LDS Articles of Faith, Part XIV
Article IV – First Principles and Ordinances
The fourth LDS Article of Faith says, “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.” LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie was the son-in-law of Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth LDS prophet. He said that “Bible doctrine is Mormon doctrine and Mormon doctrine is Bible Doctrine; they are one and the same,” (What the Mormons Think of Christ, p. 2). But LDS have three other books of scripture in addition to the Bible and they have had seventeen “prophets” whose official word is also scripture. If LDS prophets and scriptures taught what the Bible teaches they wouldn’t need them. But they need them because many LDS doctrines are not in the Bible! So, in this Article of Faith, words like Gospel, Faith, and Jesus Christ need to be defined by LDS leaders so they can be understood by people who aren’t Mormons.
In 1998 the LDS Church began to study manuals containing the teachings of LDS prophets. The first manual was entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church—Brigham Young. He was the second LDS prophet and he died nearly 150 years ago, but his words are still considered to be inspired by God. In that manual, Chapter 2 is entitled: “The Gospel Defined.” In it Brigham said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses a system of laws and ordinances that lead to salvation. Our religion is nothing more nor less than the true order of heaven—The Gospel of the Son of God that has been revealed is a plan or system of laws and ordinances, by strict obedience to which the people who inhabit this earth are assured that they may return again into the presence of the Father and the Son…Our religion, in common with everything of which God is the Author is a system of law and order. He has instituted laws and ordinances for the government and benefit of the children of men, to see if they would obey them and prove themselves worthy of eternal life by the law of the celestial worlds.” By contrast, the Apostle Paul said in Gal. 2:21, “If righteousness came by the law, then Christ died in vain.” He also said in Rom. 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” And in Rom. 3:28 Paul said, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” These and other texts contradict what Brigham Young and other LDS teach about the gospel.
LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote Mormon Doctrine and was a respected LDS theologian. On p. 334 of that book he said, “The gospel itself consists in the power of the (LDS) priesthood and the possession of the gift of the Holy Ghost…And the revealed test whereby the true gospel may be identified is that revelations, visions, miracles, signs, apostles, prophets and all the gifts of the Spirit will always be found in connection with it (Mark 16:14-20)…The true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth in the last days through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith. It is found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” These LDS doctrines are from the highest LDS authorities. But the New Testament says nothing about priesthood in the church except in I Pet. 2:5 and 9 and Rev. 1:6 where the holy or royal priesthood refers to all believers including both males and females of all races. McConkie said, “The gospel consists in the power of the priesthood,” but that is not in the Bible! Paul warned in Gal. 1:7-9, “There are some that trouble you and would pervert (distort) the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed.” Paul was very specific: The “gospel” is what he preached to the Galatian believers and what they received and it was about Christ and the salvation He gave them (see Gal.1:3-5). When Paul preached the gospel to the Galatians he didn’t say anything about priesthood or the gifts that McConkie said were the test of the true gospel! Paul said in I Cor. 15:1-4 “Moreover, brethren I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received and wherein you stand; by which you are saved, if you keep in memory (remember) what I preached unto you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.” In this text Paul said he was preaching the gospel which was about Christ who died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day. Paul never mentioned priesthood nor did he say the gifts of the Spirit prove the gospel is true. Some non-LDS religions claim spiritual gifts prove their religion is true, so how does it prove Mormonism is true?
“Faith” is another term LDS leaders need to define. In his book, The Articles of Faith, LDS Apostle James Talmage wrote at least twelve pages about faith and the difference between it and belief. He said on p. 97 “One cannot have faith without belief; yet he may believe and still lack faith.” But the New Testament was originally written in Greek and the same Greek word is translated into English as belief or faith, depending on the context. So, his distinction doesn’t really exist! Talmage referred to James 2:14-20 to help prove the difference between belief and faith. Verse 19 says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder.” The Greek word for believe is the same in both parts of that verse and that same Greek word is translated as faith in James 2:14, 17, 18 and 20. Of course, there are different kinds of belief. One can believe many true things about Christ without believing He can or will save them. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” In that verse “receiving Him” and “believing on His name” refer to personally trusting Christ as Savior. That is very different from the belief that the demons had in James 2:19. They believed in one all-powerful God and were afraid of Him but they didn’t trust Him for salvation. Talmage said faith is essential for personal salvation, but he also said one must keep the laws and ordinances of the gospel to be saved. He rejected the idea of justification by faith when he said, “The sectarian dogma of justification by faith alone has exercised an influence for evil” (Articles of Faith p. 479). And on p. 107 he calls justification by faith “a pernicious doctrine.” Such teachings contradict Rom. 3:28 where Paul said, “We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Or, Rom. 5:1 “Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The LDS view of “Jesus Christ” was discussed in blogs 6 through 10 of this series. But we will discuss some other LDS teachings about Jesus Christ in our next blog.
Next time we will continue our discussion of the 4th Article of Faith.