YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

August 26, 2011 | 51 comments
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On Saturday June 11,  nearly 200 YSA gathered at the Lincoln Center chapel, the same as KJVhouses the Manhattan Temple, for a YSA conference that centered on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Saturday from 1-4, three one-hour workshops were held on the Bible. Three Bible Nerds were on hand to teach:  Jon H (MA, Biblical Studies, Yale) covered the writing and transmission of the books of the Bible; Jon R (MA, New Testament, Duke) spoke on using modern translations and other study aids, with extensive slides and books on display; We each submitted a brief teaser description. Mine read,

How to Read the Bible and Love It- Many LDS are less familiar with the Bible than our other scriptures, and feel more uncomfortable with it when they do read it; the Bible is “weird,” and Bible-reading can seem like a more Protestant kind of thing. However, the Old and New Testaments were central for Joseph Smith and the Restoration and may be even more important to us today. I’ll be talking about becoming a “competent reader” and coming to own and love the Bible in the process.

Students rotated through all three workshops, which were, from all accounts,  well received. I received an email from one attendee who declared it (with apparently no Simpsons reference intended) “the best YSA conference ever!!” I didn’t hear any negative or less-enthusiastic feedback from anyone, and several people emailed to ask for any handouts or references we could provide.

At the beginning of each workshop, while participants trickled in, in comfortably gendered groups of twos and threes, I asked some straw-poll questions and got some surprising answers.

“How many of you have read the Bible from cover to cover?” Combined, perhaps 5 YSA total had read the Bible from cover to cover. I expected low numbers, but that was even lower than I thought. A few people raised wishy-washy hands, meaning they’d read most of it, at one time or another.

In two of three sessions, someone asked ” does cover to cover include the Old Testament?”

“Well, the Old Testament *is* considered part of the Bible, and it’s between the covers, so, yes.” Shades of Marcion? Or just laziness/discomfort?

“When it’s late at night, and you need to read something so you can have read your scriptures for the day, how many of you pick up the Bible?”

Again, few hands, which became even fewer when I said “other than the Gospels?”

“Why is that, do you think?”

The usual ideas were thrown out, exactly the kinds of things I was trying to undermine- The Bible is too weird, too hard, too foreign, not doctrinal enough (i.e. it’s not always easy to see some kind of relevance or application). The Book of Mormon was invoked several times by comparison.

Looking back on my own experience, although I graduated with four years early-morning seminary, I don’t think I read the Bible cover to cover until William Hamblin’s ANE History class in Jerusalem offered extra credit to do so. Seemingly at random, I grabbed a NIV Study Bible out of the Jerusalem Center Library more or less at random and went from Genesis to Revelation in about 10 weeks. That experience opened my eyes to many things.

Afterwards, the Jons and I chuckled over the fact that we’d been billed as “Bible scholars”; Jon R. pointed out that we’re better described as failed academics, since neither of the Jons is pursuing a PhD post-MA, and my PhD program did not end with me getting a PhD. On the other hand, the three of us were likely the most informed and formally-trained LDS in the neighborhood. I think it’s good that not everyone who gets some training ends up centered in Utah; we leaven out the loaf, geographically speaking, and are thus available to provide uplifting but meaty YSA workshops, Institute classes, and discomfiting Sunday School comments.

51 Responses to YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

  1. Spack on August 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    “I once read the Old Testament from cover to cover. When I was done, I got down on my knees and told the Lord that if he forgave me, I’d never do it again.”

  2. Ben S. on August 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve never been able to find that one. Best I can do is

    I read the Bible through once, and when I got through I sais: “I will never tackle it again in the flesh.;” but I have read in it, and I am acquainted with it, and I have marked it.”

    J. Golden Kimball: His Sermons, by Jonathon Golden Kimball, 181.

  3. Jacob M on August 26, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I read the bible cover to cover while I was a missionary. I wont lie and say that it was easy, because oh my goodness it wasn’t, but I am very grateful I did. Particularly reading the Song of Solomon as a hormone crazed 20 year old. There is so much good stuff in the bible.

  4. Dave on August 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Very nice program, Ben. For years, I’ve been reading various accounts about the KJV and its negative impact on LDS Bible literacy: Mormons avoid reading it and don’t understand half of it if they continue. I am beginning to think that the primary reason LDS leaders are so fond of the KJV is that they prefer LDS to avoid the Bible and instead read LDS scriptures and whatever predigested commentary is on sale at Deseret Book.

