There are two ways to approach the problem of why it took more than a thousand years to restore the gospel to the earth. Since we are dealing with a specific date some have taken the way of Millerites and other millenialists. Looking at Bible text history they have extrapolated the prophetic meaning of 1830 the way others have done so for the return of Christ. Mathematically and textually such mapping of history is not possible beyond recognition of stated events. Even the events mentioned as necessary for signs are sometimes unclear. The other way is to recognized some political or religious events we know of and decide they are necessary prelude to the establishment of the Church. They usually mention only two major circumstances; the Christian Reformation and the U.S. Revolutionary War.
I agree in theory to the second alternative, and have never believed in the first one as reliable. The usual list of prelude ends up short and incomplete. History has a way of compounding itself, sometimes backtracking when it had moved forward. It should be no surprise that I have come up with a more detailed explanation of why it took so long for the Restoration.
The Great Apostasy: We can’t get to the end without starting from the beginning. It is not my intention to talk about how this happened, or when it was complete. Needless to say, the Apostasy is the reason the Restoration was needed. I would even guess that Constantine is the apex of the final demise of the ancient church and the start of the restoration.
Paganism ends and Christianity Spreads: Sadly, it is no surprise that “Mormonism” has been most successful in its short history among those who have already embraced Christianity. It is amazing that the ancient church was spread among a pagan world, but it seems that also brought it to ruin. At any rate, once Christianity became the official religion of the Western World it became both powerful and large. The old enemies were banished from the realm, and only Muslims and barbarians checked the spread of Christianity. A vast field for harvest was formed.
Enlightenment: The dark ages had to end before new light could begin to spread. People in the West started to question everything. Science and philosophy spread new ideas and opened up the way for major changes in history. It challenged the establishments that had ultimate power and checked progress. Eventually, there would be rebellion against the old ways. This new life of the West would not be an easy birth.
Printing Press: It is perhaps this event that had the most influence since the time of the Apostasy itself toward the conditions needed for the Restoration. Before that time the teachings of the Bible were open to a select few. Those few sometimes manipulated both the text and the teachings contained in them. This happened from the very start of the spread of the Christian message as soon as letters could be written. Once the printing press was developed, many more people could read the message for themselves. They started to see things differently from how they were originally taught by the official representatives. Beyond that, scripture and revelation could be shared with many. There would be minimal tampering of the message. The words of a book might as well be set in stone.
Reformation: The message might still be imperfect and dependant on the false teachings of a fallen church, but at least there were options. People no longer had to look for the answers from one source. They could decide for themselves what and who to believe. This set up the conditions for new churches.
The United States: This, and the Reformation, is usually where all other event related reasons start. Even these are incomplete. The United States is important for more than the Constitution. It is the place that the Nephites had lived and where the Book of Mormon was hidden. It is a place where ideas from the Enlightenment and Reformation coagulated to form a relatively free society. The open land offered a way for beleaguered Saints to get away from enemies and live in the desert, much like the faithful has done since Enoch. Most importantly, it is a land especially blessed by God for His people to live – along with the land of Israel.
Choice Spirit: Finally, the Restoration had to wait for a boy named Joseph Smith Jr. to be born. Perhaps God could have chosen anyone of similar qualities. God certainly warned he could be replaced. At any rate, he came at a time when historical events had climaxed. A New World with new ideas was born and ready to flourish. He wasn’t the only one to claim visions, revelations, and a new message related to the old teachings. Then again, Jesus was not the only one declaring a messianic hope for Israel during his times. If anything, such an abundance of competing prophets is its own sign of the times of extraordinary divine history. The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had come.
This is simply a sketch of the reasons for such a late date of the restoration. History had to have time for developing the right conditions. There is no way to say if an earlier date would have brought a miscarriage for the Restoration. Ultimately, but incomplete as it always is, the real answer to the question of why 1830 is because it was God’s will. Time for Him is inconsequential.