Seventeen hundred years ago, Armenia officially recognized Christianity as its religion. During the year 2001 as the country celebrates its long religious tradition and history, the good news of the restored gospel is being taught in Armenia by a small but dedicated group of Latter-day Saint missionaries.
Armenia—at one time a Soviet republic—struggles with social and economic challenges. However, some of its citizens have begun to embrace The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Armenia Yerevan Mission was organized in 1999 as part of the Europe East Area. Although they cannot proselyte, the full-time missionaries have worked with member referrals, and Church membership has grown steadily.
During the year of elaborate celebrations to commemorate 1,700 years of Christianity, Latter-day Saint missionaries held open houses in two cities to introduce the newly published Armenian Book of Mormon to the people. On 28 December 2000, the full Eastern Armenian translation of the Book of Mormon rolled off the press, making it one of the 100 languages into which the Book of Mormon has been translated.
The first open house was held on 3 March 2001 in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia; another occurred in the second-largest city, Gyumri, on 16 March. Although the open houses required hundreds of hours of preparation, the 57 referrals received from the 400 people who attended made the work worthwhile.
“What better way to celebrate the 1,700 years of Christianity than to bring them the fulness of Christ’s gospel in their own tongue,” says Elder Michael King from Fruit Heights, Utah.
The presentations and displays explained such topics as “What is the Book of Mormon?” “Why does the world need the Book of Mormon?” and “Why should a person read the Book of Mormon?”
Now that Armenians can read the Book of Mormon in their own language, missionary work is much easier, full-time missionaries explain. Trying to understand the treasures of the Book of Mormon in a foreign language can be difficult and confusing. But that confusion will no longer be a stumbling block for Armenian members and investigators.
“It’s amazing to be able to share the Book of Mormon with people here in Armenia in their own language,” says Elder Marcus Draper from Danville, California. “It has opened so many doors that weren’t open before we received the Book of Mormon in Armenian. It has strengthened people’s testimonies in the Church and has helped new converts become a lot stronger.”
“I have felt a change in the atmosphere of this country,” adds Elder Luke Petersen from Riverton, Utah. “I believe the Spirit has begun to be poured out more abundantly upon the people of Armenia.”
As the country continues its celebration, few people may realize the significance of the Armenian translation of the Book of Mormon. But those who do are grateful for the role it will have for years to come in bringing people unto Christ.
Following are comments from a few members in Armenia about the blessings of reading the Book of Mormon in their own tongue:
Sargis Ayvazyan: “When I read the Book of Mormon in Armenian, I feel peace. I read the Book of Mormon in two other languages before reading it in my language. Now I understand more. The new translation has helped me to have a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and how to serve Him.”
Margarit Matanyan: “The Book of Mormon fills my heart with warmth and love toward others and helps me to love Heavenly Father and serve Him. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I appreciate that great gift.”
Jennik Mannusyan: “I am one of very few people in Armenia my age who cannot understand Russian. The Armenian translation is a blessing in my life. I read the Book of Mormon every day before I go to bed. I am going to keep reading every day because the more I read, the more I understand.”
Hasvira Minasaryan: “While I worked on the team that translated the Book of Mormon from English into Armenian, every word and sentence of the book passed through my mind, my spirit, and my heart, leaving an indelible testimony in my soul. I began to recognize the ways of God, the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life, and the love, mercy, and grace of my Savior.”