The islands of Truk and Pohnpei in the western Pacific, and Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire in the Caribbean Sea, are mere specks on the world map.
But this week boxes containing copies of the Book of Mormon - or Ewe Puken Mormon (in Trukese), Pwuken Mormon (Pohnpeian) and E Buki di Mormon (Papiamento) - are, nevertheless, en route to these islands. Though there are only 250,000 who speak these three languages combined, they are the latest to claim their own unique editions of the book.The Book of Mormon appeared in three other languages for the first time in 1987 - Tagalog, a native language of the Philippines; Akan (Fante), a prominent dialect in Ghana, Africa; and Zulu, an aboriginal language spoken in the province of Natal, South Arica. A complete Book of Mormon was also produced in modern-day Greek language, called Demotike. (Only portions of the book were previously available in Greek.) The total of seven new editions represents the most completed in one year since 1983, when 13 were produced.
This is part of an ongoing effort that began in 1851, when the Book of Mormon was translated into its first non-English language - Danish. Today the book can be read in 80 languages, and by 85 to 90 percent of the world's population. Lest anyone wonder if the Church will soon run out of languages to work with: The Bible has been translated into more than 1,600 different languages and dialects!
Most new Book of Mormon language areas (and all six in 1987) initially receive a shortened version of the book. These "scriptural selections" editions now appear in 42 languages. The new Greek edition is the 38th language, the 11th in the 1980s, to have a complete version of the book published. Well over half - 46 - of the total languages of the Book of Mormon have appeared for the first time in the 1980s.
Here are brief overviews of the seven new editions of 1987:
Greek (complete edition)
Greece is a mountainous country about the size of Alabama located in the eastern Mediterranean. Its population is about 10 million, with an estimated 11 million who speak Greek worldwide. The Greek culture has an influence far greater than the country's present-day world status - it forms the basis for much of Western civilization. A Greek language can be traced back as far as the 14th century B.C.
A selections edition of the Book of Mormon was translated into Katharevousa, a classical version of Greek, in 1979. This was followed by a selections edition in Demotike, the more commonly used idiom in modern-day Greece, in 1983. With this new edition, the complete Standard Works are now published in Greek.
This edition was translated by Lica Catsakis Bywater, a native of Greece now living in the United States. It was later reviewed by members of the Church in Greece.
Ghana is a nation of 13 million people, about the size of Oregon, located on the western "Gold Coast: of Africa. It perhaps should be called the "Cocoa Coast" - cocoa comprises 70 percent of the country's exports. English is the official language of Ghana, though another 50 tribal languages are spoken. One of the most prominent of these is the Fante dialect of Akan, spoken by about three million people. Most Adan speakers live in the Cape Coast region in southwestern Ghana.
The translation was done by Priscilla Sampson-Davis, a local member who initially began the work on her own. District Pres. J.W.B. Johnson assisted with the review.
There are four districts of the Church, and about 5,000 members, in Ghana, and at least 25 percent of these members speak the Fante dialect. Ghana is served by the Ghana Accra Mission.
The Dutch-controlled islands of the Lesser Antilles - Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire - with a combined population of about 200,000, are located 20 to 50 miles off the northwestern coast of Venezuela. Oil refining and tourism are the islands' major industries. Dutch, the official language, is spoken, as are, quite often, Spanish and English. "But the language they really love and feel at home with is Papiamento," says Pres. D.H. Asay of the Venezuela Caracas Mission, which includes these islands.
Papiamento is a creole language mixing elements of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and English, along with their own unique additions. Local members Elias and Yvette Blajic translated the Book of Mormon.
Two brances of the Church are located on Curacao, with a completed chapel about to be dedicated. Aruba has a small branch of about 30 members. Missionary work has yet to begin on Bonaire.
Pohnpei is a hilly, volcanic island (about 12-by-14 miles) located in the western Pacific, about 2,200 miles east of the Philippines and 3,100 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii. With a population of about 24,000, Pohnpei is called the "garden of Micronesia" because of its fertile soil and abundant rainfall.
The Book of Mormon translation into Pohnpeian was done by Matterson Elwin, a Church member on Pohnpei. He was later assisted in the review stage by Mark Norman and District Pres. Herlino Makaya.
The Church has three branches, with about 700 members, on the island. It is served by the Micronesia Guam Mission.
English is the most widely spoken and written language in the Philippines, but Tagalog has gained status as the national language. It is spoken as a first language by five million people, most of whom are located in and around the national capital of Manila. It is a second language to 37 million other people, is taught in Filipino schools and is being used increasingly by the nation's media.
Ricardo Cruz, another local member of the Church, produced the translation, with Posidio Ocampo and Ananias Bala assisting in the final stages.
The Church has a significant presence in the Philippines with 32 stakes and 127,000 members.
The Truk Islands are a volcanic grouping of about 70 sand and coral islets, nine of which are inhabited, located in the western Pacific about 400 miles west of Pohnpei and 1,800 miles east of the Philippines. A barrier reef about 40 miles in diameter virtually surrounds the islands, which have a total population of about 28,000. Copra, dried coconut meat used for coconut oil, is the chief export.
Trukese belongs to the same language family as Pohnpeian, but is distinctive enough for one not to be well understood by the other.
Fujita Peter, a member of the Church who also served as the islands' attorney general, translated the Book of Mormon. When he died suddenly earlier this year, the work was carried on by his lifelong friend and recent Church convert, Hans Wiliander, assisted by Darrell Berry.
The Church in the Truk Islands is thriving, with a district and about 1,200 members. As with Pohnpei, missionaries from the Micronesia Guam Mission serve there.
The Zulu people, numbering about seven million, are concentrated in the Natal province of southeastern South Africa. Traditionally farmers and ranchers through the centuries, many Zulu now leave their homeland to work in mines in other parts of the country. Though South African by citizenship, they are strongly tied to their own culture and history, which stretches back many centuries.
The Zulu edition's translation was coordinated by local resident Ray Willson, who was assisted by other native translators. A copy of the new Zulu edition has already been presented to Dr. Mangosuthug Buthelezi, chief minister of the province and perhaps the most influential black leader in South Africa.
A Zulu branch of the Church is located in the town of Kwamashu, and the branch president in the area is a native Zulu. Natal Province is located in the South Africa Cape Town Mission.
A look at the new languages
Language Country spoken by in country
Greek Greece 11,000,000 250
Language Country spoken by in country
Akan (Fante) Ghana 3,000,000 5,000
Papiamento Curacao, Aruba
& Bonaire Is. 200,000 250
Pohnpeian Pohnpei Island 24,000 700
Tagalog* Philippines 5,000,000 127,000
Trukese Truk Is. 28,000 1,200
Zulu* South Africa 7,000,000 14,000
*The Book of Mormon is also widely circulated in other languages in the Phillippines and South Africa.