NEW DELHI, India
Church leaders recently surprised the Church's only branch in Nepal with copies of the first Nepali translation of the Book of Mormon.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles brought the books with Elder Randy D. Funk, a General Authority Seventy and the Asia Area president, and President Kirt Hodges, president of the India New Delhi Mission. They shared their experience during an interview after a district conference in New Dehli a few days later.
"When President Hodges held up the book and said, 'We have here the printed copy of the Book of Mormon in Nepali,' there was an audible gasp," Elder Funk said. "The members were just so happy."
Still, they needed a few minutes to get used to the idea.
"Five members of that branch were involved in either the translation team or the ecclesiastical review team," Elder Christofferson said, "so we called them up at the beginning of the meeting and presented each one a letter of appreciation I had signed as chairman of the Scriptures Committee and a copy of the new translation.
"They had not seen the actual product of their labors until that moment."
The leaders also brought an additional gift, a hardbound leather copy for the branch to keep at the pulpit for use in Sunday worship services.
"Branch President Chandra Adhikari received it graciously and left it on his chair when he stood up to translate for Sister (Andrea C.) Funk," Elder Christofferson said. "Sister Funk quoted Helaman 5:12, and he started a free translation and then said, 'Wait a minute. I have it in the book.' He went and got the book off his chair."
Sister Kathy Christofferson, Elder Christofferson's wife, said President Adhikari struggled at first to find the passage, because the pages had never been turned.
"Then he got there and read it, and it was so sweet," she said.
"We felt this was a historic moment," Elder Christofferson said. "It was the first time the Book of Mormon has been read in Nepali, the translated book, there in a church service. It was a sweet moment. Everybody was all smiles and we chuckled a bit, but it was really quite significant if you think about that.
"They were using the book for the very first time."
The translation and publication process took seven years and included five members of the Kathmandu, Nepal, branch — President Adhikari and his brothers, Bishnu and Yagyaraj Adhikari, and Pratima Chetri and Veswengol Gharti Chetri.
"The translation of the Book of Mormon into Nepali is the most recent completed by the Church," said Elder Christofferson. "It's up online now. But the printed version is just now coming off the press, and it will be available generally in mid-September."
The Nepali edition is the 111th translation of the Book of Mormon. The 110th translation, into Kosraean, was published in March 2015.
Nepal suffered a massive earthquake in 2015 that left more than 7,000 people dead. Branch members were watching a session of the Church's 185th Annual General Conference in a chapel when the quake struck. Many families had to sleep outside because their homes were lost or damaged.
"The members in Nepal have gone through a lot," President Hodges said. "They're a small but active branch. They rely upon each other so very, very much."
The Church has no young missionaries in Nepal, but two senior couples working with LDS Charities serve there.
"But that small, little branch this past year has baptized seven people," President Hodges said. "And the way they do that is the young single adults invite their friends, and then the young single adults, many who are returned missionaries who've come back to the branch, will teach them using Preach My Gospel."
"That tiny branch," Elder Christofferson said, "has sent out more than 30 full-time missionaries. It's amazing."
Fewer than 200 Latter-day Saints live in Nepal. A majority attended the devotional on Aug. 17.
"We had a large attendance of about 140, which was encouraging in itself," Elder Christofferson said.
Many of the Church members speak some English.
"But for many others," Elder Funk said, "this is the first time they will be able to read the Book of Mormon in their own language. Many of them spoke about what a great blessing that would be for them."
In a 2003 Church magazine article, Nepali members said they longed for a Nepali translation.
"I think for them the translation of the Book of Mormon in Nepali makes them feel like they are official now," President Hodges said. "'We have the Book of Mormon in our mother tongue, that we can read and that we can study and ponder together.'"
Elder Christofferson said there was a sense that they felt "approved both by Church and by heaven."
Elder Christofferson, Elder Funk and President Hodges made two other noteworthy visits in Nepal.
They presented a copy of the Nepali translation of the Book of Mormon to Nepal's president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, and another to the nation's vice president, Nanda Bahadur Pun.
"They were gracious in receiving it when we explained what it was and why it matters so much to us," Elder Christofferson said. "We wanted them to know they were getting some of the very first copies and this was a milestone for us in Nepal."
The only other Nepalese branch in the Church is in Salt Lake City. That branch celebrated the announcement of the translation in June. Other Nepali-speaking Latter-day Saints live in Europe and Hong Kong. Approximately 21 million people speak Nepali worldwide.