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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