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Articles of Faith: Thirteen

12 May

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, 10, 11 and 12. Today I will discuss briefly the thirteenth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

This final article is the great declaration of moral character and behavior that all true saints strive for. It lists those things that define our behavior, or motivation, and our very being. Looking at each one individually we can see how all encompassing this statement is.

Honest: To never knowingly give a false statement; to correct any false ideas or impressions we may have inadvertently given.

True: To always fulfill that which we say we will do; to never take an unfair or unjust advantage over another because of their words or deeds.

Chaste: To never engage in sexual actions outside a legally and divinely sanctioned marriage; to never entertain thoughts of such actions; to never engage in crass or vulgar language that demeans and denigrates the sanctity of marriage and the sexual relations between a man and wife.

Benevolent: To help others in their need and in their want; to give freely without thought of reward or recognition; to speak kindly and not to ridicule or deride.

Virtuous: To make thousands of small choices to do the right; to follow a course of moral purity in all things.

Doing Good to All Men: In our striving to do those things that are listed we do not shun any man or woman, but seek to help all, regardless of faith, race, or nationality. No one should be beneath us or above us, but all should be equal in our eyes.

After listing these things Joseph Smith states that we follow the admonition of Paul, which is given in Philippians 4: 8, where Paul writes to the saints at Philippi

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Notice here that everything that Joseph Smith says we should seek after are the very things that Paul tells these saints to think on. Either way it has the same meaning. As our conduct is, so should our motivation be. We should seek after anything that upholds our standards, and shun that which does not. If our entertainment is not virtuous we should end it; if the company we keep is not chaste we should seek out new friends. If we find anything that promotes the moral standards we espouse, regardless of the source, we should welcome it.

Finally, I would like to comment on the middle section of this article.

Joseph Smith states that we believe all things. We must not take this to mean that we literally believe every idea or theory that was ever espoused by man. Joseph Smith himself stated clearly that there were many things that he did not believe to be true. Rather, we take this statement to mean that we believe all things that are true; all things that really exist.

Again, when Joseph Smith states that we hope all things we do not take this to mean that literally, as there are many hopes and desires that are not in line with the moral behaviors he outlined. Rather, we understand this to mean that we hope all things that are good and righteous and that God has promised.

The same is true about our hope to be able to endure all things. There are many things that we hope we never have to endure, and so this statement means that our hope is that whatever we may be called on to endure we will have the strength to do so.

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Articles of Faith: Twelve

6 May

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, 10 and 11. Today I will discuss briefly the twelfth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

This is a simple statement that is also a very important one, especially at the time that Joseph Smith wrote these down. He and the saints had been accused of criminal activity for over a decade and the accusations were beginning to creep up again in Nauvoo. Thus this statement was given in large part to counter those accusations and set other peoples minds at ease.

Notice also how comprehensive this statement is. It lists all types of government administrators that are legally appointed as such. He does not only uphold the ideals of the American government, but he also states that Kings have a right to rule and those living under their rule should be subject to them. More importantly, however, he lists how we are subject to them, and I think each of these three things is important and stated for a reason. So, let us look at them each separately.

The first is rather simple. We believe in obeying the law. This means that we do not violate the law, or at least strive not to.

The second is less understood I think. We believe in honoring the law. This means we hold the law in high esteem and are honest in our beliefs and actions regarding them. To honor the law means that if you do violate it you pay the appropriate penalty without trying to weasel your way out of it. To honor the law means that we do not take justice into our own hands, but seek redress through the appropriate channels. It means that the law of the land is second in our estimation only to the law of God, and we will uphold it as long as it is not in opposition to that higher law.

The last thing is to sustain the law. This means that, whether we agree with the law, we accept it as the law. We do not allow ourselves or anyone else to violate the law simply because we disagree with it. I have heard some state that if a law is a bad law it is okay to not obey it. This is not sustaining the law. Sustaining means bearing up, or supporting, and if we have this attitude we are are not in support of the law and thus we are not sustaining it. When we know a law is being violated and do nothing we are not sustaining the law, because our actions are undermining it. On this point I am reminded of the common philosophy that we are not to tattle on others as children, which turns into not being a snitch when we get older. I think this philosophy is in direct opposition to what Joseph Smith was teaching when wrote this article. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that people call the police every time they see a person speeding. That is impractical and would bog down the system. But when a person knows that another is stealing, then it becomes their duty to report it; if they are cognizant or witnesses to crimes they should not only be willing to testify, but should volunteer to testify. When a person chooses not to they are not sustaining the law.

These are my thoughts on this article. Right now I am dealing with the state Social Services here in Illinois, and so right now I have much to be agitated about concerning the law. However, I do believe this article and so I am trying to work within the law as it is given. I do not like the law; I think it is corrupt and evil and will be the downfall of this nation. However, until that happens I have to work within the law, because that is what God wants me to do. I will obey the law, and I do honor the law. Sustaining it right now is difficult, but I am trying.

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.

Articles of Faith: Ten

15 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 and 9. Today I will discuss briefly the tenth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

We are now coming to what might be called the peripherals of the gospel. We started with those essential elements; God, the Atonement, the First Principles and Ordinances. We then went to the workings of the church in the organization, authority, and revelation. These things set up the church itself, its foundation and workings. Now we receive those things that are not directly related to the church and its operation. Do not mistake this as things that are not doctrine or not essential. The last four articles speak of doctrines, and are essential to the gospel.

So, let us examine the various doctrines.

First, the Gathering of Israel. Many Christians at that time of Joseph Smith, and even today, believed that church was the Gathering of Israel. They held that the Gathering was a spiritual gathering, and so when one accepted Christ they became part of the Gathering. However, we believe in the Literal Gathering. This means that we believe not in a Spiritual Gathering, but in the truth that those who are descended from Israel will be physically gathered together and separated from those who are not descended from Israel. This was started with the call to move to Ohio, and continues today as Israel is called to gather at the stakes of Zion. It most definitely matters that we heed to call to gather when it is given.

This ties in with the restoration of the ten tribes. For Israel to be gathered all twelve tribes must be gathered, and thus the ten that we taken captive to Assyria must also be gathered. However, their restoration is much greater than just being a part of the gathering, and that is why it was listed separately. We read in 2 Nephi 29 12-14

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.

And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.

I believe that the restoration of the Ten Tribes is the revelation of their records; the bringing to light of their history that has been lost. It could be said that the Nephites and Lamanites have been restored because knowledge of them is now on the Earth again. We believe not only that Israel with be gathered, but that all their history and all their scriptures and prophecies will be restored to the Earth that all may know them.

The Building of Zion, as spoken of in this Article, speaks directly to the City of Zion, or New Jerusalem, that will be built. It does not speak to the condition of the saints as being all of one mind, but a literal city that is to be built. Enoch prophesied of this city. Moses 7: 62

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.

This city will be built on the American Continent, specifically in Jackson County, Missouri, near Independence. (D&C 57: 3) While most churches look to the Middle East for the fulfillment of all God’s promises, we look to the United States as well. That must be understood. We look to both locations, for the old Jerusalem will also be rebuilt. But we also look to the United States, for it is here that the New Jerusalem will be build.

We also believe that Christ will reign personally upon the Earth. We mean by this that Christ, when he returns, will stay on this earth. He will live here, not just visit. Not only will he live here, but he will claim his right to rule over all the earth. He will be the sovereign and all men will be under his dominion. This is not just Spiritual dominion, but civic and secular dominion. He will reign as King over all men and a pure theocracy will be established.

Lastly, we believe the earth will be restored and receive its paradisiacal glory. The restoration of the Earth means that it will be restored to its original perfection that it had when it was a paradise before the fall. The continents will come back together; the mountains about the tree lines will fall; there will not be a single potion of the earth that is not capable of fully sustaining life. It will then be restored to the state of paradise it was in. Disease will not be known; aging will not cause any difficulties; animals will not kill each other for food; man and beast will live in harmony. We are now in a Telestial world. but the Earth, when restored, will enter into a Terrestrial state and receive its glory. (Note that this is called the Earth’s glory, and thus we also believe that this is the Earth’s right to inherit this, thus indicating that the Earth is an entity in itself.)

You may notice that everything in this article is dealing with the second coming and millennium. We are not talking about the final state of things, but the state during those thousand years between Christ’s coming and the final judgement. This is our article of faith regarding this important event and time.

Articles of Faith: Nine

8 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 and 8. Today I will discuss briefly the ninth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

In the last article Joseph Smith declared our belief in the written record of God’s word. I think it appropriate here to mention that he did not include the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price in the Eighth Article. This is a point some non-members have brought up to me in the past. The reason is simple; his intent was to speak on the ancient records of God’s words. Some may question why the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham were not included. Well, the Book of Moses was simply a retranslation of the Bible, and thus is included, while the Book of Abraham was not yet published or accepted as a standard scripture of the church.

However, all of these are included in the Ninth Article of Faith. This article is the declaration of our belief in continuing revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of modern revelation and a number of the sections had not been revealed when Joseph Smith wrote this article. By declaring this belief he affirmed that more knowledge and more direction would be revealed and it would be just as true as anything revealed in the past, and thus allowed future presidents the ability to lead the church as is necessary.

However, there is a greater implication to this article. After the first century when the church started to fall into apostasy the leader chose to close the canon. They had no authority to do this, but they declared that God would never reveal anything else to man. In this way they set the early apostles apart as being on a level that no one else could ever attain. God no longer called men as prophets or apostles.

Joseph Smith, however, declared boldly that God was not yet finished, but would continue to reveal truth to his people. Joseph Smith could have done the same thing as those early, uninspired men. He could have declared that after him there would be no future revelation, and thus set himself apart as something that no one else could attain. But he did not do this. He left it open for those who came after to not only become as he had, but possibly to be greater. This shows a great humility in the man, as he had no desire to keep things for himself.

