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Historian identifies rare first-edition copies of Hawaiian-language Book of Mormon

A few hundred copies of Ka Buke a Moramona were bound in 1855, and a BYU–Hawaii archivist wanted to know how many copies still existed

In the mid-1800s, Elder George Q. Cannon translated the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian with the help of native Hawaiians Jonathan Nāpela and J.W.H. Kauwahi. But only a few hundred copies were bound before the remaining printed pages were destroyed in a fire.

This meant additional copies couldn’t be bound, making the Hawaiian first edition of the Book of Mormon — “Ka Buke a Moramona” in Hawaiian — extremely rare, the Church’s Pacific Newsroom reported.

1855 first edition of the Hawaiian-language Book of Mormon owned by the Hawai‛i State Archives. | Brooks Haderlie

That’s why Elder Brooks Haderlie, who worked as the university archivist at BYU–Hawaii, wanted to know how many copies still exist.

Before serving as Church history missionaries in Australia, Elder Haderlie, with the help of his wife, Sister Laurie Haderlie, inventoried all public copies of each edition of Ka Buke a Moramona that are still in existence.

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They found that, as of 2022, 15 libraries hold a total of only 22 copies of the 1855 first edition.

Elder Haderlie said Ka Buke a Moramona was only the fifth language that the Book of Mormon was translated into from English, and it was the first non-European language edition.

“Watching the evolution of the Hawaiian translation will enable other Pacific Islanders to appreciate the later translations of the Book of Mormon into their own languages, and perhaps stimulate them to look into how those translations came to be so that people could be taught in their own language,” he said.

Elder Haderlie added that those who view the 1855 Hawaiian Book of Mormon in the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center “can appreciate just what a treasure it is.”

As of 2021, Hawaiian speakers have access to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price in their language through Gospel Library.

1855 first edition of the Hawaiian-language Book of Mormon on display in the Lā‛ie Hawai‛i Temple Visitors’ Center.
The cover of the 1855 first edition of the Hawaiian-language Book of Mormon that is on display in the Lā‛ie Hawai‛i Temple Visitors’ Center. | Brooks Haderlie.
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