This incredibly common question stems from the following LDS declaration: “In English, the King James Version is used as the official Bible of the Church.”1 The born-again perspective goes like this: “If my friend is committed to the KJV, isn’t that the version I should use?”
Let me give the short answer first. In my opinion, born-again Christians should use whatever Bible translation they’re most comfortable using. Here are three reasons I’ve arrived at that opinion.
1. The Word of God is Living
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
God’s word is by far the most powerful tool in the Christian’s arsenal. The sooner they let it loose, the better. Instead of fumbling with an unfamiliar weapon, believers are better served to wield what they know with confidence, meaning, and passion.
As a young Christian, I learned mostly from the King James Version and memorized many verses from it. Later, I began reading from modern translations and learned how to study from original languages. I would say that my Scripture quotation is a jumbled mix of old and new. And that’s ok so long as I’m faithfully imparting the word of God, which is where true power lies.
2. Jesus Patterns a Wide Use of the Bible
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Jesus weaves the Old Testament into his conversations using a variety of techniques. He quotes a Greek translation word-for-word (Mark 7:6-8), loosely alludes to Scriptural ideas like Spirit-birth (John 3:5-8), highlights a specific phrase (Mark 10:6), or focuses on a narrow detail like verb tense (Mark 12:26-17). The apostle Paul did the same (see Acts 26, for example). Christians, therefore, should feel utmost liberty to refer to the Bible in a variety of ways.
I have a good friend who is godly, brilliant, and terrible at memorizing Bible passages word-for-word. His conversations range widely across the Bible as he explains God’s truth with remarkable clarity. And, by the way, he hardly ever quotes more than a word or two. Using the gifts that God has given him, he directs people to the Word of God much like Christ did. You can follow that example, too.
3. Faith Comes from Hearing the Word
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Simply by agreeing to study the Bible with you, your friend has already jumped over several hurdles far more daunting than the question of translation. Latter-day Saints are generally afraid of the Bible and extremely reluctant to hear what it says. The Bible tells us that this sort of fear has a two-fold cure: faith (Mark 5:36) and love (1 John 4:18). You can dispense both to your friend by exposing them to the faith-producing Word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and by loving them sincerely (1 Timothy 1:5).
I’ve found that openness works best. At the outset of a study (or conversation), I just ask: “What translation would you prefer that I use?” And without fail, they always say, “Whatever is fine by me.” And off we go, never giving it another thought. You see, by that point, they’re more concerned with the content of truth than with the vehicle of truth.
God delights to use His Word. I’m certain that He will bless your efforts to expose your LDS friend to the “word of life” (Philippians 2:16).