The Articles of Faith were written in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith in response to a request from John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat newspaper, who wanted information concerning the history and beliefs of the Church. Joseph responded by writing what came to be known as “the Wentworth Letter.” In addition to the Articles of Faith, other topics Joseph addressed in this letter include many of the early events in the Restoration, including the First Vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The Articles of Faith were first published by the Church in 1843 in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo, Illinois (they were not published by Mr. Wentworth), and were included in the first publication of the Pearl of Great Price in 1851. In 1880 the Pearl of Great Price was canonized, making the Articles of Faith part of the scriptures and official doctrine of the Church.
Articles of Faith 1:1-4 The Plan of Salvation
The first four Articles of Faith contain basic, foundational truths about the Godhead and Their plan of salvation for all mankind.
Articles of Faith 1:1
The doctrine of the Godhead is crucial as relating to all else in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must understand and believe the true nature of the Godhead before we are ready to learn, accept, and live other truths. The nature and work of God are the first things taught by full-time missionaries, as outlined in Lesson One of Preach My Gospel, and our testimony of the Godhead is the subject of the first temple recommend interview question: “Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?” Joseph Smith taught, “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God” (History of the Church, 6:305; see also John 17:3; D&C 132:22-24).
Articles of Faith 1:2
How does it feel to be blamed or punished for something you didn’t do? Joseph’s statement in the second Article of Faith went against the teachings of many religions of his day. We are not punished for the transgression of Adam and Eve, but we have agency to make our own choices, and we will be held accountable for our own unrepented sins (see Alma 41:3-6).
Articles of Faith 1:3
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, that we may gain eternal life (see Isaiah 53:1-12; 2 Nephi 9:6-12, 19-23; Alma 34:8-9; 3 Nephi 27:13-16, 19-20; D&C 76:40-42). The second temple recommend interview question asks, “Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of His role as your Savior and Redeemer?” What do you do to help yourself remember Jesus Christ every day?
Articles of Faith 1:4
All are invited to come unto Christ by obeying the laws and ordinances of His gospel, thus becoming saved by His mercy and grace. Most fundamental is the eternal truth that it all begins with faith in Him (see 2 Nephi 25:23; D&C 20:25-31; Moses 6:52). How do you show your faith—and grow your faith—every day?
Articles of Faith 1:5-10 The Restoration of the Gospel
The next six Articles of Faith are about the latter-day restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors. God’s church is organized with priesthood, gifts of the Spirit, sacred scripture, and continuing revelation from Him. It has been established to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Articles of Faith 1:5
The Bible and other scriptures show that God’s authorized servants were called and ordained by proper priesthood authority (see Numbers 27:15-23; Mark 3:14; John 15:16; Hebrews 5:4; see also 3 Nephi 11:18-22; Moroni 3:1-4; D&C 11:15; 110:11-16). In the April 1994 general conference, speaking of priesthood holders and their callings, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “The procedure is peculiar to the Lord’s church. There is no seeking for office, no jockeying for position, no campaigning to promote one’s virtues…. The Lord’s way is quiet, it is a way of peace, it is without fanfare or monetary costs. It is without egotism or vanity or ambition. Under the Lord’s plan, those who have responsibility to select officers are governed by one overriding question: ‘Whom would the Lord have?’ There is quiet and thoughtful deliberation. And there is much of prayer to receive the confirmation of the Holy Spirit.” Think of ways in which you have been blessed by holders of the priesthood.
Articles of Faith 1:6
In this Article of Faith, “primitive” means “first,” referring to the church organized by Jesus Christ during His mortal ministry. Also, “pastors” is likely similar to today’s calling of a bishop; while “evangelist” may refer to a missionary, but has also been interpreted to mean the same as today’s patriarchs (see Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:11-14).
Articles of Faith 1:7
Gifts of the Spirit are one of the evidences of the truth of God’s church on earth (see 3 Nephi 27:10). A full list of spiritual gifts could potentially be endless (see Mark 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Alma 9:21; Moroni 10:7-18; D&C 46:10-26). What manifestations of spiritual gifts have you seen or felt?
Articles of Faith 1:8
What are your favorite stories or verses in the Bible? In the Book of Mormon? This Article of Faith confirms our belief in the Bible as God’s holy word, and in the Book of Mormon as an even superior and more complete and correct sacred volume of scripture and witness of Jesus Christ (see 1 Nephi 13:23-29; D&C 17:6; 20:6-16). Why do you think we need both the Bible and the Book of Mormon?
Articles of Faith 1:9
What are some of the “great and important” things that have been revealed to the Church in this dispensation? Continuing revelation is one of the most prominent and important beliefs in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Joseph knew firsthand the reality of God and His communication with mortals (see Amos 3:7; James 1:5-6; 1 Nephi 10:17-19; D&C 76:5-10; 121:26-27, 33). Think of a time when you knew God had spoken to you.
Articles of Faith 1:10
Some significant elements of the “literal” gathering of Israel are yet in our future—including the restoration of the Ten Tribes (at least part of whom had been carried away into captivity by Assyria in the eighth century b.c.) and the building of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. Also, we anticipate the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the transformation of the earth into a Millennial garden of peace (see Isaiah 11:5-9; 49:22; Nahum 1:5; Revelation 11:15; 1 Nephi 15:12-20; 19:15-17; 2 Nephi 29:14; Ether 13:1-10; D&C 29:7-11; 43:28-30; 45:65-71; 110:11; 133:25-35; Moses 7:62). We are participating in the gathering of Israel. President Russell M. Nelson declared, “Any time we do anything that helps anyone … make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel” (Ensign, November 2020, pp. 92-93).
Articles of Faith 1:11-13 Freedoms and Personal Conduct
The Prophet Joseph Smith concluded the Articles of Faith with statements reflecting significant issues that affected him, the Church, and the Saints during his lifetime, including the freedom of worship, the sustaining of civil law and leaders, and the importance of personal purity.
Articles of Faith 1:11
The Lord inspired worthy men to create the U.S. Constitution, wherein the freedom of worship became a hallmark right (being the first part of the First Amendment; thus the first of the “bill of rights,” as ratified in 1791). It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.…” (see also Alma 21:22; 23:1-4; D&C 134:4, 7; D&C 98:5, 10; 101:78, 80). In the April 2021 general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks spoke about the U.S. Constitution and its adaptation in many countries throughout the world. He taught, “The addition of the religious freedom and antiestablishment guarantees in the First Amendment was vital.” Another valuable teaching in this Article of Faith is that we are to be tolerant and respectful of others and their beliefs (see Matthew 5:9; Mosiah 4:13; 3 Nephi 11:29; D&C 42:27).
Articles of Faith 1:12
Surely not all civil laws and not all public servants are fully deserving of our unquestioned support, nonetheless this inspired statement of Joseph Smith continues to be endorsed by modern prophets as our approach to government and its officers (see also D&C 134:1-7). In the April 1992 general conference, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Twelve counseled: “We should seek to support those we believe will act with integrity and carry out our ideas of good government…. Every member should take an active part in the political process. We should study the issues and the candidates to be sure our votes are based on knowledge rather than hearsay. We need to pray for our public officials and ask the Lord to help them” (see also 1 Timothy 3:1-2; D&C 59:21-22).
Articles of Faith 1:13
This Article of Faith could be considered a personal code of conduct. Joseph Smith partially quoted the Apostle Paul (see Philippians 4:8). An attitude well-exemplified by Joseph himself is that “we hope all things … and hope to be able to endure all things.” Additionally, we are entreated to seek after and to fill our lives with things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy.” How has being honest been a protection for you? How do you keep up your hope? What do you think are good ways to fill our lives with loveliness and things worthy of praise? (See also 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Mosiah 2:17; 4:15-16; Moroni 7:13, 40-44; D&C 46:33; 88:123, 125.)
After your study of the Articles of Faith, perhaps you could write a brief personal statement of your beliefs.
Official Declarations 1 and 2 A Question to Ponder
Do you believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been led by the Lord through living prophets—albeit imperfect men—from the days of Joseph Smith through our current day? You may not be searching for justifications or explanations regarding any of the Church’s past or present teachings or practices; the following is simply intended to help you study or teach the Official Declarations in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Official Declaration—1 Plural Marriage
- Read all of Official Declaration—1, including the introductory paragraph and the “Excerpts from Three Addresses…”).
- Look for and mark words and phrases that show the strenuous efforts of President Wilford Woodruff as he sought revelation from God.
- Look also for words and phrases that evidence the Lord’s response to President Woodruff.
- Following are excerpts from the gospel topics essay, “Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (at churchofjesuschrist.org):
“… By revelation, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to institute the practice of plural marriage among Church members in the early 1840s. For more than half a century, plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints under the direction of the Church President.
“Latter-day Saints do not understand all of God’s purposes in instituting, through His prophets, the practice of plural marriage. The Book of Mormon identifies one reason for God to command it: to increase the number of children born in the gospel covenant in order to ‘raise up seed unto [the Lord].’…
“Latter-day Saints understood that they were living in the latter days, in what the revelations called the ‘dispensation of the fulness of times.’ Ancient principles—such as prophets, priesthood, and temples—would be restored to the earth. Plural marriage, practiced by ancient patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, was one of those ancient principles….
