“In His Own Language”

POSTED BY: holzapfel


In a remarkable revelation given through Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord said, “The voice of warning shall be unto all people” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:4). This command may have seemed overwhelming for the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ. Two years later, in 1833, the Lord expanded the Church’s mission, saying, “Every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11).

Today, it is estimated that there are nearly 7,000 spoken languages in the world, of which some 2,600 have a writing system. However, linguists project that within a century more than 3,000 spoken languages will disappear. The world is indeed getting small, and some languages are expanding their reach, such as English and Chinese.

The Church’s effort to fulfill the Lord’s command to preach the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth has been remarkable and continues to be so. Our family simply mirrors what is happening across the planet with so many Latter-day Saints. My son Bailey serves in the Switzerland Zürich Mission, and my daughter Marin enters the Missionary Training Center in Provo on December 4, 2008, to begin her preparations to serve in the Hungary Budapest Mission. They follow in the footsteps of two older brothers—Nathan, who served in the Chile Osorno Mission, and Zac, who served in the Costa Rica San José Mission. I completed my own missionary service in the Italy Milan Mission. My son and daughter will join their cousins, Elders Josh Meacham and Ephraim Taylor, who are serving in the Poland Warsaw and Taiwan Taichung missions.

Equally impressive is the effort to provide translations of the Book of Mormon to the world. Today, the complete Book of Mormon has been translated into seventy-nine languages, and selections are available in another twenty-three languages. This represents 99 percent of the languages spoken by Latter-day Saints. Efforts continue to translate this book into more languages to fulfill the Lord’s command.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was on his first historic visit to Jackson County, Missouri, in August 1831 when he heard the voice of the Lord, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). In this light, the Religious Studies Center has launched a new Web page to reach a wider audience. Finally, in response to the Lord’s command that each person hear the gospel in his own language, we have translated some of the best articles and books from the RSC’s printed library into Spanish and Portuguese, the two most common languages in the Church outside of English. Additionally, we have just added German and will be publishing a landmark book by Dr. Roger Minert, In Harm’s Way: German Latter-day Saints in World War II. We will expand our outreach by translating other books, providing Church members another way to “seek . . . out of the best books words of wisdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). We invite others to join us in this adventure and spread the word that the RSC Web site is providing valuable articles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.


  1. It is wonderful to see these efforts from RSC. Efforts like these are sorely needed.

    I can’t resist pointing out that others are also working on the problem, such as the collaborative translation effort Mormon Translation.

    But more important are local LDS publishers in countries like Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere, especially those looking to publish locally written materials.

    There is a kind of Mormon cultural imperialism at work here — we (Mormons — even including most members that speak other languages) generally assume that works must be translated from English into Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, etc., rather than letting local members write materials in their own languages (which, if they are particularly good, can then be translated into English, where the market has the capacity to pay for the translation).

    BUT, I don’t think that need should slow down your efforts. Instead, keep them up, AND, keep an eye out for suitable materials from overseas.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — November 12, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  2. How exciting! I think that’s great that you are translating so many articles into different languages.

    Comment by Lizzy — November 14, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  3. Hey, and here we are, operating in 4 different languages on the RSC website! That’s great, and I’m glad you’ve gotten so energized on this project.

    Comment by Erin — November 14, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

  4. I think this is a great resource! While I was a teenager growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was walking home from church one evening with an older man who shared with me his jealousy that I was able to benefit from the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary in my English scriptures, while they were not available in Spanish. At 16 years old I had barely discovered how helpful these things are — what he esteemed to be of great worth I knew little about!

    It was a funny memory that became motivation for me to use these resources. When I came to BYU I found that this man had several books on the Church in South America available in the BYU Library. I hope lots of people like him find out about the website. The more it gets used the better!

    Comment by Matt Clayton — November 14, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  5. I think Kent Larsen’s idea is brilliant. Often we get so caught up in our own little world we forget about those around us. How amazing it would be to hear first-hand views and experiences from those around the globe! Maybe a new book idea? LDS modern-day insight and doctrine from members around the world. I’d love to read something like that.

    Comment by Kristin McGuire — November 18, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  6. Eggxellent! The more languages the merrier. There are over 80 languages spoken in Indianapolis alone.

    Comment by Bookslinger — November 27, 2008 @ 12:21 am

  7. Richard,
    I just discovered your blog, although I have been a huge fan of the RE since it first began. I read with interest this post, in part because I remember when you and Jenny were first married and you were a graduate student at BYU (and I worked for Larry Porter and Robert Matthews) but also due to the missions your children have served. I used to live in Costa Rica (as a child) and returned to visit there last March. But we also have a young man in our ward who just entered the MTC to go to Budapest. I believe it was the same day as your daughter. His name is Dallin Peugnet. (Pronounced Pin-yay) I have traveled to many countries–including Hungary and Poland–and have always been so very moved to see the church there. It is such a testimony strengthening experience. One last comment–while in Israel this past fall I met Andrew Skinner. I loved his article on the symbolism of the olive tree printed in the RE. It was such a great moment for me to visit for a few minutes with him about that. I teach seminary and have shared the article with my students.

    Comment by Lori Smith Wagner — December 30, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  8. nice blog i really appreciate it.

    Comment by Coursework — January 22, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  9. thanks

    Comment by Health Help — January 22, 2009 @ 9:59 am

  10. Wonderful.. Your thoughts are really worth reading.

    Comment by Urns — March 5, 2009 @ 4:47 am

  11. Excellent Thank you.

    Comment by Pet Urns — May 22, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

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