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The Christian Reformation: A Quick Look and Insights

By Mormon.org
Joseph Smith praying and receiving revelation in a grove of trees.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830, under the leadership of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ten years prior, Joseph had prayed to know which of the churches were true and which he should attend. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, and he learned that the Church originally organized by Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth. Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and then restored His Church to the earth again through this new prophet. Read Joseph’s account of this experience here: Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17

However, the story of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ began long before the spring of 1820. When the Great Apostasy took place nearly 2,000 years ago, the world entered a state of spiritual darkness from which it did not begin to recover until the Renaissance. During the Renaissance (from about A.D. 1350 to 1550), many events took place that were vital in preparation for the final dispensation. See a timeline of events leading up to the restoration of the true Church on the earth below:

  • 1377: John Wycliffe, an English religious reformer, was tried as a heretic for his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 1378–1417: The Great Western Schism, a division within the Roman Catholic Church with rival popes seated in Rome and Avignon, greatly reduced the influence and prestige of the office of pope.
  • 1388: An edition of the first complete English Bible, originally begun by John Wycliffe, was completed by his followers. 
  • 1415: Jan Hus, a Bohemian religious reformer, was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake.
  • 1438: Johannes Gutenberg, a German printer, invented the movable-type printing press. He published the Bible in Latin in about 1455, making it available to the masses for the first time, although relatively few could read latin.
  • 1492: Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to America.
  • 1517: Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, protesting the sale of indulgences and other practices. 
  • 1519–31: Huldrych Zwingli led the Protestant Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland. He was killed in a war between Catholics and Protestants.
  • 1521: Luther was excommunicated and declared an outlaw.
  • 1522: Luther published the first German translation of the New Testament.
  • 1525: William Tyndale published his English translation of the New Testament in Germany and smuggled copies into England. He was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1536.
  • 1534: The Church of England broke with the Roman Catholic Church when King Henry VIII assumed full authority over the national church.
  • 1541–64: John Calvin promoted the Protestant Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 1555: The Peace of Augsburg resulted from a treaty between the Holy Roman Empire and German princes to end the wars of the Reformation. The treaty officially recognized Protestantism and allowed each German prince to decide the religion of his subjects.
  • 1560: John Knox, a follower of Calvin, helped to establish Protestantism as the state religion in Scotland.
  • 1562–98: Wars of religion occurred between Protestant French Huguenots and the Roman Catholic Church. The Edict of Nantes (1598) granted the Huguenots freedom of worship, but it was revoked in 1685.
  • 1607: Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in America.
  • 1609: John Smyth, an English Separatist, founded a Baptist congregation in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • 1611: The King James Bible was published in England.
  • 1620: The Pilgrims founded Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts.
  • 1624: The Dutch founded New Amsterdam (later named New York City).
  • 1628: The Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  • 1634: The Calverts, an English Catholic family, settled Maryland. In 1649 they passed the Act of Toleration, which advocated freedom of conscience.
  • 1636: Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts and later founded Providence, Rhode Island, where he advocated freedom of religion.
  • 1638: Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts. Hutchinson helped to found Portsmouth which later became part of Rhode Island.
  • 1654: George Fox founded the Society of Friends religion (sometimes called Quakers) in England.
  • 1681: William Penn, an English Quaker, helped to settle Pennsylvania in 1682. He advocated religious toleration.
  • 1730's and 1740's: During the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards’s passionate sermons sparked a religious revival that spread through the American colonies.
  • 1738: John Wesley began the Methodist movement in England. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in America in 1784.
  • 1774: Ann Lee and her followers moved to America where they soon established The Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming (sometimes called Shakers).
  • 1775–83: The American War for Independence was fought.
  • 1776: The American Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • 1788: The United States Constitution was ratified.
  • 1789: George Washington became the first president of the United States.
  • 1791: The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution (comprising the first 10 amendments, including freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly).
  • 1796: Joseph Smith Sr. married Lucy Mack.
  • 1800–1830: The Second Great Awakening prompted religious fervor in America.
  • 1805: Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont.
  • 1820: Joseph Smith Jr. saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and began working to restore the true Church on the earth.
  • 1830: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established.
  • 1844: Joseph Smith Jr. was martyred while being detained in the Carthage Jail under false accusations. Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith Jr. as prophet of the Church.

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