Some years ago a young Primary boy was on a train going to California in the days when we traveled on trains. He was all alone. He sat near the window watching the telephone poles go by. Across the aisle from him was a gentleman who also was going to California. The attention of the gentleman was called to this very young boy traveling all alone without friends or relatives. He was neatly dressed and well-behaved. And this gentleman was quite impressed with him.
Finally, after some time, the gentleman crossed the aisle and sat down by the young man and said to him, “Hello, young man, where are you going?”
He said, “I am going to Los Angeles.”
“Do you have relatives there?”
The boy said, “I have some relatives there. I am going to visit my grandparents. They will meet me at the station, and I will stay with them a few days during the school vacation.”
The next questions were “Where did you come from?” and “Where do you live?”
And the boy said, “Salt Lake City, Utah.”
“Oh, then,” said the gentleman, “you must be a Mormon.”
And the boy said, “Yes, I am.” There was pride in his voice.
The gentleman said, “Well, that’s interesting. I’ve wondered about the Mormons and what they believe. I’ve been through their beautiful city; I’ve noticed the beautiful buildings, the treelined streets, the lovely homes, the beautiful rose and flower gardens, but I’ve never stopped to find out what makes them as they are. I wish I knew what they believe.”
The businessman was a bit surprised but listened intently, and the boy continued,
“‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression’” (A of F 1:2).
And the traveling companion thought, “This is rather unusual for a mere boy to know these important things.”
The boy went on: “‘We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’” (A of F 1:3). And the gentleman was amazed at the knowledge and understanding of a mere boy—he was yet to be a Scout. But he continued and gave the fourth article of faith and said, “‘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.’”
“That is wonderful,” said the gentleman. “I am amazed that you know so well the doctrines of your church. I commend you.”
With a good start and with encouragement, Johnny continued. “‘We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof’” (A of F 1:5).
“That’s very solid doctrine, my boy,” the gentleman said. “I am curious now to know how they get called of God. I can understand how they would receive the call and be established with the laying on of hands, but I wonder who has the authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
They discussed the matter of calling and sustaining and laying on of hands. Then the lad said, “Would you like to know more?”
The gentleman thought that was very unusual for a boy in these tender years to know what the Church taught, and he said, “Yes, go on.”
So Johnny quoted, “‘We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth’” (A of F 1:6).
That brought some other discussion. “You mean that your church has Apostles such as James and John and Peter and Paul, and prophets such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Daniel, and also evangelists?”
And the boy responded quickly, “Yes, even evangelists. We call them patriarchs, and they are appointed in all parts of the Church where there are stakes. And by inspiration they give to all the members of the Church, as required, what is called a patriarchal blessing. I have already had my patriarchal blessing, and I read it frequently. Now we have 12 Apostles who have the same calling and the same authority as given to the Apostles in the days of old.”
The gentleman came back with these questions: “Do you speak in tongues? Do you believe in revelations and prophecies?”
And the boy brightened up as he quoted, “‘We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth’” (A of F 1:7).
The gentleman gasped. “This sounds like you believe in the Bible!”
The gentleman discerned that we believe both in the scriptures and in revelation. And the boy quoted, “‘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’” (A of F 1:9). And then he continued, “‘We believe [also] in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory’” (A of F 1:10).
The gentleman was listening intently. He showed no interest in crossing the aisle back to his own seat. Then Johnny came in again. He said, “‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may’” (A of F 1:11). He then continued, “‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’” (A of F 1:12).
And then as a final contribution, the boy repeated 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.’”
This youngster relaxed now as he finished the Articles of Faith. The gentleman was clearly excited, not only at the ability of this young boy to outline the whole program of the Church, but at the very completeness of its doctrine.
He said, “You know, after I have been to Los Angeles a couple of days, I expect to go back to New York where my office is. I am going to wire my company that I will be a day or two late and that I am going to stop in Salt Lake City en route home and go to the information bureau there and hear all the things, in more detail, about what you have told me.”
I am wondering how many of you know the Articles of Faith. … Have you repeated them? You are always prepared with a sermon when you know the Articles of Faith.
Joseph Smith did, two years before his death, in a letter to a newspaper editor, John Wentworth. Mr. Wentworth had asked for information about the Church. The Prophet Joseph wrote to him about the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the organization of the Church, and the persecution Church members faced. The Prophet finished the letter by listing 13 of our key beliefs, which are now called the Articles of Faith.
To read the Prophet Joseph’s entire letter, see “Gospel Classics: The Wentworth Letter” (Ensign, July 2002) in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org.