Section Six and Chapter 21: The Articles of Faith

Section Six and Chapter 21: The Articles of Faith

To complete the study of unique words in the Pearl of Great Price, I looked at the vocabulary in the Articles of Faith.
In 1842, the editor of the Chicago Democrat newspaper, John Wentworth, asked Joseph to prepare a history of the Church and of his religious experiences for publication in the paper. Joseph wrote a detailed letter, but as far as is known, it was never published in the Chicago Democrat. But the name “Wentworth Letter” is permanently attached to Joseph’s reply. At the end of the letter, Joseph listed thirteen brief statements describing some of the unique doctrines and teachings of the Church. Joseph titled his list “Faith of the Latter-day Saints,” which is known today as the Articles of Faith. “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” (eom.byu.edu/index.php/Articles_of_Faithbasic). The letter was dated March 1, 1842, and signed, “Respectfully, etc., Joseph Smith.”
Elder B. H. Roberts, commenting on The Wentworth Letter, said, “The letter is one of the choicest documents in our church literature. . . . It has few equals among historical documents, and certainly none that excel it in our church literature” (History of the Church, 4:535–541). The Wentworth Letter showcases Joseph’s powerful, poetic language and his expansive vision of the future. 
After a brief history of Joseph’s personal life and of the Church, the Wentworth Letter concludes, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2011), 435–47).
As with everything connected to Joseph Smith, the Articles of Faith have come under attack from anti-Mormons. One misleading charge purports that originally there were fourteen statements and that today’s rendition is “watered down and politically correct” (ldsfreedomforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=27232version). According to fairmormon.org: “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.” J. Cooper Johnson, writing for Fairmormon, refutes these claims, but for me, it really does not matter if there were fourteen. I would expect revisions. From my own writing experiences, I know that inspiration and revision are not mutually exclusive processes. But as John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence” (quotationspage.com/quote/3235.html). The facts are that Joseph wrote thirteen and five have been changed. You can judge for yourself how “watered down and politically correct” the changes are.
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. (As quoted at fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/ask-the-apologist-how-many-articles-of-faith-were-there).
Much ado about nothing.
I find it incredible that the Articles of Faith are so comprehensive that Elder James E. Talmage could write 458 pages and Bruce R. McConkie 719 pages, elaborating on thirteen brief statements that in total are only 398 words in length. I will leave the doctrine found in the Articles of Faith to those two Apostles and enjoy the simplicity of Joseph’s statements as they stand. 
Thirty-two of the words in the Articles of Faith are unique to the Pearl of Great Price, and six are unique in all scripture. (Unique words in all scripture are in SOLID CAPs; those in lowercase are unique to the Pearl of Great Price.)

            Admonition, AMERICAN, BENEVOLENT, chaste, correctly, dictates, endured, evangelists, good report, healing, honest, HONORING, interpretation, kings, lovely, magistrates, obeying, PARADISIACAL, pastors, Paul, personally, PRAISEWORTHY, preach, presidents, Primitive, punished, renewed, restoration, seek, SUSTAINING, Ten Tribes, virtuous.

(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017

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