  5. danithew on August 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    After reading through the Book of Mormon together a number of times, my wife and I decided to tackle the Old Testament. We usually read a chapter a day and it took us somewhere in the neighborhood of three years to get through it all.

    It’s such a long strange trip – but I mean that in a good way. The Old Testament really deserves our awe and respect – both for it’s immense length and its profound content. The other books of scripture are a bit in the shadow of the Old Testament, I think.

    Personally, the Old Testament is one of my favorite books of scripture and I’m grateful for the Book of Mormon because I think it sheds quite a bit of light on the Old Testament. I think, in many ways, Mormons are the most Biblical religion – even though sometimes we could know the Bible much better and more greatly appreciate how that is true.

    I remember reading about how Spencer W. Kimball, when he was young, was at a church meeting where a speaker asked the congregation to raise their hands if they had read the entire Bible and he felt convicted in his conscience for not doing so and immediately set about on the path to accomplish that task – I think he said he would read it each night by the light of a kerosene lantern. He was still young when he accomplished that and I think that was a critical part of who he was and his testimony. We should probably refer to that particular story more often and attempt to get our people to really read the Bible in its entirety.

  6. Dave R on August 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Agree with Dave. Church leaders appear to consider biblical understanding a Pandora’s box, that if opened, will allow uncorrelated questions and answers to fill Sunday school classes throughout the earth, never to be put back in their place again.

  7. TT on August 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    A fine group of presenters by any standards. Well done!

  8. Kevin Barney on August 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for the report, Ben. Sounds like a great conference!

  9. Ms. Jack on August 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I grabbed a NIV Study Bible out of the Jerusalem Center Library more or less at random and went from Genesis to Revelation in about 10 weeks.

    Funny, the first Bible I was ever able to get through from cover-to-cover was an NIV Study Bible as well. I did it in high school, but that was because (oddly enough) my newfound exploration of Mormonism infused me with a zeal to understand my own fledgling faith better.

    Is that my Jon R. and my Jon H.? Tell them I said hello. The three of you must have been such a treat.

  10. Syphax on August 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I also read the whole Bible through on my mission. It was really a turning point for me (though it took about 8 months since I had to squeeze it into my regular lesson planning). I made it a point to find something on every page to mark… and if I couldn’t find anything I needed to dig deeper and find something meaningful. Now I have something to show for it – I can flip through and see what stood out to me as a young missionary.

    During the course of reading the Bible I went from being a missionary who learned about other faiths to find out why they are wrong, to being a missionary who learned about other faiths to find out why they are right. It was an extremely transformative experience for me, because I was so persecuted on my mission by other Christians, and this was my way of reaching out my heart to them and trying to see what they saw in the scriptures. There is so much packed in the New Testament that I did see how a mainstream Christian would think that there was no need for more. I wouldn’t leave the Church but reading the Bible cover to cover made me feel a kinship to the greater Christian tradition far more than other Christians did. The result was a much deeper sense of universalism and pluralism for me, which might not be right for everyone, but it seemed like the natural evolution of my spiritual life.

  11. Jon H. on August 27, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Ben, I’m glad your session was so well-received. I got some similar emails, though none quite as effusive! This was my blurb:

    How we Got the Bible – How did the books in the Old and New Testaments get there? Who wrote them and where did they come from? Even though our Bible is wrapped together in a convenient leather cover, the books it contains were written hundreds of years apart by very different people. I will be giving a brief overview of the origins of the Bible and how its collection of books was shaped and assembled into what we know today.

    I had lots of interesting questions about the Apocrypha, to which I dedicated a whole section. One person wanted me to tell them how the catholic church got started. Another felt just sure that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle knew the Old Testament and was disappointed when I couldn’t confirm her convictions.

    I really enjoyed being there and am disappointed only that I didn’t get to hear Jon R. or Ben speak!

  12. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 27, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Shades of Marcion — this time reading through the OT with my family (we are trying to keep pace with my eleven year old who started on it by herself and is now midway through 2 Kings) I’ve started to have more sympathy for Marcion.

    I’ll note that she really started reading when she shifted over to the NET Bible from the King James. It was interesting to have her interrupt us in the car with a “this is really neat” and then have her read Matthew 6 to us. Especially since she had been through a unit on that same chapter two weeks before in Church with the King James.

