Archive | March, 2014

Articles of Faith: Six

28 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Today I will discuss briefly the sixth of the Articles, as given below.

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

Having gone through the foundations of what the gospel is and declaring the authority required to not only preach it, but to administer its ordinances, Joseph Smith now tells us how men are to be organized to most properly and effectively carry out the needed work. Not only this, but he boldly declares that this is the exact same organization that was set up in the days of Christ and which the early Christians had. This is a bold statement because no church in the 1800’s recognized all of these positions. Just as with his statement regarding Adam’s transgression in the second article, here Joseph Smith is once again showing what he rejected from among the Christians of his day. It is important to note, however, that he is not doing so in a spirit of animosity or antagonistically. He never says anyone is wrong. He merely asserts the beliefs that he ascribes to. In this I think many could take a valuable lesson.

Now, as before, I would like to point out that the order in this article is once again very significant. If one looks carefully at the list they will notice that it begins with the highest office of the priesthood and works its way down.

The first authority in the organization of the church are the Apostles. Now, some may ask ‘What about the first presidency?’ But we must remember that the First Presidency is not an office of the Priesthood. The office those men hold is the office of an Apostle, but are called to the first presidency out of that office.

The second authority is that of the prophets. Who are the prophets? Well, every conference we sustain the quorums of the Seventy as prophets, seers, and revelators. These men are the prophets, they are a separate office in the priesthood, and they are only below the apostles in authority. The reason I say this refers to the seventy is that it is referring to the calling and not simply the spirit of prophecy or the act of prophesying.

The third authority I find interesting; it is the Pastor. This is not a term we hear frequently in the church, though it is common enough in other denominations. The term appears 8 times in the Old Testament (all in Jeremiah), once in the New Testament (Ephesians), once in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 21: 1), and then in this Article of Faith. It does not appear at all in the Doctrine and Covenants. So, what is a pastor. Well, if you look in the Index to the Triple Combination under pastor you will be directed to Bishop, which is a very common title in the church. Pastors are bishops and bishops are pastors. Pastor comes from the Latin for shepherd and is a term referring to an ordained leader of a congregation. The epistles to Timothy and Titus in the New Testament are called the Pastoral Epistles because they deal with this office (both using the term Bishop).

The Bishop is the highest office of the Aaronic Priesthood, and must be held by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood (unless a literal descendent of Aaron can be found that is worthy), which is why it is listed here. Now, since this article was written in the early days of the church it must be pointed out that at that time there were only two bishops, not the many we have now. There was a single Bishop over all the saints in the Kirtland Stake and one over the Stake of Zion in Missouri. When the saints moved to Nauvoo there was only one over all the church. Today the position that was known as simply the Bishop then, is now known as the Presiding Bishop. This is not to say that other bishops do not hold this office. It is to point out that when Joseph Smith was giving this list he listed the pastors third because at the time they were. Today most of them would be listed after the Stake Presidencies.

Now, after the pastors comes the teachers. I know their is an office in the Aaronic Priesthood that bares the title Teacher, but I don’t think that is what Joseph Smith was talking about. It may be, but since every other office spoken of directly in this article is from the Melchizedek Priesthood I think that this refers to both the high priests and the elders, the lowest offices in that Priesthood. The High Priests are responsible for presiding and directing the work of spreading the gospel. The elders are primarily responsible for the teaching of the gospel, both to members and non-members. It is the Elders who are sent out on missions, and it is from the Elders that the Seventy are called, being the leading missionaries of the church. But in all cases it is the High Priests that preside. Elders are the missionaries, but the Mission Presidents are always High Priests. The Seventies are elders, but they work under the direction of the Apostles, who are High Priests.

The last office named is that of the Evangelist. While the rest of Christianity sees this as just a missionary, Joseph Smith was speaking about the patriarchs, which is another office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. In D&C 107: 39-53 the Lord declares that this office rightly belongs to the chosen seed, and Joseph Smith says “an Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham.” (Teaching of Joseph Smith pg. 151) This office is listed last because it is for the benefit of the saints, as the Patriarchal blessing is a great guide in life. However, one can go through their entire life without ever receiving one and still be saved, but no one can bypass the other offices.

Now, Joseph Smith gave this list, but he also stated that these existed in the early church. So, in closing I will give the following scripture (the only time in the New Testament that the word pastor is used), as proof that all of these offices truly did exist in the days of Christ and the Apostles.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4: 11)

Note that Paul lists all the same offices that Joseph Smith does, though he does so in a slightly different order, placing Evangelists before pastors and teachers. I see no real problem with this, as the Patriarch is considered a higher office than the bishop, high priest, or elder. I just think that Joseph Smith was more emphasizing that these lower offices are somewhat more essential to us.

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Articles of Faith: Five

24 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, and 4. Today I will discuss briefly the fifth of the Articles, as given below.

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 article of faith discusses the authority to act in God’s name. Joseph Smith has already laid down the foundation of the gospel in Christ and the Godhead; has declared our belief in the Atonement and taught us the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. But what good is all this if the authority to perform those ordinances and teach the gospel is not had. Again, I find the order significant. In the first four articles he established what the Gospel was, and now he is telling us how to claim it as ours.

What he says here is very similar to what Paul tells the Hebrew Saints.

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

Hebrews 5: 1-4

Here Paul tells us that one must have the authority given to him from God in order to legally act in the office of High Priest. He must be called of God in the same manner as Aaron was. We read about it in Exodus 28, where God tells Moses to bring Aaron and his sons and set the coats of the priests office and them “and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them” (verse 41).

Joseph Smith says a man must be called of God, and Aaron received his called from God.

Joseph Smith says that it must be by prophecy. In this case Joseph Smith is not speaking of the foretelling of future events, but of the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Christ (Revelation 19: 19) or the spirit of Revelation, or to speak for God. Moses spoke for God in calling Aaron, and thus Aaron was called by prophecy.

Joseph Smith also says it must be by the ‘laying on of hands.’ This is the method of many ordinances, as the Bible attests to. When Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he laid his hands on their heads (Genesis 48:14-19). The Apostles Peter and John bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17). And, more to the story of Moses and Aaron, when Moses was about to leave Israel he took Joshua “And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.” (Numbers 27: 23). So, when we read that Moses was to anoint and consecrate Aaron it becomes clear that this meant the laying on of hands to consecrate them for the service of priests. Consecrate means to ‘set apart or dedicate to the service of God.” In the modern day we speak of setting people apart for callings, and do this by the laying on of hands. When Moses consecrated Aaron he set him apart, and did so, as he did later with Joshua, by the laying on of hands.

The last requirement Joseph Smith gives is that the one who is doing the laying on of hands must have authority to not only teach the gospel, but to administer the ordinances. Comparing this to Aaron again we see again that it was completed, for Moses clearly had the authority to do both.When Paul wrote to the Hebrews he told them that a man must be called of God as was Aaron if he was to act in the office of a High Priest. The Hebrews would have understood the circumstances and nature of Aaron being called. Joseph Smith, in this Article of Faith, states the same thing that Paul stated, but instead of making the comparison with Aaron (a figure not as well known to 1800’s Americans) he simply outlined the requirements.

Articles of Faith: Four

17 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed the first, second, and third Articles of Faith. Today I will discuss briefly the fourth of the Articles, as given below.

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.

In this article Joseph Smith gives us four things that he calls the first. It should be noted that when Joseph Smith wrote this article in the 1840’s he stated it as the first ordinances. The term principle was added in the early 1900’s because the First Presidency recognized that Faith and Repentance are not ordinances. So they made the addition to more fully reflect the intended meaning that Joseph Smith wished to convey.

So, what does it mean that these are the first principles and ordinances of the gospel? It means, very simply, that these are the first things that one must accept and do in order to gain salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is “our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness” which is also referred to as the Plan of Salvation. So, this article could also be rendered “the first principles and ordinances of salvation…” This states clearly what the building blocks of our salvation are. Again, we note the order. These four things are not done in any order, but in the specific order given.

The first principle is Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not just belief, and not faith in just anything. We must have faith in Jesus Christ before we have anything else or nothing else will matter. In lesson five of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, we read the following:

“Faith without works is dead” -in other words, it does not exist. I think James’ meaning clearly is, “You show me your faith without your works, and nothing will result; but I will show you my faith with my works, and something will be accomplished.” Faith means action. … Faith, therefore, is stronger than belief. …

Faith is a gift from God that we receive we strive to live by His laws. “Faith is the moving cause of all action.” [Lectures on Faith, lecture 1.]; so if we are to do anything else that the gospel requires we must first have faith.

The second principle is Repentance. Repentance is a deep sorrow for past sins and a desire to not engage in such in the future. Paul, in writing to the Saints at Corinth, told them “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Corinthians 7: 9-10). Repentance must come after faith, because only those with faith will feel this godly sorrow; but it must come before anything else, for it is only through repentance that we are made worthy of the ordinances of salvation. Remember that when the Pharisees came to John the Baptist to be baptized he declared “Repent, therefore, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance” and refused to baptize them. (see JST Matt. 3). If we do not repent we are not found worthy of baptism.

The first ordinance of the gospel is baptism by immersion. As I stated in my discussion of article three, we must obey the proper ordinances, and in this article Joseph Smith tells us clearly that only by complete immersion can baptism have any effect. No other form can be counted as baptism. Paul told the Roman saints that “we are buried with [Christ] by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6: 4) If we are not buried, or immersed in water by baptism than it is not a type of the death of Christ and has no effect.

The second ordinance is the Laying on of the hand for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is an important ordinance, due in no small part to the fact that most of the rest of Christianity deny not only the need for it, but its very existence. Many teach that baptism brings the gift of the holy ghost, or that this gift is simply given. They give such references as Peter preaching in Joppa when the spirit fell on many and the day of Pentecost. However, Christ taught that a man must be born of water (baptism) and the spirit (holy ghost) (John 3: 5). Paul, when he went to Ephesus found twelve that had been baptized and ask:

Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them… (Acts 19: 2-6)

In the Book of Mormon Nephi teaches “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 31: 17) In the Doctrine and Covenants it is also described as a baptism by fire. Having the spirit fall on one is different than this baptism of fire, which figuratively burns the old sins from us so that we are not only washed in the water but are purified as if by fire.

Articles of Faith: Three

15 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I other posts I discussed the first and second Articles of Faith. Today I will discuss briefly the third of the Articles, as given below.

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

In this article of faith several points of doctrine are articulated, and many false concepts about the church are resolved.

Note first of all that we believe that salvation comes only through the Atonement of Christ. There is no other way for us to be saved. Without the atonement we would all be damned. I have heard many people try to claim that we do not believe that the Atonement is was saves us, but that it is our own works or what have you. However, this simple statement declares in no uncertain terms that it is through the atonement; and thus the atonement becomes the key to our salvation.

The second part of this article is also very telling, and I do not believe the wording was casual, but was very deliberate. We believe all may be saved, and I would emphasize all and may. We believe that no one is excluded from the possibility of salvation. All have the opportunity of salvation. This is in direct opposition to the common doctrine of Predestination, or the doctrine that everyone is predestined to either salvation or damnation. All may be saved, and so no one is destined for damnation. However, the word may puts a condition on this salvation. We believe all may be saved, not that all will be saved.

So let us look at the third part because here we are given the conditions of Salvation. As I stated before, the Atonement is the key to our salvation, but here we learn what is needed in order to turn that key and make it effective in our lives. After all, what good is a key if it is not used, or is used in the wrong way or on the wrong lock. Here we are given two conditions. We are saved only by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Again, take note of the wording, as I believe it is significant. We are saved through the atonement, but by obedience. The atonement is the medium through which we are saved, but obedience is the processes by which we are saved.

Think of school: the teacher tells you to write an essay and submit it through an online drop box. In order to pass the class you must go through the process of writing and essay and them submit it through the medium as directed. If you try to submit it through another medium you will not get any credit. However, if you do not write the essay you will also not get credit. The required work must be performed through the required medium in order for you to get any credit in the class.

In a like manner we must obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel, but must do so through the medium of the Atonement. If either part is missing we will not be saved. If we live our lives in righteousness, but never accept Christ’s atonement that is like doing the essay and trying to turn it in through some other medium. If we accept Christ and yet do not live righteously that is like not doing the essay, but still working through the correct medium. Either way we have no claim on salvation.

On a last note I find it interesting that the Laws of the Ordinances and listed separately. Since I believe that wording is significant in these articles one can hardly be surprised. The ordinances are not laws, and the laws are not ordinances. An ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood.  Some are essential for salvation, others are not. A law, on the other hand, is a command from God to either do or not to do something. The classic example are the Ten Commandments (8 do not’s and 2 do’s). Now, there are some laws that command us to participate in certain ordinances; such as the command to be baptized (2 Ne. 9:23; 3 Ne. 27:20). However, one can obey this command and not obey the ordinance, as is the case with baptism and sprinkling. Those who practice sprinkling are obeying the law to be baptized, but they are not obeying the ordinance, as the ordinance demands immersion. I believe this is the reason that Joseph Smith made that distinction that we needed to be obedient not only to the commands of the Lord (including those requiring ordinances), but that we need to perform the ordinances in their proper form.

So, we learn many things from this one statement. We declare that it is through the Atonement that salvation is made possible, and that all can attain to it. However, we also declare that we must do what is required of us or the Atonement will not work in our lives. Lastly we see that ordinances must be performed in their proper way or they do us no good.

Articles of Faith Two

13 Mar

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. In my last post I discussed the first Article of Faith. Today I will discuss briefly the second of the Articles, as given below.

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

(Now, before I continue, let me just clarify that the word ‘Man’ includes both male and female.)

This article is also very simple and very strait forward in its mean. I would also like to take note as to its placement as the second article. (I will likely do this with most of the articles as I believe the order is very significant.) It was, and to a large extent still is common doctrine among the various Christian religions that the Fall of Adam has caused all people to be born with the taint of sin. Because of this even babies are counted as sinners and require the atonement to save them. Up until the mid to late 1800’s it was common practice among all Christians to baptize infants to save them from this taint caused by Adam. This is commonly known as Original Sin, which the Catholic church defines as “a consequence of [the sin that Adam committed], the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.”

In the simplicity of the second Article of Faith Joseph Smith is declaring that we reject the idea of Original Sin. The implications are huge. If we are not born with the taint of Adam’s actions that are we born sinners? The answer is obviously no, as we at birth we have not had the opportunity to sin. This then shows that babies are innocent, having committed no sin, and thus are not in need of baptism (as baptism is for the remission of sins Mark 1:4; Luke 3: 3). Also, if we are punished only for our own sins, then mortal life and death cannot be a punishment as they are the results of Adam’s actions. This would indicate that mortal life is a good thing, and not a bad one.

Now, there is one more part of this article that we should take note of, and that is the fact that Joseph Smith does not call Adam’s actions a sin, but rather a transgression. The distinction here is important, and it is one that many people ignore. Elder Dallin H. Oaks put it like this:

“This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression’ (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.”

So, this simple statement teaches us many things. First, that we are not born sinners. Second, since children are innocent at birth they have no need of baptism. Third, mortality and even death are good things and are part of the plan. Fourth, that while the act of Adam and Eve was in violation of divine commandment, it was not inherently evil and thus not a sin.

Articles of Faith: One

5 Mar

In my last post I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. Today I will discuss briefly the first of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in God, the Eternal Father; and in His Son, Jesus Christ; and in the Holy Ghost.

Now this is a very simple statement, but it is filled with important information and suggestions.

First, I find it interesting that Joseph Smith chose to affirm our belief in these three first. He could have started with any number of doctrines, but specifically listed our belief in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost first. This is significant as it establishes this doctrine as the foundation of all other doctrine. Before we express belief in anything else we declare our faith in God and Christ.

