LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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Languages with LDS Materials

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: February 3rd, 2014

LDS materials include scriptures, books, magazines, pamphlets, family history forms, and other proselytism materials.  These materials are available in the first language of approximately 4.6 billion people; two-thirds of the world's total population.  The Church reported that there were 176 languages which had at least one LDS material translated as of year-end 2011[1] whereas Ethnologue.com listed 6,909 living languages spoken worldwide at the time.[2]  Of these 176 languages with at least one church material translated, approximately 10 were variants of languages such as Akan (Fante and Twi), Hindi (India and Fiji-spoken), Serbo-Croatian (Croatian and Serbian), and Braille (English and Spanish).  With only a few exceptions, all languages with LDS materials at present had their first translations completed before the year 2000. 

The number of languages with reported translations of church materials has varied over the past 15 years.  In 1997, the Church reported that there were 175 languages with translations of at least one LDS material[3]; higher than the number reported in 2003 (173)[4] and in 2011 (166).[5]  The decline in the number of languages with reported translations of LDS materials appeared due to the discontinuation of some languages with only one or two materials if past translations have become obsolete or due to changing political conditions.  For example, in the late 2000s the Church reported that at least one material was translated into Solomonese (Solomon Islands Pidgin), Tibetan, and Western Carib Creole but by the early 2010s none of these languages had materials available online for order.[6]  The Church translated select passages of the Book of Mormon into Hebrew but retired all Hebrew translations of LDS materials due to government agreements with government authorities to avoid any proselytism in Israel in exchange for permission to construct and operate the Brigham Young University - Jerusalem Center.[7]  Counting variants of languages separately may also explain some of this variation in the total number of languages with LDS materials reported.  The total number of languages listed on the Church's official online website for ordering church materials was 168 in early 2013.[8]  In November 2005, the Church had approved 190 languages for translation work and actively translated materials into 104 languages.  Area presidencies identify languages or specific materials or scriptures in need of translations and make requests to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to obtain approval.[9]

The Book of Mormon numbers among one of the most important scriptures to translate into additional languages due to its centrality in LDS theology.  In April 2011, the Church reported that the Book of Mormon had been translated in its entirety into 82 languages with select passages of the Book of Mormon available in an additional 25 languages.[10]  The Church translated select passages from the Book of Mormon into some languages rather than the entire book to expedite the translation process and due to few Latter-day Saint speakers of these languages.  The Church discontinued producing translations of select passages of the Book of Mormon in 1998.[11]

In 2005, the entire Book of Mormon was translated into 74 languages including Afrikaans, Albanian, American Sign Language, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian (East), Aymara, Bislama, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chinese (Simplified Characters), Chinese (Traditional Characters), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Fante, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian, Hawaiian, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Icelandic, Igbo, Ilokano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kekchi, Kiribati, Korean, Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Maori, Marshallese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Pangasinan, Polish, Portuguese, Rarotongan, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Shona, Slovenian, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Telugu, Thai, Tok Pisin, Tongan, Tswana, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Xhosa, Yapese, and Zulu.  Select passages of the Book of Mormon are available in 30 languages including Armenian (Western), Bengali, Bikolano, Cakchiquel, Chamorro, Chuukese, Efik, Farsi, Guarani, Hiligaynon, Kisii, Kuna, Laotian, Mam, Maya, Navajo, Niuean, Palauan, Pampango, Papiamento, Pohnpeian, Quechua (Bolivia), Quechua (Peru), Quiche, Quichua (Ecuador), Sinhala, Tamil, Tzotzil, Urdu, and Waray.[12]  Between 2005 and 2013, the Church completed the entire translation of the Book of Mormon into Guarani,[13] Hiligaynon,[14] Laotian,[15] Malay, Serbian,[16] Sinhala,[17] Slovak, Tamil,[18] Twi,[19] Urdu,[20] and Yoruba.[21]  In early 2013, there were 85 full translations of the Book of Mormon and 24 partial translations of the Book of Mormon.  Braille versions of the English and Spanish translations of the entire Book of Mormon are also available.[22]

The translation of other LDS scriptures is also important in testimony development and gospel study but these scriptures have not been translated until after the translation of the Book of Mormon has occurred.  Unlike the translation of the Book of Mormon into few additional languages within the past decade, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price have recently been translated into many additional languages.  The number of languages with translations of the triple combination (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) increased from 27 in early 2006[23] to 45 in early 2013.  In early 2013, there were 55 languages with translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price including Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian (East), Armenian (West), Bulgarian, Cambodian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chinese (simplified characters), Chinese (traditional characters), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Fante, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Haitian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Igbo, Ilokano, Indonesia, Italian, Japanese, Kekchi, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Mongolian, Norwegian, Pangasinan, Polish, Portuguese, Rarotongan, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Shona, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

In early 2013, the Church translated its official magazine The Liahona into 47 different languages including Albanian, Armenian (East), Bislama, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Cebuano, Chinese (simplified characters), Chinese (traditional characters), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kiribati, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malagasy, Marshallese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.  However, many of these languages do not have monthly issues but rather have six or fewer issues a year.

