100 million copies printed and sent around the world

"Of all the religious books of the 19th century, it seems probable that the Book of Mormon was the most powerful. . . . All the people of the United States have been affected. . . ." -- Henry A. WallaceA Book of Mormon milestone was reached recently when the 100 millionth copy was printed.

At year-end 1999, about 99.2 million copies had been distributed. With the books being sent out at the rate of about 15,000 a day, the date for reaching 100 million was estimated to be during late February or early March, according to Kay W. Briggs, director of printing and distribution services. In the 1990s, an average of about 5 million books were published and distributed annually.

Brother Briggs said that another milestone was reached in the year 2000 when the Book of Mormon was printed in its 100th language, although seven of the languages are no longer in print. Currently, selections of the Book of Mormon are available in 40 languages and copies of the full book are available in 53 languages.

"This scripture [The Book of Mormon] is before us as an added witness of the divinity and reality of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the encompassing beneficence of His atonement, and of His coming forth from the darkness of the grave," said President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 1994 conference. "The testimony is here to handle; it is here to be read; it is here to be pondered; it is here to be prayed over with a promise that he who prays shall know by the power of the Holy Ghost of its truth and validity." (See Moroni 10:3-5.)

Most of the 100 million books have been printed in English, although a significant number have been distributed in the Spanish language, including almost 1.5 million in 1999. Other translations range from major European and Asian languages to such African tongues as Efik, Lingala, Shona and Urdu, and to languages of Mexico and Central America such as Tzotzil, Mam and Kekchi. The list of translations also includes such other major languages as Arabic, Russian and Hindi.

The Book of Mormon began making an impact soon after it was printed.

"Of all the religious books of the 19th century, it seems probable that the Book of Mormon was the most powerful," wrote Henry A. Wallace, vice president of the U.S. from 1941-45 and a newspaper editor. "It reached only perhaps 1 percent of the people in the United States, but it affected this 1 percent so powerfully and lastingly that all the people of the United States have been affected, especially by its contribution to opening up one of our great frontiers."

The second edition was printed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1837. This edition originally was planned to contain both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, but proved too cumbersome. This edition included corrections of style and grammar from the first edition, and its size was the basis of subsequent editions until 1888, according to Hugh G. Stocks in his 1979 University of California-Los Angeles master's thesis, "The Book of Mormon, 1830-1879, a Publishing History."

As the Church continued to grow, more copies of the Book of Mormon were needed. Nearly simultaneous efforts began in 1840 in Nauvoo, Ill., and Liverpool, England, to print other editions, each apparently unknown to the other.

In Nauvoo, Ebenezer Robinson wanted to have the copies printed on stereotyped plates that could be re-used. He received Joseph Smith's permission, but was able to raise only $145 of the eventual cost of $800 for the printing. He went ahead anyway and paid for the publishing cost through subscriptions.

At about the same time in Liverpool, Brigham Young obtained the British copyright and, with a generous donation of 300 pounds by well-to-do convert John Benbow, saw the first European edition printed. Another European edition was printed in 1849. In 1852, a larger printing was completed in Liverpool, which remained the headquarters of Church printing for 30 years. An 1854 edition was printed in Liverpool, where binding was cheaper than in the United States, and was used for missionary work in the eastern states. During the 1850s, the book was printed in other European cities in Danish, German, French, Italian and Welsh, and in Hawaiian. In 1858 a non-authorized version was printed by a New York publisher.

In 1861 in Salt Lake City, George Q. Cannon purchased a steam press, type and materials and by the 1870s this press was printing most of the Church's materials. Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve who, as president of the British Mission, had printed two editions of the Book of Mormon, accomplished in 1869 the daunting project of transliterating the book into the newly invented but short lived phonetic Deseret Alphabet. Elder Pratt added chapter headings and numbering of paragraphs and footnoted cross references to the English Book of Mormon in 1879. The 1879 edition was the 17th published, and in these editions were 49 impressions, or press runs.

Before the century ended, the book had also been translated into Spanish, Swedish, Maori and Dutch. Columns were added in 1920, and the book was translated and printed 15 additional languages between 1900 and 1970. The greatest period of translation occurred between 1979-89 when the book was translated and published in 53 languages.

A major milestone was reached in 1981 when the scripture helps were added, and a year later came the subtitle "Another Testament of Jesus Christ."

The Prophet Joseph Smith, who called the Book of Mormon "the most correct of any book on the earth and the keystone of our religion," also said, "Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations and where is our religion? We have none."

Clearly the publication of the Book of Mormon has been central to the mission of the Church since the beginning of the Restoration. A projection into the future foreshadows a continued powerful influence upon the lives of its readers. The first 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon were published in 169 years. At the rate the book is now being produced, the second hundred million will be completed in less than 20 years.

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