Articles of Faith XI and XII: Freedom and the Law

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 Church of Jesus Christ was restored in the United States for a reason. In no other country would such a seed have had opportunity to sprout, because no other country enjoyed or embraced the freedom as did the United States.

Latter-day Saints understand how important our freedom is. We embrace it ourselves and respect the freedom of others to do as they please, while expecting the same in return. Free agency is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It’s so great that He allows terrible things to occur in the world, all for the sake of respecting the agency He has granted to His children.

Hence, we all have the agency to choose how we worship God, if we worship Him at all.

The twelfth statement is pretty short, so I’m going to include it in this post.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

Pretty simple. We believe in being patriotic. We support our country and obey its laws.

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Articles of Faith X: The Millennium

Alright, the tenth article of faith is pretty interesting. I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

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 literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the Ten Tribes refer to what is known as the Assyrian captivity of Israel. In the Old Testament, the twelve tribes of Israel became divided into the Kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) and the Kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom). The Kingdom of Judah consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, while the Northern Kingdom consisted of the rest. Around 740 B.C., the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire. About 150 years later, Judah suffered the same fate by the hands of the Babylonians.

Judah has been restored to its homeland. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, however, have not. They are still lost, scattered around the world, but will one day return.

Zion, the New Jerusalem is mentioned in Revelation 21:2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Through modern revelation, Latter-day Saints believe that Zion will be built upon the American continent, and that ‘Old’ Jerusalem will also be rebuilt.

During the millennium, Christ will reign personally upon the earth, which will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. No more wars or rumors of wars. No more worldly governments. No more starvation, sickness, or disease. No more sin or corruption. No more Satan. Jesus Christ will reign. The government will be upon His shoulders, as the prophet Isaiah writes. He will be our King, our Ruler, and He will be among us.

Articles of Faith IX: Revelation

Number nine is all about revelation.

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.

God continues to speak to us and reveal His word. His words and works never cease. In regards to the scriptures, Latter-day Saints do not believe in a closed canon. God is not limited to one book or one period of time. But just as He has done since the beginning of time, God still speaks to prophets today, revealing His word through them.

I’m going to use some verses from the Book of Mormon to explain this, since they state it better than I ever will. It’s a bit to read, but it’s worth it.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. (2 Nephi 9:6-10)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a progressive church. By progressive I mean literally it is a church of progress. Living prophets and apostles do exist, and they are the Lord’s instruments in revealing His word to us. If God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, His works cannot and will not ever cease.

 

Articles of Faith VIII: Two Records

Number eight is where a major difference is shown between the LDS church and “mainstream” Christian denominations.

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.

Once again we’ll break it down.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God.

This reaffirms our devotion to the Holy Bible. In the eyes of Latter-day Saints, it is God’s word. We love and cherish the Bible and the message it bears, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In no way do we view the Holy Bible as anything less than that. When we list our standard works (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), the Bible is always first.

As far as it is translated correctly.

It is true that we do not believe the Bible to be infallible. Through centuries of translations, corruption has leaked in. However, it has, for the most part, remained intact. Some translations are more correct than others. The official version the LDS church uses is the King James Version. We believe it to be the most correct version, and also love it for its more… shall we say…. poetic… text.

We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

The Book of Mormon has only gone through one translation, by the prophet Joseph Smith. (Yes, changes have been made throughout the years.) The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It does not add or remove from the Bible, but serves to reaffirm the Bible’s message.

Together these two records bear testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many believe that Mormons regard the Book of Mormon as superior than the Bible. I’m sure there are some that actually do, and such are individual opinions. The Book of Mormon does serve a unique purpose, however, apart from the Bible. It serves as a witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and that through him Jesus Christ restored His church.

The Book of Mormon, however, does not contain Christ’s mortal ministry or the acts and writings of the apostles. It does not contain the history of the children of Israel in the Old Testament. Therefore, both records are of equal value. They are two records, but they are one testimony of Jesus Christ.

Articles of Faith VII: Gifts of the Spirit

Seven is the best number, right? This should be a super long one. Well, nope, it’s rather short and simple.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

These are all gifts of the Spirit, something that we, as a church, strongly believe in. The Holy Ghost can do amazing things, and when His influence abounds… miracles happen. These miracles are often in the form of these gifts. We can all have them, though we all don’t possess the same gifts. We each have our individual strengths and weaknesses in every aspect of our lives, especially the spiritual aspect.

Paul speaks of the gifts of the Spirit to the Corinthians,

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Let’s break up the seventh statement and go through it.

Gift of Tongues (and interpretation of tongues) – This one is simple: foreign languages. When LDS people speak of this gift, we aren’t referring to someone having a seizure in their pew and spouting off jibber jabber no one else can understand. When we speak of the gift of tongues, we are literally meaning the ability to communicate (and be understood) in a different language. Thousands of LDS missionaries are blessed with this gift when they travel to foreign lands and need to learn a new tongue fast. The Spirit of God is not a spirit of confusion. He is a spirit of understanding and comprehension.

The Gift of Prophecy and Revelation – These two gifts often go together. We can all receive personal revelation for ourselves and those we have stewardship over. This is prophecy… on an individualistic level. We can all be prophets in this sense. However, only the prophet can receive revelation for the entire Church and the world. Today, the prophet is Thomas S. Monson. As God’s prophet on the earth today, he can receive revelation for us all.

Visions and Dreams– This one is touchy, and should be handled delicately. Many of us have had interesting dreams in which we have had a special spiritual experience. Throughout the world’s history, prophets of God have had visions and dreams. In fact, we find in Numbers 12:6,

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

This is actually a rather common way for God to communicate to His prophets. Like I said though, it’s a delicate thing. Personally, I don’t know too much about this topic, and I honestly can’t say I’ve had any first hand experience with it.

Healing – Numerous times did Jesus Christ heal. His apostles also healed many times. This gift can be separated into two categories: faith to heal, and faith to be healed. It takes faith on both ends. Some are blessed with tremendous faith to heal, while others have tremendous faith that healing can take place.

To put it simply, we believe the Spirit of God is still very active in our day. Miracles have not ceased, and if they do, it will be because of our lack of faith.

Articles of Faith VI: The Primitive Church

Number six! Ready?

 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

The Primitive Church is referring to the church Jesus Christ organized when He was on the earth. We differ than some other Christian denominations in that we do believe Christ actually had a church, and not just a bunch of great ideas to follow. And what church did Christ bring to the earth? Well, naturally if it’s His church it should be called The Church of Jesus Christ.

Hence the name of the “Mormon” church. The term Mormon is not an official term. In fact it began as a derogatory term, but was eventually used by church members themselves because… well… it’s really not offensive in any way, and it’s a convenient way to refer to Latter-day Saints. So going back to the original thought, the actual name of the “Mormon” church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Same church, same title. The “of Latter-day Saints” addition is simply to emphasize the fact that it is His restored church in the last days.

Ephesians 4:11 gives us some information on the organization of Christ’s church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Christ ordained twelve apostles, giving unto them His priesthood authority. Today, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with three others acting as a First Presidency with the current prophet Thomas S. Monson at the head. These three men essentially act in the same manner as Peter, James, and John, who were the first “First Presidency”.

I know that Jesus Christ’s church is built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles. If they were no longer needed, Christ would’ve said so. But He didn’t. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As the Great Jehovah He called prophets since the beginning of time. When He came to the earth to perform His mortal ministry He called them as a group of twelve. Why would He suddenly stop and not say a word? He didn’t and He will never do so. He is the same forever, and so His church is the same forever.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s church restored in these last days.

Articles of Faith V: Called of God

The fifth article of faith:

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.

This statement centers around our belief in a required priesthood authority.

We read in Hebrews 5:4, And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

Ordinances such as baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost must be done under the correct authority. A man must be called of God, meaning that he must be given the authority from another that possesses it. This is done by the laying on of hands, something that is mentioned numerous times in the Bible.