“In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith married additional wives and authorized other Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage…. Between 1852 and 1890, Latter-day Saints openly practiced plural marriage…. Women and men who lived within plural marriage attested to challenges and difficulties but also to the love and joy they found within their families. They believed it was a commandment of God at that time and that obedience would bring great blessings to them and their posterity. Church leaders taught that participants in plural marriages should seek to develop a generous spirit of unselfishness and the pure love of Christ for everyone involved….
“During the years that plural marriage was publicly taught, not all Latter-day Saints were expected to live the principle, though all were expected to accept it as a revelation from God…. Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or a monogamous union, or whether to marry at all. Some men entered plural marriage because they were asked to do so by Church leaders, while others initiated the process themselves; all were required to obtain the approval of Church leaders before entering a plural marriage.
“Beginning in 1862, the U.S. government passed laws against the practice of plural marriage. After the U.S. Supreme Court found the anti-polygamy laws to be constitutional in 1879, federal officials began prosecuting polygamous husbands and wives during the 1880s. Believing these laws to be unjust, Latter-day Saints engaged in civil disobedience by continuing to practice plural marriage and by attempting to avoid arrest by moving to the homes of friends or family or by hiding under assumed names. When convicted, they paid fines and submitted to jail time.
“One of the anti-polygamy laws permitted the U.S. government to seize Church property. Federal officers soon threatened to take Latter-day Saint temples. The work of salvation for both the living and the dead was now in jeopardy. In September 1890, Church President Wilford Woodruff felt inspired to issue the Manifesto. ‘Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages,’ President Woodruff explained, ‘I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.’…
“Like the beginning of plural marriage in the Church, the end of the practice was gradual and incremental, a process filled with difficulties and uncertainties…. A small number of plural marriages continued to be performed in Mexico and Canada, under the sanction of some Church leaders…. On an exceptional basis, a smaller number of plural marriages were performed within the United States between the years 1890 and 1904…. At the April 1904 general conference, Church President Joseph F. Smith issued a forceful statement, known as the Second Manifesto, making new plural marriages punishable by excommunication. Since President Smith’s day, Church Presidents have repeatedly emphasized that the Church and its members are no longer authorized to enter into plural marriage….
“Plural marriage was among the most challenging aspects of the Restoration. For many who practiced it, plural marriage was a trial of faith. It violated both cultural and legal norms, leading to persecution and revilement. Despite these hardships, plural marriage benefited the Church in innumerable ways. Through the lineage of these 19th-century Saints have come many Latter-day Saints who have been faithful to their gospel covenants as righteous mothers and fathers; loyal disciples of Jesus Christ; devoted Church members, leaders, and missionaries; and good citizens and prominent public officials. Modern Latter-day Saints honor and respect these faithful pioneers who gave so much for their faith, families, and community.”
Official Declaration—2 Race and the Priesthood
- Read all of Official Declaration—2, including the introductory paragraph and the June 8, 1978 letter from the First Presidency.
- Look for and mark words and phrases that show the efforts of President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors as they labored to receive revelation from God.
- Look also for words and phrases that manifest the Lord’s responses to the First Presidency.
- Following are excerpts from the gospel topics essay, “Race and the Priesthood” (at churchofjesuschrist.org):
“… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [is] a thoroughly integrated faith. Despite this modern reality, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances….
“During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood…. In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost…. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege. In 1790, the U.S. Congress limited citizenship to ‘free white person[s].’ Over the next half century, issues of race divided the country [and] many states implemented laws banning interracial marriage. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that blacks possessed ‘no rights which the white man was bound to respect.’ [In 1896,] the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ‘separate but equal’ facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional, a decision that legalized a host of public color barriers until the Court reversed itself in 1954….
“By the late 1940s and 1950s, racial integration was becoming more common in American life…. Nevertheless, given the long history of withholding the priesthood from men of black African descent, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy, and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done. After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban.
“As the Church grew worldwide, its overarching mission to ‘go ye therefore, and teach all nations’ seemed increasingly incompatible with the priesthood and temple restrictions…. Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings. In June 1978, after ‘spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,’ Church President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation…. The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women….
“Those who were present at the time described it in reverent terms. Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, remembered it this way: ‘There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. … Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. … Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.’…
“The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world. Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new ‘light and knowledge’ that had erased previously ‘limited understanding.’ [Elder McConkie described the revelatory experience as coming ‘in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced.’]
“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
“Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.”