With singing, dancing, a video presentation and a buffet of Nepali food, members and service missionaries of the Crossroads Square Branch of the South Salt Lake Stake gathered on June 17 for a cultural celebration to commemorate the translation of the Book of Mormon into Nepali, which was recently announced by the First Presidency.
Girish Ghimire — a former president of the Crossroads Square Branch who is one of many who has worked on the translation of the Nepali Book of Mormon since work began in May 2010 — conducted the program.
Sister Kristen Oaks, wife of Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke briefly at the cultural celebration. “It’s such an honor to be here, to see the Church as it started,” she said. “In the last year, Elder Oaks and I have seen where just from a tiny seed, wonderful, big, large trees blossomed. And by trees I mean stakes and wards and people that believe in Jesus Christ.”
Sister Oaks expressed her appreciation for the youth and the testimonies of the Nepali members. She described the Nepali translation of the Book of Mormon being released as “a holy, holy moment.”
The Nepali Cultural Celebration featured choirs of adult members, Primary children and youth of the branch, who sang musical numbers in Nepali and English, as well as Nepali dances by two Primary girls and four Young Women.
As part of the celebration, participants viewed a video presentation of the history of the Church among Nepali members. It included the experiences and testimonies of Ghimire, Prem Biswa, Kalpana Ghimire Bair, and Crossroads Square Branch President Ghanashyam “Ghana” Sarki. The translations of Biswa’s and President Sarki’s interviews were provided by subtitles. Ghimire said that the video was made for the American missionaries and members who wanted to celebrate the Nepali translation of the Book of Mormon, but also for the Nepali members “to realize how far they’ve come.”
In the video, Biswa described how the government in Bhutan forced everyone of Nepali descent to leave the country. “They told us to go back to where our ancestors came from, that we did not belong,” she said. “We were afraid to petition the authorities and so were forced to flee. We had to leave our home, our fields, our family farm, everything that we had worked so hard for. It was horrible.”
Biswa’s family fled to India, where they lived on 1800 rupees, worth 27 US dollars, for two months before they could continue their journey.
President Sarki expressed a similar experience in his filmed interview. “It was very difficult for me and for my family,” he said. “I was very sad at that moment. I was sad to leave our dog, our cattle, to leave all my family and friends and the place where I was born. To this very day it makes me emotional and it fills my eyes with tears when I remember that moment.”
President Sarki described a refugee camp in Nepal filled with plastic tents that didn’t protect them from intense sun or rain. “The first few months were very challenging,” he said. “Many people in the camp extended helping hands with food and supplies.”
Seven years ago, both Biswa and President Sarki were able to join a resettlement program and come to Utah, where they joined the Church.
“After learning about the Gospel I realized how much our Savior Jesus Christ suffered for us all. My journey was not as difficult as His. This helps me feel such a peace inside,” Biswa said.
“I am so happy the Book of Mormon will finally be translated to Nepali. With the translation I can help others to understand and appreciate the Book of Mormon,” President Sarki said. Even though he hasn’t been able to read the Book of Mormon all the way through yet because of a language barrier, he said that he knows “that by studying it and applying the teachings into our lives it will help us to know the truth. The Book of Mormon will bring many blessings into our lives.”
Bair, who left Nepal three years ago to do a fellowship program at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, told how she learned about the Church while working in a perfume shop in Utah. A returned missionary came to her store and invited her to church. “Even though I didn’t know anything about the LDS Church I just felt like that was the right place for me to be. I grew up in a very religious Hindu family. No one I know, no one in my family, even my neighbors, are Christians. So it was a big thing for my family to find out I was taking lessons from missionaries from the LDS Church,” she said in the video presentation.
“The gospel is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me and I want everyone to be able to enjoy this fruit,” she said.
While in Orem, she received her patriarchal blessing, which said that she would help Nepali people and refugees. “I didn’t know what it meant at that time, but I moved from Orem to Sandy and I found out about the Nepali branch,” she told the Church News. She began doing translation for Relief Society classes, and even got to be one of several people who proofread the Nepali translation of the Book of Mormon. Having just recently joined the Church two years ago, she said that this experience “helped me to build my testimony.”
Ghimire said that just recently, religious freedom has been opening up in Nepal. “It used to be a Hindu country. Now it’s a secular country,” he said. “That means there is no dictated religion anymore, so people can choose their religion.” And this is happening at the same time that the Book of Mormon is now available in Nepali. “Definitely the Lord’s plan,” he said.