In 32 languages, simultaneously

For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language…

Doctrine and Covenants 90:11

Winding along the narrow roads of Tonga, a translation supervisor rushed texts of recently given conference talks to translators working in the night. When their work was completed, the supervisor rushed to Nuku'alofa and e-mailed the work to Salt Lake City. Here, it was put on pages and the proofs e-mailed back to Tonga where the supervisor climbed again into the car and drove to the homes of the translators. Their corrections and notes were e-mailed to Salt Lake City for printing.

From left are Marvin K. Gardner, Jane Ann Peter, J. Scott Knudson, Richard M. Romney, Don Searle and Bruce Muir. Map in background portrays translations of Book of Mormon. (Submission date: 10/28/2002)
From left are Marvin K. Gardner, Jane Ann Peter, J. Scott Knudson, Richard M. Romney, Don Searle and Bruce Muir. Map in background portrays translations of Book of Mormon. (Submission date: 10/28/2002) Credit: Photo by John Hart

This year, vehicles and supervisors in Tonga and more than a dozen other countries from Bulgaria to Ukraine rushed texts and translators, successfully cutting the project's usual 5-week time by more than half. The result is that on the day when the 32-language translations would normally have been turned in for publication, the texts are now in print, in the mail and on the way to readers around the world. Previously, the translated conference texts were printed in the Liahona in January, two months after the English November conference-issue Ensign.

From now on, conference issues of the Liahona will be published in November and May. Also standard are the First Presidency and Visiting Teaching messages in 74 languages either in monthly, quarterly or semiannual magazines or published separately.

All Church magazine subscribers will simultaneously receive the printed addresses of October's general conference in their own languages this month. The feat of organizing this "first time ever" translation effort is paralleled by few other groups anywhere in the world.

Described as "heroic," the effort was accomplished by a team of translators, editors, designers and production staff members, along with Church-service proofreaders in many locations throughout the world. More than a million magazines were printed, each at least 100 pages, and slightly ahead of schedule.

A letter sent to Church leaders from President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, informed leaders that "Beginning with the November 2002 issue of the Liahona, general conference addresses will be published concurrently in the May and November issues of both the Liahona and Ensign magazines. This will enable members throughout the world to receive and study these important messages at the same time."

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Seventy, editor of Church magazines, said:

"This is a significant accomplishment that will greatly bless the lives of millions of Church members throughout the world. It will bring the marvelous messages of conference to members throughout the world at the same time, the month after conference."

Vounteeers proofreading conference messages are (Submission date: 10/28/2002)
Vounteeers proofreading conference messages are (Submission date: 10/28/2002) Credit: Photo by John Hart

"In preparing for the conference issues, we had to proceed on faith," said Allan R. Loyborg, director of magazine graphics, who coordinated the interdepartmental effort. "It could not possibly have been done without the help and good will of several departments at headquarters, along with a whole host of translators in the field."

Lead designer J. Scott Knudsen explained that the magazines were redesigned so that a table of contents is the same for all languages: that is, each conference talk starts on the same page in all magazines, regardless of the language. To compensate for the different lengths of languages, designers simply make the pictures smaller or place the lines closer together. Readers in the English language, which is the most brief of them all, are treated to larger photos, said Brother Knudsen. Other languages expand to be longer. Readers of those editions of the Liahona see smaller photos.

Six months ago, plans were made to publish conference texts simultaneously in 32 languages.

"We mapped out schedules as tightly as they could be," said Marvin K. Gardner, the general conference coordinator for Church magazines. "There was no wiggle room. It was accomplished through the superhuman efforts of translation; it was a marvelous thing."

Part of the plan was a meeting with translation supervisors. When the challenge was put to the Spanish translators of South America, they made a commitment to meet the deadline. Then the translation supervisor of Western Europe said that if South America could do it, Europe could do it, too.

The teams came through. "We expected two languages completed by the first deadline," said Richard M. Romney, managing director of Church magazines. "Instead, we received 13. We saw that sort of thing over and over. It was one of the most faith-building experiences of my life."

He said the effort was in harmony with the magazines' mission, which is to provide the voice of Latter-day prophets to members of the Church each month, along with additional material that will strengthen faith and help bring members to the Savior.

"None of us is taking any credit," said Don Searle, assistant managing editor of the Ensign. "We know it was not the work of our hands. The Lord expects us to prepare and then He moves things along for which we were unable to prepare. Now, wherever people live in the Church — in France or Taiwan or Tokyo — the people are going to have the same conference material as you and I do."

Victor Cave, director of the curriculum planning and editorial division, said: "Here [in the Church Office Building], it is easy for the Spirit to enter and shed light and make things advance. That's the key to this work, and the key to what is happening in this building."


Languages in which October general conference is published in the November Liahona:

Bulgarian, Cebuano, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Fijian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Ilokano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kiribati, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

E-mail: [email protected]