(May 2007. Written as a talk for High Council Speaking Assignment in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Used in Woodridge 2nd in August 2009.)
- H. Roberts said,
“These Articles of Faith were not produced by the labored efforts and harmonized contentions of scholastics, but were struck off by one inspired mind at a single effort to make a declaration of that which is most assuredly believed by the church, for one making earnest inquiry shout the truth.”
“The combined directness, perspicuity, simplicity and comprehensiveness of this statement of the principles of our religion may be relied upon as strong evidence of a divine inspiration resting upon the Prophet, Joseph Smith.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.47, p.131)
It should be noted, however, that other lists had been prepared which might have influenced the Articles of Faith. One list is that contained in Section 20:17-36 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Another noted in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is:
Orson Pratt offers an expansive and eloquent “sketch of the faith and doctrine” of the Church in his Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, 1840, pp. 24-31). The order in which it presents its themes in nineteen paragraphs (many of which begin, “We believe that…”) is nearly identical to that of the thirteen points of the Wentworth Letter. Orson Pratt’s explanations include biblical references and personal testimony of the truth and divine origins of these teachings. (Vol.1, sv. Articles Of Faith)
II The Articles
That being said, it is a remarkably succinct summary of the doctrines of the restoration. And consider that Joseph wrote these one right after the other. In our memorization and study of them, we often treat each as an individual article. But consider for a moment the flow of them, and relationship one to another.
1 WE believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
The basis of all revealed religion is the belief in God. Note that our God is a Father, and He has a Son. He is Eternal; not subject to death. He is different than man. Higher, holier, perfected, glorious.
2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Man is fallen; different from God
3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
The Atonement of Christ allows us to overcome our fallen nature, and return to God.
4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We partake of the power of the Atonement through the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel.
5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
To properly receive the ordinances, they must be administered by priesthood authority.
6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
That priesthood authority is found within the church.
7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
The church also has evidence of the gifts of the Spirit; these gifts make the priesthood active and alive.
8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
Evidence of the gifts of the Spirit have been written in prior ages, and recorded as scripture.
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God
But revelation has not ceased with the writing of scripture; it continues.
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
Some of the things yet to be revealed are the gathering of Israel, building of Zion, and Christ’s person reign upon the earth.
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Until Christ reigns on the earth, there will be many beliefs in different things. We claim the privilege of worshiping according to the dictates of our own conscience.
12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
And until Christ reigns upon the earth, we will be subject to the laws of other rulers.
13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Evidence of personal testimony is the works; by their fruit ye shall know them.
- We seek after righteousness, all good things
- We do so while being subject to current leaders, for one who obeys the commandments of God has no need to transgress the laws of man.
- However, we claim the privilege of believing as we will
- We look forward to the coming of Christ
- As revealed by modern prophets
- And testified in the scriptures
- Which record evidence of the gifts of the spirit
- Which are manifest in the church
- Which is run by priesthood authority
- Which allows us to partake of the principles of the Gospel
- Which makes the atonement active in our lives
- Thus overcoming the fall
- And returning to God.
The wording of some of the articles was modified in 1851 and 1902:
The fourth article of faith originally read, “We believe that these ordinances are: 1st. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d. Repentance; 3d. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th. Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
It now reads: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: 1st. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d. Repentance; 3d. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th. Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (emphasis added) (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:92)
Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The reason for the adding of the word “principles,” and that is the only change, was because the brethren considered when they were preparing the 1921 edition for publication of the D&C, that the term ordinances did not fully cover the article completely. For instance, “faith” is not an ordinance, neither is “repentance,” but they are principles. Therefore we felt fully justified in making the article so that it would convey clearly just what the Prophet intended. So now it reads: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances are,” and in doing this we were perfectly within the bounds of propriety. Were the Prophet here, he would fully justify our action.”
“We have no apology to make for this addition. We have in no sense destroyed the original meaning.” (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:92)
The tenth article originally read, “that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon this continent . . .”
It now reads: “that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent . . .”
The eleventh article originally read, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience,…”[no citation]]
It now reads: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience,…”
(Wikipedia Entry sv “Wentworth Letter” May 2007)
Initial writing finished