Thoughts on a Modern English Translation of the Scriptures

The Church recently announced that is going to be publishing an LDS “translation” of the Bible in Portuguese. I put “translation” in scare quotes because this is not a new Portuguese version of the Bible translated from the original Greek and Hebrew. Rather, it takes a previous Portuguese translation now in the public domain and updates its archaic language for modern Portuguese readers, adding LDS study aids. This is not the first time that the Church has issued new versions of the scriptures to make their language more digestible for members. For example, the original translation of the Book of Mormon into Korean used a very elevated and archaic form of the language that was difficult for modern Korean speakers to understand. My understanding is that the Church produced a new translation that was easier to read, and that it has done similar things in other languages.

These efforts on behalf of non-English-speaking Latter-day Saints raise the question, why not for English speakers as well?

The language of the scriptures for English-speaking Mormons is Jacobean English, because that is the language of the KJV, which then influenced the language of the Book of Mormon translation, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and the JST. In the past some Mormons, such as J. Reuben Clark, have tried to defend the use of the KJV on grounds of accuracy, but this argument simply isn’t sustainable. The best reason for sticking with the KJV is the intertextuality of the KJV with the language of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. It is worth noting, however, that non-English speakers already deal with a Mormon canon in which the intertextuality is somewhat shrouded by alternative translations.

The problem is that the Jacobean English of the scriptures is difficult to understand and can alienate readers. Indeed, the language is often an impediment to understanding the message of the scriptures rather than an aid. Increasingly, Bible-literate potential converts to Mormonism in English are familiar not with the KJV but with a modern translation. The insistence on Jacobean English thus tends to reinforce the perception of Mormons as exotic, pseudo-Christians. Over time this problem will only become more acute, as modern English drifts farther and farther from the Jacobean of the KJV and ever fewer English-speaking Bible readers read the KJV. How might we give to English-speaking Mormons what non-English-speaking Mormons already have, namely an edition of the scriptures in clear and easily understandable language?

Let me imagine how that might work. First, there are already many fine modern translations of the Bible in English. The real problem would be getting copyright and lisencing rights to publish an LDS edition. I vote for the NRSV, but only because that is the modern translation that sits on my desk at work and that I most often read. Of course, the Church could produce its own English translation from the original sources, but this would be a huge undertaking and it’s not clear what benefit the Church would get from such a thing. Indeed, because individual biblical interpretation in Mormonism is far less influential than institutional and prophetic interpretation, it’s not clear to me that Mormons need to get heavily invested in the kind of heated micro-disputes over translations that drive the proliferation of new Protestant version of the Bible. If it wished to give a light theological gloss to its translation, the Church could also take an somewhat modern English translation in the public domain and then update it, as was done in this new Portuguese edition.

Once the Church picks a modern English version of the Bible, it could then produce a modern-English paraphrase of the Restoration scriptures based on this English text, striving as much as possible to preserve intertextuality between them by adopting in the paraphrase verbal formulations from the modern translations that parallel the allusions to the KJV language that exist in the current English. The final result would be a Mormon canon in modern English. The KJV and the original English-language edition of the scriptures could still be used as a kind of widely accessible, scholarly ur text, much the way that the Greek New Testament is an ur text available to those who read Koine or understand how to use the tools of an interlinear translation or a Strong’s Concordance.

I am assuming that the leading councils of the Church are a very, very long way away from being comfortable with this idea, if they ever would be. (Although, who knows? I’ve been wrong about so many things in the past.) One of the striking things about the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers, however, has been that the earliest manuscript versions of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants are now available to members from the Church. This suggests that the Church is now comfortable with the idea that its scriptures have a textual history, and in a sense the Church has already published English ur-texts of the scriptures that are different than the versions we use for ordinary instruction and devotion. Given this fact and the situation of non-English-speaking Latter-day Saints, a modern language edition of the scriptures in English might not be such a huge step

47 comments for “Thoughts on a Modern English Translation of the Scriptures

  1. As an Anglican, I have often wondered why the LDS Church, so focused on outreach, does not do this? In the Protestant world, the ESV is almost a standard now, and I would think the Standard Works in that type of language would be easy to acheive.

  2. I am more optimistic about solving this problem than I used to be: when everyone has a smartphone, there is little cost or complication to having an app with one column with the KJV and the other with a modern translation. (Perhaps the NET, which was designed to be easy to use without strict copyright restrictions).

