Many members felt a sense of awe at a significant achievement last year when the Church passed the 100 million mark in printing copies of the Book of Mormon (see Ensign, May 2000, 112). But they may not have realized that this was only one of a growing list of milestones in efforts to bring the scriptures to all of Heavenly Father’s children.
Thanks to those continuing efforts, teachings of the Book of Mormon have now been translated into 100 languages, making its words accessible to several billion people on earth. Despite rapid Church growth in many countries and many different ethnic groups, the complete four standard works are available in languages spoken by more than 95 percent of Church membership. And as you read this article, more than 50 projects related to the scriptures are being moved forward by the Church to make all of these scriptures with their full range of resources and learning aids available to even more people.
Long before His mortal birth, the Lord Jesus Christ assured Nephi that “my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people” (2 Ne. 29:2), and that He would “bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth” (2 Ne. 29:7). The Lord has given His Apostles authority to take the gospel to “the four corners of the earth” and the charge “to send my word to every creature” (D&C 124:128). The Lord also said “that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power” (D&C 90:11). Thus the Church’s continuing work to make the scriptures more accessible to members of the Church throughout the world can be seen as the fulfillment of both prophecy and divine mandate to the Church.
“We go forward with this work in fulfillment of the will of the Master,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, chairman of the Church’s Scriptures Committee. “All that we do is meant to help bring our Father’s children to Jesus Christ. The projects we undertake are chosen and planned after prayerful consideration in the highest priesthood councils of the Church. Under this priesthood direction, much has been accomplished, but there is more yet to do, and the work will go on.”
In terms of making Church scriptures more widely available, here are some of the significant milestones that were recorded in the two most recent calendar years (1999–2000).
Book of Mormon growth. Some 87 percent of the world’s people can now read the book or selections from it in their own language. The full book is available in 61 languages, doctrinal selections from it in 38, and one edition is out of print. In 2000, the Book of Mormon was made available in 18 new language editions, the highest for any year since it was first published. Among Church members, more than 99 percent can now read the book or selections or listen to it on audiotapes in their own language.
New editions of scriptures. Thirty-one new editions of the standard works (Book of Mormon, triple combination, Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price, or Bible) were made available in print, audio, or video during these two years. Their languages range from tongues of Eastern Europe to central Africa, from Asia to the West Indies. The four standard works are available in 38 languages. New or revised translations and editions are constantly under way, with the Guide to the Scriptures as part of their volumes (this combines Topical Guide references with material from the Bible Dictionary), footnotes, and so forth.
Recordings. Videos of the Book of Mormon have been completed in American Sign Language. New audio recordings of the Book of Mormon have been made available in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, Navajo, and several Mesoamerican Indian languages.
Study aids. New Church-produced maps, color pictures, and their descriptions have been added to the scriptures.
Production. Printing of the scriptures at the Church’s Salt Lake Printing Center has been made possible through skillful development and innovation in typesetting by Church employees and through installation of new, advanced printing and binding equipment.
Internet access. The Church placed the scriptures in English with their full range of study aids, including some 250,000 internal links, on the Internet.
Economy editions. New economy editions of the scriptures—inexpensive softcover copies of the Bible and triple combination—have been made available to fit more comfortably into personal and family budgets.
“Media” gift Bible. This new Church edition of the Bible is given away as a gift to those who respond to Church ads in the media offering a free copy.
Book of Mormon Stories. A new edition of this picture book designed for children has been released. With its illustrations of stories from the Book of Mormon, it is helpful for parents and teachers too. It is available on audio cassettes and now also on CD-ROM.
Teaching videos. A series of videos supporting the Church’s scripture-based curriculum has been completed. The videos are for use in the home, in Church youth and adult Sunday School classes, and in seminary and institute instruction. Each video carries segments of varying length. These include dramatizations of scripture stories and events from Church history; excerpts from talks by Church leaders; and, on the Book of Mormon video, testimonies from youth in several different countries. Because so much of the organized study in the Church is based on the scriptures, the support offered by materials such as this series of videos can be invaluable in teaching. Primary courses 8 through 11, youth and adult Sunday School classes, and seminary and institute classes all center on the four standard works. Materials supporting these courses, along with scriptures and other materials supporting teaching in the home, are available from Church distribution centers or through the Church’s official Web site, www.lds.org. These materials are designed to help members gain or strengthen testimonies through individual experiences that lead them to seek, recognize, and accept the Holy Ghost’s witness of truth.
