Q. Many anti-Mormon authors have claimed that there were originally 14 Articles of Faith, but they were drastically changed and edited to become more watered down and politically correct. The result is our current 13 Articles of Faith. For example, the anti-Mormon author Richard Abanes wrote in his book: “Originally, there were fourteen articles, but these were significantly revised and edited unto the present format” (One Nation Under Gods, page 438). Is this true?
A. (by J. Cooper Johnson) A simple appeal to the documented history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals that this claim has no truth to it and is another example of critics of the Church of Jesus Christ playing fast and loose with the facts.
First of all, the author of the Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith, never wrote more than 13 Articles of Faith. Second, there has never been more than 13 Articles of Faith canonized in LDS scripture. Third, there have been no significant revisions since Joseph Smith first penned the 13 Articles of Faith. There have only been a few minor changes that are only used to clarify the original writing of Joseph Smith. Let’s see how “significantly revised and edited” our current Articles of Faith are. There are a total of five articles that have been changed since Joseph Smith’s original writing of them in 1842.
A Look At The Changes
In the fourth Article of Faith, “ordinances,” has been changed to “the first principles and ordinances.” Abbreviated numbering was also changed. Here is a comparison of Joseph’s first writing of the fourth Article of Faith and today’s version.
Original: We believe that these ordinances are 1st, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d, Repentance; 3d, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Now: 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.
In the sixth Article of Faith, the word “viz,” which is an abbreviation for “videlicet” (a middle-English word from Latin that means “that is to say,” or “namely,”) is changed to “namely.” Also, the term “etc.,” (an abbreviation for the Latin term et cetera, which means “and so forth”) was changed to “and so forth.”
Original: We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.
Now: We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
In the seventh Article of Faith, the term “etc.” was also replaced with “and so forth.”
In the tenth Article of Faith, two clarifying terms were added. “The New Jerusalem” was added to clarify the meaning of “Zion,” and instead of “this” continent, the term “the American” continent was used. Lastly, the word “paradasaic” was changed to “paradasaical.”
Original: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion will be built upon this continent. That Christ will reign personally upon the earth and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradasaic glory.
Now: 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.
In the eleventh Article of Faith, the word “own” was inserted.
Original: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Now: 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.
I will leave it to the reader to determine whether or not these represent “significant” modifications or if the original meaning is somehow changed. I find it interesting that these same critics can proclaim such judgment on the Latter-day Saints, because of such things, yet producing new versions of the Bible with modified terms and phrases every few years is not a problem for them. This is a classic of example of choking on a gnat while swallowing a camel, in my opinion.
14 Original Articles of Faith?
Let’s take a closer look as to the foundation of the critic’s claim that there were 14 original Articles of Faith. Before we do, however, let us keep in mind the purpose of the Articles of Faith or what some other religions may call a “Statement of Faith.” The purpose is not to develop a lengthy treatise to describe in great detail the doctrines and practices of a religious group or church. It is an abbreviated list of basic beliefs–nothing more and nothing less. With that in mind, let us move on.
Some anti-Mormon authors attempt to portray a document published by Orson Pratt as the first Articles of Faith. In an 1841 publication, Pratt gave “a sketch of the faith and doctrine of this church,” which spanned eight pages. It was titled Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, published by Ballantyne and Hughes in 1841. Eight pages is a little long to be considered the “Articles of Faith” or a “Statement of Faith,” don’t you think? Especially when one considers that these eight pages were never presented as the Church’s Articles of Faith. Further, Pratt’s “sketch” was made up of twenty paragraphs that covered a multitude of principles and doctrines. There was no attempt to number or categorize the beliefs. And an attempt to number them as 13 or 14 is futile; it was a simple pamphlet or tract.
Some anti-Mormon authors claim that this was the original “Articles of Faith.” There is absolutely no basis for such a conclusion. This publication:
- Was never presented as scripture
- Was never presented as the “Articles of Faith” by the Church or anyone else
- Never used the word “article”
- Never presented as “14” or any numbering at all
I challenge anyone to demonstrate how this could have been presented as 14 separate categories of thought.
I will readily declare that many of the beliefs addressed in the thirteen Articles of Faith penned by Joseph smith can certainly be found within Pratt’s larger treatment of the LDS doctrines, which is what one would expect from a brief statement of faith (i.e. one would expect to find a brief statement of beliefs contained within a larger, more comprehensive explanation of the beliefs). But to say that Pratt’s statements were the original Articles of Faith has absolutely no support.
Joseph Smith wrote the 13 Articles of Faith (the current Articles, absent the few minor changes detailed above) in 1842 in what is now known as the Wentworth letter, published in the Times and Seasons, (March 15, 1842, 709-710). This list of 13 Articles of Faith were then placed in the Pearl of Great Price in 1851. The Church never added an article; the Church never took away an article. The 1902 Pearl of Great Price contained the same 13 articles.
Lastly, it is true that a couple Latter-day Saints, years after Joseph Smith’s death and before the publication of the Pearl of Great Price, thought that another article could or should be added. James Flanigan (1849) and Orson Hyde (1850) wrote versions of the Articles of Faith that appeared to be in their own words. Hyde’s version could even have been a rendering of Flanigan’s writing, from 1849. There was an additional article added by both Flanigan and Hyde, but this additional article, nor their wording of their articles, was ever used in Church publications.
When the Pearl of Great Price was published in 1851, it was Joseph Smith’s original 13 Articles of Faith, that was included. In 1880, when the Pearl of Great Price was canonized, it was Joseph’s original 13 included.
It should be noted that the Articles of Faith, early on in the Church, was a simple list of the basic beliefs that Joseph Smith had included in the Wentworth letter. They were then published in the Times and Seasons, all in 1842. There certainly was no canonization at that point. But, as we now know, that letter, by Joseph, later went through a process, not unlike Paul’s epistles, to become canonized and considered scripture.
To say that the Articles of Faith originally numbered 14 or that they were significantly changed and watered down is simply unfounded and demonstrates one of two things. Either the authors of such conclusions are simply uninformed and unaware of what they are writing about or they have chosen to overlook documented history and shed LDS history in the worst light possible to coincide with his/her agenda. I will allow the reader to decide which is the case.
1841. Orson Pratt publishes an eight-page pamphlet or tract explaining the doctrines and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ. It did not number 14, nor were there only 14 beliefs discussed. It was a detailed description of LDS doctrines.
1842. Joseph Smith writes a letter to Wentworth, a Chicago reporter, which includes 13 Articles of Faith, intended to list a simple and summary description of the basic beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ.
1842. The same 13 Articles of Faith are published in the Times and Seasons.
1849. James Flanigan writes a modified version of the Articles of Faith, in his own words, including an extra article covering the resurrection.
1850. Orson Hyde writes a similar version of the Articles of Faith as Flanigan’s, with the extra article.
1851. The Pearl of Great Price is published and includes Joseph Smith’s original 13 Articles of Faith.
1880. The Pearl of Great Price is canonized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the original 13 Articles of Faith written by Joseph Smith.