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Sometimes, when I talk with LDS missionaries about passages in scripture, they'll reject some verses I have memorized because they are NLT or NIV, not KJV. I had tried memorizing the KJV first in the past, but I got discouraged really quickly. It was hard for me to remember the older versions of words (thee/thou/ye), older grammatical conventions, slightly devolved word definitions. I gave up and decided to stick with the NLT.

But recently, I encountered another pair of missionaries, prompting me again to re-evaluate my NLT decision. Sometime in the past I dismissed the NKJV to be just as difficult to memorize as the KJV, but after giving it another look... I can't imagine why. Surprisingly, the NJKV seems to fall on the easier side of the memory-difficulty spectrum😄. I was very relieved and happy when I discovered this, so I'm more than comfortable with switching over... but only if it would be useful for discussions with Latter Day Saints.

What is the LDS perspective on the NJKV?

Is there an official stance? Crucially, a stance that most missionaries would know about and reiterate? On a practical level, would the NJKV be a safe choice to memorize and recall for discussions? Or would it become just as futile as an NLT when there are word/phrasing differences?

Edit: Thanks to Hold To The Rod for clarifying to me that Latter Day Saints are not actually KJV-only. My mistake!

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    "It was hard for me to remember the older versions of words (thee/thou/ye)'. Those archaic words in fact make scripture easier to understand. Consider Exodus 3:14: "… Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.", where "thou" is singular (referring to Moses only), while "you" is plural (referring to all the people). Had he been sent unto a single person, it would have been the singular "thee" (or "ye"). Using the modern "you" (which can be either singular or plural, and either subjective or objective) creates ambiguity. Feb 24 at 14:50

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In 1992 the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement:

Since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used the King James Version of the Bible for English-speaking members.

The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts. ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’ (A of F 1:8.)

Many versions of the Bible are available today. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible are available for comparison to determine the most accurate version. However, the Lord has revealed clearly the doctrines of the gospel in these latter-days. The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.

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.

The LDS edition of the Bible (1979) contains the King James Version supplemented and clarified by footnotes, study aids, and cross-references to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These four books are the standard works of the Church. We encourage all members to have their own copies of the complete standard works and to use them prayerfully in regular personal and family study, and in Church meetings and assignments. (source)

A few data-points to highlight:

  • In English, the church's extensive cross-referencing & footnotes are in the KJV
  • The Joseph Smith Translation (see here) was done in the KJV
  • Because of access to modern revelation, the church does not place the same level of emphasis on comparison across Bible translations as is found in many other faiths. (The Book of Mormon is held to have been translated into English through the gift & power of God, the Doctrine & Covenants' original language is English, and the Pearl of Great Price is a mix of both methods)
  • The church is not KJV-only--it teaches in more than 100 languages (the preferred Bible in Spanish, for example, is the Reina Valera)

Additionally, many members (in English) have a preference for the formal, polished (and somewhat archaic) language of the KJV over renderings into modern vernacular. The NKJV is not widely used.

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Hold To The Rod has an excellent answer. Additionally the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourage its members to:

So we continually seek truth from all good books and other wholesome sources. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.1

This could also be exemplified when examining Dieter F Uchtdorf's talk Daily Restoration footnotes:

Jesus taught, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The NIV First-Century Study Bible contains this explanation: “The image of a path or way in the Hebrew Bible often stood for keeping the commandments or teachings of God [see Psalm 1:1; 16:11; 86:11]. This was a common ancient metaphor for active participation in a set of beliefs, teachings or practices. The Dead Sea Scrolls community called themselves followers of ‘the way,’ by which they meant they were followers of their own interpretation of the path that pleased God. Paul and the first Christians also called themselves ‘follower[s] of the Way’ [see Acts 24:14]” (in “What the Bible Says about the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Bible Gateway, biblegateway.com/topics/the-way-the-truth-and-the-life).

So while the LDS church uses KJV primarily this is not the only version of the bible that can be used or studied.


Crucially, a stance that most missionaries would know about and reiterate?

No official stance on any other version of the Bible beyond KJV (see HoldToTheRod's answer). The missionaries of the LDS church do have stricter guidelines on what resources they can rely on:

  • Scriptures (official KJV, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants): Another note is that if the LDS church publishes scripture sets (quads) that are KJV and contain LDS footnotes
  • General Conference addresses
  • On Holy Ground
  • Preach My Gospel
  • Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days2

So they can't reference other versions of the bible directly. (I've personally led discussions in the past or seen in church where other's read from another version, and it doesn't usually have enough of a difference to mention)

On a practical level, would the NJKV be a safe choice to memorize and recall for discussions?

Probably not (see above about missionary library-if this is for LDS discussions...if this is for your own discussions go right ahead, keeping in mind if you want to discuss doctrine with the LDS they will usually reference KJV). Should be fine using it as a reference or for understanding/explaining in certain cases. No church restrictions on reading other versions of the Bible.

Or would it become just as futile as an NLT when there are word/phrasing differences?

This in part. Using the same reference material that the majority of LDS members/missionaries use be of more use IMO (again depends on use case exactly)

Sometimes, when I talk with LDS missionaries about passages in scripture, they'll reject some verses I have memorized because they are NLT or NIV

This is even the case for KJV, when you consider the JST (Joseph Smith Translation)

1 What is Truth, Seek Truth

2 Your Missionary Library

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The other answers are excellent. I want to share the two things I thought of when I first read this question. I think these are two things that might fit with "Crucially, a stance that most missionaries would know about and reiterate?"

First, in 1842, Joseph Smith wrote down what have become the articles of faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The eight one of these says

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

So, as far as non-KJV translations are translated correctly, they are the word of God. Determining this is much easier said than done. As indicated in depperm's answer, for Latter-day Saints the way to do this is "by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations." (source)

The second thing I thought of was the recent update to the Church's General Handbook (like, within the last two months). In Chapter 38, section 38.8.39 (entitled "Scriptures"), it says (emphasis mine)

(38.8.39.1) When possible, members should use a preferred or Church-published edition of the Bible in Church classes and meetings (which is the KJV for English speakers). This helps maintain clarity in the discussion and consistent understanding of doctrine. Other editions of the Bible may be useful for personal or academic study.

Missionaries, as official Church ministers, are probably not going to teach from anything other than the KJV. How familiar they are with other translations and thus how willing they are to engage with other translations in conversations will likely vary from missionary to missionary.


Perhaps also relevant from General Handbook Chapter 38,

(38.8.39.3) The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has not authorized efforts to translate or rewrite scripture text into modern or informal language. This counsel does not apply to Church publications for children.

(note that the General Handbook is now entirely digital and subject to updates and changes over time, so it's possible the quotes above will diverge from the linked sources)

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