Book of Mormon translation in Spanish: Help from above to make it right

Published: Thursday, Feb. 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Editor's note: This is one in a series on the Book of Mormon translations and translators.

When Daniel Webster Jones left Missouri for Mexcio in 1847, he could not have known he would end up joining the LDS Church and helping to translate the Book of Mormon into Spanish.

Jones, an orphan, spent three years fighting with the American Army in the Mexican War, and while there he learned the language. In 1850, he traveled to Salt Lake City, and while he recovered from a gunshot wound, he investigated the church. In January 1851, Isaac Morley used an ax to chop through a foot of ice and baptized Jones, according to a 1981 article in the Ensign.

Jones eventually became a Spanish interpreter for President Brigham Young. In 1874, Jones was called on a mission to Mexico. As part of that call, Jones and Meliton G. Trejo, also a convert, began translating and raising money to publish sections of the Book of Mormon in Spanish.

During the final proofreading process, President Young told Jones he would be held responsible for its correctness. Jones recorded that this weighed heavily on his mind and he asked the Lord to help him identify the mistakes.

"I felt a sensation in the center of my forehead as though there was a fine fiber being drawn smoothly out. When a mistake occurred, the smoothness would be interrupted as though a small knot was passing out through the forehead," the article quotes from Jones' autobiography. "Whether I saw the mistake or not, I was so sure it existed that I would direct my companion’s attention to it and call on him to correct it. When this was done, we continued on until the same occurred again.”

In September 1875, Jones and others departed on horseback for Mexico with 2,000 copies of their publication, "Choice Selections from the Book of Mormon."

Trejo, a native of western Spain educated at the University of Bordeaux in France, once told President Young that his most fervent desire was to translate the Book of Mormon into Spanish and take the gospel to his people.

The first complete translation of the Book of Mormon was finished in 1886 by Trejo and James Z. Stewart. Rey L. Pratt, president of the Mexican Mission from 1907-1931, revised this edition with help from Eduardo Balderas.

Balderas eventually became the church's chief Spanish translator and revised the Pratt edition around 1949. More revisions, supervised by Balderas, came in 1969 and 1980. He assisted in translating other standard works, numerous manuals, handbooks, articles and books in his years at LDS Church headquarters.

In a 1972 Ensign article he authored, Balderas stated, "Being language conscious, in the process of translating, we marveled many times at the simplicity of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s language, and yet the beauty and spiritual tone it carried.”

Balderas went on to serve as a stake patriarch and sealer in the Salt Lake Temple. He also traveled extensively throughout Spanish-speaking countries to serve as a translator and giving patriarchal blessings. He died at age 81 in 1989.

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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