The articles of faith are located in the Pearl of Great Price and were written in 1842 by the prophet Joseph Smith to serve as a written statement of the theology o the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These are in a sense a summary of our basic beliefs.
The Articles of Faith provide an excellent summary of the basic doctrines of the Church however they are not meant to be comprehensive. Speaking on this Bruce R. McConkie stated:
These articles, of course, do not attempt to summarize all of the basic doctrines of the gospel. For example, the Articles of Faith are silent on such things as celestial marriage, salvation for the dead, temple work in all its phases, the resurrection, and degrees of glory in the eternal worlds.
So it’s important to remember that while the Articles of Faith scratch the surface on the general beliefs of the Church, there are so many deep doctrines that we know to be true that really set the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints apart from other churches. I believe that this is the very reason that the prophet selected the very basic beliefs to be published. It’s like the concept of teaching college algebra to a six year old – a six year old could never grasp the understanding to learn college algebra without first learning the principals of basic math and slowly working his way up to the college algebra level.
Our spirits are no different. They cannot understand the deeper teachings of the gospel without first learning and accepting the very basic beliefs of the core of the church. Once those basic teachings are learned and accepted, then the spirit hungers to learn more. Scripture reading becomes exciting and turns into “studying and searching” rather than “reading”. A person is better able to feel the spirit in their lives and find solutions to personal dilemmas more quickly, when these teachings are understood and practiced. And best of all, a person has a greater understanding of his purpose in this life and the next.
Our understanding of the life that awaits us after this one and all that God has to offer in the next life for those who are righteous is what truly sets our religion apart from all other Christian religions. While most Christian religions preach of just a Heaven and Hell, we know that there is much more to it than that. Our focus is the world to come, and we know what awaits us there. We have strong doctrines and revelations that teach us about our destined and divine purpose. It is this knowledge that gets us through our trials and challenges on Earth and motivates us to be better people.
To start out 2010, I thought it would be a great idea to cover one of the 13 Articles of Faith each week until I have covered all 13. I am very excited to talk about these. So here we go!
Article of Faith #1
1. We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
As a child in primary we are encouraged to memorize all 13 articles of faith. This has always been the easiest one to memorize as it is the shortest. The first article of faith can be recited from memory by nearly all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
This is the most important belief of our church which is why it is listed as the first. We are proclaiming that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings. This is the divine Godhead working together in one purpose.
From latter-day revelation we learn that the Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without flesh and bone.
I turned to the Bible dictionary to get a better definition and understanding of who these individual beings truly are and what purposes they serve.
The supreme Governor of the universe and the Father of mankind. When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children.
Latter-day revelation confirms the biblical account of God as the literal father of the human family; as a being who is concerned for the welfare of mankind, and a Personage who hears and answers prayers.
Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through his Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to him that differentiates man from all other created things: man is literally God’s offspring, made in his image, whereas all other things are but the work of his hands (cf. Acts 17: 28-29).
The God of the scriptures is a holy being. Man is commanded to be holy because God is holy (Lev. 11: 44-45; Lev. 19: 2). God can be known only by revelation. He must be revealed, or remain forever unknown. God first revealed himself to Adam and has repeatedly made himself known by revelation to chosen patriarchs and prophets since that time. The present translation of John 1: 18 and 1 Jn. 4: 12 is misleading, for these say that no man has ever seen God. However, the scriptures state that there have been many who have seen him. The JST corrects these items to show that no sinful man has ever seen God, and also that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God. God the Father and his Son have been manifested by voice, sight, or otherwise at various times, as at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3: 16-17); the Transfiguration (Matt. 17: 1-8); to Stephen (Acts 7: 55-56); and to the Nephites (3 Ne. 11: 7). The Father and the Son personally visited Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, in the spring of 1820, near Manchester, New York, in the opening of the dispensation of the fulness of times (JS-H 1: 11-20).
The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. Many of the things that the scripture says were done "by God" were actually done by the LORD (Jesus). Thus the scripture says that “God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1: 1), but we know that it was actually the LORD (Jesus) who was the creator (John 1: 3, 10), or as Paul said, God created all things by Christ Jesus (Eph. 3: 9).
Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is Jehovah, and was foreordained to his great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was. He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of his blood and his death on the cross. He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.
He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth - the perfect example - and all religious things should be done in his name. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star. He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; his name is above every name, and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.
He will come again in power and glory to dwell on the earth, and will stand as Judge of all mankind at the last day.
The Holy Ghost is manifested in every dispensation of the gospel since the beginning, being first made known to Adam. The Holy Ghost is also a God and is variously called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit of God, etc.
The Holy Ghost is manifested to men on the earth both as the power of the Holy Ghost and as the gift of the Holy Ghost. The power can come upon one before baptism, and is the convincing witness that the gospel is true. It gives one a testimony of Jesus Christ and of his work and the work of his servants upon the earth. The gift can come only after proper and authorized baptism, and is conferred by the laying on of hands.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have, whenever one is worthy. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than that which is available before baptism. It acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Thus it is often spoken of as “fire” (Matt. 3: 11; 2 Ne. 31: 17; D&C 19: 31). The manifestation on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) was the gift of the Holy Ghost that came upon the Twelve, without which they were not ready for their ministries to the world.
The Holy Ghost was operative in earlier dispensations. Furthermore, it has reference only to the gift of the Holy Ghost not being present, since the power of the Holy Ghost was operative during the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus; otherwise no one would have received a testimony of the truths that these men taught (cf. Matt. 16: 16-17; 1 Cor. 12: 3). When a person speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost that same power carries a conviction of the truth into the heart of the hearer (2 Ne. 33: 1). The Holy Ghost knows all things and can lead one to know of future events (2 Pet. 1: 21).
I testify that the Godhead is real and if you pray for and truly try to feel its power in your life you will. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.