Modern Mormons, it seems, are quite fond of “romanticizing the Reformation,” meaning that Mormons often portray Luther, Arminius, and other Protestant Reformers as being sort of proto-Latter-day Saints. In my experience, this tendency is not limited to seeing Reformers as such, but often extends to Christopher Columbus and America’s Founding Fathers. However, this is far from being a recent development in Mormonism’s worldview. Parley P. Pratt, noted apostle and editor of The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, included the following in the June 1841 (Vol. 2, No. 2) issue of that periodical.
JOHN WESLEY A LATTER-DAY SAINT,
IN REGARD TO THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND THE APOSTACY OF THE CHURCH!!
Extract from the 94th Sermon of John Wesley, on “The More Excellent Way.”–“It does not appear that the extraordinary gifts of the spirit were common in the church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian religion, heaped riches, power, and honour upon the Christians in general From this time they almost wholly ceased. Very few instances of this kind were found. The cause of this was not, as has vulgarly been supposed, because there was no more occasion for them, because all the world had become Christians. This is a miserable mistake! Not a twentieth part was then nominally Christians. The real cause was because the love of many waxed cold–the Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens! The Son of Man when he came to examine his church could hardly find faith on the earth.–This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church, because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.”
A couple of things, I think, are noteworthy. While this may indeed be just another example of Mormons’ romanticizing the Reformation, I find it interesting that in early Mormonism, there seems to have been a special affinity for Wesley in preference to other Reformers. This particular sermon included by Pratt suggests that one reason is that Wesley emphasized an apostasy and the need for spiritual gifts–two of the features many early Mormons used in establishing their identity as God’s true church. It is also perhaps telling that this was published in the 1840s, suggesting that despite some evidence to the contrary, Methodist practices and beliefs continued to influence Mormon thought until near the end of Joseph’s life.
 The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star (Liverpool: June 1841), Vol. 2, no. 2, 23.
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