    In fact, this change may happen from the grassroots up: all it takes is one person in Gospel Doctrine to say “well, the thing that is so hard to understand in the KJV is actually quite clear in another translation” and five people will be reading along in another translation the next week. The institutional church may find itself playing catch-up on the issue (recommending certain translations over others, for example) if it doesn’t get out ahead of it soon.

  3. I’d love an update, even if it’s just one of the updated KJV already on the market. (Say the New King James Version that tries to carry over the KJV language with the archaic terms removed) the real improvement would be real translation guides and better cross referencing. (Cross referencing that distinguishes between reference, quote, and simply using the same sort of language) Frankly the current footnotes in the Bible are pretty embarrassing.

    Moving away from the verse oriented typography would be quite helpful as well.

  4. This is such a big and significant problem! I’m teaching 9 year-olds in Primary. Even the smart ones (and I have really bright students) struggle with the KJV. Even words that we think they might get. Last week the lesson was on the ressurection. I read with them the story of Jesus walking with two disciples, and discussing the events of his own death. Eventually they reach their destination and ask Jesus to stay. For me it is an important story because I wanted to make the point that we should be asking Jesus to abide in our homes; in our lives. The kids struggled with the meanings of these words: abide and tarry. I enjoy discussing the meanings of words with them. I spent some time, for example, early in the year when Elizabeth is described as “barren.” None of them…not-a-one… understood that this meant child-less. However, the word means so much more than child-less, It describes Elizabeth’s life as empty, without fulfillment,
    without joy.

    I don’t want a paraphrase. I don’t want the disciples to say: “Yo, dude, hang for a while.” I want the words to be meaningful and true to their original intent. But I want to be able to read without needing a PhD or formal training, or the need to spend all the time translating. Then you don’t get to spend time discussing the over-all meaning of things.

  5. I may be over-stating it here: The longer we use the KJV, the more we will be like the church in the middle ages when the scriptures were only available in latin. The KJV is in a language increasingly foreign to us, and we rely on “experts” to tell us what is in them. The whole point of any translation is to make the scriptures directly understandable. We can’t be a people of the book when we aren’t able to understand the book.

  6. Let’s face it, the KJV is a stumbling block to the LDS Church on several levels. It really needs to be replaced. And while we’re at it, we also need to retire Jesus the Christ, which was largely based on outdated New Testament scholarship when it was written. Now it’s a dinosaur. Too bad our current Apostles are too busy administering programs and writing DB devotional volumes to undertake an in-depth study to replace Talmage’s admirable but outdated effort.

  7. This is my hope as well. Anyone who’s read scripture in modern formatting and language can quickly see the superiority in almost every way. I was even startled at how much Grant Hardy’s modern formatting for the Book of Mormon made a difference.

  8. The Japanese LDS scriptures have also been re-translated, so as to be much easier to understand. I like the poetry of the language in the KJV, and reading together in a family has given my kids an amazing vocabulary (though I did have to explain to school why my son would be familiar with the word bondage…).
    But yes, lets have something easier to understand. Gospel Doctrine isn’t meant to be an English Lit. class. Just because JS described it as the best translation in English (or so I was told) doesn’t mean that is still the case now.

  9. TA (7), Jesus the Christ is definitely dated. I was surprised to find that LDS.org had the entire text online in their manuals section. While there are no shortage of better books, it seems this rather dated text gets pushed far too much. I’m not sure it’s fair to criticize the GAs for not writing a revision. McConkie did but few people read it. Deseret Books has several great guides such as Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament or the three volume The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ. Still I think a shorter devotional styled overview would be nice.

  10. It would sure be nice to get an updated English translation. Then people might actually be able to quote Paul in a sacrament meeting talk without the congregation’s eyes glazing over. Currently, whenever a less familiar verse from the KJV is read, the speaker or teacher has to re-translate the verse into language the hearer can understand. Why not cut out the middleman and directly use a more modern translation? I’ve taken to using the NIV and NRSV on occasion and it has been effective. However, the problem remains that the congregation can’t easily follow along with me in their own scriptures. Hence there is a need for the church to adopt an official translation. Once the scriptures have been modernized, I think the next step would be to reduce the emphasis on the archaic language of prayer (thee, thou, didst, hast, etc.), which in my opinion is a major impediment to sincere communication.

  11. Just another confirmation here: the new translation of the Finnish LDS scriptures is in modern language, in line with the most recent Finnish evangelical Lutheran translation of the Bible. Also, Finnish saints aren’t burdened with the habit of praying in an unfamiliar register. There are more formal forms of address used for strangers, dignitaries, and old ladies, but you would never address your Father that way.

