recorded a prophecy that Gentiles would scatter Lehi's descendants who would be "counted as naught among them" Mormon 5:9. "Naught" generally means zero, nothingness, or nonexistence. This prophecy was dramatically and explicitly fulfilled during the first sixty years of European contact with Native Americans.
Columbus Statue, Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
1492 - 1493 Columbus (1451 - 1506) discovered America, landing in what today are the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

1493 Pope Alexander VI (1431 - 1503) granted the Americas to Spain.

1493 - 1496 Columbus returned on his second voyage, bringing a large number of Europeans with him. He landed in what today are the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba.

1498 - 1500 Columbus, on the third of his four voyages, began distributing "encomiendas" on Hispaniola Island (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to the Europeans who accompanied him. An encomienda was a land grant that included the services of the indigenous people residing in that territory. Essentially the old European feudal system transported to the New World, encomiendas allowed European landowners to enslave and exploit the natives. Landed lords terrorized their American victims, forcing them to work in mines, fisheries, and on farms and ranches. Encomenderos captured slaves from neighboring islands to augment their work force. Conditions aboard the slave ships were so horrendous most of the impressed people died en route and their bodies were thrown overboard. The recently-arrived European overlords justified their brutality with clever sophistry, reasoning:
  • Native males could not grow beards, so they were not truly men.
  • Natives were beasts, without souls, incapable of religion and ineligible for salvation. Europeans frequently called the locals "dogs." 
The pernicious idea that the indigenous people were brute sub-humans allowed the greedy newcomers to rationalize everything from rape and torture to murder and genocide.
Antonio de Montesinos Statue, George Washington Avenue,
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
1511 Antonio de Montesinos (1475 - 1540), a Dominican friar on Hispaniola opposed to Spanish cruelty, complained "Are these not men? Have they not rational souls?"

1512 - 1513 Montesinos' highly critical reports back to Spain resulted in the Laws of Burgos, one tenet of which forbade Spaniards from calling the natives "dogs." On the American side of the Atlantic, the Laws of Burgos were routinely ignored.
Image of Bartolomé de las Casas on
1978 Guatemalan Centavo Coin
1524 Charles V (1500 - 1558) created the Council of the Indies which included Bartolomé de las Casas (ca. 1484 - 1566), an outspoken social reformer turned Dominican friar who advocated humane treatment of native Americans.

1530 Charles V prohibited Indian slavery. Predictably, his edict was ignored in the Americas and promptly rescinded.
Sublimis Deus, Papal Bull Issued
by Pope Paul III in 1537
1537 Pope Paul III (1468 - 1549) issued an encyclical called "Sublimis Deus." It attempted to settle the philosophical argument whether native Americans were beasts or humans. It declared the indigenous peoples of the Americas are rational beings with souls, eligible for Catholic evangelism. This papal decision resulted in a wave of missionaries going to the New World.
Bartolomé de las Casas, Brevísima Relación
1552 Seville Edition
1542 Bartolomé de las Casas wrote his damning Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias which was formally published ten years later. The future Bishop of Chiapas estimated the population of Hispaniola in 1492 at 3 million. Fifty years later, only 200 indigenous people were still alive. He estimated the pre-contact population of Lucayos (Bahamas) at 500,000, all of whom were dead. He described Cuba and Puerto Rico as almost totally depopulated from forced labor, starvation, disease, public torture, and Spanish massacres.

1542 Las Casas' exposé had an immediate effect. Realizing how counter-productive Spanish colonial policies had been (dead Indians don't pay tribute), Charles V issued the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians. The New Laws abolished Indian slavery and ended encomiendas. Opposition from Spaniards in the New World was so pronounced Charles V was forced to revoke the New Laws in 1545.
Learned  Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda
1550 - 1551 A great debate took place in Valladolid, Spain between philosopher and theologian Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1494 - 1573) and Dominican Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas. Sepúlveda argued that New World natives were barbarians and slaves by nature who should be forced to accept Catholicism. Las Casas defended the Indians as free, rational human beings capable of self-government who should be invited but not forced to accept Catholicism. Sepúlveda's harsh viewpoint prevailed and Spanish atrocities continued unabated throughout North, Central, and South America.

Within the first few decades after European contact, Spanish Gentiles forced natives to abandon their homes and life ways. Entire populations were exterminated. Indigenous Americans were generally considered lower life forms who could be enslaved, abused, and killed with impunity. Mormon 5:9's prophecy that Lehi's descendants would be scattered and counted as naught was expressly fulfilled.

Additional blog articles in the Prophecy Fulfilled series are numbered 001, 002, 003, 004, and 005.

For another instance of a Book of Mormon prophecy fulfilled, I recommend Stephen Smoot's excellent recent article entitled "No Kings Upon the Land: A Note on 2 Nephi 10."

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible in all the world. Book of Mormon Central currently publishes in English and Spanish.