Question: Why are there different versions of the Articles of Faith?

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Question: Why are there different versions of the Articles of Faith?

There were many versions of "articles of faith" prepared by various early Latter-day Saints to support their missionary efforts

I came across this version of the last Article of Faith as cited in John W. Gunnison's The Mormons:

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, temperate, benevolent, virtuous, and upright, 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,' and hope to be able to 'endure all things.' Everything lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report, we seek after, looking forward 'to the recompense of reward.' But an idle or lazy person cannot be a Christian, neither have salvation. He is a drone, and destined to be stung to death and tumbled out of the hive."[1]

Can you identify the source of this unusual version of the 13th Article of Faith? How do you account for the changes?

The source of this version of the 13th Article of Faith - as noted on page 38 of Gunnison's book - is Elder Orson Hyde's newspaper called the Frontier Guardian.

There were many versions of "articles of faith" prepared by various early Latter-day Saints to support their missionary efforts. Most of them had essential items in common (belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; the necessity of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost; etc.), but there were various differences among them.

The following is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The Wentworth Letter was not the first attempt to summarize basic LDS beliefs. Earlier lists, some of which may have influenced the Wentworth listing, had appeared prior to 1842. As early as June 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were committing to paper the "Articles and Covenants" of the soon-to-be-organized Church. Later known as Doctrine and Covenants Section 20, this text enumerates a number of basic beliefs, including the existence of God; the creation and fall of man; the centrality of Jesus Christ; the fundamental ordinances of the gospel, including baptism; and the basic duties of members (20:17–36). This document, the first accepted by a Church conference vote, was not an exhaustive listing of all beliefs but rather a basic charter for the infant organization, rooted in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

In the first issue of the LDS Messenger and Advocate (Oct. 1834), published in Kirtland, Ohio, Oliver Cowdery enumerated eight "principles," all of which had their parallel in section 20.

Other early lists that summarized the leading principles of Latter-day Saint beliefs prior to the Wentworth Letter include one prepared by Joseph Young for publication by John Hayward in The Religious Creeds and Statistics of Every Christian Denomination in the United States (Boston, 1836, pp. 139–40). In five paragraphs, he outlined the doctrines of (1) the Godhead and Atonement of Jesus Christ; (2) the first principles and ordinances of the gospel performed by apostolic authority as in the ancient Church of Christ; (3) the gathering of lost Israel and the restoration of spiritual gifts to her; (4) the Second Coming of Christ; and (5) the resurrection and judgment of all mankind.

Another list of eighteen "principles and doctrines" was included by Parley P. Pratt in the introduction to his Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (New York, 1840, pp. iii–xiii). For example, "The first principle of Theology as held by this Church, is Faith in God the eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, who verily was crucified for the sins of the world…and in the Holy Ghost who bears record of them" (pp. iii–iv). Many phrases in Pratt's list are similar to those in the Wentworth Letter.

Orson Pratt offers an expansive and eloquent "sketch of the faith and doctrine" of the Church in his Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, 1840, pp. 24–31). The order in which it presents its themes in nineteen paragraphs (many of which begin, "We believe that…") is nearly identical to that of the thirteen points of the Wentworth Letter. Orson Pratt's explanations include biblical references and personal testimony of the truth and divine origins of these teachings.

Orson Hyde published in German a History of the Church that included a chapter of sixteen articles (actually essays) on such topics as the Godhead, the use of scripture, faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, Sacrament of bread and wine, confession of sins and Church discipline, children, revelations, lay priesthood, baptism for the dead, prayer, holidays, washing of the feet, and patriarchal blessings (A Cry from the Wilderness [Frankfurt, 1842]).

Even after the Wentworth Letter was published in March 1842, many other lists of LDS beliefs continued to appear for the next generation. In April 1849, James H. Flanigan included a list of fourteen statements in a pamphlet published in England, and this list was quoted and sometimes modified in various publications throughout the nineteenth century. For example, it was quoted in Charles MacKay's popular book The Mormons; or the Latter-day Saints (London, 1851, pp. 46–47). This list follows the Wentworth Letter almost verbatim, adding such points as "the Lord's supper" to Article 4; including "wisdom, charity, [and] brotherly love" among the gifts of the spirit in Article 7; and inserting a fourteenth article regarding the literal resurrection of the body. Other lists (usually composed by missionaries) were published in various parts of the world throughout this era.[2]

For further information related to this topic

  • Matthew B. Brown, "Accusations Against the Articles of Faith," FAIR Brochure, 2004. PDF link
  • John W. Welch and David J. Whittaker, "'We Believe....': Development of the Articles of Faith," Ensign (September 1979), 51–55. off-site
  • David J. Whittaker, "Articles of Faith," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:68–69.


Notes

  1. John W. Gunnison, The Mormons or Latter-day Saints in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1860), 40.
  2. David J. Whittaker, "Articles of Faith," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:68–69.