Prophetic Events of 1830
Information is compiled by
1830 – Birth of the Modern World J
Even if we forget Joseph Smith, the year 1830 was still the most
important year for Christianity since New Testament times.
(Sources: unless stated, all facts and quotations are from the New
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1995 and from the on-line Encyclopedia
Britannica. Longer quotations are from the Britannica.)
Many (if not most) informed Christians accept that the church went
through something of a wilderness period starting from the sixth
century. See the history of Christianity and the page on Gregory the
Great for details. Many see the nineteenth century as the end of this
wilderness period. This is from "Christian Belief in the Making," in
The Lion Handbook of Christian Belief (organising editor Robin Keeley),
Lion Publishing PLC 1982:
The General Condition From the Sixth
Century to the Nineteenth:
The History of Christian Missions:
"The American historian K. S. Latourette divides the history of the
missionary movement into four periods: The first five centuries saw the
good news of the gospel taken as far as Britain in the West and out to
China in the East, to Ethiopia in Africa and northwards beyond the
Danube. Then the "thousand years of uncertainty" (AD 500 to 1500) were
years in which the church lost its Bible and forgot its mission. ...
The third period is that of the "three centuries of advance" (AD 1500
to 1800). ... The fourth period, the "great century," spans the
vast enterprise of the missionary societies since that time."
Obviously this is a simplification – there were people throughout this
time who did their best. But as a generalization, the conclusion is
Concluding in 1830: "The Great
(Sources: Britannica OnLine, and the Elwell Evangelical Dictionary.)
The two Great Awakenings (ending in 1830) are generally acknowledged to
be far more important than any religious revival in America before or
since. If we accept that God has a hand in such things, we must ask
"Why?" What was God preparing people for and why did the preparation
end in 1830?
The First Great Awakening:
The First Great Awakening (circa 1735-43) was notable for breaking down
the old Puritan links between church and state. It also broke down the
old Puritan synthesis, making more divergent opinions possible.
After that, the American Revolution encouraged greater confidence in
human abilities, and in each person's capacity to choose his way for
The Second Great Awakening:
The Second Great Awakening (circa 1815-30) "stimulated religious life
on an unprecedented scale." The first great issue was free will. The
traditional view was that you were predestined to damnation or
salvation, and your personal efforts made no difference. But the Second
Great Awakening, particularly through the preaching of Nathaniel
Taylor, stressed that each person was free to choose.
The second great issue was a reliance on the Bible and not on the
existing church structures. People were no longer afraid to leave one
church and join (or seven start) another.
The third great issue was the approaching millennium, and the
importance of America.
In hindsight it is easy to see the Hand of God guiding this. Why was
God doing this? Why the climax in 1830? Simply because, in 1830, people
had to prepared for the greatest shock to established religion since
the previous apostles were killed. People had to be prepared for new
revelation, for a restoration of lost truths.
1830 – The Year of Visions
(Note that I am not judging these miracles as "true" or "false." I am
simply looking at what an impartial observer of church history can see.)
Visions Around 1830:
In my own country, Scotland in 1830, Margaret MacDonald had a vision of
the second coming of Christ, which led to a charismatic renewal. More
about this on the page on the millennium.
Various people had visions of something important about to happen, and
many of them later joined the LDS church. (Records survive from people
in the area of the restoration – Robert Mason, Benjamin Brown, Solomon
Chamberlain, Lorenzo Dow Young, Sanford Porter, etc. See New Era Jan
'72 p.6; Ensign Dec '84)
Catholic Visions – 1830 is the Turning
In 1830 there was a reported apparition of Mary in Paris, France,
considered "worthy of belief" by the Catholic Church. It is referred to
as ‘the revelation of the "miraculous medal" and was the beginning of
an unprecedented number of major visions over the coming years.
This is illustrated by the table at http://www.apparitions.org/ which
lists all the "Major Apparitions of Jesus and Mary" – apparently from
the earliest times. The first event recorded is in the year 1347.
The total number of "Major Apparitions of Jesus and Mary" from before
1830 is three (3).
The total number of "Major Apparitions of Jesus and Mary" from 1830 and
after, is one hundred and four (104) – and rising.
1830 – The Gift of Tongues is Restored
(Based on material from the Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
The Loss of the Gift of Tongues:
The gift of tongues had died out in the western church by the fourth
century (it is hard to be precise about the eastern church). The
reformers such as Luther sometimes talked about it, but there is little
evidence that it was practiced. From ancient times until the 1830s
there were only two limited periods when groups claimed to possess the
gift: some persecuted Huguenots in southern France for about ten years
at the end of the seventeenth century, and a similar occurrence in the
1730s among the Jansenists, a group of Catholic pietists. "Two
eighteenth century movements, the early Quakers and the Methodists, are
often placed among those who have exhibited glossolalic traits. Both
claims, however, are disputed, and the evidence is not conclusive."
