A couple of years ago, Elder Richard Maynes (of the Presidency of the Seventy) quoted Matthew 13:44 in his conference talk: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
But wait a second! The King James Version of that verse reads differently: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Elder Maynes has quoted, instead, the Revised Standard Version.
This surprised me because the official version of the Bible used by the Church in English is the King James Version. From the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the KVJ has been preferred (despite Joseph Smith’s corrections). When the Revised Standard Version was released in 1952, an editorial in the Church News stated, “For the Latter-day Saints there can be but one version of the Bible” — the King James Version. J. Reuben Clark published a book in 1956 entitled Why the King James Version. (This is all laid out in Philip Barlow’s Dialogue article.) In 1992, the First Presidency released a statement saying the following, “While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version 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.”
Last October, in the General Women’s Session of General Conference, President Dieter Uchtdorf quotes four different verses from the New International Version, first published in 1973.
Have others noticed a shift away from exclusive reliance on the King James Version?* Two data points don’t necessarily make a trend, but datum + datum = data.
I’m excited to see leaders drawing on an array of biblical resources, and even if this doesn’t signal a broader trend, I hope that this will help members to feel the space to do the same. As Ben Spackman wrote a few years ago, “The absolute best and easiest thing you can do to increase the quality and frequency of your Bible study is to replace/supplement your KJV with a different translation.” Likewise, Grant Hardy — who earned my immense respect with his book Understanding the Book of Mormon — writes, “The King James Version is no longer a good translation, which is why almost no one uses it anymore. It is inaccurate to the extent that it relies on late, corrupted Greek manuscripts, and it is inadequate in that it does not communicate the authors’ meaning in an intelligible way.” He goes on to recommend “explicitly encouraging Latter-day Saints to read modern translations as supplements to their study of the LDS edition of the scriptures.”
* In addition to the KJV, leaders have often referred to elements of the Joseph Smith translation.
This post has been updated to reflect the correction that the KJV is the official English-language version of the Bible for the Church, not the official version across all languages.