Raised by a Queen


Srilaksanaa “Sri” Suntarahut was born on 4 July 1924 in Bangkok, Thailand. Her father was doctor for the royal princes, and her mother was a friend of Her Majesty Queen Intharasaksaji. Sri’s family often visited the queen at the Royal Teak Palace. When Sri was six years old, the queen asked to raise her. This arrangement was made on the condition that Sri would be free to visit her family.

The queen loved Sri as if she were her own daughter. “I slept in the queen’s bedroom on a mattress in front of the queen’s bed,” says Sister Sri. “Since there were no screens on the windows, the beds were surrounded by a large silk net. Each morning I got up with the queen, dressed, ate breakfast, and read to her. After breakfast I went to a school taught by European nuns. I could speak only English while there. After school I returned to the palace, shared a meal with the queen, and again read to her. This was my routine for eight years. As a result, I developed a better education than many who have earned a degree.”

While at school, Sri would look at the English Bible. “In my heart I would say, One day I must read this book,” says Sister Sri. “But my family tradition was that we children should remain with our country’s religion.”

Sri lived with the queen until she was 17 years old. Then she went to Chulalongkorn University. Because of her excellent language skills, she became the financial secretary for a group of high-level government officials after World War II.

Sri was married and had a family when Elders Larry White and Carl Hansen met her in 1968. “I did not like the missionaries very much at first,” says Sister Sri, “but they kept coming back. I put the Book of Mormon on the shelf for three months. One night I decided to look at it, so I held it up and prayed, ‘If there is something good in here for me, let me know it.’ I opened it and read until I couldn’t read anymore. Tears came to my eyes. Then I held the book to my chest. Soon I went upstairs to my room and closed the door. It was the first time I knelt down and prayed. I cried and called out, ‘My Father, my Father.’ I knew He could hear me. I prayed and cried for a long time. When I got up, I began to read again without stopping.” Sri and two of her children were baptized on 4 July 1968, her 44th birthday.

The education Sri received while living with the queen enabled her not only to read the Book of Mormon in English, but also to play a key part in the translation of the book into Thai. The translation effort began in 1970, and Sri was asked to be the lead translator of the translating committee. The project was completed in 1974, and the Book of Mormon was published in Thai in 1976.

“Making this translation brought such spiritual strength to me,” says Sister Sri. “I love my Heavenly Father so much for pouring upon me this gift of tongues and language.”

In 1975, while waiting for approval of the Book of Mormon translation, she began translating the Doctrine and Covenants. The other members of the translating committee discontinued translating for various reasons, so Sri was the mainstay of the scripture translation effort. Though she went to her job during the day, she felt driven to translate when she returned home. Often she worked late into the night, completing a rough translation of as many verses as she could in order to have them ready for the daily meeting of the translation committee. Once she went with other Church members to help with a cleaning project. After several hours of hard work, others suggested she go home to rest. Sri said that she was already resting because if she went home she would feel compelled to translate and could not sleep. The translation of the Doctrine and Covenants was completed in 1979.

Before the queen’s death in 1974, Sri went to see her in the hospital. All of the ladies-in-waiting sat on the floor around the queen’s bed in order of their class. “The queen, who was in great pain, raised up to see me when I entered,” says Sister Sri. “She said, ‘Come to me.’ I stood near her. She said, ‘I still love you.’ I will always be grateful to the queen. Because of the many things I learned while living with her, I was able to read the Book of Mormon and accept the gospel. Because of her, I learned to write and speak in proper Thai language—the language into which the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are translated.”

[photos]Left: Srilaksanaa “Sri” Suntarahut (photo by Joan Porter Ford); Background: Details of Thai architecture (photo by Michael McConkie); Above: The Royal Teak Palace (photo by Larry R. White); Below: The Book of Mormon in Thai (photograph by Maren Mecham).

[photos] Top: Some of the 200 members who attended the Manila Philippines Temple in June 1990 on the first Thai temple trip. Above: Details of Thai architecture (photography by Michael McConkie).