The Changing Articles of Faith

By Sandra Tanner


    The "Articles of Faith" as published at the back of the LDS scripture, Pearl of Great Price, have undergone a number of changes through the years. In 1841 LDS apostle Orson Pratt published a pamphlet entitled An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions. This pamphlet was the forerunner to Joseph Smith's "Articles of Faith."

    Smith reworked Pratt's statement and published the revised text, with thirteen articles, in the LDS publication Times and Seasons.1 In 1850 LDS apostle Orson Hyde published another revised list of articles in the LDS newspaper Frontier Guardian.2 Hyde's account listed fourteen articles. This is the one that was reproduced in Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 2.

    However, the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price, printed in 1851, followed the 1842 Times and Seasons printing, with the addition of the word "American" to article ten.

    The 1902 edition of the Pearl of Great Price contained a new revision of the text, which is the account closest to the current edition. The major change was to article four: "ordinances" was changed to "first principles."

    Chart on various versions of the Articles of Faith

    For more information on the Articles of Faith see: BYU Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, Winter 1977, pp. 254-256

1Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, March 15, 1842, pp. 709-710
2Frontier Guardian, Vol. 2, No. 2, Feb. 20, 1850


1841—"An Interesting Account...Remarkable Visions" - Pratt

1842Times and Seasons - Smith (13 articles)

1850Frontier Guardian - Hyde (14 articles)

1851Pearl of Great Price (13 articles)

1902Pearl of Great Price (few changes, still 13 articles)


(Excerpt from Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, p. 27-28)

    The last part of modern editions of the Pearl of Great Price contains "The Articles of Faith." These thirteen articles were written by Joseph Smith in a letter he sent to John Wentworth. They were published in 1842 in the Mormon publication, Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 709-710. In Appendix 4 of this book the reader will find that there has been an important change made in one of Joseph Smith's Articles of Faith. In the fourth article Joseph Smith taught that there were only four things required for salvation—i.e., Faith in the Lord, Repentance, Baptism and Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not long after writing this article, however, Joseph Smith added a new doctrine which made it necessary for a person to go through a secret ceremony and be married in a Mormon temple to achieve the highest exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.

    While the Bible clearly proclaims that "whosoever believeth in him [Jesus] should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:15), Mormon leaders have taught since Joseph Smith's time that "eternal life" only comes through temple marriage. For example, President Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th prophet of the church, emphasized: "Only through celestial marriage can one find the strait way, the narrow path. Eternal life cannot be had in any other way. The Lord was very specific and very definite in the matter of marriage." (Deseret News, Church Section, Nov. 12, 1977) On another occasion, President Kimball bluntly stated that "the ordinance of sealing is an absolute, and that without it there can be no salvation in the eternal world, no eternal life." ("The Ordinances of the Gospel," as cited in Achieving a Celestial Marriage, page 204) Mormon theology teaches that those who have been married in the temple can become Gods, whereas those who refuse to go through the endowment ritual become servants for all eternity. These teachings are, of course, very objectionable to orthodox Christians.

    In any case, it was many years after Joseph Smith's death before Mormon officials seemed to become aware of the fact that his fourth Article of Faith did not really represent the position of the church with regard to the process of obtaining eternal life. Since they knew Temple ordinances were also required, the Mormon leaders changed Joseph Smith's fourth Article of Faith to read that Faith, Repentance, Baptism and Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost are only the "first principles and ordinances of the Gospel."

    The fourth Article of Faith originally read as follows:

    "We believe that these ordinance[s] 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." (Pearl of Great Price, 1851 edition, page 55)

    In modern editions of the Pearl of Great Price this Article of Faith has been changed to read as follows:

    "4 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." (Pearl of Great Price, 1989, page 60)

    Apostle Bruce R. McConkie boasted as follows concerning the Articles of Faith:

    "For brevity, clearness, and forthrightness of doctrinal presentation, they are unexcelled. When compared with the muddled creeds formulated by the supposedly greatest religious thinkers of Christendom—creeds born amid the strife, bitterness, and debates of councils that struggled at length over every word and comma—the Articles of Faith, coming forth as the spontaneous and inspired writing of one man, are a marked evidence of the spirit of revelation that rested upon the Prophet." (Mormon Doctrine, page 53)

    Actually, the truth of the matter is that the Articles of Faith are remarkable for what they fail to say concerning the teachings of the Mormon Church. Although Joseph Smith was practicing polygamy at the time he authored them, he made no reference to the doctrine of plural marriage. He made no mention of his teaching that there are many Gods, that God was once a man or that men can become Gods. The Articles of Faith are completely silent concerning the Doctrine and Covenants which contains many of Smith's revelations and distinctive doctrines. Even Apostle McConkie had to admit that these "articles, of course, do not attempt to summarize all of the basic doctrines of the gospel.... the Articles of Faith are silent on such things as celestial marriage, salvation for the dead, temple work in all its phases, the resurrection, and degrees of glory in the eternal worlds." (Ibid.) The Articles of Faith seem to be an attempt to hide almost all of the LDS teachings which separate the Mormon Church from historic Christianity.


Go to Online Resources

Home | FAQs | What's New | Topical Index | Testimony | Newsletters | Online Resources | Online Books | Booklist | Order/Contact | Email | Other Websites