BYU conference extols, explains King James Bible

By Sara Israelsen-Hartley and Chase Larson

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2011 10:17 p.m. MST

One of the reasons for the similar language between the two books may be a fulfillment of the Lord's promise in Doctrine and Covenants 1:24 that He would reveal truth unto his servants "after the manner of their language."

"The 'manner of language' suggests that such transmission would occur in the actual language, but also in specific mannerisms that would be recognized by the audience," Belnap said, "(thus) establishing the (Book of Mormon's) validity to people already familiar with the word of God via the King James' English."

After all, it was James 1:5 in the King James Version of the Bible that prompted young Joseph Smith to retire to the woods and pray for knowledge, which led to a vision that changed the course of his, and millions of others', lives.

Had Smith been reading the Geneva Bible, a pre-King James Version with extensive marginal notes, his experience may have been dramatically different, Belnap said.

In the explanation for James 1:5, the Geneva Bible notes explain that lacking wisdom means to "endure patiently what favor God layeth on him."

"The importance of a Bible free from explicit commentary (became) foundational for the restoration," Belnap said. "If the Geneva Bible had been used by Joseph, it's very possible he would have simply waited it out."

John Tanner, former academic vice president at BYU, said his goal is to emphasize what we hear and not just what we see in the text of the King James Version of the Bible.

"Everyone recognizes that the language sounds authoritatively scriptural," he said. "It was not simply a matter of royal mandate nor even adoption by the established church — it is a function of linguistic and rhetorical choices that have (made) their way into our collective, cultural soul."

As apparent in the title page of the King James Version's first edition in 1611, the book was originally appointed to be read aloud in churches in public communal worship, Tanner said. This is in contrast to William Tyndale's New Testament translation, which was intended for individual study.

"I believe that the aural power of the text was intentional," Tanner said. "To be sure, the translators wanted first and foremost to be accurate … (and) they produced the most accurate English translation of its day. However, the translators wanted the translation to sound scriptural, hence, they give it this antique veneer … and succeeded in this far beyond what any of them could've imagined in 1611."

Symposium events Friday

The free symposium continues this evening from 7 - 9 p.m. at the LDS Conference Center Little Theater in Salt Lake City.

 7:05 - 7:40 - John S. Tanner - The Aural Authority of the KJV

 7:40 - 8:10 - Dan L. Belnap - These Last Records: The Relationship between the KJV and the Book of Mormon

 8:10 - 8:40 - Robert L. Millet - What the Holy Bible Means to Latter-day Saints

 8:40 - 9 p.m. - Q&A, closing

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com, chase.m.larson@gmail.com

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