In 1842, John Wentworth, the editor of the Chicago Democrat, wrote to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, about what Mormons believe. Joseph responded with a list of 13 main points about LDS doctrine, in what is now called the Wentworth Letter.
In 1880, the Articles of Faith were officially recognized as scripture, as part of what we call the Standard Works. These articles represent many of the doctrines that make the LDS church unique among Christian denominations.
The Articles of Faith are among the first things taught to children growing up in the church, and kids are also encouraged to memorize them. Memorizing the thirteenth, the longest one, becomes a sort of crowning achievement.
Today I wanted to highlight the thirteenth and final Article of Faith:
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.
The rest of the Articles of Faith are largely about what we believe. What I really like about this one is that it explains what we are to actually do. I have always thought that if you really believe something, it should impact your actions. Anyone who says they are a Christian needs to act like one. Since I say I am a Mormon, this Article of Faith says what I should be doing.
The first part is pretty straightforward – if I really want to live my religion, I need to be a good person. I need to be honest and show integrity, be faithful to my husband (in a broad sense, not just a literal one), and be kind and generous to others. All pretty standard Christian virtues.
The reference to Paul is to 1 Corinthians 13:7, which reads: “[Charity] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
The “all things” part throws me off a bit, but my basic interpretation is that we need to live by faith and hope, which translate generally into optimism, and to endure whatever challenges come our way. Challenges can come in many forms, be it personal setbacks and tragedies, religious persecution, or tests that God gives us to prove that we are faithful.
I especially love the last part of this article. My church recognizes that we do not have a monopoly on truth; many other people and organizations are able to receive inspiration. We embrace truth wherever it is to be found. I have often been inspired and encouraged by stories and insights shared with me by members of other religions, including other Christian sects. When studying science and history, I have often found information that reinforces truths taught at church and in the scriptures.
I also use it as my standard when deciding what media I should watch, read, and listen to.
A while ago I was having a conversation with a friend about the book Wicked, which we had both read. I commented that it was very interesting. She countered with “There is nothing of good report or praiseworthy in that book,” pointing out that, while interesting, it is most decidedly not an uplifting book.
Since then, when evaluating media, including books, articles, and videos I use for self-education, I think to myself, “Is there anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy in this?” If the answer is “no,” I find something else to view even if it’s something I want to see.
For more information, check out:
Articles of Faith on Mormon.org