Sunday, April 28, 2013

Basic Beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In 1842, the Wentworth Letter was published in the Times and Seasons Newspaper. The letter was written by Joseph Smith in response to John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat, who desired to know about the newly-growing religion. Part of the letter included 13 statements describing the most basic beliefs of the church. These are now known as the Thirteen Articles of Faith. The articles and basic explanations are as follows:

1. We believe in God, the eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that God the Father is just that: the omnipotent being in charge of the creation and the father of our spirits--a loving parent who greatly cares about what's going on in our lives. Jesus Christ is the savior of the world, the messiah of prophecy, and he who created the earth under the direction of the Father. The Holy Spirit is just that: a personage of spirit whose purposes include (1) testifying of eternal truth to our spirits and (2) be the great comforter and guide spoken of in scripture.
We believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct beings who are one in purpose. This is evidenced by two biblical happenings. The first is the baptism of Jesus: the bible records that after he came out of the water, those present heard a separate voice from heaven confirming Christ's identity, and the Holy Spirit symbolically descended in the form of a dove. The second occurrence is found in the great Intercessory Prayer offered by Jesus in John 17. Throughout this chapter, the Savior is speaking to the Father. We do not believe that Jesus was talking to himself, but that he was conversing with another being. 
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
We understand that the transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden caused mortality and sin to come upon the entire human race. However, we also believe that as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." The great sacrifice of Jesus Christ (the Atonement) made it possible for the punishment of their transgression to not fall on our heads; Jesus, the only being capable of such an act of love, took on himself the responsibility for all the sins of the world (including Adam and Eve's), thus making it possible for us to be responsible only for what we do. Because of the Atonement, we are not to be held accountable for the sins of another. 
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind will be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
The Atonement begins with Christ's Intercessory Prayer and ends with his resurrection, three days after his crucifixion. We believe that this great sacrifice makes faith in Him, repentance, and baptism valid, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). If Jesus had not atoned for our sins, thus becoming our advocate with the Father, repentance and baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would avail us nothing. 
While we believe that the grace of God will ultimately bring us into His kingdom, we also believe that our best efforts to be obedient throughout our lives are key. We know that all of us can be saved if we are willing to do what the Savior has asked, that is: have faith in him and his word and be willing to show our faith by our works, among them being repentance and baptism. We believe that after you are baptized, the counsel in Matthew 24:13 still rings true: "But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved." In other words, after baptism we need to continue doing our best to do what's right in the eyes of the Lord until the end of our lives if we want His grace to be sufficient for us at the judgment. 
 4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
These four principles are what Christ and the prophets of old taught on a regular basis and examples of this are found all over both the Old and New Testaments. 
Faith is a principle of action; it is not enough to just say that you believe. If you believe in what Christ teaches, you will be willing to repent, or change ways of life that are not in line with His teachings. Repentance leads to baptism, which shows your desire to consistently do your best to be like Jesus and is a symbol of forgiveness for past sins. This symbol is renewed on Sundays when we take the sacrament (the bread and water). John 3:5 states that ". . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." While baptism is being born of water, receiving the Holy Ghost is being born of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is conferred (or given) to those who have been baptized. As they remain worthy, this spiritual messenger/comforter will remain with them throughout their lives. 
5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
As we know, some of Christ's disciples were fishermen by trade. Likewise, the other disciples and his followers were by no means theology experts. We do believe that religious/gospel knowledge is very important. I mean, there's no point being a part of a religion whose beliefs you don't know. But we do not believe that professional religious training is a pre-requisite to being called as a servant of the Lord. We also believe that only those who have been called of God have authority to give others permission to act in other specific roles within the church. 
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
We believe in organized religion because of the example that Christ set for us in the New Testament. During Christ's ministry, he organized his church. He called 12 men to be his disciples/apostles. He gave them the authority to act in his name. Luke 10 shows that Christ called an additional 70 to speak of him in other places. The four gospels record many other instances of callings to the Work by the Savior as well as his apostles. 
The LDS church today operates within those same parameters. We have a living prophet who speaks for the Lord to the general church membership. Under his direction are 12 apostles. There are multiple groups of "seventy" who are responsible for how the church is run throughout the entire world. 
7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 talks about some spiritual gifts that one can receive. We believe that these are real and that the manifestation of these gifts follow those who follow Christ. We also believe that there are more gifts than only these listed and that everyone receives different gifts according to their worthiness, need, and/or desire. The following are a few examples of how these gifts are manifested.
We believe the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof to be the ability to speak and translate other languages. After all, what's the point of trying to communicate with someone who doesn't understand you?
When it comes to prophecy, revelation, and visions, we believe that they are indeed real, but that there is an order to them. For example, only the prophet can receive revelation and prophecy on behalf of the entire church. Only a husband and wife can receive revelation and prophecy for their individual family unit. We may all receive our own personal revelation as we commune with the Lord.
We believe that the gift of healing can come in many forms: a nurse, a doctor, one skilled in the use of natural oils and herbs, faith on the healing power of the Lord, or a combination of many of these.
8. 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.
We use the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) in our study of the scriptures. As most people are aware, there are many bible translations available today. Because of this, there is great room for errors from the original translation. We believe that of all translations available, the KJV is the most correct.
Because the Book of Mormon went through only one translation from the original text into English, we do not use the phrase "as far as it is translated correctly." 
9. 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.
During Noah's time, the people heard revelation to guide them in their day. The same holds true for Isaiah, Moses, Samuel, and every other ancient prophet we know of. Therefore, we do not believe that a just God and a loving Father in Heaven would leave us without specific revelation/guidance in society today. Also, we do not believe that he would leave our children and grandchildren without specific guidance for their times, in addition to the universal truths that were taught anciently.
10. 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 believe that those of the lost 10 tribes of Israel will be taught the gospel and return to the fold of God. We also believe in the scriptures of Isaiah 2, Revelation 3 and Revelation 22 which talk about a New Jerusalem being built. We believe that the Second Coming and personal reign of Jesus on the earth will happen. We believe that after this great millennial reign, the earth will be cleansed once more. This cleansing will return the earth to the state it was in during the time of the Garden of Eden. This will be further explained in my next religiosity segment, called "The Plan of Salvation."
11. 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.
While this is fairly self-explanatory, many who have read this question the purpose of our missionary work: if we really believe that people can worship "how, where, or what they may", why do we go around trying to get people to come to our church?
Our missionary efforts are to preach the gospel of Christ as interpreted within the LDS faith. The missionaries allow each person they contact to decide for themselves if further investigation into the church is something they're interested in. We believe in letting everyone go to their own houses of worship/various religious meetings without adverse reactions/displays from others. We also believe in defending the rights of all religions...unless, of course, it is in opposition to the next Article of Faith.
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
One of our scriptures states, "Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 58:21-22). We believe in obeying the laws of the land insomuch as they coincide with the laws of God. However, if a law is passed that we believe opposes the laws of God, we won't get up in arms against those who agree with it. We believe in peaceful disagreement/opposition with respect and tolerance for others, but respect and tolerance do not mean that we will change our beliefs to fit changing cultural and societal trends.
13. 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.
The admonition of Paul is found in Philippians 4:8, which says "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are are good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
A popular phrase in the church is "Be in the world, but not of the world." This does not mean that we'll live in this world while secluding ourselves from anything not directly related to the church. It means that, for example, we can be fashionable while maintaining our standards of modesty; we can host great parties without the presence of alcohol and drugs; we can have energy in the morning without the aid of coffee; we don't have to use vulgar language to get our points across during an intense conversation. In addition, we believe that this phrase applies equally to our mental processes: thinking swear words and other inappropriate/negative things has the same effect on us as saying them. We do not believe that our inward thoughts are the loophole. 
While entire books have been written with the soul purpose of elaborating on these Thirteen Articles of Faith, I hope this gives a basic understanding of core church beliefs. As always, questions are welcome, so please ask if you would like.

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