I have tried before to document the fundamentals of what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For a long time I have wanted to do a multi-post series where I write about different aspects of my faith in a logical, systematical order, rather than just the willy-nilly way I usually do for these Mormon Monday posts. I would like to try again, and this time I would like to start with the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith was once asked to outline the basics of what Mormons believe and in response he wrote what have become the 13 Articles of Faith. Though the first three are important in their own way, and I may get back to them and discuss them at a later point, I would like to focus on the fourth Article of Faith today. It reads,
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.
These are the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel, these are the basic theological beliefs that build the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my own testimony in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
First: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is and must be the very first principle of the Gospel. Without faith there is no motivation to continue on and learn about or keep the other principles and ordinances. Faith underlies everything that we do in life. But our faith needs to be in Jesus Christ. We have faith that Jesus lives, that he is the promised Messiah, that he did offer himself as an infinite and eternal sacrifice which allows all of us to repent and be forgiven of our sins and once again be worthy of entering into the presence of God. Faith is believing, but believing is action. If one truly believes then one will be filled with the desire to act on that belief. Faith has to be the first step, otherwise there is no desire or commitment to complete the other necessary steps to enter the Kingdom of God.
Many people, though, when they hear believers talk about faith have an image in mind of blind faith, of mindless obedience simply because someone told them it was so. One of my favorite aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that blind faith has no place in it, our faith is tested and tried and proven. I will admit that I have never actually tried to join another church, but I would imagine that for the most part the process would be pretty simple, with nothing more needed than a simple, “I would like to join.” What I find remarkable about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that there is a strict procedure followed for every baptism, which includes an interview with a Bishop or an Elder to determine if that individual has the proper faith necessary to insure that they are properly prepared for baptism. We don’t want people joining left and right just to boost our membership statistics, we want to make sure that those who are joining understand exactly what is involved and what will be required of them as they make sacred covenants with God. And at the heart of that preparation is the faith that leads to the action of finding out for oneself if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true restored church, led by Jesus Christ, with the priesthood keys that make it possible for ordinances, such as baptism, to be sealed on earth as well as in heaven.
Every person is not only invited, but expected to make good on the promise in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon. A prophet of God, inspired by His holy spirit, wrote, ”
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. –Moroni 10:4
My faith is a sure foundation for me because I have tested it. My faith in the Book of Mormon, in the validity of the prophet Joseph Smith, in the divinity of Jesus Christ and his Atonement is not simply because my parents told my it was so, nor is it because Bishops and teachers have told me it was so, and it is not even because the scriptures have said it was so. My faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is because I have asked with a sincere heart, with real intent and I have felt, through the power of the Holy Ghost that these things are true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he suffered and died for my sins so that I can be forgiven, and that he rose from the grave, conquering death that I, too, may one day be resurrected and stand before him to be judged and rewarded according to the deeds that I have done in the flesh.
Faith is the first principle of the Gospel because it is the most important, but also because it is the very first step that any believer must take. Nothing can come before faith, except, perhaps the desire to believe. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught, “even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you” (Alma 32:27). If you want to believe, if you truly want to know for yourself if anything is true, if the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, like it claims, if Joseph Smith was a prophet and saw Jesus Christ and God, the Father, like he claimed, or if Jesus was the Son of God, the Holy One of Israel, the Atoner for the sins of mankind, like all of the prophets have claimed, then you only have to ask, believing that you will receive an answer and you will know, by the power of the Holy Ghost if these things are true. That promise has been tried and tested by millions and I add my testimony to theirs, that it works, that God lives and loves His children and will not leave them alone if they turn to Him. There is great power in faith and great faith can be yours if you seek for it and exercise even just the desire to believe.