Theology – The word “theology” is of Greek origin; it comes to us from theos, meaning God, and logos-a treatise, or discourse, signifying by derivation, therefore collated knowledge of Deity, or the science that teaches us of God, implying also the relation existing between Him and His creatures. The term is of ancient usage, and may be traced to pagan sources. Plato and Aristotle speak of theology as the doctrine of Deity and divine things.
It has been held by some that theological knowledge is not properly a subject for analytical and otherwise scientific treatment on the part of man; that inasmuch as a true conception of Deity, with which theology has primarily to deal, must necessarily be based upon divine revelation, we can but receive such knowledge as it is graciously given; and that to attempt critical investigation thereof by the fallible powers of human judgment would be to apply as a standard of measurement to the doings of God the utterly inadequate wisdom of man. Many truths are beyond the scope of unaided human reason, and theological facts have been declared to belong to that class. This is true only so far as the same classification is applicable to truths other than theological in the restricted application of the term; for all truth, being eternal, is superior to reason in the sense of being manifest to reason but not a creation of reason. Nevertheless, truths are to be estimated and compared by the exercise of reason.
Importance of Theological Study-In the short span of mortal existence it is impossible for man to explore with thoroughness any considerable part of the vast realm of knowledge. It becomes, therefore, the part of wisdom to direct our efforts to the investigation of the field that promises results of greatest worth. All truth is of value, above price indeed in its place; yet, with respect to their possible application some truths are of incomparably greater worth than others. A knowledge of the principles of trade is essential to the success of the merchant; an acquaintance with the laws of navigation is demanded of the mariner; familiarity with the relation of soil and crops is indispensable to the farmer; an understanding of the principles of mathematics is necessary to the engineer and the astronomer; so too is a personal knowledge of God essential to the salvation of every human soul that has attained to powers of judgment and discretion. The value of theological knowledge, therefore, ought not to be underrated; it is doubtful if its importance can be overestimated.
Comprehensiveness of Theology – The ultimate boundaries of the science, if boundaries there be, are beyond the capacity of man to survey. Theology deals with Deity, the fountain of knowledge, the source of wisdom; with the proofs of the existence of a Supreme Being, and of other supernatural personalities; with the conditions under which, and the means by which, divine revelation is imparted; with the eternal principles governing the creation of worlds; with the laws of nature in all their varied manifestations. Primarily, theology is the science that deals with God and religion; it presents the facts of observed and revealed truth in orderly array, and indicates the means of their application in the duties of life. Theology then has to do with other facts than those that are specifically called spiritual; its domain is that of truth.
The industrial pursuits that benefit mankind, the arts that please and refine, the sciences that enlarge and exalt the mind-these are but fragments of the great though yet uncompleted volume of truth that has come to earth from a source of eternal and infinite supply. A complete survey of theology, therefore, would embrace all known truths. God has constituted Himself as the great teacher; by personal manifestations or through the ministrations of His appointed servants, He instructs His mortal children. To Adam He introduced the art of agriculture, and demonstrated that of tailoring, to Noah and Nephi He gave instructions in ship-building, Lehi and Nephi were taught of Him in the arts of navigation; and for their guidance on the water, as in their journeyings on land, He prepared for them the Liahona, a compass operated by an influence more effective for its purposes than that of terrestrial magnetism; furthermore, Moses received divine instructions in architecture.
Theology and Religion, although related, are not identical. One may be deeply versed in theological lore, and yet be lacking in religious and even in moral character. If theology be theory then religion is practise; if theology be precept religion is example. Each should be the complement of the other; theological knowledge should strengthen religious faith and practise. As accepted by the Latter-day Saints, theology comprises the plan of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety. Theology as a science has to do with classified or collated knowledge respecting the relationship between God and man, primarily as it appeals to the intellect; while religion includes the application of that knowledge, or genuine belief, to the individual course of life.
The Articles of Faith – Beliefs and prescribed practises of most religious sects are usually set forth in formulated creeds. The Latter-day Saints announce no such creed as a complete code of faith; for they accept the principle of continuous revelation as an essential feature of their belief. Joseph Smith, the first divinely commissioned prophet and the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter-day, or current, dispensation, set forth as an epitome of the tenets of the (Mormon) Church the thirteen avowals known as the “Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” These include fundamental and characteristic doctrines of the Gospel as taught by this Church; but they are not to be regarded as a complete exposition of belief, for, as stated in Article 9, “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.” From the time of their first promulgation, the Articles of Faith have been accepted by the people as an authoritative exposition; and on October 6, 1890, the Latter-day Saints, in general conference assembled, readopted the Articles as a guide in faith and conduct. As these Articles of Faith present important doctrines of the Church in systematic order, they suggest themselves as a convenient outline for a study of the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Standard Works of the Church constitute the written authority of the Church in doctrine. Nevertheless, the Church holds itself in readiness to receive additional light and knowledge “pertaining to the Kingdom of God” through divine revelation. We believe that God is as willing today as He ever has been to reveal His mind and will to man, and that He does so through His appointed servants-prophets, seers, and revelators-invested through ordination with the authority of the Holy Priesthood. We rely therefore on the teachings of the living oracles of God as of sequal validity with the doctrines of the written word. The works adopted by the vote of the Church as authoritative guides in faith and doctrine are four: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Many books have been and are being published by officers and members of the Church, and such may be sanctioned by the people and the ecclesiastical authorities; but the four publications named are the regularly adopted “Standard Works of the Church.” Of the doctrines treated in the authorized standards, the Articles of Faith may be regarded as a fair though but partial summary.