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.

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