I tend to study better when I either plan to teach what I study, or when I write about it. That being said, I intend to do a series of articles on the Articles for these three reasons:
- Elder Perry just recommended it. (Twice, actually: Elder Perry with more hair in 1998.)
- I need to structure my scripture study habits better for 2014.
- I see too much garbage being posted and propagated online. My method of combating the nonsense is to offer clarity. What better way than to echo the gospel?
The reader should know that I write these posts of my own desire, and that my opinion in no way represents that of the Church. The resources I use are church approved, however. I'll do my best to provide reference links to the quotes of interest.
What are the Articles of Faith?
In 1842, an editor of the Chicago Democrat named John Wentworth, asked Joseph Smith to provide him a 'sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints'. The Prophet wrote of the history of the Restoration including the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Joseph also included 13 statements that outlined the core doctrines of the church. - "Church History" Times and Seasons, March 1842.
In October of 1880, the 13 statements were adopted as scripture and were canonized into the Standard Works of the church. They can now be found at the end of the Pearl of Great Price:
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
- We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- 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 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.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- 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.
Why Study the Articles of Faith?
There is so much doctrine in the church! So many things for us to learn! The vastness of it can create a problem, however. Just as some children choose to eat dessert before dinner, resulting in a stomach ache, some members fall away as they skip the basic principles and seek deep doctrine.
Paul explained to the Corinthians that they needed to absorb the basic principles or "milk" of the church before chomping through the mysteries or "meat". (1 Corinthians 3:2). And the Savior also warned of the temptation to rush past the basics (D&C 19:22-23).
22 For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.
23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.
The first reason to study the Articles of Faith, then, is to set our own doctrinal foundation properly. We have to take root before we grow fruit. Elder Talmage stated:
As these Articles of Faith present the leading tenets of the Church in systematic order, they suggest themselves as a convenient outline for our plan of study. (The Articles of Faith, Lecture 1)And Elder Perry's recent address gave:
The truths taught in the Articles of Faith build upon one another like the components of a cell phone mutually supporting one another. Like the elaborate supply chain that adds components to a cell phone, the Articles of Faith supply us with key doctrines of the Restoration. Each article of faith adds unique value to our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to use your bright minds to study and learn the Articles of Faith and the doctrines they teach. They are among the most important and certainly the most concise statements of doctrine in the Church.The second reason to study the Articles of Faith comes as a side affect of their simplicity: they can be understood by anyone, and prove an excellent missionary tool. Elder Perry emphasized the value of the Articles of Faith for missionary work back in 1998:
What a great blessing it would be if every member of the Church memorized the Articles of Faith and became knowledgeable about the principles contained in each. We would be better prepared to share the gospel with others.
The Articles of Faith were not the work of a team of scholars but were authored by a single, inspired man who declared comprehensively and concisely the essential doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They contain direct and simple statements of the principles of our religion, and they constitute strong evidence of the divine inspiration that rested upon the Prophet Joseph Smith.
If you will use them as a guide to direct your studies of the Savior’s doctrine, you will find yourselves prepared to declare your witness of the restored, true church of the Lord. You will be able to declare with conviction: “We believe these things.”
I'm going to study the Articles of Faith this year and publish my internet-worthy findings as a series of blogs. I believe we retain more when we think of presenting what we learn, and I would encourage anyone who set a scripture-study New Year's resolution to 1) study in a structured way, and 2) do it with the mindset of teaching.
For those too lazy to be resolute, at least you'll have my series to slap you in the face as it bounces around the web and contrasts the typical internet rubbish.