Articles of Faith: Eleven

21 Apr

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, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Today I will discuss briefly the eleventh of the Articles, as given below.

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.

This will be a short comment as there really isn’t much to say concerning this. We believe that all men have the god given right to believe whatever they choose. No one has the right to dictate conscience. Joseph Smith gives this same sentiment in another place. He declares

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any
man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. (quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)

We believe in building men up, and building them up in the way they desire if we cannot persuade them our way is better. In other words, I will teach everyone the truths of the gospel, but if one comes to me for assistance in building his Hindu shrine I will assist him. This is actually a little exaggerated, but it makes the point. I think I would be willing to help a friend construct a religious building or shrine to his faith, but what I think Joseph Smith meant was that we will not deny anyone our assistance in a good work. We will not turn others away from our stores, or deny anyone any aid we can provide based on what they believe.

We will not assist in any undertaking that is not good and calculated to uplift our fellowmen, however. So, we will not help a friend conceal his affair from his wife, nor will we assist anyone in covering up a crime. However, we will not hold back aid from anyone who is doing good, regardless of what they believe.

I think the reason that Joseph Smith included this in the articles was in large part due to the severe persecution he and the saints had suffered for the past 25 years. Part of that persecution was the spreading of lies that the saints were isolationist in nature, that they didn’t trade or associate with those of other faiths. It was also spread around that in Nauvoo those who were not Mormon were persecuted, especially because Joseph Smith was the Mayor. He wanted to dispel these false rumors and make the truth of our beliefs known.

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