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Picturing history: A structural treasure of the Puritans

The Langley Puritan chapel near Acton Burnell, Shropshire, England viewed from the east.
The Langley Puritan chapel near Acton Burnell, Shropshire, England viewed from the east.
Kenneth Mays

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517, 27-year-old King Henry VIII was a devout Catholic.

However, “By a series of acts over the seven years from 1529 to 1536, passed by what is known as the Reformation Parliament, Henry VIII separated the Church in England from the pope in Rome and created his own Church, the Church of England,” according to “The Story of Britain” by Rebecca Fraser, page 264. During the following decades, a faction arose seeking to change the use of some liturgical practices, vestments and, in particular, the role of bishops in that church. This faction came to be known as Puritans.

They would later play some important roles affecting the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First is the role of the Puritans in the establishment of American colonies where the ancestors of the Prophet Joseph Smith would settle, beginning with Robert Smith, who sailed from England in 1638 at the height of the Puritan migration. Secondly, the Puritans had a key role in the translation of the King James Bible, the official English Bible of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Extant today is a Puritan chapel near Acton Burnell, Shropshire, England. It has changed but little since it was constructed in 1601. Interpretive signage notes that its fittings and furnishings have, for the most part, been left intact. Since 1915, it has been in the care of the state. Although no longer used for formal services, the Langley Puritan chapel serves as a window, looking back through time to view the simplicity of Puritan architecture and worship.

Kenneth Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and a retired instructor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Department of Seminaries and Institutes.

Interior view of the Langley Puritan Chapel shows the pulpit (left), reading desk (upper right) and communion table (lower right).
Interior view of the Langley Puritan Chapel shows the pulpit, left; reading desk, upper right; and communion table, lower right.
Kenneth Mays