Seeing the Lord’s Hand

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“Seeing the Lord’s Hand,” Ensign, January 2020

200 Years of Light: 1820–2020

Seeing the Lord’s Hand

An overview of events leading up to the Restoration and Second Coming

Ensign Magazine, 2020/01 Jan
Ensign Magazine, 2020/01 Jan
Ensign Magazine, 2020/01 Jan

The Lord Jesus Christ redeems Heavenly Father’s children one by one, bringing grace and salvation to each person who turns to Him individually. He also desires to lift cultures and nations so that people can enter into and keep sacred covenants. When people are receptive, He pours out His Spirit to prepare people’s minds and hearts to receive His word (see Alma 16:16). He works through those who will heed His voice, removing their stumbling blocks and magnifying their efforts (see 1 Nephi 13).

In the history of human affairs, we see that some advancements directly helped further God’s work while others improved the conditions or accelerated the means by which it rolls forth. In a number of ways, we can see the Lord’s hand preparing the world for the Restoration of the gospel and for His Second Coming.

This time line contains some milestones in that preparation. It highlights events in religious history as well as progress that influences the conditions in which the Restoration of the gospel takes place.

For instance, efforts to translate and publish God’s word are included, as well as developments that help spread the gospel: technological advancements in communication, transportation, health, and record keeping, as well as advances in personal and religious liberty. Of course, these events occurred against the familiar backdrop of human frailty and conflict that casts a constant shadow over human history.

With relation to the restored Church, significant historical events are noted, as well as other items that highlight the growth of the Church and the continuing Restoration. These include missionary work, temple building, and efforts to care for the poor and needy.

AD 30–33* Jesus Christ teaches His gospel and organizes His Church.

33* Jesus Christ is crucified and resurrected.

33–90* Peter and the original Apostles travel extensively to preach the gospel.

1st century As foretold, early Church members struggle with strife and divisions and abandon gospel covenants.

60–90* Original Apostles die, many violently. Priesthood leadership structure deteriorates. Variations appear in ordinances.

Late 2nd century Christians begin calling a collection of accounts of Jesus’s life plus the original Apostles’ teachings “the New Testament.” Eventually it is combined with the Old Testament into a volume called “the Bible.”

3rd century Paper production is established in China and spreads through Asia and, later, the Islamic world. It reaches Europe by the 11th century, displacing parchment and vellum.

383–405 Jerome and others translate the Bible into common Latin using Hebrew texts and older Latin translations with references to Greek sources. The translation is known as the Vulgate.

325–787 A series of church councils are held to resolve disputes over doctrine, practices, and authority. These are known by their locations (Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc.) and the statements or creeds they produced.

421 Moroni seals up the record of ancient American peoples to come forth in the Lord’s own due time.

4th–16th centuries With great difficulty and sacrifice, translations of biblical texts are produced in most major European languages.

1215 Magna Carta in England extends rights to certain people and introduces the idea that even the king is subject to the law.

Late 14th century John Wycliffe and Jan Hus speak and write against church excesses. Wycliffe oversees translation of portions of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English before his death in 1384.

1450 Johannes Gutenberg invents printing with movable type. By 1455, he prints full copies of the Latin Vulgate Bible.

1492 Christopher Columbus lands in the New World.

1517 Martin Luther disputes some nonscriptural church practices by publishing 95 “theses,” which are distributed widely. Other clergy across Europe, including Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin, call for reform and a return to the plain meaning of the scriptures. Each organizes a separate church.

1522–34 Luther and Zwingli each publish a German translation of the Bible.

1526–37 William Tyndale publishes the New Testament in English, having translated it from early Greek sources. While translating the Old Testament from Hebrew, he is captured and executed. Myles Coverdale and John Rogers later carry on his work and publish complete English translations of the Bible.

1545–63 The Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent formally adopts the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, enacts policies to correct excesses, and defines items questioned by the Protestant Reformation.

1611 The King James Bible is published after 47 scholars spent six years translating it from Greek and Hebrew sources, drawing heavily on William Tyndale’s work. It is authorized for all English speakers.

17th century Religious fundamentalists known as Puritans leave Europe and establish colonies in North America. They teach the need for universal literacy.

1642 Colonists in Massachusetts enact a General School Law providing public education for all children.

1679 John Locke writes Two Treatises of Government, arguing for the natural rights of mankind, influencing the creation of democratic governments.

1776 American Declaration of Independence articulates key principles of individual freedom.

1788 The United States ratifies its Constitution.

1791 The United States ratifies the Bill of Rights, further articulating key rights, especially the free exercise of religion.

1804 First steam-powered railway journey is taken with Richard Trevithick’s locomotive.

1805 Joseph Smith is born in Sharon, Vermont, USA, the descendant of Puritans and Revolutionary War soldiers.

1813 Richard Wright launches the first sea-going steamboat. By 1838, steam-powered ships built to carry passengers and freight across the Atlantic are launched.

1816–37 Several individuals invent working telegraph systems in various forms.

1819 Methodist preachers hold a conference in Ontario County, New York, USA. It is likely here that young Joseph Smith hears a sermon quoting James 1:5.

