500th anniversary of the Reformation brings knowledge of its true history

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Megan Searles pretends to nail 95 theses to a door as Martin Luther for Halloween. (Megan Searles)

Martin Luther nailed his 95 disputation theses to the door of the Catholic church on Oct. 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s publication and the separation of churches from Catholicism. The separation is known today as the Reformation.

BYU student Megan Searles dressed up as Luther for Halloween to commemorate the landmark anniversary. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is also her birthday. Searles researched the Reformation and feels it should be celebrated.

The Reformation ocurred 500 years ago, and many people do not know the real history behind Luther and the Reformation.

BYU history professor Dr. Craig Harline said Luther studied as a monk and taught theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther’s disputations arose from the two concepts he felt most passionate about. The first was how someone can find salvation while the second concerned the controversy around ‘indulgences,’ or repentance. He nailed his essay-like theses to the door of the local church in order to discuss the matters further with other scholars.

Harline said Luther wasn’t at first seeking to start another church. He wanted to fix what he felt was broken in the Catholic faith. Luther later renounced Catholicism, beginning the Lutheran church. Luther may not have predicted the magnitude of his actions the day he posted his 95 theses, but Harline said Luther’s actions have come to symbolize the ideas of religious freedom and tolerance today for many people.

Harline said many people either don’t know about the Reformation or have incorrect misconceptions of it.

“The better you understand what happened, the more responsible you can be about the conclusions you draw (from the Reformation),” Harline said.

BYU history professor Karen Carter said the Reformation is a foundation building block of religion today.

“The Reformation, as a whole, has an effect on just about everything that came after it,” Carter said.

Carter said since the printing press and discovery of the New World were relatively new during the time in history, they have strong ties to the 1517 Reformation.

Carter believes that with the help of the printing press, Luther’s ideas were publicized more fully. Carter compared it to the internet, where an explosion of ideas continues to happen.

“Now we have the internet making some of the same kind of changes (as the Reformation) and we’re right in the middle of it,” Carter said. “We don’t know what the end is going to be yet.”

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