“In His Own Language,” Liahona, June 1997, 29
“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 , 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)
German, 1852 (1980)
Italian, 1852 (1995)
Spanish, 1886 (1992)
Japanese, 1909 (1995)
Braille—English, 1936 (1994)
Portuguese, 1939 (1995)
Chinese—Simplified Characters, 1983
Haitian Creole, 1983
Turkish—Roman Alphabet, 1983