  12. TA (7) and Clark (10) and others, could you share a summary of the degree to which Jesus the Christ is outdated and what needs to be done? I’m someone who has been blissfully unaware of places in which it is no longer up to date.

  13. I don’t have an itemized list. Nearly all the sources he used are from the 19th century though. Since that time we’ve discovered the dead sea scroll and the nag hammadi library. A lot of work understanding Jesus’ jewishness has been done – working against reading Jesus through a primarily protestant lens. There has been a lot of work discovering the varieties of Jewish views contemporary with Jesus such as notions about Adam, Melchizedek, and a lot more that help illuminated “Son of Man.” New Testament scholars in the 20th century realized that the NT was written in koine greek (more or less common greek) rather than the more educated greek of philosophers and poets. This led to rethinking many passages. Right around the time Talmage was writing Schweitzer was emphasizing the place of eschatology on the New Testament. His The Quest for the Historical Jesus was published in 1910 and had a huge influence on NT scholarship. His main argument was that the gospels don’t have enough information about “life” to say how Jesus lived. More care to the political and social environment Jesus lived in became a feature of the 20th century. The 20th century also saw the expansion of the idea that different types of Jesus reflected the aims or purposes of the people composing them. So say Matthew modifies Mark due to a different focus.

    Lots of stuff like that.

  14. Very helpful Clark (14). I’d love to read a new Jesus the Christ authored by someone like Holland, Bednar, Oaks, etc., especially if they took a few years to research and write like Talmage did.

  15. For me, I like the KJV, but it has not been updated with the earliest greek manuscripts so it is not really accurate anymore. A lot of people use the ESV study bible. I have used the Logos app on my phone for a few years now, but it is a bit bloated. If I really want to do scripture links and cross-reference and search the greek/heb, I use LDS view software since it is free, has wordcruncher included and allows you to instantly bounce from scripture to scripture on your computer. The other day we opened up the God’s Word translation which approaches nearly inner city high school language, and my kids loved it as it made Jesus sound like an approachable being. After reading one chapter they wanted to read another and another – which was a good thing. It’s disappointing we don’t use the full JST. I was reading the book of Romans the other day and noticed a lot of JST was missing – even in the new 2013 edition which was disappointing. Same with the 2013 book of mormon – as Hardy has written elsewhere – the O manuscripts are missing in our scriptures, as much I like the work with the CoC to publish the Printer’s manuscript and the brown seer stone Joseph found near lake Erie in an iron kettle with the help of Sally’s green glass, I want the words closest to the mouth of god, “theo pneustos”.

  16. Julie, I did that in Gospel Doctrine last summer for an Isaiah passage, I was asked to read and had my Jewish Study Bible open and read from that by mistake. I was looked at as if I was from Mars. I agree whole-heartedly with the above, but we have quite a long way to go.

  17. This LDS edition of the Bible in Portuguese comes six years after the publication of an LDS version of the Bible in Spanish. From memory (so some details might be off), I will attempt to review the process as it pertained to the Spanish Bible. (I have no clue if the process was the same with Portuguese, but it probably was very similar.) This may help to address the question of “how this might work” in with an English Bible.

    For the longest time, Spanish-speaking members used the Reina-Valera 1960 version as their Bible. It was distributed by the United Bible Societies and had not a trace of LDS anything on it. At some point, the Church decided to have an LDS edition of the Reina-Valera Bible, but the rights for the 1960 version could not be secured. This was a bit of an issue for a while, until the Church gave up on securing the rights and instead turned to the 1909 Reina-Valera, which is in the public domain. That became the base text.

    It was noted that the 1909 version’s language was more archaic than members were used to, and also that some occasional words had taken on perhaps offensive meanings in the last century. In the end, it was decided to revise the text. The revision was somewhat conservative and, yes, it still read rather archaic, but some of the grammar was updated and some of the vocabulary also. For example, the order of pronouns was changed in the sentences (e.g., “Jacob viola” became “Jacob la vio”, which is more modern and avoids the awkwardness of meaning both “Jacob saw her” and “Jacob rapes”).

    The revision of the text took close to a decade, and it was carried out mainly by a group of translators and employees who worked for the LDS Church. It also underwent an ecclesiastical review by Area and General Authorities, and at the later stages, proofing was even done by many volunteer rank-and-file members. (It was more complex than that, but that’s largely what went on.)

