During the nineteenth century, Protestant clergymen (Anglican, Presbyterian, and Baptist) as well as missionaries for new religious movements (Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses) believed that Waldensian claims to antiquity were important in their plans to spread the Reformation to Italy. The Waldensians, who could trace their historical roots to Valdes in 1174, developed an ancient origins thesis after their union with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. This thesis held that their community of believers had preserved the doctrines of the primitive church. The competing churches of the Reformation believed that the Waldensians were "destined to fulfill a most important mission in the Evangelization of Italy" and that they could demonstrate, through Waldensian history and practices, that their own claims and doctrines were the same as those taught by the primitive church. The new religious movements believed that Waldensians were the best prepared in Italy to accept their new revelations of the restored gospel. In fact, the initial Mormon, Seventh-day Adventist, and Jehovah's Witness converts in Italy were Waldensians. By the end of the century, however, Catholic, Protestant, and Waldensian scholars had debunked the thesis that Waldensians were proto-Protestants prior to Luther and Calvin.
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