13. Practical Religion

ARTICLE 13-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.

A photo of the Mormon Helping Hands group.

Religion of Daily Life-In this article of their faith, the Latter-day Saints declare their acceptance of a practical religion; a religion that shall consist, not alone of professions in spiritual matters, and belief as to the conditions of the hereafter, of the doctrine of original sin and the actuality of a future heaven and hell, but also, and more particularly, of present and every-day duties, in which proper respect for self, love for fellow men, and devotion to God are the guiding principles. Religion without morality, professions of godliness without charity, church-membership without adequate responsibility as to individual conduct in daily life, are but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals-noise without music, the words without the spirit of prayer. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Honesty of purpose, integrity of soul, individual purity, freedom of conscience, willingness to do good to all men even enemies, pure benevolence-these are some of the fruits by which the religion of Christ may be known, far exceeding in importance and value the promulgation of dogmas and the enunciation of theories. Yet a knowledge of things more than temporal, doctrines of spiritual matters, founded on revelation and not resting on the sands of man’s frail hypotheses, are likewise characteristic of the true Church.

The Comprehensiveness of Our Faith must appeal to every earnest investigator of the principles taught by the Church, and still more to the unprejudiced observer of the results as manifested in the course of life characteristic of the Latter-day Saints. Within the pale of the Church there is a place for all truth-for everything that is praiseworthy, virtuous, lovely, or of good report. The liberality with which the Church regards other religious denominations; the earnestness of its teaching that God is no respecter of persons, but that He will judge all men according to their deeds; the breadth and depth of its precepts concerning the state of immortality, and the gradations of eternal glory awaiting the honest in heart of all nations, kindred, and churches, civilized and heathen, enlightened and benighted, have already been set forth. We have seen further that the belief of this people carries them forward, even beyond the bounds of knowledge thus far revealed, and teaches them to look with unwavering confidence for other revelation, truths yet to be added, glories grander than have yet been made known, eternities of powers, dominions, and progress, beyond the mind of man to conceive or the soul to contain. We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement-a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share. In spite of the opposition of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the Church proclaims the eternal truth: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” With such a future, well may man open his heart to the stream of revelation, past, present, and to come; and truthfully should we be able to say of every enlightened child of God, that he “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” As being incidental to the declaration of belief embodied in this Article, many topics relating to the organization, precepts, and practise of the Church suggest themselves. Of these the following may claim attention.

Benevolence-Benevolence is founded on love for fellow men; it embraces, though it far exceeds charity, in the ordinary sense in which the latter word is used. By the Christ it was placed as second only to love for God. On one occasion certain Pharisees came to Christ, tempting Him with questions on doctrine in the hope that they could entangle Him and so make Him an offender against the law. Their spokesman was a lawyer; note his question and the Savior’s answer: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The two commandments, here spoken of as first and second, are so closely related as to be virtually one, and that one: “Thou shalt love.” He who abideth one of the two will abide both; for without love for our fellows, it is impossible to please God. Hence wrote John, the Apostle of Love, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

But perhaps the grandest and most sublime of the apostolic utterances concerning the love that saves, is found in the epistle of Paul to the saints at Corinth. In our current English translation of the Bible, the virtue that the apostle declares to be superior to all miraculous gifts, and which is to continue after all the rest have passed away, is designated as charity; but the original word meant love; and Paul had in mind something more than mere almsgiving, as is evident from his expression: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Though a man speak with the tongue of angels; though he possess the power of prophecy, the greatest of the ordinary gifts; though he be versed in knowledge and understand all mysteries; though his faith enable him to move mountains; and though he give his all, including even his life-yet without love is he nothing. Charity, or almsgiving, even though it be associated with the sincerest of motives, devoid of all desire for praise or hope of return, is but a feeble manifestation of the love that is to make one’s neighbor as dear to him as himself; the love that suffers long; that envies not others; that vaunts not itself; that knows no pride; that subdues selfishness; that rejoices in the truth. When “that which is perfect” is come, the gifts theretofore bestowed in part only will be superseded. “Perfection will then swallow up imperfection; the healing power will then be done away, for no sickness will be there; tongues and interpretations will then cease, for one pure language alone will be spoken; the casting out of devils and power against deadly poisons will not then be needed, for in heaven circumstances will render them unnecessary. But charity, which is the pure love of God, never faileth; it will sit enthroned in the midst of the glorified throng, clothed in all the glory and splendor of its native heaven.” If man would win eternal life, he cannot afford to neglect the duty of love to his fellow, for “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Benevolent Works of the Church-The Church of the present day can point to a stupendous labor of benevolence already accomplished and still in progress. One of the most glorious monuments of its work is seen in the missionary labor which has ever been a characteristic feature of its activities. Actuated by no other motives than pure love for humanity and a desire to fulfil the commands of God respecting mankind, the Church sends out every year hundreds of missionaries to proclaim the Gospel of eternal life to the world, and that too without money or price. Multitudes of these devoted servants have suffered contumely and insult at the hands of those whom they sought to benefit; and not a few have given their lives with the seal of the martyr upon their testimony and work.

The charity that manifests itself in material giving is not neglected in the Church; indeed this form of benevolence is impressed as a sacred duty upon every Latter-day Saint. While each one is urged to impart of his substance to the needy, in his individual capacity, a system of orderly giving has been developed within the Church; and of this some features are worthy of special consideration.

Free-will Offerings-It has ever been characteristic of the Church and people of God, that they take upon themselves the care of the poor, if any such exist among them. To subserve this purpose, as also to foster a spirit of liberality, kindness, and benevolence, voluntary gifts and free-will offerings have been asked of those who profess to be living according to the law of God. In the Church today a systematic plan of giving for the poor is in operation. Thus, in almost every ward or branch, an organization of women, known as the Relief Society, is in operation. Its purpose is in part to gather from the society, and from the members of the Church in general, contributions of money and other property, particularly the commodities of life, and to distribute such to the deserving and needy under the direction of the local officers in the Priesthood. But the Relief Society operates also on a plan of systematic visitation to the houses of the afflicted, extending aid in nursing, administering comfort in bereavement, and seeking in every possible way to relieve distress. The good work of this organization has won the admiration of many who profess no connection with the Church; its methods have been followed by other benevolent associations, and the society has been accorded a national status in the United States.

"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 for 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." - 13th Article of Faith; An image that resembles stationary.Fast Offerings represent a still more general system of donation. The Church teaches the efficacy of continual prayer and of periodical fasting, as a means of acquiring humility meet for divine approval; and a monthly fast-day has been appointed for observance throughout the Church. The first Sunday in each month is so designated. The saints are asked to manifest their sincerity in fasting by making an offering on that day for the benefit of the poor; and, by common consent, the giving of at least an equivalent of the meals omitted by the fasting of the family is expected. These offerings may be made in money, food, or other usable commodity; they are received by the bishopric, and by the same authority are distributed to the worthy poor of the ward or branch. Special fasts are called by the presiding authorities, as occasion may require, as in times of wide-spread illness, war conditions or other exigency as a feature of these seasons of supplication. In these and in numerous other ways do the Latter-day Saints contribute of their substance to the needy, realizing that the poor among them may be the “Lord’s poor”; and that, irrespective of worthiness on the part of the recipient, want and distress must be alleviated. The people believe that the harmony of their prayers will become a discord if the cry of the poor accompany their supplications to the throne of Grace.

Tithing-The Church today follows the doctrine of tithe-paying, similar in all of its general provisions to that taught and practised of old. Before considering the present authorized procedure in this matter, it may be instructive to study the ancient practise of tithe-paying. Strictly speaking, a tithe is a tenth, and such proportion of individual possessions appears to have been formerly regarded as the Lord’s due. The institution of tithing antedates even the Mosaic dispensation, for we find both Abraham and Jacob paying tithes. Abraham, returning from a victorious battle, met Melchizedek king of Salem and “priest of the most high God”; and, recognizing his priestly authority, “gave him tithes of all.” Jacob made a voluntary vow with the Lord to render a tenth of all that should come into his possession.

The Mosaic statutes were explicit in requiring tithes: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” The tenth was to be paid as it came, without search for good or bad; under some conditions, however, a man could redeem the tithe by paying its value in some other way, but in such a case he had to add a fifth of the tithe. The tenth of all the property in Israel was to be paid to the Levites, as an inheritance given in acknowledgment of their service; and they in turn were to pay tithing on what they received, and this tithe of the tithe was to go to the priests. A second tithe was demanded of Israel to be used for the appointed festivals; and a third tithe payable once in three years was devoted to the support and entertainment of the needy, the widows and fatherless and the Levites.

A photo of the Mormon Salt Lake City Temple at night.It is evident, that while no specific penalty for neglect of the law of tithing is recorded, the proper observance of the requirement was regarded as a sacred duty. In the course of the reformation by Hezekiah, the people manifested their repentance by an immediate payment of tithes;  and so liberally did they give that a great surplus accumulated, observing which, Hezekiah inquired as to the source of such plenty: “And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.” Nehemiah took care to regulate the procedure in tithe-paying;  and both Amos and Malachi admonished the people because of their neglect of this duty. Through the prophet last named, the Lord charged the people with having  robbed Him; but promised them blessings beyond their capacity to receive if they would return to their allegiance: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” In visiting the Nephites after His resurrection, the Savior told them of these sayings of Malachi, repeating the words of the Jewish prophet. The Pharisees, at the time of Christ’s ministry, were particularly scrupulous in the matter of tithe paying, even to the neglect of the “weightier matters of the law,” and for this inconsistency they were rebuked by the Master.

Article Name
13. Practical Religion
Mormons believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. They seek after all things that are good.