LDS Church publishes new Spanish-language Bible

Translation praised for adding clarity and depth

Published: Monday, Sept. 14 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Una obra maravillosa … un milagro … inspirado … unificar y facilitar."

Those are the Spanish words — English translations are in the subheads below — some Mormons are using to describe the groundbreaking new Spanish-language edition of the Holy Bible prepared by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Santa Biblia: Reina Valera 2009" represents the first time the church has published an edition of the Bible in a language other than English, but it is also a natural progression in a pedigree of LDS editions of the scriptures — the English King James Version in 1979, the English-language LDS "triple combination" (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price) in 1981 and the subsequent printing of triple combinations in some three-dozen other languages.

Spanish speakers make up a major percentage of the church's worldwide membership and are an increasing portion of its numbers in Utah, where 70,000 Hispanic Mormons lived at the beginning of the year. The state is home to more than 120 Spanish-language LDS wards and branches.

Available beginning Monday, the new LDS Spanish-language edition of the Bible is the result of efforts from a host of translators, LDS general authorities, Area Seventies, professional linguists and church members, all under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The Deseret News interviewed four involved in various aspects of the new Spanish edition.

"Una obra maravillosa" — A marvelous work

Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy has an understandably deep love for the scriptures, the Hispanic people and the Spanish language. Before his 1992 call as an LDS general authority, he was director of the church's Scripture Coordination. His college education included certification to teach Spanish. Missionary and leadership assignments have taken him across Latin America.

So when he was called in 2004 with Elder Lynn A. Mickelson of the Quorums of the Seventy to co-chair the church's Spanish Bible project, Elder Jensen found a labor of love. The process and result is what he calls "a marvelous work."

Copyright issues with the 1960 Reina-Valera edition of the Spanish-language Bible resulted in the church using the public-domain 1909 Reina-Valera version as its source. While using the 1960 edition would have been more economical and efficient, Elder Jensen said the older text was a "blessing in disguise" as it resonated more with its English counterpart, the King James Version.

Translations and revisions were scrutinized by priesthood leaders and their wives — some 200 total in 10 different countries — to compare differences in regional language usage and to arrive at a Spanish text acceptable to all.

"The whole process was a unity of revelation," he said, adding "we just know the Lord was in the details, the spirit of the Lord guided us, prompting people thousands of miles apart."

And when he held the finished Bible for the first time?

"I can't talk," said Elder Jensen, choking back tears and picking up a copy to show how he cradled them. "I literally sat and took them in my arms and just held them. I just cried then, like I'm crying now — it was very tender."

"Un milagro" — A miracle

For Enrique Resek, manager of the church's Spanish Office for Translation Services, the miracles were many — ranging from the tools, technology and priesthood guidance benefiting the translation process to the fact that an LDS Spanish Bible wasn't even a consideration 30 years ago.

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