Why doesn’t the Church teach from or use the Apocryphal books or Gnostic books?
In the Church, we currently teach only from scriptural texts which have been validated through modern revelation. This is not to say that other text’s do not contain valuable or true information, but that they are not currently identified to the body of the Church as pertinent texts for study.
Interestingly enough, Joseph Smith, and many in his day had this same type of question, and he found opportunity to inquire of the Lord as he was working on the inspired version of the Holy Bible. Through pondering, prayer, and revelation from God, we received what is now the 91st section of the Doctrine and Covenants on March 9th, 1833. In it, concerning the Apocrypha, the Lord declares:
There are many things contained therein that are true. . . There are many things contained therein that are not true . . . whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated.
This revelation made it clear to Joseph and to the Church, that ultimately, the text of the apocryphal books is not of enough significance to have needed translation for our use at this time. Interestingly, during this same time period, Joseph received additional inspiration pertaining to texts which are also not used by the Church. Have you ever noticed that while the Song of Solomon is included in the King James Version of the Bible, it is never used as a teaching source in the Church? Included in the inspired translation Joseph wrote, “the Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings.”
While a person, enlightened by the Spirit, will be able to obtain benefit from the apocrypha, and possibly other Gnostic texts, Elder Bruce R. McConkie provided wise words to help determine what that would entail:
“Obviously, to gain any real value from a study of apocryphal writings, the student must first have an extended background of gospel knowledge, a comprehensive understanding of the standard works of the Church, plus the guidance of the Spirit.” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 216)
As indicated in the Gospel of John, the world could not contain a written account of all Jesus has done. However, we do know that there are other true scriptural books of value, which are not in our possession at this time. These include books which are missing from the bible, as well as the words of Zenos in the Book of Mormon, and others. In the Lord’s time, we will have access to and be benefited by those texts:
“. . . I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.” (2 Nephi 29:12-13)
I am confident that the Prophets and Apostles of the Lord will continue to guide us and to distinguish between true and spurious scriptural sources, as has been done in the past. When the time comes that the Lord is ready to reveal more of His word, I hope to be ready to receive it. Until that time, I suggest we each continue to actively study the scriptures we do have, feast upon them, and receive of the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith in Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and in His Church.