This is the first in a series of posts that will discuss Mormonism’s 13 Articles of Faith.
If you’ve never heard of the Articles of Faith, think of them as Mormonism’s code of conduct. Made up of 13 statements that outline basic LDS beliefs, the Articles of Faith are sort of a Cliff’s Notes summary of what it means to be Mormon.
The Articles of Faith were written by Joseph Smith, intended to help define Mormonism as it compares to other Christian religions. Here’s a bit about their history from LDS.org:
In 1842 a man named George Barstow was writing a history of the state of New Hampshire, and he wanted to include a chapter about the members of the Church living in New Hampshire. Mr. Barstow did not know much about the Church and wanted to find out what the Latter-day Saints believed. Since the headquarters of the Church were in Nauvoo, Illinois, Mr. Barstow contacted his friend John Wentworth, who was the editor of a newspaper in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Wentworth asked Joseph Smith about the beliefs and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet answered with a letter that has become known as the Wentworth Letter. In it he told Mr. Wentworth about the First Vision and how he received and translated the gold plates, and he also described the organization of the Church and the persecution and history of the Saints. In the last part of this important letter, the Prophet listed some of the basic beliefs of the Church. This list has become known as the Articles of Faith.
Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith to help people who are not members of the Church understand how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is different from other churches. The Articles of Faith do not contain all of the teachings and beliefs of the Church, but they do explain some of our most important beliefs.
So now that we’ve had a little history lesson on the Articles of Faith, let’s get into what they say.
The first Article of Faith should make it clear that Mormons are indeed Christian, and also bust any myths about us worshipping Joseph Smith, as it states:
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
Mormonism teaches that these three figures (God, Jesus, Holy Ghost) make up what we call the Godhead. Here’s a little more on Mormonism’s definition of the Godhead and how it perhaps may differ from other Christian beliefs:
We believe each member of the Godhead has an equally important but unique role–that God is our father and creator, his son Jesus Christ is our savior, and the Holy Ghost is the messenger who allows us to communicate with heaven through prayer, and gives us daily guidance through thoughts or feelings.
But while they are three separate beings, they are wholly united in purpose–like an orchestra gearing up to perform Beethoven’s 5th, or a team of football players trying to win the Super Bowl. The team goal is to win, but to do so you’ll need a quarterback and a receiver, a long snapper and a kicker, plus a bunch of beefy dudes willing to take the hard hits.
We believe that the Godhead exists in order to help us win at life. They are real beings with whom we can develop real, meaningful relationships, and like members of a team, they each have a unique specialty.
God: We can pray to him as our father in heaven. And that doesn’t just mean we can recite a memorized verse into the void, we can talk to him as though he was our actual father, in an open, sincere dialogue that goes two ways. We can ask for help, or simply reach out when we need a listening ear.
Jesus Christ: We can find comfort in his Atonement, knowing he has felt every one of our frustrations or heartaches. We can look to his life for the ultimate example of how we should treat each other.
Holy Ghost: We can have his calming presence to be with us in our every day lives–not only in the big moments, but in the small ones that matter just as much.
I’m sure a more scholarly writer could say more about the Godhead, but for me it comes down to the simple truth that there is a team of all-powerful beings who are on our side and want us to succeed. That, to me, is a life-changing concept.
So hopefully this gives a basic understanding of the Articles of Faith in general, as well as a bit about what Mormons believe about the Godhead. Comment with any questions, and tune in next month to learn about the 2nd Article of Faith!
(And if you need a recap, here’s an awesome infographic from Mormonism Visualized)