New Translation 新しい翻訳

Saturday, January 25, 1997

LDS Church News
© 1997, Deseret News Publishing Company

By Greg Hill


An updated Japanese translation of the Book of Mormon has been a great blessing to members of the Church in Japan, especially for the youth, according to Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy.

Elder Sorensen, who is president of the Asia North Area, said that while many of the older generation can still read the early translation of the Book of Mormon, younger members have trouble reading the classical language, which is no longer taught in the schools. Noting that upon one strength another is built, Elder Sorensen said the early inspired translation is the foundation for the new translation.Shortly after the new translation was released in 1995, translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price were added to comprise a revised translation of the triple combination of the scriptures in Japanese.

In a recent Church News interview, Elder Sorensen joined Tokyo Japan West Stake Pres. Seiichiro Utagawa and Eugene M. Kitamura, Asia North Area director of Temporal Affairs, in discussing what the new translation means to the Church in Japan.

``This is a new day for converts and the young people,'' Elder Sorensen said. ``The coming forth of the first Japanese triple combination is a great blessing.''

Then he added: ``The Japanese people are very diligent in their approach to the Standard Works. They love the scriptures. They study the scriptures. They mark the scriptures. They pray about the scriptures. They ponder the scriptures and they appreciate and love this revised translation. Wherever I travel in Japan I see this. The people are so grateful. This is one of the most remarkable things that has happened to the Church in Japan in a long, long time.'' The simplification of the written Japanese language since World War II has been helpful for the general literacy of generations that have followed. But it left many members of the Church at a disadvantage when studying the Book of Mormon because LDS scriptures in the classical Japanese language were difficult for the younger Japanese to read with understanding.

The benefits of the new scriptures were manifested by youths in a recent testimony meeting in Pres. Utagawa's stake. He reported that one high school student said he used to read the old translation of the Book of Mormon, but had trouble understanding it and gaining a testimony. However, when he got a copy of the new translation, he read and re-read it, understood it and could visualize the scenes described in the book.

``He said at this time he got a testimony that the book was true,'' Pres. Utagawa related. ``And I heard that kind of testimony from many others of the younger generation. They have received many blessings from this updated scripture.''

Pres. Utagawa and Brother Kitamura were both involved in the new translation. Brother Kitamura was succeeded as president of the Japan Okayama Mission in 1990 by Pres. Utagawa and was asked to manage the translation project. He served in that position for two years. When Pres. Utagawa finished his service as a mission president in 1993, he was assigned by the Church Scripture Committee to manage the translation project to its completion.

The actual work of the translation was done in Japan. It was then reviewed by a committee of experienced Japanese ecclesiastical leaders under the direction of the Scriptures Committee. ``It isn't just a matter of translating,'' he noted. ``The Scriptures Committee reviews the translation, and then it receives approval from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.''

Pres. Utagawa is currently the materials management/translation manager in the administrative office of the Asia North Area.

Church members in Japan face another challenge. They use a Bible published by the Japanese Bible Society and do not have the benefit of the Topical Guide, maps, footnotes and other helps available in the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible. (The King James Version is not translated into Japanese.)

To solve the problem, the Japanese triple combination of the scriptures includes helps such as a Guide to the Scriptures (similar to the Topical Guide), Biblical and Church history maps, and footnotes.

People have expressed great gratitude to have this Guide to the Scriptures available to them in Japanese. Brother Kitamura added that members had previously tried to clarify their understanding by using the dictionary in the Japanese Bible. ``This is confusing when one comes to subjects such as the trinity, the Godhead and so forth. This new Guide to the Scriptures helps us.''

Elder Sorensen, Pres. Utagawa and Brother Kitamura agreed that the study aids in the triple combination of the scriptures make the Book of Mormon a more powerful companion to the Bible. The Japanese Book of Mormon and triple combination of the scriptures also have other unique qualities. ``It is beautifully bound and the paper is high quality, Japanese-produced paper blended with a special brown hue. This makes it easier for the Japanese people to read,'' Elder Sorensen said.

From the first publication date in August 1995 until the end of that year, 74,527 copies of the Book of Mormon were sold. Another 111,456 copies were sold in 1996. ``This is an increase of 21 percent over 1991-94,'' Elder Sorensen noted. The new edition costs approximately $2.50 more than the old edition, or $7.50. The Japanese triple combination of the scriptures, which costs $11, has also been in demand. In its first month of publication, 12,000 copies were sold. In 1996, an additional 12,318 copies were sold. All combined, more than 200,000 copies of the new translation of the Book of Mormon were sold from August 1995 through December 1996.

``We observe the missionaries are improving their effectiveness by using this new translation,'' he said. ``They are using the new Book of Mormon translation in a very effective manner. We note people who are joining the Church are staying active at an ever-increasing rate.'' Brother Kitamura said that the Church distributed about 3,000-5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon each month from the distribution center in Tokyo to the missions in Japan prior to the new translation. However, since the new translation was published, the center is distributing 8,000 copies each month.

``The new translation of the Book of Mormon is easier for investigators to read and understand,'' Brother Kitamura said. Along with improving general religious education among the members, the new translations have been especially beneficial for seminary and institute students, Elder Sorensen said. ``The students are understanding and enjoying the scriptures much more,'' he said. ``Brother Ryuichi Inoue, director of seminaries and institutes in Japan, expressed his personal thanks for the translation and its availability to students.''