The double negative phrase ”forbiddeth to abstain” as found in D&C 49:18 can be confusing and syntactically challenging for readers. While some have argued that the phrase should be read and understood literally, the Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints indicates that a literal reading is not correct. In this article I demonstrate that the phrase ”forbid to abstain” was an accepted English idiom prior to and for a few decades following the receipt of D&C 49, even though it has vanished from contemporary usage completely. The meaning of this idiomatic expression was ”command to abstain,” in opposition to its literal meaning. The probable origin of this expression is the Greek text of 1 Timothy 4:3, which in English partially reads ”commanding to abstain from meats.” However, in Greek the phrase ”commanding to abstain” would be rendered more correctly as ”forbidding to abstain.” I conclude that the proper reading of ”forbiddeth to abstain” in D&C 49:18 is the idiomatic rather than the literal one and that it should be understood as ”commandeth to abstain.” Continue reading
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