Christ gave the priesthood authority to His apostles.

Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. (Luke 9:1)

Talking specifically to Peter, Christ speaks of the priesthood authority as keys,

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)

The priesthood holds authority over the things pertaining to the earth as well as the heavens. Understanding this will help one to understand why Mormons are sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, and also why we do proxy baptisms for those no longer living on the earth.

In a nutshell, the priesthood is God’s power and authority. In these last days, He has reached out in love and restored it. Given to man, it allows man the right to act in His name. It is necessary to operate Jesus Christ’s church, to preach the gospel with the utmost power and spirit, and to perform saving ordinances such as baptism.

Articles of Faith IV: Gospel of Christ

Here we go, number four:

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.

You could say that these are the steps to becoming a disciple of Christ. To be His follower, one must of course obey His gospel. We believe that the first step is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe He is our Savior, otherwise there isn’t any point to anything else we do. Our faith in Christ is the foundation of our testimony in Him and His gospel.

The second step is repentance. Faith and repentance go together. We can’t repent of our sins if we don’t believe Christ is the Savior and that He suffered and died for our sins. We must apply His atonement and ask Heavenly Father’s forgiveness of our sins, made possible through Christ.

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)

Faith and repentance are daily things, however. We must exercise faith each day and daily repent of our sins. In this way we can always keep Christ in remembrance, which will deliver us from the power of Satan.

Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Alma 37:33)

Faith and repentance are the first principles. The first ordinances are baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Baptism is essential. Christ taught that without it, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And it must be done by the correct authority. The same goes for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In the Acts we find an example of this ordinance being performed by Peter and John.

Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 18:15-17)

This is the basic doctrine of Jesus Christ that Latter-day Saints believe in. I know they are true. Stay tuned for more Articles of Faith! HOW EXCITING!

 

Articles of Faith III: Atonement and the Gospel

Now that we got a couple of basic things out of the way, let’s get into something deeper. The third statement of belief is as follows,

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

This reaffirms the fact that we are indeed a Christian religion. We firmly believe that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that salvation is made possible. The word may is important. We do not believe everyone is automatically saved. Rather, we believe the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12 when he says to “work out your own salvation.”

Faith and works are both necessary. As James said, faith without works is dead. And of course, works without faith is empty, shallow, and unfulfillable. Hence the last part of the statement, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

Salvation is not cheap. It requires effort and diligence. Christ said Himself that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Obviously, there are some requirements in this life that need to be accomplished. Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost (“and of the Spirit”) are just a couple.

So what if someone lives and dies without receiving the necessary ordinances such as baptism? Are they damned to Hell? Definitely not. How fair would that be? It wouldn’t be fair at all! These ordinances are still required though, and everyone, whether in this life or the next, will have the opportunity to receive them by their own free will.

Now don’t misunderstand. In no way do Mormons believe they can work their way into Heaven. I can knock doors all day long, but it won’t do anything if I’m not doing it for the right reasons. Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation for our works. If we work without faith, we work in vain, but our faith is only shown through our works. We do as much as we can, and Jesus makes up the difference. This is what grace is.

 

Articles of Faith II: Agency

The second statement of belief Joseph Smith wrote to John Wentworth is as follows,

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

This deals with the idea of original sin, something that Latter-day Saints do not believe in. Mankind is born innocent, and later learns how to sin and develop corrupt behavior. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, children who die before they are of age are saved. They have no sin, and therefore they are alive in Christ.

The Savior taught,

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24)

Every man and woman will be held accountable for their own actions. The choice that Adam and Eve made is not upon our heads. (For more info on the Fall of Adam and Eve, check out my blog post here.)

We are agents unto ourselves. Our free agency is the greatest gift from God that we have right now. The Book of Mormon teaches,

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. (2 Nephi 10:23)

Whether we choose good or evil, it is our choice and only our choice. No one can or will make it for us.