    The result was an LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish comparable to what exists in English. Members in general saw this as a great blessing, mostly due to the extensive footnotes and additional materials that came with it. It is called the Reina-Valera 2009 edition, and I don’t think anyone really calls it an “LDS Translation”. (It would be weird to call it that, in my opinion; the Church has certainly avoided calling it a “translation.”)

  18. Gabriel’s right except that the result is that the LDS Santa Biblia is much better than the KJV with LDS notes. For more on that, see the article by Joshua Sears detailing the development of the Santa Biblia and differences between the Santa Biblia and other versions at https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=9516.
    Add my vote for the church to adopt a newer translation. Why are we stuck in 1611? My study of the Pauline epistles doesn’t include the KJV anymore.

  19. Fear of undermining the authority of the Book of Mormon has to be the biggest problem, right? A project aimed at creating a paraphrase of the Restoration scriptures to use as our primary devotional text is probably out of the question for the Q15. As long as the original BoM, D&C and PoGP are reasonably intelligible to present-day English speakers, I think we will still use them. That doesn’t rule out using a modern Bible translation, of course. It just means that the solution has to be more incremental. I pray that we do find a solution, because the Church is slowly drifting away from the Bible as a source of our culture and our spiritual life.

  20. I’ve found the Reina-Valera 2009 (LDS Spanish Bible) to be disappointingly loyal to the KJV, even at the cost of accuracy. Its language is more modern, so it has that advantage, but it continues to use the second-person plural form “vosotros” (“ye”), which is unfamiliar to many Spanish speakers and easily confused with “nosotros” (“we”). Although I can only read Portuguese to the extent that it’s mutually intelligible with Spanish, it appears that the new Portuguese version is almost identical to the Reina-Valera 2009, down to all the same footnotes. And for all the shortcomings of the Topical Guide and the Bible Dictionary, they’re much more extensive and powerful study tools than the Guide to the Scriptures, which is all the Spanish and Portuguese Bibles have. I see a missed opportunity here—rather than move beyond what we have in English, we’re coming closer to it but still stopping short.

    Regarding the Book of Mormon limiting the degree to which the Church is willing to modernize scriptural language in English: Royal Skousen’s Earliest Text project has shown that the Book of Mormon was translated not into 1830s English nor into 1611 King James Version English, but into the English of the late 1400s. He’s shown that the Book of Mormon contains many grammatical and syntactical constructions common to late 15th-century English but which are not found in the KJV. The significance of this is the Church has already modernized the Book of Mormon’s English. Hopefully that could provide a precedent for eventually replacing “thou” with “you” and “exceeding” with “extremely.”

  21. Agree, Nate — this is all so obvious but also apparently all so irrelevant to LDS leaders. Improving biblical literacy and understanding among the membership just isn’t on their top ten list and it may never get there. KJV-speak has just become the Mormon way of doing scripture, at least in English.

  22. I think we’re suffering from a case of ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome. If we ever do make the switch, it will be announced as some great revelation, not as something that had been asked for/suggested by the members, probably the same way the Let Women Pray campaign was handled.

  23. Pete, no one spoke about that as a revelation, but as a good decision. They also spoke of President Monson’s and church leaders’ ‘inspired decision,’ not really a revelation.

    Usually church leaders announce something as an inspired project with many collaborators moved upon by the spirit, and not a discrete revelation. So they can’t be faulted for misconstruing anything.

  24. “The real problem would be getting copyright and lisencing rights to publish an LDS edition.” I can’t imagine what would be gained by this. As Clark said, “the current footnotes in the Bible are pretty embarrassing,” and I completely agree. I didn’t realize what I was missing or that interesting and intelligent things could be written about the Bible until I got my first study bible. My favorite now is The New Interpreters Study Bible (NRSV).

    When I taught Sunday School to the youth I always provided parallel translations of the KJV and a modern translation or two (NRSV, NIV, CEV), printed out from biblegateway.com. We always read at least half a chapter, none of the typical taking part of a verse out of context and making it say what you want. I thought it went pretty well and it was obvious after just a couple of Sundays that the youth had quit reading the KJV and were focusing on the modern translations. I am not in a teaching calling any more, but I still think that it is a valuable approach. The youth I taught couldn’t make heads or tails out of the KJV.

