Articles of Faith with Explanation
Religious scholars call the restored gospel of Jesus Christ a uniquely American religion, because it was established in New York in 1830. But members of the Church believe it is the ancient Church organized by Jesus Christ, restored by heavenly messengers to the prophet Joseph Smith. From the early days of organization, conversion, and bitter persecution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown to over 16 million members in almost every country in the world. Leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ is under the direction of a living prophet, Russell M. Nelson.
What do Latter-day Saints believe?
When the Church of Jesus Christ was organized, Joseph Smith was often asked to explain the tenets of gospel. In response to one such request, he penned a response to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat. The tenets listed by Joseph Smith were later named The Articles of Faith and became official doctrine of the Church in 1880. The thirteen positive statements express basic beliefs, but comprehensive doctrine is found in Latter-day Saint scriptures, including the Bible and The Book of Mormon.
Following are the articles and brief explanations of their meanings.
The Articles of Faith
- The nature of God was debated among early Christian scholars and eventually the concept of the Trinity—3-in-one God—was settled upon in AD 325. However Latter-day Saint theology is not based on speculation, but from the first-hand experience of Joseph Smith. When he prayed for guidance, He witnessed God the Father standing with his son, Jesus Christ as two distinct personages.
Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the past twelve apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ, explained:
- “His Joseph Smith experience clarified for mankind the existence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
- It is clear that the Father is a personal being possessing a definite form of body, parts, and spiritual passions; that Jesus Christ was with the Father in spirit before coming to dwell in the flesh, and through whom worlds were made. He lived among men as a man, with all of the physical characteristics of a human being. After His resurrection He appeared in that same form. The Holy Ghost, also called Spirit or Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of God, Comforter, or the Spirit of the Truth, is not tabernacled in a body of flesh and bones but is a personage of spirit. The Holy Ghost is a witness of the Father and of the Son, declaring to man their attributes, bearing record of the other personages of the Godhead.”
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
- Many Christians believe in original sin—babies born as sinners—creating a need to be baptized at birth to be cleansed. Latter-day Saints believe that babies are born pure and free from the blemish of the sin committed by Adam and Eve. Children are baptized at the age of eight when they are able to comprehend right from wrong and can repent of their mistakes.
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all men have been given the gift of immortality. Salvation means many things. The simple definition is attaining a kingdom of heaven, and Latter-day Saints believe virtually all who have ever lived will receive this kind of salvation. However to receive exaltation to the highest kingdom of heaven into the presence of God, and to be co-heirs with Christ, each person must accept and follow Christ and repent of wrong doing, and partake of holy covenants and ordinances.
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.
- Principles refer to the doctrinal beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ, while ordinances refer to physical acts that manifest inner commitment. Thus, faith and repentance are active beliefs, while baptism and the laying on of hands are ordinances. The gift of the Holy Ghost allows us to be comforted, guided and directed in all things we encounter in mortality.
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.
- A core belief of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is modern day prophecy. Much of the world believes that revelation ended with the death of the apostles. However, once the keys of the priesthood were restored, the power and authority to act in God’s name was once again available. Priesthood holders are able to administer ordinances of the gospel and bless their own families.
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- Christ established His church when he was on the earth. But the organization and the priesthood authority faded away with the apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ is organized in the same way as Christ’s Primitive Church, and has the same sacred power through the restoration of the holy priesthood.
7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- This article declares that once again the heavens are open to the world and that spiritual gifts are offered to all who seek.
- Religious scholars agree that over the ages, the Bible was translated by clergy who interpreted texts according to their varied abilities. Members of the Church consider it to be God’s word. The Book of Mormon verifies the truths of the Bible and serves as another witness of Jesus Christ, while clarifying many doctrines. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon also serves as a religious history.
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.
- A loving Heavenly Father communicated with his prophets in the past. Christ added to that revealed word. Many Christians believe that revelation ceased with the death of the apostles. But Latter-day Saints take comfort in knowing that God loves his children now as much as in the past. The need for revelation is as great today as it has ever been.
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.
- The gathering of Israel is taking place as people in every country learn that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior. Missionaries proclaim the gospel in preparation for Christ’s return and his millennial reign over the earth. Thus, there is a literal spiritual gathering taking place. Physical gathering is also gaining momentum, as the Jews gather to Israel. When the Ten Lost Tribes return, they will bring the records of their prophets to add to the body of scripture.
The remaining articles indicate the type of character and integrity that Latter-day Saints strive to achieve as contributing members of society. Written over 180 years ago, the words have never been more relevant than today as religious rights and family values are threatened by a world becoming increasingly secularized.
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.
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
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.