The Articles of Faith
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For 150 years, the Articles of Faith have been a microcosm of much that we, as Latter-day Saints, hold true and sacred.
The 13 tenets, published for the first time as part of the Wentworth Letter on March 1, 1842, in the Church-owned Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Ill., are a clear and concise statement of the fundamental doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."When the Prophet Joseph Smith outlined the Articles of Faith," said President Ezra Taft Benson, "he set forth in clear, unmistakable terms the foundations of our worship and of our relationships with one another." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 679.)
The Articles of Faith are beautiful in their simplicity and conciseness. Written in simple and direct language, the 13 Articles contain only 398 words - 277 of which are one-syllable words, 69 that are two-syllable words, and only 52 that are three or more syllable words. But, oh, the force and strength of those words as they are blended together in a powerful statement of belief that has remained virtually unchanged in an ever-changing world.
Ever since the Articles were written, they have helped Latter-day Saints understand, in a straightforward way, the basic tenets of the Church. But the Articles have also been the means for peoples of the world to receive an introduction to the fundamental beliefs of Latter-day Saints. As missionaries have gone forth throughout the world, their calling cards, in so many cases, have been the Articles of Faith.
For 15 decades the Articles have been the index to the beliefs of Latter-day Saints. Certainly, they have passed the test of time.
But the Articles are more than a statement of belief, they are also a foundation upon which to build faith and testimony, knowledge and understanding. They bring to light the doctrines set forth in the scriptures.
What better way to start our quest of gospel knowledge than the Articles of Faith? Memorizing the 13 tenets is a part of every child's path in Primary to increased understanding. What better way to learn in a succinct and precise manner about the Godhead, responsibility for sin, the first principles, authority, Church organization, spiritual gifts, the scriptures, revelation, Christ's reign on earth, freedom, obedience to law, and the search for truth and the good things of life than being acquainted with the Articles of Faith?
However, as valuable as they are, the Articles are not to be regarded as an exhaustive statement of belief. Principles and doctrines have been revealed that are not mentioned in the Articles of Faith. And as the 9th Article states, God will yet reveal "many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."
Years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball told how he memorized the Articles of Faith, something he did as a young boy on the family farm in Arizona:
"When I was nine years old, I milked nine cows each day at my home in Thatcher, Ariz. I thought, `What a waste of time, to sit on a three-legged stool. Maybe there is something else I could do while I am milking.' So I sang the songs of Zion until I knew all the well-known hymns that are generally sung. Then I said, `Well, I have got to have something more!' So I got a copy of the Articles of Faith and put it on the ground right beside me and I went through them, over and over again, a thousand times." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, page 131.)
Our challenge, however, is greater than just memorizing the Articles. We must learn - and obey - the principles that are taught in them.
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Articles of Faith, the Church News this year is publishing a series of monthly articles on the 13 tenets. The purpose of the series is to inspire and motivate Latter-day Saints to become better acquainted with the basic tenets of the Church and to show how those declarations of belief can enrich and better the lives of Church members.
Each of us can enjoy that enrichment in our lives if we will learn and comply with the principles that the Prophet Joseph Smith so eloquently set forth 150 years ago.
"These Articles of Faith," according to Elder B.H. Roberts' notes in History of the Church, "were not produced by the labored efforts and harmonized contentions of scholastics, but were struck off by one inspired mind at a single effort to make a declaration of that which is most assuredly believed by the Church, for one making earnest inquiry about the Church. The combined directness, perspicuity, simplicity and comprehensiveness of this statement of principles of our religion may be relied upon as strong evidence of a divine inspiration resting upon the Prophet Joseph Smith." (History of the Church 4:535.)