“My happiness was beyond description,” wrote George Q. Cannon after he had completed his translation of the Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian language. He also explained that during the process of translating the book, the “Spirit of translation rested upon me.”
George Q. Cannon was born in Liverpool, England, January 11, 1827. When he was thirteen years old, he and two other children in the family were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the efforts of his uncle, Elder John Taylor, then a young missionary serving in England. George’s parents had been baptized some months before. In 1842 George, with his family, sailed to America to join the Saints in Nauvoo. While traveling aboard ship, his mother died, and two years later his father died while on a business trip. However, all the children made it across the plains to Utah.
In 1850, President Brigham Young called George, then twenty-three years old, to serve a mission to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. Elder Cannon had great difficulty speaking before large groups of people, but through his faith in the Lord and his great desire to serve Him, he overcame this fear. He never let an opportunity pass to talk to the people and improve his understanding of the language.
Like many young missionaries away from home, George experienced loneliness and homesickness. In his journal he wrote, “It was then that I found the value of the Book of Mormon. It was a book which I had always loved. But I learned there to appreciate it as I had never done before. It I felt inclined to be lonely, to be low spirited, or homesick, I had only to turn to its sacred pages to receive consolation, new strength and a rich outpouring of the Spirit. Especially can I recommend it to those who are away from home on missions.”
Though some of his companions were unable to really learn the language and appreciate the Hawaiian culture and returned home after only a few months, George had a special feeling for teaching the people of the islands. Much of the food served to him tasted strange and had odd names. So, not wanting to offend his new friends, he asked the Lord to make poi—a commonly served food made from the kalo (taro) root—taste sweet to him.
At one time, when he had very little money, he asked the Lord for help. His prayers were answered when a young couple asked him to perform a marriage ceremony and unexpectedly paid him for it.
With the power of the priesthood, Elder Cannon and other elders performed many healings, including restoring the eyesight of a man who had been blind for thirty years.
Upon learning that the Book of Mormon was not available in the Hawaiian language, George Cannon decided to translate it. He was able to complete the project on July 22, 1853, just two and a half years later.
Shortly after Elder Cannon returned home, he received a second mission call from Brigham Young. This time he was to go to California to publish the newly translated Book of Mormon. While there, he also published a newspaper, the Western Standard.
In 1860, President Young ordained Elder Cannon an Apostle. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he was called to preside over the European Mission. Later he would serve as First Counselor to Presidents John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow.
Looking back many years later on his mission to Hawaii, he wrote that “under no circumstances, have I enjoyed more sweet, pure and soul-filling joy than I did on my first mission.”