This piece is the second in a series on the thirteen Articles of Faith. In the early days of The Church a newspaper editor named John Wentworth wrote to the Prophet Joseph Smith asking about Mormon beliefs. Joseph responded with a list of thirteen fundamental doctrines which we now call The Articles of Faith. This series will explore each Article of Faith as well as its significance and application in the lives of church members.
Article of Faith 2: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Personal Accountability vs Infant Baptism
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe in personal accountability, not original sin. Though Adam’s fall thrust us into this fallen world, Heavenly Father only holds us responsible for our own actions.
This idea seemed somewhat radical in Joseph Smith’s time. Then, like today, many churches believed that Adam’s fall made us all sinners from birth. Therefore, they baptized babies shortly after birth, to absolve them of Original Sin. However, we learn from the second Article of Faith as well as modern prophets that we are only responsible for our own choices.
In a 2013 general conference talk Elder D. Todd Christopherson tells us that the Atonement of Christ forgives Adam’s transgression. He explains,
“The Savior’s Redemption…atones for Adam’s transgression and the consequent Fall of man by overcoming what could be called the direct effects of the Fall—physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is well understood; spiritual death is the separation of man from God. In the words of Paul, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). This redemption from physical and spiritual death is both universal and without condition.3”
Because the Atonement overcomes the effects of Adam’s fall, children are born innocent. None of us always make perfect choices. But thanks to the atonement we can repent of our mistakes and become perfect in Christ. Thankfully, we aren’t responsible for anyone’s choices but our own.
Follow this link to read the first installment in our Articles of Faith series, and tell us your thoughts in the comments below.