The King James Bible—Four Hundred Years


Robert L. Millet

In the year 2011 we are celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). The story of how the English Bible came to be is an inspiring one, a saga with which Latter-day Saints need to be more familiar. It is a story of faith in God and His divine purposes, courage in the face of persecution, and singular devotion to a cause—that the Holy Bible might be made available to every man and women, in every walk of life, in a language they can understand. In a day when you and I can conveniently purchase our handy quads or give as gifts the Bible or the scriptures of the Restoration without a second thought, it is worth remembering that it was not always so; a serious and even sacred price has been paid to have free access to holy writ.

For centuries it was the Bible and the Bible alone that made literacy a reality and the Judeo-Christian ethic a vital part of our communities. It was the KJV that Joseph Smith was called and appointed to translate as a significant branch of his prophetic calling. It is the beautiful and spiritually satisfying language of the KJV in which the narrative and doctrine of the Book of Mormon, as well as the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, are expressed. And it is to the KJV that we will forevermore turn to read Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer or the parable of the Prodigal Son. The words selected by the King James translators were chosen with great care, and they convey a reverential clarity and spiritual tone that is so often lacking in many modern translations or paraphrases.

Because of the historical and spiritual significance of the King James Version, academic conferences are being held throughout the world during 2011. I have been asked, for example, to participate in conferences at The Ohio State University and Baylor University and explain why the Latter-day Saints have maintained such a love for and devotion to this scriptural and literary treasure. The BYU Religious Studies Center sponsored symposia on the KJV at Brigham Young University in February and at the Conference Center theater in Salt Lake City. In addition, articles on the topic will appear throughout the year in theReligious Educator.

Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, recently reminded us: “My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”[1] That you and I will, in the coming year and well into the future, thank God regularly for speaking the word, preserving the word, and delivering the word to us, as contained in the King James Version of the Bible, is my sincere hope and prayer.

Robert L. Millet

Director of Publications, BYU Religious Studies Center


[1] “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign, November 2010, 90.