Evidence #186 | April 19, 2021

Nephite Articles of Faith

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Nephite prophets expressed their faith in Christ using a consistent set of theological concepts.

Nephite prophets sometimes articulated their faith in Jesus Christ as an almost formulaic set of beliefs. As noted by John W. Welch:

All Book of Mormon prophets taught “more or less” (Mosiah 13:33; see also Jacob 4:5) the same “word” of belief in Jesus Christ. In visions, public speeches, and personal statements they typically declared (1) that Jesus is the Son of God, (2) who would come down to earth to live as a mortal, (3) to heal the sick, cast out devils, and suffer physically and spiritually, (4) to take upon Himself the sins of the world and redeem His people, (5) to be put to death by crucifixion and rise from the dead, (6) to bring to pass the resurrection of all mankind, and (7) to judge all people in the last day according to their works.1

Specific instances of this formula, whether partially given or in its complete form, can be seen in the chart below:

Image adapted by Book of Mormon Central from John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, “Consistent Elements In Nephite Declarations of Faith,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 43.

Alma’s rendition of these ideas in Alma 33:22, given to group of Nephites who had been influenced by Zoramite practices, is particularly noteworthy. Not only did Alma compactly include all seven doctrinal concepts, but he introduced them with a general injunction to believe all of these things, as if they were a type of creed:2

If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in [1] the Son of God, [2] that he will come to redeem his people, and [3] that he shall suffer and die  to [4] atone for their sins; and [5] that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall [6] bring to pass the resurrection, that [7] all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works. (Alma 33:22; emphasis added).

“Indeed,” notes Welch, “it is reasonable to assume that Alma’s ‘word’ of faith in Christ represented a standard Nephite testimony that was regularly used in Alma’s day.”3 This established set of beliefs, similar to the Articles of Faith familiar to Latter-day Saints,4 was likely an important condensation of what it meant to be a follower of Christ during a time when various Nephite factions, such as the order of Nehor and the Zoramites, were competing for religious followers.5

Zoram Walking to the Rameumptom. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

Conclusion

Easily missed by the casual reader, the development of these formulaic beliefs provides evidence of the Book of Mormon’s doctrinal continuity, historical realism, and textual complexity. This is the type of theological consistency that could naturally arise from a real social context, but which might prove difficult to implement over a lengthy text if simply fabricated by an author. 

Book of Mormon Central, “What Are the Nephite Articles of Faith? (Alma 33:22),” KnoWhy 141 (July 12, 2016).

John W. Welch, “Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon,” in A Book of Mormon Treasury (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2003), 316–342.

John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, “Consistent Elements In Nephite Declarations of Faith,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 43.

1 Nephi 11:31–331 Nephi 19:9–102 Nephi 9:4–52 Nephi 25:12–13Mosiah 3:5–10Mosiah 15:5–9, 20Mosiah 16:10Alma 11:39–41Alma 33:22Mormon 9:1–14

1 Nephi 11:31–33

1 Nephi 19:9–10

2 Nephi 9:4–5

2 Nephi 25:12–13

Mosiah 3:5–10

Mosiah 15:5–9, 20

Mosiah 16:10

Alma 11:39–41

Alma 33:22

Mormon 9:1–14

Complexity
Doctrine
Nephite Articles of Faith
Book of Mormon

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