The Articles of Faith outline 13 basic points of belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, in answer to his request to know what members of the Church believed. The letter became known as The Wentworth Letter and was first published in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, in March 1842. On 10 October 1880, the Articles of Faith were formally accepted as scripture by the vote of the members of the Church and were included as part of the Pearl of Great Price.
The Articles of Faith
1We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
3We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4We 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.
5We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
6We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions,healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
9We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reignpersonally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
12We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, pp. 535–41
Brief Explanation and List of References for The Articles of Faith
Author: Whittaker, David J. (See this page in the original 1992 publication.)
In 1842, in response to a specific request from John Wentworth (editor of the Chicago Democrat ), Joseph Smith sent a succinct overview of his own religious experiences and the History of the Church over which he presided (see Wentworth Letter). At the end of the historical sketch, he appended a list summarizing the “faith of the Latter-day Saints.” Later titled “Articles of Faith,” these thirteen items were first published in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons in March 1842 and were later included in the 1851 British Mission pamphlet The Pearl of Great Price, compiled by Elder Franklin D. Richards. That pamphlet was revised in 1878 and again in 1880. In 1880, a general conference of the Church voted to add the Pearl of Great Price to the standard works of the Church, thus including the thirteen articles. The Articles of Faith do not constitute a summation of all LDS beliefs, and they are not a creed in the traditional Christian sense, but they do provide a useful authoritative summary of fundamental LDS scriptures and beliefs.
The articles begin with an affirmative declaration that the Godhead is composed of three personages: the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost (cf. Acts 7:55-56; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Ne. 31:21; JS-H 1:17).
The second item focuses attention on the beginning of mortal history and affirms that human beings have moral agency and therefore accountability for their own acts: “Men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (cf. Deut. 24:16; 2 Ne. 2:27).
The third article directs attention to the centrality of the Atonement of Christ and how mankind benefits in relationship to it: “Through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Mosiah 3:7-12; D&C 138:4).
The fourth article spells out the foundational principles and ordinances: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (cf. Acts 8:14-19; Heb. 6:1-2; 3 Ne. 11:32-37).
The next two articles address issues of authority and organization: A man must be called of God, confirmed by divine inspiration and by the laying on of hands by those in authority, in order to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; D&C 42:11); further, the Church is essentially “the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, Evangelists, and so forth” (cf. Eph. 4:11).
The seventh item affirms the LDS belief in the gifts of the spirit, specifically naming several: the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, and the interpretation of tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10; D&C 46:10-26).
The place of sacred scripture is addressed in the eighth article: Latter-day Saints “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly”; they also “believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” (cf. Ezek. 37:16; John 10:16; 2 Tim. 3:16).
The ninth article states that the restored gospel is not bound up in a closed set of books, but rather declares the principle of continuing revelation, and therefore an open canon. Latter-day Saints affirm belief in all past and present revelation, and they look forward to many future revelations (cf. Amos 3:7; D&C 76:7).
Article ten summarizes four great events of the last days: the literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the Ten Tribes; the building of Zion, the New Jerusalem, in the Western Hemisphere; Christ’s personal reign on earth; and the eventual renewal of the earth itself, when it will receive its paradisiacal glory, the state of purity it had before the Fall of Adam (see 3 Ne. 21–22).
The eleventh article declares the LDS belief in freedom of worship and of conscience for both themselves and all others. It states: “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” And the twelfth article states the political stance of the Latter-day Saints as law-abiding citizens (D&C 134; see Politics: Political Teachings; Tolerance).
The final declaration provides a broad perspective for life and an invitation to the LDS approach to life: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:7; Philip. 4:8).
Lyon, T. Edgar. “Origin and Purpose of the Articles of Faith.” Instructor 87 (Aug.-Oct. 1952):230-31, 264-65, 275, 298-99, 319.
McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. Salt Lake City, 1985.
Sondrup, Steven P. “On Confessing Faith: Thoughts on the Language of the Articles of Faith.” In Literature of Belief, ed. N. Lambert, pp. 197-215. Provo, Utah, 1981.
Talmage, James E. AF. Salt Lake City, 1899.
Welch, John W. “[Joseph Smith and Paul] Co-Authors of the Articles of Faith?” Instructor 114 (Nov. 1969):422-26.
Whittaker, David J. “The “Articles of Faith’ in Early Mormon Literature and Thought.” In New Views of Mormon History, A Collection of Essays in Honor of Leonard J. Arrington, ed. D. Bitton and M. Beecher, pp. 63-92. Salt Lake City, 1987.
DAVID J. WHITTAKER