This year Mormon teens are focusing on faith and what they believe. They are paying special attention to something called the Thirteenth Article of Faith. The Articles of Faith are thirteen statements of things Mormons believe. They were written by Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, in the 1800s for a newspaper that wanted to know what Mormon beliefs were.
The thirteenth is the longest but it gives a good summary of how Mormons try to live their lives. While no one is perfect Mormons try to keep their eyes on this goal. Here is the thirteenth Article of Faith:
“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.”
That’s a lot to remember in one article—and you might be interested to know that Mormon children and teenagers are asked to memorize all thirteen. Let’s take a look at what is covered by it.
We believe in being honest.
Honesty is an important part of Christian life. Most of us were taught as children that we should tell the truth. Many of us also heard the old folk tale of the boy who cried wolf. He was in charge of watching the sheep but because the job was dull, he sometimes livened things up by yelling that there were wolves when there were none. After a while, people stopped running to help when he called, since there never were any wolves and they knew he was lying. But one day there really were wolves. The boy shouted and shouted for help but no one came and many of the sheep died.
This boy’s dishonesty cost the village a great lost. If he’d had a reputation for truthfulness, the people would have believed his calls for help and come to his aid. You may not be in a position of responsibility for an entire village, but everyday your word is put to the test and there are consequences when you fail. Lies have a way of being found out and once people see you are not trustworthy you will have a hard time convincing them you’ve changed. You’ll find it hard to get them to trust you when you need them to do so. Trust is something that has to be earned by proving, over time, you are trustworthy.
Another aspect of being honest is mentioned in the next part of the thirteenth Article of Faith: “We believe in being honest, true….” What does it mean to be true? Being true means we are live what we know is right. We keep our promises. We live what we believe. People who watch our actions will know exactly what we believe and what kind of person we really are.
Suppose you tell everyone you go to church each Sunday. You belong to a church most people don’t know too much about. Because of this, your friends, teachers, and others watch you to find out what your church believes. Sometimes they might ask you questions, but mostly they just watch. If you cheat on exams, make fun of unpopular students, or are rude to adults, the people watching you will decide your church has low standards and will not think much of its power to change lives.
Perhaps you notice this and start telling people what your church believes. “My church teaches me to dress modestly.” However, at the next party, you show up in a skimpy outfit. Will your friends believe your words or your actions? They will believe your actions. It is easy to talk about beliefs; it is harder to live them. It’s what you live that tells people what you really believe. You might want to believe in modesty, but unless you are dressed modestly they won’t believe you really believe in it. Being true means to live the way you know you should. If you know you should live a certain way, live that way. Be true to yourself, your family, and God.
The next part of the statement is to be chaste. This means you show respect for yourself and your body. You dress modestly, knowing that the kind of attention you get for dressing immodestly is not the kind you want. You want to be noticed for who you are, not for what you look like. A person who respects herself (or himself) doesn’t try to get attention through revealing clothing. She works to become the best person she can be and takes pride in her skills, her intellect, and her character. That is how she wants to be noticed.
Chastity also refers to our intimate relationships with others. God gave us our bodies and planned for us to be attracted to people of the opposite gender. However, he placed rules on that attraction. Young people are advised to avoid serious romantic relationships until they are old enough to marry and then to avoid intimacy until marriage. While this may not always be fashionable, it is a safer way to live, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Be the sort of person who can present a special gift of intimacy to your spouse that you have never given anyone else. The law of chastity refers to both boys and girls, who are held to the same high standards.
In the next article, we’ll talk about the other parts of the thirteenth article of faith.