Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Answering Critics

Article by: John A. Tvedtnes

Soon after my retirement from BYU and our move to Bella Vista, Arkansas, I was invited to respond to anti-Mormon criticisms encountered by Latter-day Saint teens in their dealings with their non-Mormon peers. As I contemplated the questions brought out by the group of roughly 40 young men and young women of the Bentonville Second Ward, I realized that the answers to those questions could often be found in the Articles of Faith.

We are all aware that the thirteen Articles of Faith respond to general questions such as “What do you believe?” but they also deal with specific issues often brought up in anti-Mormon literature. Here, we shall discuss some of these.

“The Mormons are not Christians.”
The fallacy of this assertion is demonstrated in the name of the Church, which is included in the heading “The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” [1] Several of the articles themselves affirm our belief in Christ. Article 1 declares, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

Believing in Christ is just a start. We also believe that he is our Savior. Article 3 states, “We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” These laws and ordinances are explained in Article 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.” [2]

We also believe in the return of the Savior in glory and “that Christ will reign personally upon the earth” (Article 10). Article 8 affirms our belief in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, both of which testify of Christ.

In July 1838, the prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” [3]

“Mormons do not believe in the Bible.”

Article 8 states that, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” [4] Moreover, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Article 9).

The verbiage in Article 4 is based on a Bible passage (Hebrews 6:1-2), and Article 13 derives from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians 4:8. Article 12 derives from another of Paul’s epistles, Titus 3:1.

“Mormons are intolerant of other religions.”
Article of Faith 11 responds, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” This is hardly the kind of thing that intolerant people would believe.

“Mormons believe that they should rightfully rule the world.”
As suggested in Article 10 (“Christ will reign personally upon the earth”), we actually believe that Jesus Christ is the rightful ruler of the world and that, during the millennial era, he will be acknowledged as such by people throughout the earth. Meanwhile, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

“Mormon culture is characterized by a history of crime and violence against others.”
Although a few Latter-day Saints have committed reprehensible acts, this is not characteristic of the Church or its members. Article 13 says that, “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.”

At the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting held 10 February 2007, President Thomas S. Monson told the story of his then nonmember friend Sharman Hummel, who sat on a bus beside a Latter-day Saint Primary girl who was going to visit her aunt in Reno, Nevada. He asked her if she were a Mormon and she replied in the affirmative.

When he asked what Mormons believed, “that little girl recited the first article of faith; then she talked about it. Continuing, she gave him the second article of faith and talked about it. Then she gave him the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and all of the Articles of Faith and talked about all of them. She knew them consecutively.”

Hummel was so impressed that, when he got to San Francisco, he looked up the Church and ultimately became a member.

Not Just for Children
Some Latter-day Saints seem to think that the Articles of Faith are only for children to memorize and recite to the bishop or in sacrament meeting when graduating from Primary. We seem to forget that they were written in 1842 by Joseph Smith, a prophet of God, and that they are, indeed, the fundamental beliefs of the restored Church.

I recommend that we give Articles of Faith cards to friends and acquaintances who have questions about our faith. They will learn more about us from these statements of belief than from all the harsh critical literature produced in great quantities by those who misrepresent, either deliberately or inadvertently, our beliefs.

You can order packets of Articles of Faith cards from the Church’s distribution services at English copies can be ordered by going to

[1] Some critics point out that this has not always been the name of the church. However, it was incorporated in 1830 as “The Church of Christ.” At a conference of elders held in Kirtland, Ohio, on 3 May 1834, “a motion was made by Sidney Rigdon, and seconded by Newel K. Whitney, that this Church be known hereafter by the name of ‘The Church of the Latter-day Saints.’ Remarks were made by the members, after which the motion passed by unanimous vote” (History of the Church 2:62). The change may have been proposed because several other churches employed the name “Church of Christ.” The Lord himself settled the issue in a revelation of 26 April 1838, in which he declared, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4).

[2] Baptism is performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 20:73).

[3] Joseph Smith, “Answers to Questions,” Elders’ Journal (Kirtland, Ohio) 1 (July 1838): 42-43.

[4] I have noted that, throughout the history of the Church, whenever General Authorities have named what we call the “Standard Works,” the Bible is almost always first in the list, with the Book of Mormon second. Modern revelations require us to study and teach from these two volumes of scripture (D&C 11:22; 42:12).

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