The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is unique among the world’s religions and denominations of Christianity. The predominant denomination of what we call Restorationist Christianity, a branch separate from the more familiar Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox divisions, it seeks to reinstate an early approach to the faith. Notably, while most Christian faiths have their origins in Europe and the Middle East, the LDS Church is a distinctly American institution, headquartered in Salt Lake City but establishing itself around the world.
A religion that is prominent without necessarily being familiar, people have lots of questions about the Latter-Day Saints. Which version of the Bible do Mormons read? Do they even read the Bible as we know it? Is it really true that their Bible says they can’t drink coffee and Coca-Cola? We’ll take a closer look at these scriptural questions.
A Traditional Translation
To this day, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints favors the King James Version of the Bible, the 1611 publication that brought an English translation of the Bible to a widespread audience for the first time in history. An edition that readers have always renowned for its literary beauty, it also features many archaic and unfamiliar words and constructions, which can trip readers up. Why the adherence to tradition? The strong English heritage of the original LDS community means that it was the edition early leaders knew best, and authors of later canonical works tried to emulate its high register. Today, though the Church permits other translations, it prefers the consistency of the KJV, attempting to give “Which version of the Bible do Mormons read?” a definitive answer.
Wait. What About That Book of Mormon?
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, natives of the Mountain West and thus no strangers to the LDS community, had a hit on their hands with the musical The Book of Mormon. If you haven’t seen the show or at least heard about it, you’ve probably seen commercials for it. One of the greatest misconceptions about the Latter-Day Saints is that the Book of Mormon is its primary scripture. While it is indeed a foundational text of the Church, it stands alongside the Bible rather than replacing it. The King James Bible and the Book of Mormon are two of the Church’s “standard works,” forming a canon with two additional books: Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
Where in the King James Bible Does It Say…
About the coffee? It doesn’t. You’ll find the Church’s guidelines for healthy living in the Word of Wisdom, part of the Doctrine & Covenants. Here, not in the Bible, will you find the notorious interdiction against ingesting harmful substances such as alcohol and nicotine. In the case of coffee, it’s not the caffeine that’s at issue but the notion of a “hot drink,” which founder Joseph Smith believed harmful.