D&C 90 declares that the Sidney and Frederick are equal with Joseph in holding the keys of the kingdom…which according to the modern church doesn’t mean that they were equal, but instead can only do what they are explicitly told to do by the president and they have no authority beyond that. Section 91 answers Joseph’s question about what to do with the Apocrypha, and Section 92 commands that Frederick become part of the United Firm.
Thought provoking, as always. Thank you for your work on this. The part about keys reminded me of a puremormonism blog called Training Day from March 12, 2013 which discusses a church training video called Priesthood Keys. It’s worth consideration for insights on the concept of Keys. Jim
I have become a bit more familiar with the apocrypha over the past year and would be interested in a larger discussion on the topic. The podcast touched on the idea of whether a Greek translation from an earlier period is more or less accurate than something that has remained in the original Hebrew has popped up on my radar more than once. The problem with the Greek translation is obviously the problem with any translation, that things may get distorted in translation, but any slight changes in meaning would be unintentional outcomes of the translation process, and this would represent what was the known scriptural record at the time of Christ. The problem with the Hebrew Bible seems to be that it dates to a time after the division between the early Christians and Jews, and that things may have been edited to make the scriptures seem less supportive of the divinity of Jesus and the supernatural. This isn’t my area of expertise, but it is interesting to see the debate that continues even today.
One real shortcoming I find in leaving the apocrypha out entirely is that we are left with a huge historical gap between the time of Malachi and the birth of John. It feels as if nothing of significance happened, and so we pick up the story with Jews living in the promised land where they left off after returning from the Babylonian captivity. The First Book of Maccabees goes a long way to filling in the gap and setting the stage for the political climate into which John and Jesus were born. It also maps the fulfillment of Daniel chapter 8. (Where else in scripture can you read about Cleopatra, Spartans, and Ptolemy, among others?)
For those who are interested, here is summary of the books of the apocrypha taken from the introduction of my copy:
– 1 Esdras is an uninspired chronicle of the exile to Babylonia and the return to Jerusalem, largely identical with the narrative in Ezra and Nehemiah.
– 2 Esdras is an apocalypse. It was written after the death of Nero (themes include problems of human life and God’s justice). Chapters 1,2,15,16 are Christian additions, and it may be that other parts are influenced by Christian teaching.
– Tobit combines pre-existing novella motifs into an edifying romance. (You also find an instance of a woman married to 7 brothers who all die).
– Judith is another romance. It is the story of the virtuous heroine who saved her people by decapitating the enemy general whose lust she aroused.
– Additions to the Book of Esther comprise 6 separate fragments inserted at appropriate junctures in the canonical book of Esther. The passages may have been added to correct the secular tone of that book, or less probably, they may represent a fuller recension of the story.
– The Wisdom of Solomon is important for the development of theology. It is the first Jewish book specifically to promise individual retribution after death. It is also a good example of the fusion of Greek and Hebrew ideas. The book is a composite, with the break at chapter 11. The first part is probably a translation from Hebrew, and the second a Greek continuation by the translator of the first.
– Ecclesiasticus, otherwise called The Wisdom of Jeshua the Son of Sirach, is the longest and most attractive book in the Apocrypha. The author is concerned for religious truth but his emphasis is on worldly wisdom that comes from experience.
– The Book of Baruch is the closest approach in the Apocrypha to the style and spirit of Old Testament prophecy. The themes are confession of sin, encouragement to pursue Wisdom, and comfort for affliction. The appended Letter of Jeremiah is mainly an admonition against idolatry.
– The Additions to Daniel comprise three separate pieces:
1. The story of Susanna, who rejected the solicitations of two lustful elders who surprised her at her bath, was accused by them of adultery, and vindicated by the youthful Daniel, as she was being led to execution.
2. The Song of the Three Children, which comprises a long prayer of Azariah (the Hebrew name of Abednego), and a formal hymn purportedly recited by the three prospective martyrs in the fiery furnace. (fills the gap between verses 23 and 24 in the original story)
3. The story of Bel and the Dragon, which ridicules the worship of Bel and then of a sacred serpent.
– The Prayer of Manasseh purports to be the prayer which Manasseh is reported (in 2 Chron. 33:18) to have recited while he was captive in Babylonia.
– 1 Maccabees is a concise and competent account probably by an eyewitness and a devoted partisan of the Maccabees, of the course of events during the years 167-134 BC. The book was written in Hebrew but exhibits the characteristics of Hellenistic historiography.
– 2 Maccabees is not a continuation but a parallel account, covering the years 175-160 BC. Its author describes it as an abridgment of a five-book work by Jason of Cyrene. It too rests ultimately on eyewitness accounts, but it is more emotional, more rhetorical, and more avowedly propagandistic than 1 Maccabees.
I haven’t read it all, but after reading some of the apocryphal stories, it makes me wonder whether or not certain parts of the Bible as we know it, such as the remaining stories from Daniel and the book of Job, are accepted as true accounts simply because that is how they are presented in the context of other books which are more obviously so. When the canon seems to include more literature type stories, the Bible becomes a collection of shared literature to learn from, but not necessarily considered as all divinely directed and factually true.
This makes me wonder whether what God said about the Apocrypha (because He was asked) applies to any other parts of the Bible that hadn’t been set aside by competing religious factions. Namely, “there are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; . . . therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; and whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; and whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited.” I suppose this statement regarding the Apocrypha could also apply to anything uplifting we read that the Spirit uses to open our insight into truth, regardless of its origin. For me, this includes literature such as Les Miserables or The Hobbit.
One thing I didn’t make clear in the podcast. In the last 200 years, there have been many other writings that have been discovered, some pre-Christian documents and others Christian era documents, including many other gospels. Technically, the Apocrypha are only those books found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text. I threw everything under the “apocrypha” moniker in my discussion even though many of those documents were not discovered until after Joseph’s death.
The book of Jude quotes the book of Enoch and makes an allusion to it in another verse: 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Paul quotes Greek playwrights and philosophers to make his points: https://carm.org/defending-the-faith/did-paul-quote-pagan-philosophers/
Entertainingly the article above mentions quoting the BOM to convince Mormons of the error of their ways 🙂 They also mention knowing the Qur’an which I was actually going to make as my next point.
Section 88 says: 79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you. 118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
If we want to be able to reach people and convince them of the truth then we must understand their worldview. Islam, Hinudism, and atheism/agnosticism are the three largest religions after Christianity. I would suggest we should all be familiar with the Qur’an and the Bagavad Gita, and major philosophers. Paul didn’t see anything wrong with this, in fact one of his greatest sermons was on Mars hill talking about the unknown God who he proclaimed as Christ. I recently saw a shen yun performance and they have some of their religious beliefs presented in it including that humans came down to earth with their creator God to make the world and that we must live a good life to return to heaven with him. That’s a great place to start with someone who believes in that.