If one was to go by the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they would be under the impression that they believed the Bible. This might lead one to ask why do Mormons use the KJV? After all, when the LDS Missionaries stop by your home in their attempts to convert you to the “church,” they always carry a King James Bible. They will gladly open it and go to a few select verses that seem to indicate that the books promoted as the “standard works” of the church, especially the Book of Mormon, are prophesied by the Bible. In fact, when you ask a Mormon if they believe the Bible, they will wholeheartedly confirm that they do, but sadly they only believe it, “…as far as it is translated correctly” as is stated in the eighth article of faith.
There are two main reasons that the Mormon church utilizes and endorses only the King James Version. The first is that at the time of the organization of the church in 1830, the King James or Authorized Version was accepted as the authoritative Bible among English speaking people. The Mormon use of the King James Version would certainly work towards credibility as they were trying to gain converts, whereas if they had utilized a less common and less available version, the opposite would no doubt had occurred. Franklin Gonzales, Institute Teacher at the University of Utah states, “Early church leaders were partial to the KJV not only because they have grown up with it, but also because the KJV was couched in language unparalleled for its literary beauty.”1 For the Mormons to use the King James all the way from the beginning was necessary, as they quickly gained a reputation for being “cult-like” in the surrounding areas of church influence.
The Mormon (LDS) movement started at Palmyra, New York, then moved to Kirtland, Ohio, Independence, Missouri, and lastly to Nauvoo, Illinois. If the Mormons had begun their proselytizing efforts with any version of the Bible than the King James, it would have been another warning flag to those they were seeking to convert. It is interesting to note is that Smith was supposedly divinely commissioned to make a new translation of the Bible called the Joseph Smith Translation, yet the church has never employed the Smith translation in their “evangelistic” work, as he died having only translated the Gospel of Matthew.
The second reason for why Mormons use the King James Version, even in these “latter days” (pun intended) with all the many modern versions available such as the NIV, NAS, ESV, etc. is that the King James Version was respected and chosen by Joseph Smith. The (false) prophet used an 1828 King James Bible to prepare the above-mentioned translation of Matthew. Gonzales states that Smith learned early on that “original Bible texts” had been corrupted.2 Of course the “originals” no longer exist, and though Smith and the leadership in the Mormon church held the King James Bible as being more accurate and reliable, Smith still fell into the same trap that modern revisionists have done since 1881, correcting the King James Bible using their wisdom, relying on that they think a specific word, phrase or verse should read. In fact, on March 7th, 1881, The “Prophet,” as he is known by church members, received a revelation that is an alternate revelation of the olivet discourse of Matt 24, this time God supposedly speaking directly to Smith. This adding to the word of God is found in another LDS standard work called Doctrine and Covenants 45:60-61.
While there is much more that can be added concerning the Joseph Smith Translation, in a desire to stay with the content of the article here about “Why do Mormons Use the KJV” it is very strange indeed that the KJV was not replaced by this translation, especially when BYU publications state that it provides clarity and understanding. Regarding the church’s continued use of the KJV, the Statement of the First Presidency states, “While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the KJV, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the KJV in preference to other translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the KJV by encouraging its continued use in the Church. In light of all the above, it is the English language Bible used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
In Summary, the Mormons use the KJV because it was the most accepted version during the time of its origins and because the founder, Joseph Smith, endorsed it. It is interesting that a cult leader and his religion recognize the errors of modern versions, yet equally disheartening is that they add and take away from the KJV, just as the scholars of the past have done. So, in essence, it is the same double-speak that we get from those that have produced the NIV, NASB, ESV, Living Bible, etc. Thankfully we can trust that what we have in the KJV is God’s preserved word! As a side note I will also state as one that was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about 3 years, that while they use and carry a KJV, it is hardly opened during their church meetings. Rather, it is primarily utilized when proselytizing, twisting scriptures to make it seem that those verses point to the Book Mormon.
By James Lyman
1. Why does the Church still use the King James Version?