Here is the first part of a series I will be posting about the 4th Article of Faith of the LDS Church.
The 4th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as written by Joseph Smith, reads:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:
First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
Third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
Fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I believe that these principles and ordinances can constitute the foundation of a person’s life and lead to success and happiness.
I will go over each of these in further detail. The first principle and the one I will discuss in this post is faith. Faith can be defined as ‘belief and trust in’. Who should we have faith in? The principle says we should have faith or belief and trust in Jesus Christ. In order to believe and have trust you need to have a certain amount of knowledge about Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ has been identified as the Son of God, or the Lamb of God, the Savior of the World, and the Redeemer in Christian scripture. In the Old Testament he is Jehovah and Lord.
The first Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states: “We believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost.”
This is the Godhead. There is the supreme being or Father God. He is called “the Eternal Father”. This means that he is and always will be the Father. He has an unchanging scepter of righteousness or imperial authority as the God of all mankind. This also brings to mind the fact that the family organization with the Father as the head is seen as an eternal organization. One thing I wonder though is why we do not say that we believe in the Eternal Mother because can there be a Father without a mother? But in the Judeo-Christian culture males are seen as the authority figures and are therefore seen as the ones we should worship. Females are the supporting companions or consorts of males, just as in some other patriarchal traditions. The word consort comes from Latin, meaning ‘partner’ or ‘sharer’. So maybe just as in Anglo-American tradition the woman takes on the man’s name and is known by his name. Perhaps God’s wife is known as Mrs. God. That’s just an idea based on the cultural tradition from which this religion has become associated.
Jesus Christ is said to be the Firstborn son of God the Father. As the Firstborn son he is the rightful heir in the patriarchal Judeo tradition, of all that the Father hath. The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek, meaning ‘the anointed’. As the Firstborn Son, Jesus Christ is the one who is anointed to be King just as his Father is King. But, since God is the Eternal Father, he is not going to die like in our mortal realm, so in that case God the Father and Jesus Christ will be co-kings, as we know it.
The word Jesus comes from the Greek, which comes from the Hebrew Yeshua, which is a derivative from the meaning ‘to deliver’ or ‘to rescue’. This is therefore the one who is anointed to be king, but is also sent among men to rescue them from death and hell. He is our Redeemer and also known as the Savior and the Lamb of God. The idea of the Lamb of God comes from the sacrificial tradition in which the Hebrews were commanded to offer up burnt sacrifices to God of their firstborn lambs without blemish out of their flocks. This was done to foreshadow the great sacrifice of God’s perfect and firstborn son who would suffer and die for all mankind in order to redeem them from their sins, since all mankind, through the Fall of Adam and each person’s own disobedience at times to the commandments or laws of God, are estranged from God because of their straying from God’s laws and therefore must be brought back into God’s presence. And, apparently, a sacrifice of a worthy, powerful being is needed to allow those who are willing to accept the sacrifice and do what they can to overcome their weaknesses and mistakes to come back into the presence of God the Eternal Father, who is the essence of goodness and truth in our world and our creator. There are traditions throughout the world that echo this idea, of providing an innocent sacrifice for the guilty, but I will not go into that now.
The third member of the Godhead is the Holy Ghost. This member of the Godhead is a bit more elusive to my understanding. But he is known as a being that exists without a body so that he is a spirit that can spread his influence in the heart of every man. He is described as a testifier and witness of God and Christ and a sanctifier and purifier. Where he fits in the family analogy is not quite clear. But in the LDS Church members who are baptized are then confirmed members of the Church and are asked to ‘receive the Holy Ghost’. The Holy Ghost becomes a comforter, and a companion to each person to help them to know truth and lead them from evil to good. The idea of a trinity and three is a common one. Perhaps the Holy Ghost acts as a support, additional witness, or like an assistant or a 2nd Counselor to God. Although why this position would not be taken by a Mother figure instead is unclear to me as well. It makes sense to me in the family analogy that the threesome would be Father, Mother, and Son. So why the Holy Ghost takes that position is a curious concept.
Now that we have discussed the Godhead and where Jesus Christ fits into this set of deity, we know who we are to have faith in, it is the Son, Jesus Christ. This appears to be because Jesus Christ is the one who is sent among men to serve as a representative of the Father and the one who is meant to serve as a guide and role-model in the flesh for mankind, as well as the one who was sacrificed for us so that we can return to God. Jesus Christ is the mediator for us between God and ourselves. We need to have a belief in Him and trust in him so that we can access the power of his Atonement, or the process by which he made it possible for each of us to once more become one with the Godhead. When a person worships and adores someone, as I know from experience, that person naturally wants to be with the one they worship and wants to emulate that person and become like them as much as possible. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Way or model held up for us as the one to emulate and try to become like so that we can become acceptable by the Father and be reunited with him and our eldest brother. We can then become joint-heirs with Christ and inheritors of all that our Father hath. We must become one with Christ in our family units to be once more joined with the Family of God. Although the mention of women is scant in this explanation, I believe, as I mentioned before, that the woman is the companion and equal partner of the man, and they are together to become one flesh in the ordinance of marriage and therefore become one. Therefore, they are one unit who are together inheritors. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (Corinthians 11:11).
So, we must have belief and trust in Christ as our Deliverer. Faith has also been described by Joseph Smith as a principle of action and power. When people in the New Testament asked for and received healing they were asked if they had faith to be healed. There certainly appears to be a power in faith, which is a positive force. Belief and trust promote action and working together. In order to act we have to have faith and trust that what we are doing is going to effect some good. Faith has been listed with Hope and Charity as well. Faith or belief and trust leads to a hope for a better state.
The opposites of these attributes can teach us more about them. The opposite of faith is doubt. Faith is belief that something can happen. It is “I think I can”. This positive affirmation is of course very helpful in and of itself. Doubt says, “ I don’t know” or “I don’t think I can”. Of course, doubt can lead to a lack of action. But in another light doubt can also lead to seeking for more truth. Doubt is used in science as a tool for realizing that we don’t have the answers and so must search for more information. Therefore, doubt cannot be said to always be bad. But in some ways doubt can be a negative state that leads to the opposite of action or the opposite of hope, which would be despair and discouragement.
And what should we put our faith in? Well, in order for it be effective we should put our faith in something that is reliable. You must put your faith in truth. For what good is believing that 2+2 = 7? We cannot change reality in such a way. But if you have faith in a true and reliable power, such as the goodness of the one who overcame death and hell and is there for us to redeem us from our fallen state, would that not be a good thing and a worthy target of our faith? This can give us hope. Hope is the opposite of despair and discouragement. When we have hope we can have the motivation to go forth and do good works, which is where charity comes in. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Love is basically serving others. The essence of true religion has been said to be that of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the afflicted. Therefore, these are the good works that we should be engaged in and the faith and hope that we have in Christ enables us to do these things for which God will judge us.
This is the first principle of the Gospel. It leads us on to action of which we will discuss in the next post on Repentance.