One topic I find most interesting about Mormonism is the ability of the Latter-day Saints to create the sacred. By separating sacred things from ordinary practices, we make the former much more special in our minds. As Richard Bushman recently pointed out in his Weber State lecture, one of the ways we make the temple sacred is by not talking about it outside the temple. We fear that if these things we hold sacred become too common they will lose some of their luster.
One thing I feel this is especially true for is language. When we pray, close our sacrament meeting talks, or just feel like speaking in a sacred way, we often invoke the language from the King James Version of the Bible (despite DKL’s plea that KJV language is not quite fulfilling). For many, this is because KJV language appears more ancient (and “ancient” often means more authoritative), and therefore more “sacred” than ordinary and modern language. This was especially true for Joseph Smith, because both the Book of Mormon and his revelations came in this type of vernacular. Among common members, any other form of speech would almost seem sacrilegious (which is one of the reasons a majority of Engligh-speaking members look down upon newer translations). When celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of the KJV, Deseret Evening News praised that particular translation as the only version “given to the world by eminent scholarship in the very same language in which modern revelations are given.” Some even believe that since the Joseph Smith Translation was given in the same language, it confirmed that dialect as divinely instituted.
While many of us my see that reasoning as problematic, noting that Joseph’s revelations came in the same language because that was his culture’s “sacred language,” I think this can have some benefits for our community, namely, it develops a deeper reverence for scriptural vocabulary and form. However, it does also have some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is that it makes us believe when prophets have spoken in this vernacular it should be treated as infallible, and therefore should not be questioned. But, more importantly, and I think others agree with me on this point, it makes us hesitant to consider other translations, even if they may be more correct.
One concern scholar Phillip Barlow expressed in Mormons and the Bible asks what might happen if we ever did “let go” of the KJV:
If the Saints forsake the King James Bible in favor of more accurate and more readable translations, will not the language of the Book of mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, patterned after the KJV, appear increasingly anachronistic? Will any modern prophet feel called to adapt the work of Joseph Smith to the needs of an English-speaking populace in the twenty-first century, or is Smith’s English, like Mohommad’s Arabic, permanently sacrosanct?
So, are we stuck with KJV English as our “sacred” language? And, if we are, is that a good thing?
 Deseret Evening News, April 21, 1911.
 Phillip Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 180.