The boy was 12. Having just celebrated his birthday a week earlier, he was the newest deacon in the entire stake.
Imagine his surprise when, while attending stake conference with his family, he heard the stake president call his name. Then imagine his puzzlement as he, at the bidding of the stake president, began what must have seemed a terribly long walk up the aisle to the podium. Imagine still his fear when the stake president, with one arm around the young man's shoulder, told the congregation, "I've called this new deacon to come up here to demonstrate something to you. I have given him no warning. I want him to recite to you the Articles of Faith."With furrowed brow and a face growing pale with nervousness, the boy looked up at the stake president and, in a voice he could barely control, asked, "Here? Right now?"
"Yes," replied the stake president. "Here and now. You can do it. I know you can. I'll stand beside you."
The young man sighed, gazed over the vast congregation - and said nothing. He plunged his hands into his suit coat's pockets, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Finally, he began to speak:
"Before I graduated from Primary, I learned the Articles of Faith. I crammed them in my mind so I could say them to my Primary president, but I guess I didn't get them in far enough because on my way up here they fell out."
The congregation laughed, feeling some empathy for the boy's plight of a mental block under the pressure of being called to stand before them. The stake president asked if he needed a little prompting to get started. The deacon nodded his head, and then smiled when the stake president said only two words: "We believe."
The ice was broken. The young man found new courage, stood a little more straight, grasped each side of the podium, and began reciting the 13 Articles of Faith. His confidence grew each time he said, "We believe. . . ."
With a smile of triumph, the deacon returned to sit with his family after he had successfully recited each article.
The stake president said to the congregation, "I wonder what would happen if I called you adults to come up here and do what this new deacon just did. Would you need more prompting than he needed?" With a good-natured observation, he speculated, "My guess is that many of you would discover that the Articles of Faith have fallen out of your memory."
These 13 statements we call the Articles of Faith contain fundamental doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. At one time or another, most of us have been or will be asked, "What do you Mormons believe?"
When such a question is posed, we might hand our inquirer a card with the Articles of Faith printed on the back. But what do we do if the question is asked when we are not prepared or equipped to hand out such a card? What if we are asked while we are taking a break between laps in the pool or around the track? What if we are asked at a friend's backyard barbecue, or while walking literally "without purse or scrip" in our own neighborhood?
In the absence of printed materials to hand our inquirers, we might attempt to recite the Articles of Faith, perhaps groping for key words and phrases.
That it is important for us to learn the Articles of Faith is exhibited through the efforts of parents and Primary workers to help young children memorize these 13 statements. For many youngsters, the Articles of Faith are, in the beginning, only words, many of which they might not fully understand. But as the children grow - in the gospel as well as in years - meaning is added to those words.
How do we arrive at understanding the meaning behind the words? The answer may be found partly in the heading that has been attached to these statements: "The Articles of Faith." Isn't it faith that sets us on our course for learning the fundamentals of the gospel in the first place? Isn't it faith that makes us want to learn more about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ?
Our challenge is greater than just memorizing the Articles of Faith; we must learn the meaning behind the words so we, with confidence and conviction, are able to state: "We believe. . . ."