    She is a fairly high functioning kid with Tourettes. Functions in the upper 20% of 10th graders as far as reading and such …

    Which made me rethink my feelings about the King James, though I love the beauty of it.

  13. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 27, 2011 at 6:41 am

    Dave … the primary reason LDS leaders are so fond of the KJV is the beauty of the language and the fact they are not a group of illiterates.

    The primary reason Protestant ministers are so fond of the KJV when they put something in print is rights management. It is exceedingly easy to get the right to use the KJV. Other versions of the Bible … well, I just spent twenty minutes last Saturday talking with a guy who handled rights management on a translation version.

    http://bible.org/permissions is the reason behind the NET Bible, btw.

    But Dave, that was a petty slap at the LDS leadership.

  14. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 7:58 am

    #4 & #5 – Seriously?

    The KJV is the translation of our founding, and the Church has invested incredible time and resources trying to make it easier to understand for its members. One of the primary reasons surveys regularly show that Mormons understand the Bible, their own religion and even other religions better than other Christians is the Church’s emphasis on it in its correlated curriculum. We can debate all we want about some things concerning the footnotes, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, etc. – but almost every non-Mormon friend who has seen our version with all those things is awe-struck and totally envious. I like other translations, as well, but there is a poetic beauty in the KJV that I love – albeit the wording is kind of a second language that must be learned, and learned best in the early, developmental years.

    On a personal, anecdotal note, one of my oldest son’s friends in high school a few years ago actually ended up joining the LDS Church a few years ago because, in his own words, “Your Primary kids know more about the Bible than my youth minister.” I know that’s not the case always (or even the majority of the time), but it was obvious to him about his own observations.

    There’s no nefarious motivation behind our use of the KJV. It’s simply the translation of our founding, and we can be a bit OCD when it comes to things we link to our founding and pioneer heritage.

  15. Joe Spencer on August 27, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Very nice, Ben. Thanks for the report. My wife and I are reading through the whole bible with our children (principally the two older: 7 and 5 years each) right now, using the NRSV. It’s the first time I’ve read the bible cover to cover not using the KJV. (Actually, I take that back. I read the bible cover to cover in the Reina Valera Spanish version once.) It’s been wonderful to see how well the kids can understand the bible that way.

    But my commendations for doing this sort of thing. So productive.

  16. anita on August 27, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I have a degree in biblical Hebrew and have read the KJV Bible many times, but when I first started reading other translations with my family I couldn’t believe how understandable and enjoyable they were! It’s been a pleasure to discover some new insights and meanings and read with more ease and fluency, instead of as such a scholarly text needing footnotes, additional translations, help calculating measurements, etc. I would advocate for a change in the KJV/LDS church relationship for that reason; we spend half our time in gospel doctrine just trying to figure out what the text is saying since English has changed a lot in 400 years.

  17. Dave on August 27, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Stephen M (#12), when people say one thing and do another, it raises questions. When leaders regularly say how important it is to read and understand the scriptures, including the Bible, yet vigorously push a KJV-only policy that undermines that stated goal (about 98% of the time), that raises questions. As for the “beauty of the language” argument as justification for retaining a dated and faulty translation that undermines LDS study of the Bible … do you really believe that? Seriously? You can fool some of the people all of the time, etc., but you don’t strike me as a foolable guy.

    Ray (#13) — glad it’s working for you.

  18. Ms. Jack on August 27, 2011 at 9:22 am

    #13 Ray ~ We can debate all we want about some things concerning the footnotes, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, etc. – but almost every non-Mormon friend who has seen our version with all those things is awe-struck and totally envious.

    You must have a lot of non-Mormon friends who have never laid eyes on a study Bible.

  19. Dave on August 27, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Stephen (#12), I forgot to note that the permissions point is very well taken. That may explain why the KJV text is used in the 1981 LDS Bible, but not why members are regularly discouraged from reading the Bible in other translations. And I can’t believe that the permissions problem is an insurmountable problem for a church with gazillions of dollars in liquid assets (I exaggerate — it’s just billions) and plenty of talented lawyers on call.

  20. Bob on August 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Dave, I agree with you. I think Ray doesn’t even have a remote on his TV__”Good exercize”. :):)

  21. Bob on August 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

    _exercise

  22. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I love you, Bob – but shove it today. :)

    Personally, my favorite translation is not the KJV – and I’ve never said it is. I said I like other translations, which implies I read and use other translations, also – so, yes, Dave, it is working for me.

