Article of Faith #4 reads:
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.
These are the things that members of the Church work on all their lives. Faith is the first step to being a member of the Church. The definition we use for faith is a belief in things which are not seen which are true. Belief in God is a call to action. If you believe That God is there, you will follow his commandments as laid out in the scriptures. However , if you don’t believe in God, there will be no point in obeying those commandments.
There is a section in James 2 verses 17 & 18:
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
This is, once again, a call to action. The verses say that we need to show our faith by our works, or our faith is ‘dead’ as the verse puts it. So what this means to me, is that regardless of your personal beliefs, is that we need to focus on our works, so that we can grow and show our faith.
The first act of faith that is mentioned in this Article of Faith is repentance. Repentance is a very simple path that God gives us to be free from our sins. It requires sorrow for the sin, confession of it, making it right, then asking forgiveness from both man and God.
We all can admit that this is a very difficult course of action to take without practice and habit. I know that when I do something wrong, it is hard to admit that I am wrong, let alone ask forgiveness. That may just be me, but it truly enhances your relationships with your fellow man when you ask forgiveness for things you have done wrong. It engenders trust, love, and when you are forgiven, it removes burdens.
This leads to the next step. Baptism is that step, as it is the next act of faith higher that realizing your mistakes and repenting. Baptism is both a covenant and an act that clears you of all sins.
When you are baptized, it is done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Then you are immersed completely in the water, then brought up, just like the Savior was when he was baptized by John. At that time we make covenants to remember Christ and take his name upon us, and in return we are given his spirit.
His spirit is the greatest gift that we can be given. the spirit, or the gift of the Holy Ghost, is meant to help and guide us in the paths of righteousness. this helps us rebuild our easily destroyed consciences, that are also meant to give us guidance as to right and wrong.
I like to think of our conscience as a circle, with a box floating in the middle. When we do something against our conscience, the square is jostled and pokes the side of this circle. That is the pain of guilt. But as we know, the more we do wrong, the easier it is, and thus the square becomes rounded off, the corners chipping away.
That is why the Holy Ghost is so important. The Holy Ghost, as long as we keep to righteous actions, can stay with us and guide us to choose better. Also, repentance allows us to once again feel the sorrow and fix what we have done, allowing us to re-form the square, and allowing us to feel the joy of righteousness again.
Let’s sum it up. Faith is a belief in things which are not seen, which are true. Namely, faith in God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Faith leads us to obey the commandments of God, leading us to repent and trying to do better at keeping them. as we repent, we grow a desire to follow God more closely, leading us to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Baptism removes all prior sins and allows us to start anew with the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
That is about it for the 4th Article of Faith. Next I will talk about Article of Faith #5, talking about the authority of the priesthood and the preaching of the gospel. The link will be here when it is completed.