1820 Joseph reads and ponders James’s invitation to “ask of God.” He prays in a secluded spot in a nearby grove and is visited by God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who “promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto [him].”

1823 The angel Moroni visits Joseph Smith and tells him of an ancient record containing the fulness of the gospel and explains that the time is at hand for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored.

1826–1835 Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre capture photographic images with cameras.

1827 Joseph Smith receives the gold plates from Moroni.

1829 Priesthood authority is restored when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist and to the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter, James, and John.

1829 Joseph Smith completes the translation of the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God.” The Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses see the plates and testify of their truthfulness.

1830 The Book of Mormon is published at Palmyra, New York, USA.

1830 The Church is formally organized on April 6 at Fayette, New York, USA.

1830 Samuel Smith, the Prophet’s brother, begins a mission in New York, USA. Oliver Cowdery, Parley Pratt, and others serve a mission to Indian Territory.

1830 Church membership: 280; missionaries called: 16; stakes: 0

1833 The Lord reveals the Word of Wisdom.

1833 The British Parliament makes owning slaves illegal throughout the empire.

1835 Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Quorum of Seventy are organized.

1835 The Church publishes the Doctrine and Covenants at Kirtland, Ohio, USA, resuming the effort to publish the Book of Commandments interrupted in Missouri in 1833.

1836 Kirtland Temple, the first in this dispensation, dedicated by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

1836 Jesus Christ appears in the Kirtland Temple and accepts it. Moses, Elias, and Elijah appear and commit priesthood keys.

1837 Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde and other elders organize the British Mission, the first mission in the Church. Within the first year there are 2,000 members in England.

1838 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is given by revelation as the name of the Church.

1840–42 Orson Hyde serves a mission to Palestine and dedicates the land for the return of “Judah’s scattered remnants.”

1840 Joseph Smith introduces baptism for the dead.

1842 The Relief Society organized in Nauvoo with Emma Hale Smith as its first president.

1843 Addison Pratt leads a group of missionaries sailing from Massachusetts, USA, to the Society Islands (French Polynesia), where Pratt presides until 1847.

1844 Joseph and Hyrum Smith killed by a mob at Carthage, Illinois, USA.

1844 Speaking in a Church meeting in Nauvoo, Brigham Young teaches that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds the keys to lead the Church. To many, Brigham appears and sounds like Joseph Smith. He is unanimously sustained to lead the Church.

1846 Nauvoo Temple dedicated.

1846–68 Over 70,000 Latter-day Saints travel by ship, wagon, handcart, and train to gather to Utah. The first company reaches the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

1849 The first Latter-day Saint Sunday School is organized.

1849–87 The Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company helps about 30,000 Church members gather to Utah.

1851 Book of Mormon published in Danish, the first of many non-English editions.

1863–65 Abolition of slavery in the U.S.

1866 The Church begins publishing the Juvenile Instructor.

1869 The U.S. transcontinental railroad completed at Promontory Summit, Utah.

1869, 1870 The Wyoming and Utah Territorial Legislatures grant women the right to vote, 50 years earlier than the rest of the nation.

1870 Young Ladies Retrenchment Society organized, later renamed the Young Women Organization. The Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association follows in 1875.

1870 Siegfried Marcus builds a prototype vehicle with a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine.

1872 Woman’s Exponent newspaper published in Salt Lake City.

1876 Alexander Graham Bell granted a U.S. patent for a working telephone device.

1876 At Brigham Young’s request, the Relief Society organizes a grain storage program led by Emmeline Wells.

1877 Thomas Edison creates the phonograph, the first device for recording and reproducing sound.

1877 St. George Temple dedicated—the first in the Great Basin. Endowments for the dead begin.

1878 Aurelia Rogers called to establish the first Primary.

1879 Jean Joseph Henri Toussaint and Louis Pasteur develop vaccines using artificially weakened bacteria.

1879 Thomas Edison demonstrates a prototype of the first electric light bulb.

1880 The Pearl of Great Price accepted as scripture.

1880 Church membership: 133,628; missionaries called: 459; stakes: 23

1884 Logan Utah Temple dedicated.

1888 Manti Utah Temple dedicated.

1890 The Church announces the end of the practice of plural marriage.

1893 Salt Lake Temple dedicated.

1894 President Wilford Woodruff announces a revelation instructing “the Latter-day Saints … to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers.”

1897 Guglielmo Marconi receives a British patent for a radio communication device.

1897 The Church begins publishing the Improvement Era magazine and magazines for youth.

1898 Inez Knight and Jennie Brimhall serve as the first single female proselyting missionaries in the Church and are called to serve in Great Britain.

1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first sustained, controlled, heavier-than-air flight. International passenger flights follow in 1919.

1907 The First Presidency publishes instructions to members to build up the Church in their own lands rather than gather to Utah.

1912 The Church’s seminary program for weekday religious instruction of youth begins.

1915 The First Presidency invites all families to participate in a weekly home evening.

1915 The Relief Society publishes the Relief Society Magazine.

1918 President Joseph F. Smith receives a vision of the redemption of the dead. It is canonized in 1976 and in 1979 placed in the Doctrine and Covenants as section 138.

1919 Laie Hawaii Temple dedicated—the first outside North America.

1919 Amy Brown Lyman called to organize a Relief Society Social Services department, initially focused on improving maternal and newborn mortality rates.

1924 General conference first broadcast over the radio.

1925 A patent is issued for microfilm document preservation.

1926–33 Several inventors, including Philo Farnsworth, demonstrate prototypes of working television systems.

1930 Church membership: 670,017; missionaries called: 2,527; stakes: 104

1936 The Church creates the Church Security Plan, later renamed the Church Welfare Program, to provide temporal assistance in times of need.

1936 Alan Turing describes the essential elements of a computer.

1938 The Church purchases a microfilm camera and begins filming genealogical records.

1944 The first electronic, general-purpose computer begins operating at Bletchley Park, England.

1947 Scientists at Bell Labs invent and implement the transistor, the fundamental building block of digital computers and modern electronic devices.

1947 India secures independence from Great Britain, a milestone in the often bloody decline of European colonial rule in the 20th century, increasing chances for democratic government around the world.

1949 General conference receives its first film recording and public television broadcast.

1955 Bern Switzerland Temple dedicated—the first in Europe.

1957 Ghana gains independence from Great Britain, heralding the decline of colonial rule in sub-Saharan Africa.

1958 Hamilton New Zealand Temple dedicated—the first in the South Pacific.

1958 London England Temple dedicated.

1961 The Church adopts a structured set of six missionary lessons for use in every mission.

1963 The Church introduces a new program of home teaching, replacing ward teaching.

1964 The U.S. Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a key milestone establishing civil rights in practice as well as in principle.

1966 Anthony Obinna, a Nigerian man, sees the Salt Lake Temple in a dream, a building he had never before seen. Several years later he recognizes it in a magazine article and begins petitioning Church authorities to send missionaries.

1967 First satellite broadcast of general conference (audio only, via the Lani Bird satellite to the Pacific). First color television broadcast of general conference.

1971 The Church begins publishing the correlated Ensign, New Era, and Friend magazines, replacing several previous magazines. The Liahona follows in 1977.

1973 First handheld cellular mobile phone patented.

1977 Personal computers become commercially available.

1978 The First Presidency announces a revelation extending priesthood blessings, allowing worthy members of every race to participate in temple ordinances.

1978 First baptisms performed for converts who waited faithfully for years in West Africa.

1978 São Paulo Brazil Temple dedicated—the first in South America.

1979 The Church publishes a new edition of the King James Version of the Bible with extensive notes and study aids. A companion edition of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price is published in 1981.

1980 Tokyo Japan Temple dedicated—the first in Asia.

1980 Church membership: 4,639,822; missionaries called: 16,600; stakes: 1,218

1982 The Internet Protocol Suite is standardized, permitting worldwide proliferation of interconnected computer networks.

1983 Mexico City Mexico Temple dedicated—the first in Mexico.

1984 Sydney Australia Temple dedicated—the first in Australia.

1985 The Church funds famine relief in Ethiopia, beginning worldwide humanitarian relief efforts. Latter-day Saint Charities is officially established in 1996.

1985 Freiberg Germany Temple dedicated—the first in eastern Europe.

1985 Johannesburg South Africa Temple dedicated—the first in Africa.

1988 Digital editions of the scriptures available for personal computers.

1989 The Berlin Wall falls as democratic movements in eastern Europe reshape decades of totalitarian rule.

1990 The Church begins paying for building construction and maintenance exclusively from tithing, ending local fundraising.

1992 Relief Society members worldwide record histories and carry out service honoring the organization’s 150th anniversary.

1994 South Africa ends apartheid and extends voting rights to all adults regardless of race or gender, electing Nelson Mandela the country’s first black president.

1995 The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issue “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

1997 President Gordon B. Hinckley announces plans to build smaller temples.

1997 General conference audio is broadcast over the internet for the first time. Video follows in 1999.

1999 The Church launches FamilySearch website.

2000 The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles publish their sacred witnesses of Jesus Christ in a document titled “The Living Christ.”

2000 The Church publishes the scriptures online.

2001 The Church establishes the Perpetual Education Fund to help members in developing areas receive an education and rise out of poverty.

2004 Preach My Gospel is published.

2004 Accra Ghana Temple dedicated—the first in West Africa.

2008 The Church publishes the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers.

2010 The Church releases the Gospel Library mobile app.

2012 President Thomas S. Monson announces age change for missionary eligibility: 18 for young men, 19 for young women.

2017 Book of Mormon published in Nepali, the 111th translation. Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price available in 62 languages.

2017 Nairobi Kenya Temple announced.

2018 President Russell M. Nelson announces ministering “in a higher and holier way” to replace home and visiting teaching, as well as restructuring of Melchizedek Priesthood quorums.

2018 Volume 1 of Saints, a multivolume history of the Church, is published.

2019 Home-centered, Church-supported gospel living is emphasized, with reduced Sunday schedules and Come, Follow Me study materials for all members.

2019 Church membership: 16,313,735; missionaries serving: 65,137; stakes: 3,383

2020 Church implements Children and Youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.