The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the Mormon Church) is centered, as the name implies, on Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, the man who organized the “Mormon Church,” responded to a question from a newspaper editor about what the fundamental beliefs were of the new religion. Joseph’s response contained thirteen specific doctrines which came to be canonized as scripture and are now called the Thirteen Articles of Faith. These are listed below with brief explanations of each doctrine.
1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
Mormon doctrine does not adhere to the traditional Christian creeds. Thus, it does not believe in the traditional definition of the Trinity, that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all different manifestations of the same being. Mormon doctrine teaches that each is a separate, distinct being. God the Father, and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone while the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, enabling Him to speak directly to men’s hearts and souls. While they are different personages physically, they are all one in purpose and focus. Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) call these three beings the Godhead.
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of original sin the way many other Christians do. While we all suffer the effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve (physical and spiritual death), these effects are taken care of through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Because He overcame death, we will also all be resurrected. We will also all be brought before God for final judgment. There we will be held accountable for our own sins. If we have repented, accepting and living the commandments of Jesus Christ, then we will be reunited with God. If we have not, we will not be able to live in God’s presence again.
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Mormon doctrine teaches that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took upon Himself the sins and sufferings of the world. When He was crucified and then resurrected, He won the keys of death and hell. His atonement has made it possible for us to repent, but we must take upon us His name and follow the path that He has shown in order to gain forgiveness. If we choose to follow His example and keep His commandments, receiving the necessary ordinances of the Gospel, then we can be saved.
4. 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.
True faith in Jesus Christ must be exercised to repentance. Baptism by immersion, at the age of 8 or older, is the first ordinance of the Gospel and is essential to our salvation. Confirmation by the laying on of hands is part of the ordinance of baptism and brings the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide and direct us in choosing good over evil.
5. We 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.
Authority is an essential element of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only those called by God are given this authority. Mormons believe that the priesthood authority was lost from the earth through wickedness after the original twelve apostles were killed. However, this power was restored to the earth, to Joseph Smith, by those who last held its power: John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John. Those who hold the priesthood also have the power and authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel.
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the same organization which Jesus Christ set up on the earth before His ascension into heaven. Since it is the same organization which has simply been restored to the earth, the offices described in the New Testament are also present in the “Mormon Church.”
7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
God continues to speak to His children today through a living prophet. Miracles have not ceased and the heavens are still open. These tokens of the Early Church are present in the restored Gospel today.
8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
It is a common misconception that Mormons do not believe in the Bible and that they have replaced it with their own scripture, the Book of Mormon. The truth is that Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) believe the Bible is the word of God, but that many plain and precious truths have been lost from it. Some were lost in translation and in the transmission of the text. Other truths were lost due to the evil designs of men. The Book of Mormon is a companion book of scripture to the Bible. It is a second testament that Jesus is the Christ.
9. We 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.
In addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saints believe that God continues to speak today; thus, there is scripture still being revealed through a living prophet.
10. We 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 reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
Since Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God, they also believe in its prophecies. Israel has literally been scattered and the prophecies say it will literally be gathered together again from the four corners of the earth. A New Jerusalem will be built on the American continent (this is modern revelation not contained in the Bible). Christ lives. He was raised from the dead, and He will return to the earth to reign. Finally, the earth will be cleansed of wickedness and will be renewed.
11. We 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.
The history of the “Mormon Church” is rife with persecution and suffering by the hands of people who claimed that freedom of religion was an essential part of their country’s birth. Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) recognize that individuals all have the right to practice what they believe. Along with this, they claim that right and privilege for themselves as well.
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
Mormons are a law-abiding people. No matter where they live, they are encouraged to abide by the laws of their land. The only exception to this is when local government goes against God’s law. God’s law is ultimately more important to keep. In cases when God’s law clashes with local law, God’s law should be obeyed. However, these instances are rare.
13. 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.
Mormons believe that we all have a responsibility to seek after good things and to live good lives. We should live charitably and virtuously, seeking after the best things this world has to offer and shunning the lewd and blasphemous.