“In His Own Language”


“I … should be pleased to hear,” the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “that [the Book of Mormon] was printed in all the different languages of the earth” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 176).

Though the Book of Mormon is not yet published in all the earth’s many languages, translations are proceeding as Church membership grows throughout the world. By the beginning of 1997, 87 different language editions of the Book of Mormon were in print: 40 editions of the full Book of Mormon and 47 editions of Selections from the Book of Mormon.

Not included in the list of 87 are four full editions no longer in print: Welsh (1852), English Deseret Alphabet (1869), Turkish in Armenian script (1906), and Armenian-Western (1937). There is now an edition of Selections from the Book of Mormon in Turkish in the Roman alphabet and an edition in Armenian-Western.

At the beginning of 1997, the most recent language in which Selections from the Book of Mormon had been published was Waray-Waray, a language of the Philippines. Meanwhile, Selections in other languages are being expanded to translations of the full Book of Mormon. In 1997, several new language editions—including Selections in new languages and revisions of some existing editions—are coming into production.

While the Spirit can transcend language barriers, a thorough understanding of the Book of Mormon—its spirit and gospel message—comes best through one’s native language. The Lord stated, “It shall come to pass in that day, 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, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ” (D&C 90:11).

The Book of Mormon, available in braille for those who speak English or Spanish, also is being prepared on videotape for people with hearing impairments. By early 1997, the first seven of 11 videotapes of the Book of Mormon in American Sign Language were available. I know of one brother who recently returned to activity in the Church because the American Sign Language tapes greatly increased his understanding of the gospel and the precepts taught in the Book of Mormon.

Great care is taken in publishing the Book of Mormon in a new language to ensure that the new edition is true to the English version, which was “translated by the gift and power of God” (D&C 135:3; see also Book of Mormon title page). Some language editions have been revised over the years to provide readers with improved translations.

These are involved processes that take time. Translation cannot begin until competent and worthy individuals who speak a target language are called to serve as translators. Preparation of the Book of Mormon in a new language includes not only translation but also reviews by Church leaders with a strong gospel background. This process ensures that translations reflect as closely as possible the spirit and meaning of the English version.

The easiest way to obtain a Book of Mormon in your own or a foreign language is through Church distribution centers. If the distribution center nearest you does not have a Book of Mormon in a specific language, the center can order one. If you are obtaining a Book of Mormon for someone in a foreign country who has given you permission to do so, consider contacting the area’s mission so that full-time missionaries can deliver the book.

The Book of Mormon, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, is “the keystone of our religion” (Teachings, 194). Because obedience to its precepts will bring us closer to God than will the teachings of any other book, translations of the Book of Mormon will continue so that more and more of Heavenly Father’s children may have the opportunity to read and understand “the most correct of any book on earth” (Teachings, 194).

English, 1830 (1982)

Danish, 1850 (1949)

French, 1852

German, 1852 (1980)

Italian, 1852 (1995)

Hawaiian, 1855

Swedish, 1878

Spanish, 1886 (1992)

Maori, 1889

Dutch, 1890

Samoan, 1903

Tahitian, 1904

Japanese, 1909 (1995)

Czech, 1933

Braille—English, 1936 (1994)

Portuguese, 1939 (1995)

Tongan, 1946

Norwegian, 1950

Finnish, 1954

Chinese, 1965

Rarotongan, 1965

Korean, 1967

Afrikaans, 1972

Thai, 1976

Indonesian, 1977

Croatian, 1979

Fijian, 1980

Catalan, 1981

Icelandic, 1981

Polish, 1981

Russian, 1981

Hindi, 1982

Vietnamese, 1982

Kekchi, 1983

Arabic, 1986

Aymara, 1986

Greek, 1987

Hungarian, 1991

Braille—Spanish, 1995

Ilokano, 1995

Cakchiquel, 1978

Quechua—Peru, 1979

Quiche, 1979

Bulgarian, 1980

Navajo, 1980

Quichua—Ecuador, 1980

Kuna, 1981

Niuean, 1981

Quechua—Bolivia, 1981

Romanian, 1981

Cambodian, 1982

Guarani, 1982

Laotian, 1982

Swahili, 1982

Tamil, 1982

Armenian-Western, 1983

Chinese—Simplified Characters, 1983

Efik, 1983

Haitian Creole, 1983

Hmong, 1983

Kisii, 1983

Mam, 1983

Maya, 1983

Persian, 1983

Sinhala, 1983

Turkish—Roman Alphabet, 1983

Marshallese, 1984

Bengali, 1985

Bislama, 1985

Malagasy, 1986

Akan-Fante, 1987

Papiamento, 1987

Pohnpeian, 1987

Tagalog, 1987

Trukese, 1987

Zulu, 1987

Gilbertese, 1988

Lingala, 1988

Palauan, 1988

Shona, 1988

Urdu, 1988

Chamorro, 1989

Cebuano, 1992

Hiligaynon, 1994

Pampango, 1994

Tzotzil, 1994

Waray-Waray, 1996

 

[illustration] Joseph Smith Translating Gold Plates, by Robert T. Barrett

[photos] The 40 current language editions of the Book of Mormon, with the dates of original publication and, where applicable, the dates of the most recent editions.

(Photography by Welden Andersen.)

[photo] Photograph by Jed Clark

[photos] At right are the 47 current language editions of Selections from the Book of Mormon, with first publication dates.

(Photography by Welden Andersen.)

Brother Andersen is director of Scriptures and Production Coordination in the Church’s Curriculum Department.