Articles of Faith Part Four: First Principles and Ordinances


This piece is the fourth 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 call The Articles of Faith. During this series we will explore each Article of Faith as well as its significance and application in the lives of church members.

Article of Faith #4: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In our last piece in this series we learned that the key to salvation is through “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” But to which laws and ordinances was Joseph Smith referring? This next Article of Faith explains just that in four easy to understand steps.

1st Faith in Christ

In order to become truly converted to the Gospel of Christ we must have faith in Him. We must believe in His life, His ministry and His sacrifice for us. We must also believe in His power to heal us and to cleanse us from sin.

In Moroni 7:39 the prophet Mormon sheds light on why we think of Faith in Christ as the Resurrected Christ appears to a crowdfirst principle of the Gospel. He said, “…if ye have not faith in him then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of his church.”

Faith in Christ, therefore, qualifies us to take the next steps into our spiritual journey. Once we have faith in Christ, the next three principles and ordinances come naturally.

2nd Repentance

Once we believe in Christ’s teachings and his Atoning power, we naturally want to repent of anything that is not in line with his Gospel. Further, in a 2011 General Conference address Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke of the ability to repent as a sacred gift given through Christ’s sacrifice. He said,

Repentance exists as an option only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is His infinite sacrifice that “bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:15). Repentance is the necessary condition, and the grace of Christ is the power by which “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice” (Alma 34:16).

Therefore, we should consider repentance as a blessing, not a chore or a punishment. Repentance gives us the ability to readjust our lives in accordance with the teachings of Christ, and to come unto him more completely.

3rd Baptism by immersion

After faith and repentance, we must be baptized to cleanse us from sin. The ancient church followed the same pattern of heartfelt faith, repentance followed by baptism as taught by Peter in Acts 2:37-38:

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

4th The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Following baptism, we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. In Doctrine and Covenants 35:6 early church leaders received the commandment to follow baptism by laying on hands:

“But now I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.”

The Gift of the Holy Ghost usually is referred to as something we “receive” rather than something which is given. Therefore, we must allow the Holy Ghost into our lives in order to complete the conversion process.

The Take-Away

The principles and ordinances listed in the 4th Article of Faith mark our first steps to full conversion to Christ’s Gospel. They follow a pattern first established by Christ in his Ancient Church. Through these initial principles and ordinances, we can begin our journey to eternal salvation.

What does this Article of Faith mean to you? Tell us in the comments below and be sure to check out the other articles in this series.

Michelle is a writer for Mormon Hub with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. She loves reading Victorian lit, young adult novels, and just about anything she can get her hands on. She also enjoys watching character-driven cult television series and movies with her husband.