The last thing I did was uninstall a wallpaper app I didn't like via settings/apps. It didn't uninstall it but it uninstalled my whole settings application. Is there a way to fix this without a hard reset?
No probably not. I would suggest that it may be more of a coincidence that cause and effect. Have you installed the most recent firmware upgrade? I'm wondering if the same hole in the coding that was causing system apps to disappear on the original Gingerbread update is still present in the new upgrade.