Elder James E. Talmage, in his book The Articles of Faith, explained that most religious sects usually formulate creeds of prescribed practices and beliefs.
"The Latter-day Saints announce no such creed as a complete code of faith; for they accept the principle of continuous revelation as an essential feature of their belief," explained Elder Talmage. "Joseph Smith, the first divinely commissioned prophet and the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter-day, or current, dispensation, set forth as an epitome of the tenets of the Church the thirteen avowals known as the `Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.' "The Articles of Faith were written as part of a March 1, 1842, letter from the Prophet Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. (See article on this page.)
The Articles of Faith include fundamental and characteristic doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Elder Talmage pointed out, these articles are not to be regarded as a complete exposition of belief, for as stated in Article 9, "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."
Members of the Church, from the time they were made aware of the Articles of Faith, have accepted them. On Oct. 6, 1890, during a general conference of the Church, members by sustaining vote formally readopted the Articles of Faith as a guide in faith and conduct.
Elder Talmage wrote, "As these Articles of Faith present important doctrines of the Church in systematic order, they suggest themselves as a convenient outline for a study of the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
The standard works of the Church – the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price – constitute the written authority of the Church in doctrine. "We believe," wrote Elder Talmage, "that God is as willing today as He ever has been to reveal His mind and will to man, and that He does so through His appointed servants – prophets, seers, and revelators – invested through ordination with the authority of the Holy Priesthood."
Elder Talmage noted that while officers and members of the Church have and will write many books, the standard works contain the authorized doctrine. "Of the doctrines treated in the authorized standard works, the Articles of Faith may be regarded as a fair though but partial summary."
Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the gospel doctrine course of study.
Information compiled by Gerry Avant and Elayne Wells
Sources: The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage; History of the Church by Joseph Smith, volumes 1 and 4; Relief Society History; God, Family, Country, by President Ezra Taft Benson; Messages of the First Presidency, compiled by JamesR. Clark; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball.