Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), are everywhere, and there seems to be a bunch of nonsense over what we believe. So, I thought I’d start with our basic faith statement: The Articles of Faith. The Articles of Faith lay out thirteen points which members of the Church believe. They are part of a larger document known as the Wentworth Letter. The Wentworth letter was written by Joseph Smith, Jr. at the request of John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, in 1842. Wentworth was looking for a sketch of the history of the church, along with some insight into what we believed. Here, then are the Articles of Faith.
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
The Godhead is comprised of 3 individual beings: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father and the Son have physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost is a person of spirit[i]. Each member of the Godhead has a specific mission. The Father is God, our creator. We worship him. The Son is Jesus the Christ. He is our Savior. We return to the presence of God only by virtue of his Atonement.[ii] The Holy Ghost is a messenger and witness. He is the bearer of inspiration and testifies of truth.[iii] The relationship between them is indicated when we pray:
I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.[iv]
As you can see from the verse above, we pray to the Father in the name of Christ (the Son) and receive our answer through the Holy Ghost.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Sin is not heritable. The first time I heard about the doctrine of Original Sin, I was confused. How could you hold someone else responsible for the acts of another person? The answer, of course, is that you can’t. And God doesn’t. What is inherited (depending on the action) are the consequences of those actions. The consequence of the Fall is that men are mortal and separated from God.
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 – when He took upon Himself our sins and afflictions – opens the way to overcome the consequences of the Fall. If we live in accordance with the gospel, we will be able to return to the presence of God. He has specified the conditions under which this is possible. The laws of the gospel are principles which help us return to God. The ordinances of the gospel are specific ceremonies (such as baptism) which are required to return to God.
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.
Faith is an active belief in “things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[v] In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma adds the qualification “which are true.”[vi] Faith in Christ leads us to a recognition of our fallen state, and our need for repentance. Repentance is the process whereby we take advantage of the Atonement and receive forgiveness for our sins.
Baptism is a ceremony whereby your sins are symbolically washed away, and you are reborn.[vii] In the LDS faith, baptism is done by immersion (complete submergence in the water). The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege of always having the Holy Ghost with you, on condition of worthiness.
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 the ordinances thereof.
“And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”[viii] No member of the Church simply hangs out a shingle and declares himself a bishop (head of a local congregation), or a Sunday School teacher, or any other position in the church. Positions in the Church are filled by being called by the person with the authority to issue the calling. The Church has a hierarchy of who issues which callings.
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
The Church organization is patterned after the Church in the time of the apostles. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”[ix] We believe that this is the organization which Christ wants, and that he established in antiquity, and again when he restored the Church.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
The LDS Church is built on the concept of revelation. The beginning of the church can be traced to a revelation given to Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1820.[x] Examples of the other spiritual gifts feature prominently throughout church history.
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.
Errors in translation and transcription have crept into the Bible. As a result, many parts are confusing, and even contradictory. The Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and the translation is assumed to be as God wants it. This does not mean that we hold the Book of Mormon to be inerrant, merely that any mistakes are not errors in translation. The title page of the book states in part “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men[.]”[xi]
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.
The canon is not closed. As noted above, the church is based on revelation, and that revelation continues to this day. We believe that everyone in the Church can receive revelation for their own lives, and the lives of those for whom they are responsible (The Prophet for the Church, parents for their families, bishops for their congregations, teachers for their classes, etc.). People learning of the Church are urged to ask for a personal revelation regarding the truth of what they are being taught.
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.
This one speaks for itself. We believe that these events will occur as we get closer to the millennial return of Christ.
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.
The choice to worship (or not) and how to do it is personal. Worship (or don’t) as you see fit and extend the same courtesy to others.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
Members of the Church are expected to be good citizens of their countries. Where there are inequities in the laws, they are expected to work within the system to address them.
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.
We strive to be righteous, faithful, and patient people, and to learn as much as we can. We believe that “the glory of God is intelligence,”[xii] and that truth is not restricted to what we already know.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to respond – either immediately, or in another article