Second, this statement simply dispels all claims that we do not believe in Christ or God. Many people, even in the time of Joseph Smith, claim we are not Christian and do not believe in Christ. This is not as prevalent anymore, but I think Joseph Smith statement this as he did so that there could be no doubt as the fact that we believe in the God and the Christ of the Bible.

Third, I note that Joseph Smith does not affirm the trinity. He lists the three members of the Godhead as individuals with no indication of them being one. This is significant as it implies a rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity as taught in other Christian faiths. So, while affirming the existence of these three beings he is not affirming the trinity as others understand it.

Fourth, this statement clearly teaches the relationship between the Father and the Son. There is the Father, who is the Father of all spirits and stand supreme; then it is not just ‘the son’ but ‘His Son’ that we believe in, declaring that very personal and intimate family relationship that they share. The relationship of the Father and son is also clearly stated in John 20: 17 “…but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” The Father is our Father and our God, but not in the same intimate relation that He is the Father and God of Christ, and the first Article of Faith clearly and simply states this relationship.

So, this first Article is simple and yet profound. It declares the Godhead to be the foundation doctrine of the Gospel; It proves us to be Christians and believers in Christ; It separates us from the rest of Christianity in our understanding of God; and it teaches us the relationship between the Father and the Son.

Articles of Faith

4 Mar

It has been a while since I did anything here, and I was just thinking about the Articles of Faith and thought I would do a series regarding them. These posts will be brief, as they are merely my quick thoughts on each Article. To start off with, let me give a brief explanation of the origin of the Articles of Faith.

In 1842, while the saints resided in Nauvoo, Illinois, a Mr. John Wentworth requested from Joseph Smith an account of the history of the new religion. Wentworth was asking on behalf of his friend, a George Barstow, who was in the process of writing a history of New Hampshire. For those not familiar with Joseph Smith’s own history, he did spend a few years in New Hampshire as a boy, just before his family moved to New York, and it was there that he contracted typhus fever and had his famous operation. While the main events of the rise of the church did not begin until they had moved to New York, Mr. Barstow evidently wanted to make mention of the new religion because he knew that Joseph Smith had lived in New Hampshire.

For his part Joseph Smith was perfectly willing to comply with the request, and soon wrote the now famous Wentworth letter. His only request was that Barstow “publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.” Joseph Smith sent the letter to Mr. Wentworth, but it was never used by Mr. Barstow as he choose to end his book at 1819, or the passing of the Toleration Act which made all religious groups equal and dependent on free contributions for support. However, the letter was printed by Joseph Smith in The Times and Seasons, a bi-monthly newspaper printed by the church (which was also the first to print the Book of Abraham and the History of Church), of which Joseph Smith was the editor.

The letter itself gives a brief overview of the various events related to the rise and faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints. Nothing is dealt with in any real detail, though some facts of each event and mentioned. It deals first with the First Vision and then the visits of Moroni. He addresses the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and does give a summary the narrative and doctrine. He tells of the early spread of the church throughout the United States, which was followed by the Missouri persecution. He then tells of the missionary work being done throughout the world, in which he gives this statement.

Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

This is the prophetic words of Joseph Smith that is the standard of all the missionaries of the church as they go forth to teach the world. It was immediately after this statement that Joseph Smith chose to list the core doctrines of the church; to state what we, as saints of God, believe and follow.

This letter was first published in 1842, but was not, at that time, considered scripture. In 1851 Franklin D. Richards included them in his publication of “The Pearl of Great Price,” a pamphlet printed for the benefit of the saints in Europe. This pamphlet contained many writings from Joseph Smith, including extracts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, some sections from the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Abraham. It was not until 1878 that the pamphlet was published in the United States, with some alteration. In 1880 it was  made a standard work of the church, and joined the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenant as the primary scriptures from which members were to study the gospel. From that time these articles have been a focus for many members, and it has been encouraged that all members memorize them and learn their meaning.

In the next few articles that I write I will be addressing each in order and discussing their importance and meaning.