The Literary Power of the Doctrine and Covenants


Doctrine and Covenants, Power in the Scriptures


We often think of literature rather narrowly, as strictly a form of storytelling—a fictional work created by the human mind that relates the story of people and the various events, settings, and thoughts that make up their lives. Sometimes, though, we speak of literature in very broad terms, referring basically to anything in a written form. I prefer a definition that is broad enough to allow us to see patterns among texts but not so general that everything written can be classified as literature. Leland Ryken, a literary scholar who publishes extensively on the Bible as literature, writes that a “working definition of literature . . . is that it is an interpretive presentation of experience in an artistic form. This means that there are two criteria that must be insisted on if we are to distinguish between the literary and nonliterary parts of the Bible: (1) literature is experiential rather than abstract, and (2) literature is artistic, manifesting elements of artistic form.”[1] With this definition, literature does not have to be fictional, nor does it have to be solely of human creation, opening the door to the understanding of scripture as sacred literature.

Original Publication Citation

“The Literary Power of the Doctrine and Covenants,” The Religious Educator, vol. 10, no. 1, January 2009.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Religious Studies Center




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor