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.

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2 Responses to “Articles of Faith”

  1. Alex Barlow March 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    Great idea. I’m enjoying reading your thoughts. You’ve put some new perspective on the articles of faith for me. Thanks!

    • shematwater March 21, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      I am glad you enjoy it. The fifth article is taking me a little longer than I planned, but it will be coming in the next few days.

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