Because of this article we can accept the revelation to Joseph F. Smith concerning the world of Spirits; we can accept the Manifesto and the later lifting of the ban on the Priesthood. These things pose no problem for those who truly understand the gospel, because we believe that God has not finished revealing his will to man. Not only this, but we look forward to many more and great revelations that are yet to come. Joseph Smith gave us the record of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, but we anticipate the sealed portion being brought forth. We also anticipate the bringing forth of the record of the lost tribes. These things are things we can look forward to, because we do not believe that God has shut the heavens and does not reveal his will anymore. We believe he has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to his kingdom.

Articles of Faith: Eight

4 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 and 7. Today I will discuss briefly the eighth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

I have found that this Article of Faith is the one most criticized by the rest of Christianity. But, before we get into that let us again note the order, in this case the order of the Articles. We started with the foundation of God and what the gospel was, moved into the organization and authority of the church, as well as the gifts of the Spirit. Now we are dealing with where we have gotten our information, or where the truths of the gospel can be found.

The gospel is taught first, and always first, from the written scriptures that God has provided to us. From the time of Adam the prophets have written the words of God for the benefit of their posterity. Enoch used the record kept by those early patriarchs in his ministry. When Abraham left Ur he took with him those same records (Abraham 1: 31). When Moses was giving the Law it was in written form, and the record of the Law was preserved by the Priests as a means of teaching Israel. When Lehi left Jerusalem the first thing his sons were sent to retrieve was the written record of God’s words. The record is of the greatest importance in preserving the gospel among men.

So, why is it that many people criticize this statement of our belief in the Bible and the Book of Mormon as the written record of the word of God? There are two things that people mention frequently.

First is the fact that we do not believe the Bible to be perfectly preserved in its current for. We believe it as far as it is translated correctly, but acknowledge that, for whatever reason, some errors have come into it through the hundreds of years of its existence. This is blasphemy to the rest of Christianity as they state that nothing in the Bible is wrong, that it has been perfectly preserved, and to say anything to contrary is to deny God’s power. I am not going to get into a debate on this subject right now. The point is that we don’t hold this view. This in no way diminishes our love, appreciation, and use of the Bible. As I frequently point out we spend two years studying the Bible, compared to one studying the D&C or the Book of Mormon. The Bible is quoted more than any other standard work, and Joseph Smith himself believed it to be of such importance that he listed it as the first of all the scriptures.

Of course the second complaint many people raise is in the fact that we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. This is another blasphemy, as they will tell you that nothing outside the Bible can be the word of God. They also make the complaint that Joseph Smith did not add to this book the qualification of translated correctly. Of course the reason for this is simple. The Bible has gone through many hands, most uninspired men who attempted to translate and transcribe it according to their own reasoning. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, was compiled by a prophet through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, drawing on the inspired writings of other prophets. It was then translated by a prophet through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. There has not been any opportunity for the uninspired to make changes that would result in errors.

Articles of Faith: Seven

3 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 and 6. Today I will discuss briefly the seventh of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

First to note is the ‘and so forth.’ Joseph Smith is not attempting to list all the gifts of the spirit here, and in truth he does not list even all the gifts that are listed in the other scriptures. There are two other places that a list is given, both having a longer list than what Joseph Smith gives here.

Paul gives a list of the Gifts of the Spirit

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12: 7-11)

This is what is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants.

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;And to others it is given to have faith to heal.And again, to some is given the working of miracles;And to others it is given to prophesy;And to others the discerning of spirits.And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (D&C 46: 11-26)

Even these lists are hardly exhaustive, but they give us a clearer idea of what is included. Let us again consider the order. This is the only one that I can honestly say that I don’t think the order has any real importance. No gift is greater than any other, and not all have all gifts. We are counseled to seek out the best gifts, but what is best for me is not going to be what is best for others. As such, if we were to list the gifts in order of greatness the order of the gifts would be different for each person. So, let us now look at the actual gifts.

Each gift is unique, and I am not going to take the time to go over each one. The important thing to note is that all of the gifts listed in all these references refer to what would be called supernatural ability or divine power. A person may be born with a great ability to learn languages, but this does not mean they have the Gift of Tongues from the spirit. Another may be born with great skill in medicine, but that does not mean they have the Gift of Healing from the spirit. The Gifts of the Spirit refer to God granting us, through his spirit, power beyond what we would be capable of on our own. A skilled doctor that rejects the gospel cannot claim to have any gift from the Spirit, and yet still be able to heal people. Why? Because he has a natural talent within himself. A person who has no such talent and yet, through their faith in Christ is able to heal others can claim to have the Gift of Healing.

While I think it proper and good to thank God for our natural talents and credit his goodness that we have them, we should not confuse our talents with the Gifts of the Spirit.