  25. I think it’s challenging because not only are the Book of Mormon, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price written in a KJV style, they also rely on certain KJV translations that have been changed in later translations (for instance, “celestial” and “terrestrial” are usually translated as “heavenly” and earthly”, which complicates Joseph’s vision of the three degrees of glory). But the longer we stick with the KJV, the more we use the Bible as nothing more than a proof text of Mormon teachings and not a book of scripture to go to for wisdom.

    Probably the best way forward is to use modern Biblical translations as supplements. GAs could model ways to do this during Conference (are there already examples of this?), which would make it kosher to do so during church meetings. Does Deseret Book sell other translations of the Bible?

  26. “GAs could model ways to do this during Conference (are there already examples of this?)”

    Yes. This is a footnote stolen from Ben S.’s TRE paper:

    “For a few examples, see Neal A. Maxwell, “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your
    Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, 90; “Te New Testament —Matchless Portrait of the Savior,”
    Ensign, December 1986, 23; Jefrey R. Holland, “Miracles of the Restoration,” Ensign,
    November 1994, 34; and Robert D. Hales, “In Memory of Jesus,” Ensign, November 1997, 26.”

  27. If people read footnotes, they’d be more aware of this ^^, since that’s where I found General Authorities doing it.

    I suspect we’re going to see this becoming a bigger problem in the US, much less so outside, since non-English speakers get Bibles less than 500 years old.

    Also, what I’ve seen in Institute and Gospel Doctrine recently is really reminiscent of the New Testament situation. In the synagogue, they’d read the Hebrew first… which no one understood. Then they’d recite one of the Aramaic translations, which people could understand. And then read the Hebrew again.

  28. #28
    Good thought. However, as I see it, is not so much scripture per se, but truth and understanding truth. If the Holy Ghost is borne then it matters not the scriptural source or version, truth is the issue.
    And there is something to be said for apparent ambiguity and obscurity (veiled truth) and the way it prompts reflection, pondering, study and the spiritual exercise of the mind. So multiply the versions. It’s likely not the text anyway, but how it is read.

  29. Thanks for the post, Nate.

    In a 2009 post on Thou-thee-thy from other angles, I concluded:

    As to English, if the Millennium is still centuries away and if the Church continues to protect the lingual invariability of the standard works, the same is likely to happen as in other religions with untouchable scriptures. As English will further evolve, the time will come that KJV-language will have to be studied painstakingly, just like biblical Hebrew or classical Sanskrit, in order to be able to read the sacred writings. Will all members, whatever their mother tongue, be encouraged to do the same, in order to belong to the circle of believers competent to read God’s word in its original format? The scenario is utopian, but history is there to show what has happened in other world religions. Whether this development is desirable or not is a debatable question. Venerable religions like Judaism and Hinduism draw a major part of their uniqueness and generational continuity from their sacred language and, educationally, from the prolonged initiation to its understanding. But would such a sphere harmonize with a lively religion actively reaching out to the rest of the world in so many other languages than English?

  30. Hi, Nate. I am a scripture translation supervisor for the Church, and I supervised the new Portuguese Bible (unfortunately, I came on the project after the Pentateuch was completed). You are right that it is a revision of an older text in the public domain, but I do call it a translation. I consulted the various Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts for every verse to ensure accuracy and fidelity to the originals (the same was done for the Spanish). We were somewhat restrained in what we could change (we were given strict instructions not to “Mormonize” the Bible or change things arbitrarily), but we made a number of changes where inaccuracies existed or where better readings are now available. We did make the decision to default to the Textus Receptus in the New Testament where there were differences––unless there was a demonstrable mistake––for the sake of continuity with the language the Portuguese speaking membership is used to, but the Almeida was actually a very faithful translation. There are many places where it preserves better renderings than the English KJV (e.g., Dan 3:25; Hos 14:2). Overall, I would call the new Portuguese edition the most accurate Bible translation the Church publishes.

    Now, on your concerns with the English KJV, I am in agreement. Our translation policy calls for language registers that are dignified yet contemporary in translating the triple combination, but we preserve the phenomenally antiquated language of the KJV for English speakers. The KJV also misunderstands a lot that we have much better contexts for interpreting now. The notion of retranslations has been brought up multiple times, and they’ve been rejected every time. There are a few reasons for it, but the main reason is that the language of the triple combination and most of the lexicon of the contemporary English-speaking Church are directly based on the language of the KJV. It would require an overhaul of our entire vernacular, and the Church just does not yet prioritize readability enough to have such a fundamental change be worth it. I don’t anticipate it happening while I’m here, but rest assured we have several people here who advocate for it.

    Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

  31. All. Daniel O. McClellan at #33 has a blog that’s well worth reading. Some of his suggestions now grace my own bookshelves and I’m always interesting in what he’s writing at Interpreter and other places.

  32. If I knew what a url was, I would tell you. I just googled him. His papers are at academia.edu and his blog has some political material, but there’s some GREAT biblical stuff as you go farther down.

  33. I really like his post on literalism. Something I’ve harped on a long time whenever someone brings it up, but he wrote it so well I’ll definitely be saving a link.

  34. Better yet, let’s just teach all our members Greek, Hebrew, and English. Let’s make actual biblical scholars, and not just pretend “scriptorians”

  35. I’m in favor :)
    “Elders, remember to turn in your home teaching reports and work on the niphal stem next Sunday.”

    Seriously, there’s a lot that can be done without formal training, including (cautious!) work with Greek and Hebrew. Jim Faulconer does some work in this in his Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions , and I expand on it in the second half of my article on Bible translations, “Suggestions for Personal Study” from Religious Educator.

  36. I have been offering a free introduction to Biblical Hebrew up at the COB this year, and next year I’ll be offering a free Biblical Hebrew reading course in the same place. Teaching them all the original languages would certainly be the best way to educate the membership, but at the same time it would dilute the authority of the Church over the interpretation of the texts.

  37. I don’t think original languages would have as much effect as you suggest. If only because people will still tend to “prooftext.” At best it’d simply change the passages used to defend a position. Also it’d leave the D&C, BoM and PoGP largely alone. While it used to be most prooftexting was from the NT, I’m not sure that’s as true anymore.

  38. Thanks for weighing in, Daniel. Sounds like you did great work — maybe we should all learn Portuguese. Any chance they’ll do something like this for a French LDS Bible?

    Your comment #33 is both encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging that there are those who speak up for readability. It is discouraging that the decision-makers put readability far enough down the priority list that nothing will change in the foreseeable future.

    But as LDS resources become less and less helpful to English speakers, Mormons who actually want to understand the Bible will increasingly go to non-LDS resources. I have an NIV Study Bible that will pass for an LDS set of scriptures (leather bound, the right size). I have a Harper Collins Study Bible in iBooks. I read E.P. Sanders’ The Historical Figure of Jesus and Ehrman’s Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of a New Millennium instead of Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, which was outdated the day it was published. I use Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible? and Walter Brueggemann’s Introduction to the Old Testament — although I like Sperry’s Spirit of the Old Testament, it is too dated at this point.

    Let’s put it bluntly. The unwillingness of the Church to take the Bible seriously (seriously enough to make reading and understanding it a real priority) is likely to damage the Church’s credibility at some point.

  39. Thanks for your comments, Dave. Church leaders will meet shortly to discuss the possibility of more Bible translation projects. French is not at the top of the list of possible translations right now, but who knows what the future holds?

    I agree that it is discouraging that readability is subjugated to other considerations. We largely ignore what the text is saying in favor of what we already know it means. Future curricula that prioritize themes over and against texts will only exacerbate that. I also think that as more and more converts come into the Church without the upbringing within the vernacular tradition of the KJV that lifelong members have, comprehension will drop even more. I have thought about conducting comprehension checks among English-speaking members of the Church with the KJV, just to see where we’re really at.

  40. “…curricula that prioritize themes over…texts…”

    Great insight. I feel that almost every 2nd and 3rd Sunday of the month in priesthood as we study our Presidents of the Church manual. Honestly, it matters little who the prophet was since the lessons are so divorced from the actual leader.

  41. I don’t have much hope that people are going to learn the original languages or that it would have much effect on the way we do business in the church. Perhaps we should shoot for more modest reforms. How about if we adopted two standards? First, you must cite/quote enough of the surrounding text that people can see the context, and second, if modern translations don’t support what you want the KJV text to say, you can’t say it.

    When I was teaching Sunday school to the youth there was a really embarrassing example of what not to do in the Come, Follow Me curriculum. In the lesson titled, “How can I improve my scripture study,” it had the following scriptures and the theme they represented: “Isaiah 34:16; 1 Nephi 10:19; D&C 88:63, 118 (If we seek, we shall find).” The KJV passage they wanted you look at reads, “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read.” The problem is that the rest of the verse reads, “no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.” What is it referring to? The surrounding verses make it clear that it is referring to the wild animals that will forever inhabit the land of Edom after it is destroyed. Is that how we want to teach the youth to improve their scripture study?

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