Learning About the Protestant Reformation

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by Montserrat {Chocolate on my Cranium}

Quick, what is October 31st known for?

Halloween is not an acceptable answer!

Do you know? Here are a few clues.

It happened in 1517. Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “the Spirit of Christ moved a Catholic priest living in Germany.” It launched the Protestant Reformation.

Still don’t have a clue?

Martin Luther (ETC)


On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther, a Catholic clergyman, nailed a document he wrote, identified as his Ninety-five Theses, to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was meant to promote discussion of some of the Catholic church’s practices which he did not think matched the teachings of the Bible. It sparked a reformation where more and more people began to question the teachings of the Catholic Church and also began a movement that brought the Bible to the common man.

Martin Luther was not the first, nor the last of what we call the Reformers, but it was his act that became the tipping point.

Why is this information important for us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

At a Joseph Smith Memorial Fireside (text or video), Elder M. Russell Ballard stated:

Now think, my brothers and sisters, about the price that others have paid to establish the freedom of religion essential for Joseph Smith to come to earth to fulfill his mission. Think of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, who were protestors of Christendom during the dark ages of the Great Apostasy. Many gave their lives for the right of all people to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. As I remind you of a few of them, keep in mind the tapestry of faith preparing the way for the Prophet Joseph and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And in a General Conference address he said:

The Dark Ages were dark because the light of the gospel was hidden from the people. They did not have the apostles or prophets, nor did they have access to the Bible. The clergy kept the scriptures secret and unavailable to the people. We owe much to the many brave martyrs and reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Huss who demanded freedom to worship and common access to the holy books. (The Miracle of the Holy Bible, April General Conference 2007)

In order for the restoration of the gospel to occur the earth needed to be prepared to receive it. Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, I thought it was the perfect time to learn about the reformation during the month of October. It was such a success we are doing it again this year. We even have plans to have a Reformation Faire on Oct. 31st! It is important for me to teach my children how the Lord’s hand is evident in history – His story.

“The reformers were pioneers, blazing wilderness trails in a desperate search for those lost points of reference which, they felt, when found would lead mankind back to the truth Jesus taught.

“John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Zwingli, Knox, Calvin, and Tyndale all pioneered the period of the Reformation. Significant was the declaration of Tyndale to his critics: ‘I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou doest’ [see Roger Hillas, “The History of the Book,” Washington Post, Apr. 10, 1996].

“Such were the teachings and lives of the great reformers. Their deeds were heroic, their contributions many, their sacrifices great—but they did not restore the gospel of Jesus Christ.” —President Thomas S. Monson,“They Showed the Way,” Ensign, May 1997

Each day we are reading an article and discussing what it taught us. Here is a list of resources I am using to teach my children. And guess what? The majority come from church magazines or manuals! To have this knowledge infused with a gospel perspective and taught by modern day prophets and apostles and other gospel scholars is a huge blessing.

First a couple of questions to think about during your study. These come from Elder Christofferson’s talk, The Blessing of Scripture. In speaking not only of the reformers but also ancient prophets Elder Christofferson asked:

What did they know about the importance of scriptures that we also need to know? What did people in 16th-century England, who paid enormous sums and ran grave personal risks for access to a Bible, understand that we should also understand?

And I will add, “Do we sacrifice as much to read the scriptures as they did to bring the scriptures forth for us? How will what we learn about them affect our actions towards the scriptures from here on out?

For your convenience all links will open in a new window.

A timeline  – Images of an Era: Preparing the Earth for the Restoration (June 1999 Ensign) Print this out and find pictures or graphics to paste on it as you learn about each event. We like to use Homeschool in the Woods Timeline Figures. They are so well drawn! Or you can use these images I collected from Clipart ETC.

Articles Describing the Timeline in Greater Detail

What Happened to Christ’s Church – (from the New Era) read this first to set the stage for why there needed to be a reformation and restoration in the first place.

What Had to Happen – (from the New Era) shorter version for younger children

Seventeen Centuries of Christianity – (from the Ensign) good reading for adults and teens

The Tapestry of God’s Hand – Elder M. Russel Ballard

Prelude to the Restoration – Church History in the Fulness of Times, chapter one

The King James Version of the Bible

The Blessing of Scripture – Elder D. Todd Christofferson

The Miracle of the Holy Bible – Elder M. Russell Ballard

400 Years of the King James Bible – August 2011 Ensign article describing the people, places, and events involved in the process – complete with many pictures! It would be great is you still had this copy of the Ensign.

Bible, English – The Bible Dictionary’s brief explanation

Timeline of the English Bible Project – Free from Homeschool in the Woods. Create a nice timeline booklet. Has images you can use for the big timeline mentioned earlier!

How the Bible Came to Be – a series of articles published in the Ensign during 1982

Watch this Mormon Messages video:

John Wycliffe and William Tyndale  Many of the articles listed under the King James Bible speak of these two men. A Bible! A Bible! – Jan 1987 Ensign  

Martin Luther Martin Luther – Defender of Justice and Seeker of Truth – October 1984 Friend How Bowling Began – Feb 1975 Friend – A fun little side tidbit of knowledge! Our Heritage of Hymns – Nov 1975 New Era Lutheranism – October 1971 Ensign To round out your study plan on watching Fires of Faith.

Fires of Faith is a three part documentary that traces the history of the King James Version of the Bible. It covers many of the early reformers on up to the printing of the Bible. You can watch the episode online at BYUtv or find the airdates for the episodes at the link for each page.

Part I: Yearning for the Word – Discover the history of the English Reformation and learn about the varying roles Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and King Henry VIII had in its development.

Part II: Martyrs for a Book – Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press aided the Protestant Reformation and sped up the printing of illegal Bibles being smuggled to England. Within a year, many influential “heretics” were betrayed, imprisoned, and martyred for their belief.

Part III: The King James Bible – In 1604, England’s King James orders a new translation of the Bible. Seven years, 54 scholars, and one of the greatest committee efforts in history result in the most widely used book ever written.

This collection of resources is heavy on reading. It is great for scholars aged 12 and older. There is also much that can be used with younger children, especially if you prepare ahead of time. These articles can also be used as family read alouds for the month.

About Montserrat {Chocolate on my Cranium}

Montserrat enjoys classical music, playing the piano, reading biographies, eating gourmet chocolate, and playing a good game of Scrabble. A farmer's wife and mother of nine, she thinks spending time with her family is truly heaven on earth!

6 Responses to Learning About the Protestant Reformation

  1. Missy says:

    I love history! Great post, I can seen that you have an awesome library of references and learning materials thanks for sharing!

  2. Anne Isom says:

    This year we are having a “Reformation Celebration” for the young women in our Branch! I’m so excited to share this with the girls! One benefit of being in charge and being able to say “no” to a Halloween party! ;o)

  3. Paul says:

    Great resources! Thanks for this post. I’m now thinking about next week’s FHE lesson… I suppose I can’t do it all at once, huh?

  4. Jan says:

    This is really great information. As much as we love the Book of Mormon we still need to know and understand and love the Bible. We need to be so grateful for those men who were willing to die to get this information out and to the people. And what a great alternative for Halloween!

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