Hamblin & Peterson: The Protestant Reformation was launched five centuries ago this year


This is a monument of Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany. It was the first public monument of the reformer, designed 1821 by J. G. Schadow. Luther was a monk, church reformer and a translator of the Bible.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of one of the most important and influential events in world history, the Protestant Reformation. Over the coming months, we plan to describe the origins, nature and impact of the events and personalities of the Reformation, culminating on Oct. 31, 2017, with a discussion of Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses on Indulgences,” which he nailed on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on that day five centuries ago. They’re still there, engraved in bronze on the new doors of the church.

To understand a subject as complex and influential as the Reformation, it’s useful to reflect briefly on the nature of change in the history of religions.

Religions, like all other human beliefs and activities, change through time. When faced with new religious, political, social or technological developments, religions are forced to adapt. They must respond to the new situations and questions raised by society. (Even refusing to respond is a response, of sorts).

As a simple example: When the Word of Wisdom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in 1833, the main narcotic drug was opium-laudanum, which was used as a painkiller and wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the Word of Wisdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 89). Today there…

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