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Book of Mormon Translationsby Hugh G. Stocks
After the Prophet Joseph Smith's original translation of the Book of Mormon from the gold plates into English in 1829 and the return of those plates to the angel Moroni, no translations from English into other languages appeared until the 1850s. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Church produced translations of the Book of Mormon irregularly, often in groups of languages, and at widely separated intervals. However, in the 1970s and later, translations from the English text of the Book of Mormon became systematic and frequent.
Making the Book of Mormon and other standard works available in many languages is foreshadowed by the divine injunction "that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language" (D&C 90:11). As missions were opened on the continent of Europe in 1850 and 1851, Church leaders in many of the newly opened missions mounted simultaneous translation efforts. The Danish edition (1851), produced by Erastus Snow for the Scandinavian Mission from a Danish translation by Peter Olsen Hansen, was the first printed (see Scandinavia, the Church in). At the same time, John Taylor supervised translations into French by Curtis E. Bolton and German by George P. Dykes, while Lorenzo Snow was working on the Italian edition and John Davis on a Welsh one. All of these appeared in 1852, and culminated with George Q. Cannon's translation of the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian in 1855. No further translations were published for twenty years.
In 1875 Meliton G. Trejo and Daniel W. Jones produced the first translation of selections from the Book of Mormon into Spanish. This ninety-six-page document, comprising only the books of 1 and 2 Nephi, Omni, 3 Nephi, and Mormon, was the first partial translation and one of only two partial printings of the Book of Mormon in book form at the time. (The other was the publication of 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon in the Deseret alphabet.) Trejo and James Z. Stewart completed a translation of the entire book into Spanish in 1886. The remainder of the nineteenth century produced three further translations: Swedish (1878), Maori (1889), and Dutch (1890). Sixteen more, including the first in Asian languages and several in South Pacific tongues, appeared between 1903 and 1977.
In 1971, in support of an expanding missionary program, the Church organized a Translation Services Department to direct a systematic program of scripture translation. They began with the production of a large number of translations of Selections from the Book of Mormon, designed to place selected chapters in the hands of missionaries, general readers, and members as quickly as possible and to train translators. The Selections volume is being progressively replaced by full translations. After 1998 the Church stopped translating Selections from the Book of Mormon; each new approved translation will now be a full edition. Currently there are 30 editions of Selections from the Book of Mormon.
As of 2008, almost 175 years after Joseph Smith first published the book in English, 74 full editions of the Book of Mormon are now in print. Since its initial printing in 1830, it is estimated that more than 120 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been distributed, with millions more to be printed in the future.
One of the most recent translations of the Book of Mormon is in Slovenian. Additional languages are currently being produced, along with some Selections being expanded to full translations of the Book of Mormon.
The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles considers recommendations from Area Presidencies for new translations of the Book of Mormon. Before the Book of Mormon is translated, Gospel Fundamentals and other basic doctrinal items such as the Articles of Faith are translated (if they haven't been already) in order to establish standard terminology. Translation work for the Book of Mormon is carried out by worthy, qualified members who are assigned specifically to the task.
Full Editions of the Book of Mormon:
Selections from the Book of Mormon:
Retranslations of early editions began in 1952 with the second translation into Spanish. Subsequently, the Japanese, Italian, and German editions were retranslated; other retranslations appeared as Selections from 1980 on. With the issuance of the 1981 English edition of the Book of Mormon (see Book of Mormon Editions), the Church Translation Department began systematically reviewing all existing translations, setting priorities for retranslation, and producing new editions more in conformity with the English format.
"Book of Mormon Editions, Translated and Published." Deseret News 1989-90 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, 1988.
The Millennial Star, Vols. 13-14 (1850-1851).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Book of Mormon Translations
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company