    Ms. Jack, many of them have wonderful study Bibles – and I like many of those versions.

    I didn’t say the KJV is the best version available. However, there certainly isn’t one that ties together the LDS canon better than the one the LDS Church has published – and saying there is a nefarious motivation behind the LDS Church using the KJV really is stupid, imo.

  23. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Oh, and did you completely miss the part where I said I think the LDS obsession with the KJV is because we can be OCD about our heritage? That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the KJV as the perfect word of God. I like these conversations, but responding to things I don’t say isn’t enjoyable.

  24. Bob on August 27, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Fair enough Ray. But I do think the Church can have unsaid motives without them being “nefarious”.

  25. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I agree, Bob – but I think “nefarious” is a pretty good word to describe the Daves’ claims in #4 and #5. “Avoid the Bible” and suppress “biblical understanding” are the actual claims, and those claims, as worded, simply don’t hold up to any reasonable scrutiny.

    If the claim had been that, “Mormons often / generally use the scriptures in a way that doesn’t bring maximum understanding,” I wouldn’t argue at all. We use them as proof-texts WAY too much and take them WAY too literally, imo. (By that, I mean that we assume a degree of inerrancy and historical accuracy and de-value ancient stories as valuable mythology – with ALL of our canonized scripture.) However, that’s not what the charges were – and I just think the actual charges in #4 and #5 are both nefarious and flat-out wrong.

    That’s all. {g}

  26. Researcher on August 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Totally off topic, but that’s one of the parts of T&S I’ve enjoyed since I started reading the blog: the Bob and Ray Show.

    (Reminding you to write if you get work…)

    And back on topic, my family has been reading selections from the Bible along with our Book of Mormon reading. I wouldn’t want my kids to think that reading the Bible was a Protestant thing!

  27. Researcher on August 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with Protestants! Many of my ancestors were Protestants.) : )

  28. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    “the Bob and Ray Show”

    Nice!! (and I have, if your parenthetical was directed to me – for details, send me an e-mail)

  29. Researcher on August 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Naah, that was Ray Goulding’s line. I should have included Bob Elliott’s as well (“hang by your thumbs…”).

  30. Bob on August 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Researcher: There is also the Bob and Ardis show.

  31. Ben S on August 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Ease off, gentlemen. I don’t have a lot of time to watch the thread here, hurricane and all…

    As we’re not privy to QotT discussions, I suspect the motivations are mixed and complex. Cost of switching, the heavy momentum of tradition, conservative views, etc. It’s valid to point out that learning more about the Bible (as other translations facilitate, esp. with notes), often brings complications, and it seems likely that current leaders would prefer to avoid that.

  32. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Permissions are a huge issue, and no where near as easy to navigate as just throwing lawyers at it. And I can’t believe that the permissions problem is an insurmountable problem for a church with gazillions of dollars

    We either end up having to do our own translation, buy a failed modern one (one where the rights owners have pretty much given up and gone out of business) or have to deal with a rights owner who has a theological basis for having done a version.

    Not that I do not endorse other Bibles (and we often use them in my ward).

    You can read my comments here:

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/07/21/so-if-i-were-doing-the-sunday-school-curriculum-for-next-year/

    So, if I were doing the Sunday School Curriculum for next year, I would revisit the New Testament, for part of it.

    I would assign 20% to buy NET Bibles. 20% to pick up The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version. Another 20% The Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition. That leaves 40% to browse around, use their King James version or try something else.

    For an excerpt. I’m very much in favor of switching/updating and I think there are ways to do it, it is just that the permissions issue is a huge one, well entrenched and well acknowledged in the protestant publishing world.

    well, I just spent twenty minutes last Saturday talking with a guy who handled rights management on a translation version. — and even when they had financial problems they would have rather burned the thing that do anything positive for the “Mormon” church (though he allowed that he now believes that not all Mormons are automatically damned).

    The other issue of poetry (which if you grow up with the KJV until you can breath it, you can feel the lack of it in other versions, that sort of thing still jars me when reading other versions), authority (you want a Bible accepted as authoritative inside the Church and out — and yet one that does not subsume other issues), and consistency …

    Not to mention, one generations certainty over a “fact” is another generations “snicker.”