Everything Changed in 1830:
Edward Irving (1792-1834) had felt inspired that the gift of tongues
would soon be restored. He did not claim the gift, but preached that
people should watch for it. "Then in the spring of 1830 word came that
speaking in tongues had occurred in the west of Scotland."
It was Margaret MacDonald, who is discussed in more detail elsewhere.
Soon Irving's followers – the "Irvingites" – were claiming the gift. So
were the Shakers. Other groups joined in, and eventually it became a
major part of the movement called Pentecostalism. And it all traces to
the spring of 1830.
Nobody claims that Margaret MacDonald was important in her own right –
she was simply responding to the spirit that she felt. Why was there
such an overwhelming spirit of revelation around the Christian world,
beginning in 1830?
This was no ordinary period of history!
1830 – The Feeling That the Original Gospel Must be Restored
(Principle source: Britannica)
A Group of Churches That Attempted a
1830 was a year when Christians around the world got the strong feeling
that the original gospel had to be restored. Perhaps best known were a
group of Protestant churches that originated in "The Second Great
Awakening." They all tried to restore what they felt was "the ancient
order" of the Church. They repudiated "human creeds." Two of these
movements, associated with the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell
and Barton W. Stone, merged in 1832 to become the Disciples of Christ.
The new denomination grew rapidly on the American frontier.
But without new revelation it was doomed. "The essential program of the
Disciples–the unity of all Christians on the basis of New Testament
faith and practice–failed to unite a divided Protestantism, and, in
fact, proved to be divisive even within the movement as it struggled to
define more precisely that common platform."
Attempts at a Truly Scriptural Church:
Alexander Campbell's "colleague Walter Scott developed a reasonable,
scriptural "plan of salvation." Its "positive," or objective, steps
into the church (faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, gift of
the Holy Spirit) attracted thousands who longed for religious security
but had not experienced the emotional crisis and subjective assurance
that characterized the prevailing revivalism."
Once Again, 1830 was the Turning Point:
Unable to unite Christianity, they settled down to do what they could.
"By 1830 the regular Baptists and the reformers parted company, the
latter terming themselves Disciples. Two years later Stone and many of
his followers joined with them, though continuing to use the name
Christians. … Alexander Campbell from 1830 on turned to constructive
church craft. He founded The Millennial Harbinger, established Bethany
College, then in Virginia (1840), and agitated unsuccessfully for a
general church organization based on congregational representation. The
first general convention met at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849 and launched
the American Christian Missionary Society as a "society of individuals"
and not an ecclesiastical body."
And Not Just Among Protestants:
It was not only Protestant churches that felt the need to reform, in or
around 1830. In Britain, the influential "Oxford Movement" (or
Tractarianism) grew up in the 1830s, attempting to renew the old
Catholic faith. Although started among nominal Protestants, its focus
was on refreshing Catholicism. It was a conscious reaction against the
new liberal theology.
1830 – Christianity's Greatest Hour of
The early nineteenth century – and particularly the year around 1830 –
saw Christianity under its greatest ever attack, both from inside and
outside. If ever the churches needed new revelation from heaven, it was
then. This section is based largely on "Christian Belief in the
Making," from The Lion Handbook of Christian Belief, edited by Robin
Keeley (Lion Publishing 1982).
The "Enlightenment" – The "Who Needs
First there was the results of the enlightenment – an increasingly
popular delusion that mankind can explain everything without reference
to God. This was the height of the "clockwork universe" theory, that
the natural world was just a predictable machine. (This idea is now
less fashionable, due to quantum physics and an increased understanding
of science, but it was very popular in the nineteenth century)
Liberal Theology – Making Faith a
Slave to Academic Fashions:
Next, there was the rise of liberal theology, which placed limited
intellect above divine revelation. For example, the path-breaking Das
Leben Jesu (The Life of Jesus) by D. F. Strauss, was published in 1835.
This massive best seller had a great influence in portraying Jesus as a
falible human figure. Other key figures of this period included:
"J. S. Semler (1725-88) attacked what he called the "pietistical
sanctimoniousness" with which the Bible is often used. He argued,
instead, for a purely historical, nondoctrinal, approach to the Bible."
"J. G. Eichhorn (1752-1827) proposed the existence of sources within
the Old Testament on the basis of such phenomena as differences in
style and vocabulary and duplication of material."
"Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) developed a theory of sources of the
Pentateuch which turned traditional understanding of biblical
chronology upside-down, arguing that the prophetic writings were
earlier than the Law."
"J. J. Griesbach (1745-1812) was the first to produce a "synopsis,"
which set out the similarities and differences between them in parallel
columns. This ushered in a succession of different theories about the
sources of these Gospels and which draws from which – a question still
debated. 'The books of the New Testament are to be read as human books
and examined as human books ... The more exact the criticism and the
more rigorous the judgement, the better.'"
"F. C. Baur (1792-1860) argued that within the New Testament there was
a "Pauline" type of Christianity which was very different from that of
Peter and the Jerusalem Church. He also argued that only four of Paul's
letters were genuine. The debate about different "theologies" continues
The Father of Modern Theology – Destroying Faith by Suffocation:
Third, the Christian response was to separate science and religion.
This was (and is) a popular but suicidal idea. It effectively gives up
any absolute or practical claims to truth. The key figure was Friedrich
Schleiermacher, who by 1830 (he died in 1834) was:
"One of the most influential theologians in Europe ... Schleiermacher
felt that religious belief would remain credible only if it was removed
from the realm of rational investigation altogether ... God, for
Friedrich Schleiermacher, was "whatever people felt him to be" ....
Schleiermacher's distinction between the world of reason and the world
of religion has been so widely accepted by more recent theologians that
he has rightly been dubbed "the father of modern theology."
The Faithful Were Searching for God's
People were looking for a new witness. In the 1830s, Tischendorf was
searching for the earliest possible copy of the scriptures in order to
prove that the Bible was genuine. He eventually found the Codex
Sinaiticus, which along with the Codex Vaticanus is the oldest known
complete Bible. Yet ancient discoveries brought their own problems –
these old Bibles did not include the important last twelve verses of
Mark. What the world really needed was new prophecy!
1830 – A Window of Opportunity
Light always stirs up darkness. The kingdom of God always arouses
intense opposition, whether in the days of Noah, Abraham, Moses or
Christ. While it is small and weak, the church needs a physical refuge,
somewhere to gather the people of Zion. The "opening up" of the United
States in the mid nineteenth century offered just such an opportunity.
1830 – A Window of Physical Opportunity:
In a similarly practical way, if God's kingdom is going to draw people
from every corner of the globe, it needs an era of mass transport and
communication. It is no accident that the gospel was restored in 1830,
the year of the world's first passenger railway.
1830 – A Window of Spiritual
The kingdom of God needs, above all, faithful members. Faith is in
short supply in the modern world. For millennia it had been normal for
nearly everyone to have some kind of faith, but with mass communication
these certainties have ended for most people.
Why is this? One obvious answer is that when everyone lived in small
towns or villages, they were closer to the results of their actions.
The benefits of righteousness were easier to see. But when everyone
lives in cities, specialising in our work, we are further from the
results of our actions. Sin no longer seems so bad, and religion
therefore seems less relevant. Financial wealth becomes attainable and
thus all consuming. When most people no longer work with their hands,
the realities of life become more abstract, less easy to truly
understand. In this insulated world, rhetorical sophistries can be make
black seem white and make God seem irrelevant.
Had the gospel been restored just fifty years later, it perhaps would
not have survived the fashionable scientific and social views (not to
mention wars and financial upheavals) that would have dogged its
But on the other hand, when religion was so ingrained as to become
institutional, some people forgot why they believed, and did terrible
things in the name of God. Had prophets been restored to the earth in
the eighteenth instead of the nineteenth century, they would probably
have been burned as witches!
1830 – A Window of Political
The kingdom of God is not just a spiritual concept, but it speaks of a
political reality (as Hobbes observed). Many people find a vigorous
church very threatening. 1830s America was the first time it was
possible to be both politically and religiously independent in a
"Alexis de Tocqueville was astonished to find in the United States, in
the 1830s, that it was possible for ordinary men who stood for
political freedom to be, and to remain, religiously devout. This was
not the typical combination in the Europe of his day." (Britannica)
1830 – The Key Date for Understanding
The evidence on this page has not covered the most amazing facts of all:
Many Protestant and Catholic Bible readers knew beforehand. The Bible
predicted the fulfillment of many millennial prophecies in the period
1830-1844. In fact, no other date has been agreed on by so many before
The modern Protestant understanding of prophecy dates back to the year
These issues are covered on the page on the millennium.
The Bottom Line
Any non-Mormon studying church history must realise that 1830 was the
most significant year since New Testament times – but do they know why?