LDS Articles of Faith, Part I
The LDS Articles of Faith are doctrinal statements or a “creed” of Mormon beliefs. Most LDS don’t like the word “creed” because they believe the Lord told their founder, Joseph Smith, that the existing churches “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination in His sight.” Dictionaries define a “creed” as “a brief summary of Christian doctrine” which is what the LDS “Articles of Faith" are for Mormons. Everything written has a historical context including the 13 LDS “Articles of Faith.” So, LDS events at the time the “Articles of Faith” were written will be discussed along with each LDS statement of faith. Mormons often define words differently from Biblical Christianity because they claim to have a “living Prophet” and Apostles that give them God’s “current scripture.” They also believe the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price are scripture in addition to the Bible. Those authoritative LDS sources define the words they use. If LDS Prophets and Apostles and books of scripture taught the same thing as the Bible, they wouldn’t need them. But LDS need those sources because they do teach things that are not supported by the Bible. So, as we discuss the meaning of LDS doctrines in the “Articles of Faith,” we will refer to LDS Prophets, Apostles and scripture as well as the historical context in which they were written.
The first LDS Article of Faith says, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” So, many assume that LDS believe in one Triune God. The Book of Mormon even teaches one triune God in II Nephi 31:21, Alma 11:44, Mormon 7:7, and so does Doctrine and Covenants 20:28. But LDS do not believe in one triune God. They claim those verses mean that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in purpose even though no LDS scripture says that! Mormon founder, Joseph Smith said, “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372). In his book, Mormon Apostle James Talmage said of one triune God, “It would be difficult to conceive a greater number of inconsistencies and contradictions…” (Articles of Faith, p. 48). IF the first “Article of Faith” meant that LDS believe in one triune God it would contradict what Joseph Smith said he was told in his First Vision. He said he was told that all the churches were wrong and all of their creeds (doctrines) were an abomination! Joseph Smith said, “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.370). That is the belief of devout Mormons today.
The first time Joseph Smith publicized the story of his “First Vision” was to John Wentworth in a letter in 1842. John Wentworth was the editor of the Chicago Democrat newspaper and he asked Joseph Smith to write a brief history and doctrinal statement of the Mormon Church for Mr. Bastow who was writing a history of New Hampshire and wanted to include that information in it. So, Smith wrote the LDS Articles of Faith and the brief history of the LDS Church, which was primarily about his visions and experiences, and sent them to Wentworth. In that “Wentworth Letter” Joseph Smith said in 1820, when he was fourteen years old two heavenly personages appeared and told him, “All religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His church and kingdom.” Smith then said, “And I was expressly commanded ‘to go not after them,’ at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.” Why did Joseph Smith wait for 22 years to tell his “First Vision” story? He said it happened in 1820, but he publicized it for the first time in 1842! Isn’t that a bit strange for such an important event?
Times and Seasons was a Mormon newspaper published in Nauvoo, Illinois where the LDS Church headquarters were located in 1842. In the March 1, 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons Smith published the same “Articles of Faith” and brief LDS history that he sent to John Wentworth. In the next edition of Times and Seasons on March 15, 1842 Smith wrote “This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand responsible for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward.” And in that issue Smith began publishing a series of articles with a more detailed history of Mormonism. The official First Vision story and LDS “Articles of Faith” that are now in The Pearl of Great Price came from that information in the Times and Seasons in 1842. The Pearl of Great Price was first published in 1851. Since then the Articles of Faith and short history of the LDS Church have been published in every edition of The Pearl of Great Price with only a few changes.
In his letter to Wentworth Smith didn’t identify the two heavenly Visitors. But in the official First Vision story published in Times and Seasons in 1842, and then in The Pearl of Great Price in 1851, it says one heavenly Personage introduced the other one as His Son. Since then, LDS have taught that the two Personages were God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And that is the way it appears in The Pearl of Great Price today. In that official First Vision story, Smith asked the two heavenly Personages, “Which of all the sects (churches) was right--and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds (doctrines) were an abomination in His sight; that all of those professors were corrupt” (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Notice the word “all” in those three statements. All the churches were wrong, all their creeds were an abomination and all the professors (those who profess to believe in those churches and doctrines) were corrupt. It does not say “some;” it says “all.” That is the reason that the first “Article of Faith” can’t mean that LDS believe in the trinity like other churches. If they believed the same as other churches they would be accepting a doctrine that the Lord called an "abomination!" That LDS scripture is also the basis for the LDS doctrine of a universal apostasy that lasted 1700 to 1800 years when LDS claim there was no true church, gospel, or authority to act for God upon the earth. Smith said that universal apostasy came to an end on April 6, 1830, when the LDS Church was established as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).
We will continue discussing the first Article of Faith next month.