Last week I attended a fireside presented by Richard Lambert, the vice chairman of the Mormon Historical Sites Foundation. His interest in biographically sketching the lives of the 59 King James Bible translators were fanned by Elder Groberg’s brother, who wondered if something more couldn’t be done by that foundation to commemorate the KJV’s 400th anniversary. Although an attorney by trade, Lambert has already spoken at prestigious symposia on topics in Mormon history. He also happens to be a counselor in presidency of my stake.
The KJV’s birthday was technically on May 2nd, but commemorating events have been occurring throughout the year. Earlier this year BYU put on a conference and then earlier this month BYU professor, John S. Tanner, presented at an Oxford symposium. Several articles have appeared in Deseret News and Mormon Times, including one that features comments from Richard Lambert. Lambert has made trips to England with MT photographer, Kenneth Mays, to capture some of the sites associated with the translators. Even the Church’s website has acknowledged the anniversary and it warranted a mention in Elder Packer’s recent conference address. Lambert pointed listeners to a website run by the King James Trust that is chaired by the Prince of Wales that includes more details on upcoming events.
Richard Lambert sketched the historical background of England flipping between Catholic and Protestant regimes in the decades leading up to King James’s reign. England during his time exhibited a high to low church spectrum with the Puritans representing the latter pole. He talked about the Puritans bringing up their grievances in a conference at the beginning of his reign. Among other things, the King did not budge on phrasing in English wedding vows about worshipping the wife. He brought up a recent royal wedding that still retained some of that quaint language. One concession King James allowed was for a new Bible version to be published. Lambert stressed how remarkable it was that scholars on all sides of England’s theological spectrum were allowed to contribute and no tell-all books were written in the aftermath by scholars who may have felt slighted in the process.
So what do you guys think of the KJV celebrations this year? I hope that the English speaking part of the Church of Jesus Christ sticks with the KJV even if that puts us increasingly out of touch with more modern Protestantism. Although alternative translations can be superior on a verse-by-verse basis, I think it would make it harder to understand cross references with the Book of Mormon if a wholesale switch was made. I marvel that Latter-day Saint scholars have made in roads at places like Oxford, perhaps a shared fondness for the KJV has created some common ground?