Question: Why does the Book of Mormon match the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible so closely?

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Question: Why does the Book of Mormon match the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible so closely?

Some have presumed that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible

Some passages from the Bible (parts of Isaiah, for example) were included in the Book of Mormon text. Some people have long adopted the position that Joseph Smith simply copied the King James Version (KJV) Bible text for the relevant portions of, for example, Isaiah. Even some Church members have presumed that the close match between the texts indicates that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible.

The purposes of the Book of Mormon and JST translations were not identical. The LDS do not believe in one fixed, inviolate, "perfect" rendering of a scripture or doctrinal concept. The Book of Mormon likely reflects differences between the Nephite textual tradition and the commonly known Biblical manuscripts. The JST is a harmonization, expansion, commentary, and clarification of doctrinally important points. Neither is intended as "the final word" on a given concept or passage—continuing revelation, adapted to the circumstances in which members of the Church find themselves, precludes such an intent.

Joseph did not believe that there was "one and only one" true translation of a given passage or text. The Book of Mormon is "the most correct book" in the sense that it those who read and obey its precepts will draw nearer to God than in reading any other book. This is not a claim about textual perfection or inerrancy (which the book itself insists will still be present--title page, Mormon 9:31). In fact, Brigham Young taught that the Book of Mormon text would have been different if it were redone later:

Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings. [1]

Notes

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311.