I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone report that the prophecies contained in chapter 13 of 1 Nephi refer to the colonisation of the United States.
And 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. (v. 12)
The above verse, for example, is said to have referred to Christopher Columbus. Yet, it is a well-established fact that several Scandinavians arrived in the American contents several centuries before Columbus ever did. In addition, Columbus was preceded by at least one explorer (Jo?É¬£o Vaz Corte-Real) and subsequently followed by one other (John Cabot or Giovanni Caboto). In actuality, it would seem that Columbus should fall under verse 13:
And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
The next few verses go on discussing white people colonising the “land of promise” and the “land of their inheritance”. It is widely believed that the furthest north the Lehitic people landed on the American continent is present-day Mexico. At the very last then, the land of promise referred to Mexico, not the United States. This makes sense of course, since many white people from Spain and France colonised the area of Mexico.
Verses 17 and 18 are popularly interpreted to refer to the Revolutionary War between Britain and what would become the United States. Yet, Mexico held several wars with mother Gentiles. Cinco de Mayo, for example, celebrates Mexico’s victorious defeat of French forces that had occupied the country. In addition, Mexico’s Independence War lasted from 1810 until 1821, complete with a constitution drafting. For that matter, Brazil held a war of independence against Portugal from 1821-1825 that included land and naval battles, as did Chile’s fight against Spain during 1817-1818.
So to what does 1 Nephi 13 refer? Who knows? The prophecies are too vague. Certainly they came true, but I am apprehensive to say the unequivocally refer to the United states when much that is contained in the chapter could refer to several countries in North and South America.