    I’ve had a number of times when I was studying one era of scholarship while some of the foundation parts were eroding. For example the heroquest project I worked on, I finally got browbeaten into reading Campbell. Just at the time the full Ishtar cycle was available. So, I’m reading along knowing that Tammuz isn’t in hell because he tried to rescue her, he is there because after she failed in trying to conquer the place, he got sacrificed in her stead so she could walk out. Plays hob with the central illustration in Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    Or Jericho. I got really started on a group of Germans who accepted that Jericho really did not exist — just as archeologists finally definitively located it. Makes me cynical of received knowledge as to higher certainty where some things have gone wrong.

  33. rey on August 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Most pastors are undoubtedly glad that nobody actually reads the Bible. Once you read it, that’s when you realize it isn’t inerrant. So long as you haven’t read it, you aren’t aware that Paul contradicts himself, contradicts Jesus, contradicts the Old Testament, misuses and twists the Old Testament. If you don’t read Isaiah 7-8 in full, you will never know that the virgin birth prophecy was fulfilled by Mahershalalhashbaz (had to be, this was a time-limited prophecy, if you read Isaiah 7-8 in full) and therefore will continue to believe the virgin birth myth in Matthew and the lie that it was a fulfillment of prophecy. In short, not reading the Bible is what keeps you Christian. If you read it, you would become a Jew, a Deist, an agnostic, or possibly an atheist. You cannot read the Bible and remain a Christian.

  34. Ray on August 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    #32 – Thanks. I always thought I was a Christian. Good to know I can’t be.

  35. WVS on August 27, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks for the report Ben. It’s a great idea.

  36. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Dave (18), I have to add my two cents to Stephen M’s (31) on the permission/copyright issue. The organizations that own the copyrights on the various recent translations of the Bible are simply not disposed to helping Mormons, period.

    Permissions was one of the major factors behind the Church’s use of the Reina Valera 1909 as the basis for its 2009 version — the 1960 Reina Valera is still in copyright and the Church couldn’t get permission to use it in its own editions, even though it had purchased copies of the 1960 edition for decades for use by Spanish-speaking congregations.

    Incidentally, the same situation exists in Portuguese — the Church uses the João Ferreira de Almeida version from the 1960s, and can’t get permission to publish its own version. I hope the Church is already at work on a new version based on the public domain 1911 version of the Almeida translation.

    As I understand it, this same situation exists in other languages also.

    Simply put, no army of lawyers or gazillions of dollars will enable the Church to force permission from the copyright owners. And I suspect that trying would simply give them another way to claim that Mormons are evil or something.

  37. Alex T. Valencic on August 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Can anyone direct me to an instance of general LDS church leadership discouraging the use of other translations of the Bible for personal study? I know that the KJV is the official translation used by the church, but I can’t think of a single instance in my oh-so-brief 28 years when someone has said, “Brothers and sisters, please do not turn to other translations of the Holy Bible.”

    The closest I can find are quotes from the 1950s and 1970s in the beginning of the manual for “The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles” (second edition, 1979) that I have on my shelf that states that the KJV is the “version used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of its officla work both at home and abroad.” But the book goes on to say that “this does not mean that the King James Version is a perfect translation.”

  38. Dave on August 28, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Alex, try section 21.1.7 of newly issued Handbook 2, item “Bible” in the policy section:

    English-speaking members should use the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible. This edition includes the Topical Guide; footnotes; excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation; cross-references to other passages in the Bible and to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price; and other study aids. Although other versions of the Bible may be easier to read, in doctrinal matters, latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations.

    The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.

  39. Bob on August 28, 2011 at 8:48 am

    @Kent Larson: If the Church said today __ Members, go out today and buy X version of the Bible__who is going to stop them?

  40. Bob on August 28, 2011 at 8:55 am

    @Dave: “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.”
    This can be done outside of Bible version X,Y,or Z(?)

  41. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Bob (38), no one.

    But that is not a very good option. If you have to get permission from a non-Mormon (and usually not friendly) source to quote any verse of the bible you cite in general conference (because it will be printed later), or whenever you want to print an excerpt in a manual, it is very difficult to use that source. And what happens if the permission is granted up to one point, and then suddenly denied, after you have invested time and effort in suggesting the use of that translation?