The witness of the truth changes lives. Many members testify of how their hearts were touched as the scriptures came into their hands for the first time or as they were moved to turn to verses they had read before and saw the words through newly opened spiritual eyes.
Zoltán Horváth of the Dunaújváros Branch, Budapest Hungary District, recalls a “thirst for knowledge” when he first read the Book of Mormon. “The introduction mentions Moroni 10:3–5 [Moro. 10:3–5]. I looked those verses up. The quotation penetrated my heart as if these sentences were written to me personally. I prayed and knew through the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon was true. It is the word, will, and truth of God.” Zoltán and his wife were baptized by their 17-year-old son, a priest. Since then, the family has been sealed in the temple, and their son has served a mission preaching the gospel to his people. “The regular reading of the Book of Mormon has helped us to draw close to God and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
In Taiwan, Hsu Hwei Chi of the Taipei Second Ward, Taipei Central Stake, recalls that “before joining the Church, I thought life was like drifting in the sea, so I equipped myself with some buoys to prevent myself from drowning. They were things I supposed would be the most important for living in this world—house, power, position, wealth, cars, husband, and child.” Then suddenly some of those temporal buoys failed her. As fragile as bubbles, “they burst into nothing almost within a week. In that crisis, our loving Heavenly Father threw a lifeline to save me: He sent missionaries who shared with me the teachings in the Book of Mormon. This latter-day scripture was like dawning light in my dimming life, bringing me precious peace and comfort I needed.” Now, as a member, Sister Hsu knows that if she holds onto the iron rod found in the scriptures, “I shall never drift on the sea of life again. I thank God for giving us living prophets and scriptures in this dispensation.”
“As a longtime member of the Church, I had not given much thought to the ‘change of heart’ spoken of in Alma 5:26,” says Dorothy B. Potter of the Holladay 10th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay Stake. “I thought it applied more to the marvelous changes people sometimes experience when they accept the gospel and are baptized. I considered myself already converted.” But, she recalls, “I had begun to notice what seemed to be a lack of depth in my testimony, and the joy I wanted to feel in reading the scriptures was lacking.” Then during general conference, “I listened to the prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, give his strong, appealing testimony of the importance of the Book of Mormon and our responsibility to read it. 1 In this frame of mind, with a determination to ponder and pray, I opened the Book of Mormon one more time and began to read.”
It was the beginning of new discovery of the book. As she read, she was deeply touched by the Savior’s teachings to His people. “I felt as if I were with the Nephites and receiving the same loving ministrations.” Yet, soon forgetting this powerful spiritual experience, she was driven to her knees in prayer, tearfully sorrowing over an offense she had caused. “From the depths of my soul, I cried out, ‘My heart is changed!’” She recalls feeling no more desire for contention or selfishness in her heart; in their place came a deep desire “to learn and practice the ways of the Lord.”
Even so, daily life and old habits make it easy to forget new resolve, so there is constant need of guidance by the Holy Spirit. “I receive this spiritual nourishment through more purposeful prayer and reading of the scriptures. My opening of the Book of Mormon one more time has now become a joyful and rewarding succession of many more times, my life blessed by its precious truths as I seek to be taught and uplifted by the Spirit.”
“Search the Scriptures”
The need for members to strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ and to learn better the lessons offered through the standard works motivated Church efforts in the 1970s and early 1980s to produce new editions of the scriptures. With their notes and cross-references, study aids, and reference material (including excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), these editions tie together the testimonies of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The significance of the new editions of the scriptures in the progress of the Lord’s work on earth was underscored. “With the passing of years, these scriptures will produce successive generations of faithful Christians who know the Lord Jesus Christ and are disposed to obey His will,” said President Boyd K. Packer, serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Into their hands now are placed the sticks of Joseph and of Judah. They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forebears could achieve. They will have the testimony that Jesus is the Christ and be competent to proclaim Him and to defend Him” (“Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53).
From the beginning of the Church, members have been called upon to find an anchor for their faith in the word of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 11).
