Mormon Scripture – The Articles of Faith/Part 31

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2004
The 13th Article of Faith for the LDS church states in part, “We believe in being honest….” Marvin Cowan shows how church leaders, all the way back to Joseph Smith, have not lived up to this Article. Is the same true for today’s leadership?

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The Thirteenth LDS Article of Faith is the last of their statements of belief. It declares,

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 we hope to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Unlike some of the other Articles of Faith, there isn’t much that Christians would disagree with in this statement. But have LDS leaders always exemplified what this statement endorses?

It mentions honesty first. Joseph Smith’s First Vision story is the foundation upon which all of his other claims rest and upon which Mormonism itself is built. Yet, Smith told several conflicting stories about that vision. The official account now in LDS scripture was told by Smith 22 years after it supposedly happened and it is very different from his original story. (See our article in this series on Smith’s First Vision for some of the contradictions in his story.)

Mormonism’s founding prophet was also dishonest concerning his polygamous relationships. William Law was in the First Presidency with Joseph Smith in 1844 when he, along with others, accused Joseph Smith of adultery. On May 26, 1844 Smith declared, “I am innocent of all these charges… What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 411).

Yet, Smith also claimed that Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132 was revealed to him on July 12, 1843. Verse one says, “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph…let my handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those [women] that have been given unto my servant Jo­seph, and who are virtuous and pure…” (v. 52). Thus while Mormon scripture shows that Smith already had a plurality of wives in July 1843, he still denied it in May of 1844. Is that being honest?

But, dishonesty about polygamy didn’t end with Smith. On September 24, 1890 Mormon Prophet, Wilford Woodruff, issued his Manifesto in which he told the world that Mormons would obey the law of the land concerning marriage, which meant that they would have only one wife. He did that because the U. S. Government required Utah to be monogamous in order for it to become a state. But LDS Church leaders continued to perform secret plural marriages until at least 1906. And several Mormon Fundamentalist groups today practice polygamy throughout the west.

The Mormon Church itself still performs polygamous marriages in Mormon Temples whereby men are sealed to more than one wife for all eternity even though they won’t live together until after the resurrection. So, although Mormon leaders often say that Mormon polygamy ended in 1890, it is not entirely true. But, polygamy isn’t the only area where Mormonism hasn’t been fully honest about its beliefs and practices.

When churches publish doctrinal statements, they usually contain the basic core beliefs of that church. But that is not true of the LDS Articles of Faith that we have been discussing in this series of articles. Their first Article of Faith declares, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” But that doesn’t say what they believe about God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, nor do they explain it in any of their other Articles of Faith. LDS Apostle James Talmage even wrote an “inspired” book entitled The Articles of Faith in which he explained each one of the 13 Articles of Faith. But in his chapter on the first Article he spent more time ridiculing what others believe about God than he did in explaining what Mormons believe. So, people can read his chapter about God and still not know much about the Mormon view of God.

Ironically, Talmage revealed more about the LDS view of God while discussing the 13th Article of Faith than he did when he was discussing God in the first Article! He said, “We believe in a God who is himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement—a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share. In spite of the opposi­tion of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the Church proclaims the eternal truth; As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be” (p. 430; Italics are in text). Talmage actually clarified more about the LDS view of God while discussing honesty in the 13th Article than he was while discussing God in their first Article of Faith.

On Temple Square in Salt Lake City a man asked the tour guide, “Do Mormons believe that God was once a man and that men can become Gods?” The guide said, “No, that is anti-Mor­mon propaganda.” I asked the guide to repeat his answer because I wanted to be sure I had heard him correctly. He gave the same answer again. So, I asked if a copy of Talmage’s Articles of Faith was available.

A copy was brought to me and I opened it to page 430 and showed him the same passage that I quoted in my paragraph just above this one. He was embarrassed and said that he didn’t know that statement was there. I replied, “You may not have known that it was on page 430 of Talmage’s book, but you couldn’t be a guide on Temple Square and not know that doctrine.” He admitted that he did know it.

So, I asked why he denied something that he knew and believed when he was asked about it. He said, “The tourists wouldn’t understand it. You have to give them milk before you give them meat.” I then asked, “Does the God of all truth want you to tell a lie in order to get people to join the one true Church?” The tour guide, who was a nephew of two Mormon Apostles, was embarrassed again and promised to be more forthright in the future. Of course, not all Mormons are dishonest, but there has been enough dishonesty in Mormonism to raise questions about how some interpret their 13th Article of Faith.

For those who want to read more on this subject we suggest chapters two and 24 in The Articles of Faith by James Talmage. We will continue our discussion of the 13th Article of Faith next time.

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