    Nothing stops members from purchasing and using other translations. The Church wants, for doctrinal reasons apparently, the KJV to be used for interpreting doctrine. Outside of that, members are already free to use other translations. Its when the Church starts trying to use other translations in an official way that the copyright issues become difficult.

    The most the Church could do without resolving the copyright issue with some translation owner would be to suggest that some other translations are easier to read. But then wouldn’t that translation get a degree of doctrinal support, even with an explicit disclaimer?

  42. Bob on August 28, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Kent:
    I would guess many churches use these other translations in expressing their own views__are they being Copy-Right sued? There must be thousands of suit?
    When some other church uses the BoM in their sermons__does the Church Copy- Right sue them?
    I just don’t see the copyright issue as a big oar in the water. It can be worked out.

  43. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Bob:

    [I should note that I am NOT a lawyer and the comments I’ve made here are NOT legal advice.]

    I don’t know if other churches are getting permission when they need to under the law or not. Under the law they should. And since the Church tries to follow the law on this kind of thing (especially when it involves official policy instead of a one-time thing), I’m sure that the Church would want to seek permission or get some kind of blanket permission.

    BUT, I think we do need to remember that the copyright holders in these cases have a different view of Mormons than they do of your average protestant denomination. I’d bet they would sue the Church, or send threatening letters, long before they would for your local independent protestant congregation. It may also be that the major denominations have agreements that allow their unrestricted use of modern translations, something that the Church can’t get because of prejudice.

    And, don’t forget that if the Church violated their copyright, they would absolutely use it for publicity.

    As for others using the BoM, I’d love to see an example!! I doubt anyone does. But if they did, you have to remember that the Book of Mormon is, in general, in the public domain. The only way the Church could conceivably make a claim is if someone misrepresents the book as having been written by someone else or if someone used the headers before each chapter (which are covered by copyright) or perhaps any of the more recent corrections that the Church has made to the Book of Mormon.

    And, finally, if you think that copyright isn’t that big of an issue, why don’t you contact one of the translation owners, tell them you want to publish a version of their translation for a Mormon audience, and ask what they would charge for permission. Dollars to donuts they will tell you that permission will not be given no matter how much money you offer.

  44. Dave R on August 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Ray, sorry, I didn’t respond earlier, but hadn’t been following this post closely as I hadn’t considered my comment to be controversial. I’m not sure you thought very carefully before responding, though.

    There’s no reason to suspect that I considered the motivations of Church leaders to be sinister or ‘nefarious’ (I think you’ve used ‘nefarious’ FOUR times in your replies so far). On the contrary, although I wish they handled this issue differently, I’m quite confident their treatment of the Bible is based on what they consider to be best for their membership (and I believe most other churches don’t encourage a serious study of the Bible for the same reasons). They likely worry that if many members begin a serious study of the Bible, they’ll come to the conclusion that much of what they previously understood to be so, isn’t. It may challenge their current understanding, and once you send people down that road, you can’t always control what questions they ask.

    For example, how does our membership respond to learning that many of the letters attributed to Paul, and both those attributed to Peter, are forgeries? How about learning learning that the last third of Isaiah was not written by Isaiah (despite portions being cited as such in the BofM)? That we’ve been misreading books we consider to contain future prophecies (Daniel, Revelation)? That many books / stories in the old testament were never meant to be read as historical accounts (for example, Ruth, Job, Esther, Jonah)? That there are no surviving first hand accounts of the life of Jesus? That the accounts we do have differ on very important issues?

    So Ray, although I wish we’d move a different direction here, I’m very aware that encouraging a serious study of the Bible could present a whole new set of problems. I think a serious study of the Bible, in a spirit of faith, could result in more mature testimonies and a greater interest in all of our scriptures. But I admit, it’s full of risks. For many members, it would mean a paradigm shift.

    Anyway, my point is, it’s a bit of a stretch on your part to assume that my disagreement with our leaders on this issue means I suspect them of having wicked motivations. I’m actually quite confident they are doing what they consider to be in the best interest of the majority of Saints.

  45. Ray on August 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Dave R. We still disagree on your central claim (the the Church leaders discourage serious study of the Bible and use the KJV as a tool to do so – something I think is a really silly statement), but your clarification removes my description of your charge as nefarious.

