13th Article of Faith is road map for building character

The Articles of Faith were penned by Joseph Smith 150 years ago, and printed in the Times and Seasons on March 1, 1842. During 1992, the Church News featured a monthly article on one of the Articles of Faith. This is the last article in the series.

Ican remember as a child feeling excited and proud to have memorized the 13th Article of Faith. It was the last and the longest! As I grew older I began to recognize this article for its importance as a road map for building character.Elder Bruce R. McConkie calls the 13th Article of Faith "an addendum to all the other." (A New Witness For the Articles of Faith, p. 699.) As we gain a testimony of all the truths taught in the previous 12 and are truly converted to them, it will follow that we will possess all the qualities and character traits given in this article. As our love for our Heavenly Father and the Savior grows, our desire to be like them and please them increases.

Elder McConkie states: "Unless revealed religion lives in the lives of men, it has no saving power. Conformity to the highest ethical standards is the natural outgrowth of believing the eternal truths that save." (A New Witness For the Articles of Faith, p. 701.)

"We believe in being" are important words that change our belief into action. It is the "practicing of what we've been preaching." We are able to gain additional insights into why the Prophet Joseph Smith selected each value and trait by studying their dictionary definitions. Initially, some words may seem similar, perhaps even repetitive, but as we study the expanded meaning, each word becomes even more uplifting and inspiring:

Honest – truthful, genuine, full of integrity, worthy, free from deceit or fraud.

True – faithful, loyal, reliable, upright.

Chaste – morally pure in thought and conduct.

Benevolent – an inclination or tendency to do kind or charitable acts.

Virtuous – (listed twice) exhibiting moral excellence or uprightness in conduct.

Doing "Good" – genuine, high quality, superior to the average.

Lovely – (We often think of the secondary meaning of a beautiful person in appearance, but the initial meaning is): full of love, inspiring love or affection, having pleasing qualities, enjoyable, delightful.

Good Report – the reputation of having desirable qualities superior to the average, of high or moral excellence.

Praiseworthy – highly commendable, worthy of honor and highest esteem. (The American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin.)

What are we seeking after? We live in a time when, without any effort on our part, we may be daily fed by all forms of evil. We must seek or actively search for all that is "virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy."

Are these the guidelines we follow as we turn on the television, pick up a magazine, listen to music, attend a movie, choose our friends and associates, educate ourselves, even choose our very thoughts?

Do we look the other way when a mistake is made at the checkout counter? Do we make a conscious effort to select the television shows we will watch before turning on the TV? Do we allow language and actions into our homes via the television and VCR that we would never allow a guest in our home to use?

Do we seek virtue more than to be entertained? Do we excuse a little evil because it is thrown in with a lot of good? Do we assume a movie is good because of the rating and advertising reviews without thoroughly seeking to find out about it?

A recently released film had been highly acclaimed as a wonderful family movie. On close examination, the movie contains 30 expletives in addition to profaning the Lord's name 19 times, along with nudity and drunkenness. The film was given a "PG" rating.

The excuse is often used, "What does it matter when we hear worse than that in the work place or the school yard?" Often we have little or no control over our surroundings, but when we do have choice, will the Lord hold us guiltless?

We know Satan's plan. Do we not recognize all his ploys and deceptions? We need, as never before, to constantly be evaluating all we see and do and are exposed to and fight against Satan with all our might.

As Nephi did, we must say, "O Lord . . . wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! . . . that I may be strict in the plain road! . . . Wilt thou make my path straight before me! (2 Nephi 4: 31-33.)

Hasn't the Lord shown us the plain road and made our path straight by way of the 13th Article of Faith? Elder McConkie stated, "It is the hope and prayer of this disciple that the doctrines announced and the truths taught in the Articles of Faith may live in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints and of all who will yet join with them in striving to gain that eternal life which is the greatest of all the gifts of God. There is no salvation in an unused truth: it is only when men conform to the truth and make it a part of their very being that they advance and progress and finally qualify to return to the Eternal Presence. (A New Witness For The Articles of Faith, p.702.)