Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 91

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Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-3

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The Bible Joseph Smith used for his translation project contained a section designated as “Apocrypha” that contained 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, Baruch, the Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, and 1 & 2 Maccabees.1 The name Apocrypha is derived from a Greek term which means “hidden” or “concealed.”2 The name should be distinguished from the term apocryphal, which is often used to describe other works of ancient origin like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library, or apocryphal books of the New Testament. The revelation in section 91 only addresses the specific books found in the Greek Septuagint that are not in the Hebrew Bible, or the upper-case Apocrypha that is accepted by Catholic Christians but generally not by Protestant Christians.3

 

In general, the Lord speaks positively about the Apocrypha in verse 1, saying that “there are many things therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly.” However, it was not necessary for the Prophet to translate it (D&C 91:3). The instructions given in Doctrine and Covenants 91 should not be applied to all apocryphal works, which vary widely in their claims to authenticity and their usefulness. This revelation is useful in cautioning Latter-day Saints to not put too much stock in books outside of the scriptural canon established by the Lord’s authorized servants. These books can be useful and enlightening, but they do not carry the same weight as the canonical books. The Apocrypha’s truths must be measured against the Church’s scriptural canon before they are accepted. The word canon itself is of Greek origin and denotes “a rod for testing straightness.”4 The “standard works” are what we must use to test the truth of other writings, particularly those that claim to also be of ancient origin.

 

1. Bible Used for Bible Revision, Apocrypha, pp. 1–99, JSP.

 

2. “Historical Introduction,” Revelation, 9 March 1833 [D&C 91], JSP.

 

3. Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 2005, 3:167.

 

4. Bible Dictionary, “Canon.”

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 4-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

 

The principles in these last verses not only apply to the Apocrypha but also could be applied generally to any book. We must approach any work of scripture, literature, film, or music with the enlightenment of the Spirit, seeking to obtain the benefits that we can from them. Reading, viewing, or hearing obscene and degrading works would give us little benefit. However, there are sublime works in all branches of the human effort that uplift and greatly benefit us. The Lord continually admonished the Saints to not only seek out the best books (D&C 88:118, 90:15) but also to seek after all good things.

 

Joseph Smith encapsulated this philosophy when he wrote, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 13). As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have an obligation to seek out the things of most benefit. Many of these come from our brothers and sisters of other faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. With the Spirit as our guide, we should embrace all things of benefit as we seek to make the world a better place.

 

(Doctrine and Covenants Minute)