Question: Why do Mormons use the King James Version of the Bible?

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Question: Why do Mormons use the King James Version of the Bible?

There is nothing in Church policy or official Church teaching that forbids Latter-day Saints from reading other Bible translations in their personal study

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses the Authorized (King James) Version as its official Bible. So, why does the Church insist on using the Authorized ("King James") Version as its official Bible, even though more modern translations are easier to read, are more accurate, and include more recent manuscript discoveries? Some reasons include:

  • historical continuity with the restoration, since the KJV was used by the first generation of prophets and Church members
  • Church leaders feel the benefits of standardization avoid, for example, unprofitable disputes about which member's Bible is a "better" translation
  • theologically, the Church disagrees with some modern trends in some Biblical translations (e.g., removing references to priesthood offices not embraced by some denominations, gender-neutral language when referring to God, etc.)

However, there is nothing in Church policy or official Church teaching that forbids Latter-day Saints from reading other Bible translations in their personal study. Many do so.

Translations always show clear theological preferences

Some critics write of the LDS position write:

It is doubtful that our many modern-day translations were produced by unprincipled people who wanted to keep God's truth hidden. In actuality, quite the opposite is true. The motivation behind a new translation is, in most cases, to give a clearer understanding of what God wants to reveal to His people. Granted. Some translations do a better job at achieving this goal than others.[1]

This is of course only partially correct. Consider, for example, the popular version the New Living Translation. In its introduction we read the following:

The translators have made a conscious effort to provide a text that can be easily understood by the average reader of modern English. To this end, we have used the vocabulary and language structures commonly used by the average person. The result is a translation of the Scriptures written generally at the reading level of a junior high school student.[2]:xvii

A little earlier they admit to a bias within the translation. This translation was prepared by "ninety evangelical scholars…commissioned in 1989 to begin revising The Living Bible."[2]:xv This is fine if you are an Evangelical, but, if you are not, then the translation shows clear theological preferences in its translation. The King James Version, the New International Version, and all other translations generally come with a theological perspective in the translation of the text. Some are criticized much more than others (like the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses). The LDS Church has chosen the King James Version as its official Bible. The reasons for this were twofold. First, it is a well-respected and easily accessible translation (even if a bit dated), and second, it was the only English translation of the Bible available to the early leaders of the LDS Church, and so all of their biblical citations are taken from it.


Notes

  1. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 7, p. 101. ( Index of claims )
  2. 2.0 2.1 Holy Bible New Living Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1996)