It is a call that the prophets after him have repeated. Among the many exhortations from President Gordon B. Hinckley about making the word of God part of our lives is this: “Live the gospel. Love the gospel. Read the scriptures. You will not get a testimony of the Book of Mormon unless you read the Book of Mormon. You will not get a testimony of the Doctrine and Covenants unless you read the Doctrine and Covenants. Faith comes of drinking at the fountain of eternal truth” (Ensign, Jan. 1998, 72).
The Church’s continuing progress in publishing the scriptures worldwide is bringing these life-giving waters to more and more people.
Opening Up a Whole New World
Besides being available in 100 languages, the Book of Mormon is accessible in a variety of formats—it can be read on paper or on a computer screen, heard on CD or cassette tape, felt through Braille, and now, watched on video by signers of American Sign Language (ASL).
After more than 10 years of translation effort, the final videotape of the ASL Book of Mormon was released on 9 January 2001. The 60 hours of ASL translation is recorded on a series of 15 videotapes.
Those not familiar with ASL may wonder why a video translation of the Book of Mormon is necessary if deaf people are able to read. But for the estimated 500,000 native signers of ASL in the United States and Canada, English is a second language. English and ASL are different languages structurally, and the level of understanding of English as a second language varies from person to person.
Because ASL is not a written language, Book of Mormon translator Minnie Mae Wilding-Diaz developed a writing system that represents the signs and facial expressions used in ASL. She then read the transcription of her translation from a teleprompter as she signed for the video taping. The transcript and video were reviewed by translation committee members who, like Sister Wilding-Diaz, are also deaf and fluent in ASL and English.
The ASL Book of Mormon is making a difference in the lives of deaf people. Tom Wilson of Salt Lake City, whose wife, Tedi Ann, is deaf, says that before the videos were released, he and Tedi Ann could not study the Book of Mormon as a couple. “We tried for years to read it together, and I’d try to explain it to her, but it never fully registered,” he says. Now, the Wilsons talk of how wonderful it is to sit next to each other as she watches the Book of Mormon on video and he reads the corresponding chapters in his book to himself.
Says Tedi Ann, “I’ll be watching the video and be astonished as I finally comprehend the meaning of a scripture I’ve been trying to understand all my life in English. It’s opened up a whole new world to me.”
To Know for Ourselves
“For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation. …
“… We encourage everyone to make careful study of the scriptures and of the prophetic teachings concerning them and to prayerfully seek personal revelation to know their meaning for themselves.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 7.
New Printing Press Helps Keep Scriptures Accessible
The new press at the Church Printing Center is designed to handle huge “webs”—54-inch-wide, 3,000-pound rolls of thin white paper that wind in and out of the machinery. Roll a web all the way to its end and you could nearly run a marathon along its 24.5-mile length. While each web spins through the 140-foot length of the Timson Web Press, the thread of paper appears to take on streaks of gray as black type is captured on its whirring movement. Finally, the paper is cut, folded, and bundled by the press. Bundles are forklifted to the nearby bindery area, where the folds of paper are bound in dark blue covers embossed with gold lettering.
These invaluable copies of the Book of Mormon can be purchased for only $2.50 U.S.—just cents more than the first copies sold for in 1830. Coincidentally, each web produces about 5,000 copies, the same number of copies produced in the first printing of the Book of Mormon. Today, 5 to 5.5 million copies are produced yearly, depending on demand.
The recent purchase of the state-of-the-art press and a separate book binder has helped keep the cost of scriptures down and their quality and volume up, says Kay Briggs, director of Church printing. The new press is also used to print in various sizes the King James Bible, the triple combination, and other noncolor curriculum items.
Until the new press was acquired, the printing center had just one web press to print both color items, such as Church magazines, and black-and-white items, such as scriptures. Before the new press was acquired, it took days to shift from color to black-and-white printing functions. Now most of this shifting has been eliminated since the majority of black-and-white items are done on the new press. Because both presses can now continually run simultaneously, a greater volume of materials is produced in-house.
“We can also respond more quickly to a need,” Brother Briggs says. “Church leaders have asked that we never be out of the scriptures, and today we can fulfill that mandate more efficiently.”
“There is a power in [the Book of Mormon] which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (see D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).