  46. Dave R on August 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Ray, you keep calling my opinion ‘silly’ and ‘stupid’. I don’t really care, but I am a little surprised you think it’s THAT evident that our Church is actively promoting a serious study of the Bible. We use ridiculous Sunday School manuals that were already 100 years out of date when they were first published. We completely ignore every single thing that biblical scholars have learned about the bible since the mid-1800s. The only scripture we actively encourage members to read is the Book of Mormon. And we discourage members from reading any bible that doesn’t contain the ultra conservative chapter headings of Bruce R McConkie. I fail to see how our treatment of this book is emblematic of a church that embraces new perspectives and insights into the Bible. At least I think there’s enough contrarian evidence to your viewpoint that its unwise of you to simply dismiss a differing view as stupid or silly.

  47. Ray on August 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Dave, I probably need to apologize for those choices of words, since if you had said an “academic” study of the Bible I would have agreed – and since I very rarely use those type of words about comments. If that’s what you meant (an “academic” study), I agree that such an opinion is neither silly nor stupid.

    “Serious” is a completely different word, however. “Serious” can include every known translation and every written commentary that exists in the entire world – but it also can include one translation and no commentaries, especially for members who can’t access or afford anything but the most basic copy of our scriptures. “Serious” is an attitude, not a scripted program or prescribed combination of sources. Given how much time we focus on the Bible in our formal study programs (more than the Book of Mormon, without question) and the studies that show Mormons understand the Bible and Christianity better than any other Christian denomination, generally, I think it is incredibly simplistic and inaccurate to say that LDS Church leaders don’t want members to undertake “serious” study of the Bible. For the most part, they simply don’t give a large rodent’s hindquarters how that “serious” study occurs – as long as it isn’t in isolation from our other standard works.

    Given our other standard works and the time, effort and money put into producing a quad that ties everything together (no matter the quality of the result in any particular person’s eyes), I think it’s no wonder the leaders encourage the only translation that they view as comprehensive of all our canonized scripture. That isn’t to avoid “serious” study; it’s to encourage church-wide study of everything we have. At least, that’s my opinion.

    Again, if you meant deep, “academic” study of the Bible, I agree with you that the Church leadership doesn’t stress that type of study. I think they recognize that the majority of the world-wide membership isn’t in a position to tackle scriptural study in that manner, so they emphasize simple but serious study instead.

  48. Ray on August 29, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Dave, after typing my comment on Alison’s post, I want to apologize also for making you an offender for a word. I should have clarified how I feel about “serious” much sooner and avoided the negative descriptions of your word choice altogether.

  49. Grant Hardy on August 29, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Just a few comments on the copyright issue. It would not be a problem to quote modern biblical translations in general conference. Elder Uceda of the Seventy quoted the NIV in his talk last October, which was published in the Ensign with the simple note “Acts 3:14, New International Version.” This sort of usage is common in many denominations and is explicitly allowed by copyright holders. For instance, the permissions guidelines for the NRSV state: The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.” (The permissions guidelines for the NIV and the 1995 Reina-Valera are very similar.) Five hundred verses would allow for limited usage in church manuals as well.

    Asking for permission to produce an LDS version of a modern translation–with LDS headings, cross-references, topical guide, and our own Bible dictionary–could be more difficult since copyright holders might be hesitant to allow any narrow denominational editions of their work, and if the translation were done by Evangelical Protestants, as is the case with the NIV, there might be some bias against Mormons as well. And the Church would probably have to work in consultation with the copyright holder rather than producing something entirely independently. But there would be no obstacle to Church inviting Latter-day Saints to purchase and read another translation like the NRSV (my favorite, since it is a successor to the KJV and was designed to be ecumenical rather than doctrinally slanted one way or another), and then asking the Church curriculum committee or individual BYU professors to write an LDS study guide to accompany its usage.

    The NRSV copyright is held by the National Council of Churches, which is a mainstream Protestant organization, and they might well be open to working with the Church with regard to more extensive quotations and permissions. The Community of Christ joined that organization last year, and the fact that our Restorationist cousins believe the Book of Mormon to be scripture was not a deal-breaker. Indeed, the Community of Christ has published books that quote the NRSV Bible and the Book of Mormon side by side.

  50. rey on August 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    “#32 – Thanks. I always thought I was a Christian. Good to know I can’t be.”

    Well, by the definition of most Christians, you aren’t, since they say Mormons aren’t Christians.

  51. rey on August 29, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Which fits within what I was saying, of course: Nobody who actually reads the Bible can stay in what is traditionally called Christianity.