Approximately one-third of languages with translations of LDS materials do not have translations of LDS scriptures available.  In early 2013, the Church reported materials translated into 57 languages on its website for ordering materials at store.lds.org that did not have the select passages or the entire Book of Mormon translated.  Three of these languages had more than 10 materials translated including Kosraean (44), Maltese (35), and Georgian (29).  Eight of these languages had between four and nine materials translated including Sesotho, Hindi (Fijian), Belarussian, Motu, Nepali, Basque, Burmese, and Kazakh.  Six languages had three materials translated (Chichewa, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Macedonian, Moore, Tuvaluan), 23 languages had two materials translated (Bambara, Banda, Bemba, Comorian, Ewe, Fon, Fula, Futa, Hausa, Iban, Kikongo, Kpelle, Luganda, Mandinka, Marathi, Ndebele, Pashto, Rotuman, Seychellese, Somali, Swazi, Tshiluba, and Wolof) and 17 languages have one material translated (Afar, Baoule, Crioulo, Divehi, Fang, Kannada, Kiwai, Malayalam, Mauritian, Mende, Nivacle, North Sotho, Pocomchi, Punjabi, Sranan, Swahili [Shaba], and Uzbek). 

The outlook for translating the entire Book of Mormon into additional languages appears most favorable for languages with four or more materials currently translated.  Missionaries and ordinary church leaders have reported that the translation of the Book of Mormon is underway for Georgian.  Missionaries have reported a need for a translation of the Book of Mormon into Burmese, Karen, Kosraean, Maltese, and Nepali due to sizable numbers of investigators and members who speak these languages but there appeared no plans for translations of the Book of Mormon into these languages as of early 2013.  The translation of the Book of Mormon into Sesotho, Motu, Hindi (Fijian), and Kazakh may be forthcoming due to the increasing number of materials translated into these languages and 100 or more active members speaking each of these languages.  The Church may produce full translations of the Book of Mormon into several languages that currently have only select passages translated such as Bikolano, Cakchiquel, Chuukese, Farsi, Mam, Maya, Navajo, Pampango, Papiamento, Pohnpeian, Quechua (Bolivia), Quechua (Peru), Quiche, Quichua (Ecuador), Tzotzil, and Waray.

Future prospects for translating the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price into additional languages appears favorable as the Church has rapidly translated these scriptures into additional languages within the past decade.  Languages that appear most likely to have translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pear of Great Price completed within the foreseeable future include Amharic, Aymara, Bislama, Hindi, Hmong, Kiribati, Lingala, Marshallese, Slovenian, Telugu, Tok Pisin, Tswana, Xhosa, and Zulu.

Languages currently without LDS translations that appear most likely to have the first basic proselytism and member support materials translated include several indigenous languages spoken in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Nuer, several Amerindian languages in Latin America such as Miskito and Nahuatl, and a few languages in Southeast Asia such as Karen.


[1]  "Facts and Statistics," www.mormonnewsroom.org, retrieved 11 January 2013.  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/

[2]  "Ethnologue country index," Ethnologue.com, retrieved 19 October 2011.  http://www.ethnologue.com/country_index.asp

[3]  "A statistical profile of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Deseret News 1999-2000 Church Almanac, p. 6

[4]  "A statistical profile of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Deseret News 2003 Church Almanac, p. 6

[5]  "Facts and Statistics," newsroom.lds.org, retrieved 1 October 2011.  http://newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats

[6]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013. 

[7]  "Israel and the Occupied Territories," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148825.htm

[8]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013. 

[9]  "Translation Division Uses Spirit to Capture Meaning in Work," News from the Church, 9 November 2005.  http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=1c4256381fcad010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=7cecc8fe9c88d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

[10]  "Book of Mormon Reaches 150 Million Copies," www.lds.org, 20 April 2011.  http://www.lds.org/church/news/book-of-mormon-reaches-150-million-copies

[11]  "News of the Church," Ensign, February 2005.  http://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/02/news-of-the-church

[12]  "News of the Church," Ensign, February 2005.  http://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/02/news-of-the-church

[13]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[14]  "Book of Mormon in Hiligaynon Completed," retrieved 11 January 2013.  http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,40-1-3311-1,00.html

[15]  Lunardelli, Monica.  "Publication of the Book of Mormon into Lao Announced," www.lds.org.  http://www.lds.org/church/news/publication-of-the-book-of-mormon-in-lao-announced

[16]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[17]  "Book of Mormon Printed in Sinhala," www.josephsmith.net, 10 September 2008, http://www.josephsmith.net/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=9b7ce3c7b1d4c110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=7cecc8fe9c88d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

[18]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[19]  Heaps, Julie Dockstader.  "Book of Mormon crosses boundaries, cultures," LDS Church News, 17 December 2005.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/48278/Book-of-Mormon-crosses-boundaries-cultures.html

[20]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[21]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[22]  store.lds.org, retrieved 11 January 2013

[23]  "Triple Combination Now Available in Two Additional Languages," 13 February 2006.  http://www.josephsmith.net/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=e3849150dfcad010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=7cecc8fe9c88d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD