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Book of Mormon translation: German

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

President John Taylor supervised the translation of the Book of Mormon into French and German. (Deseret News Archive) President John Taylor supervised the translation of the Book of Mormon into French and German. (Deseret News Archive)

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

In September 1851, an apostle, a mission president, a missionary and two converts came together to translate and publish the first edition of the Book of Mormon in German.

Elder John Taylor had just supervised the translation of the Book of Mormon into French. He planned to return home when he received a letter from Brigham Young asking him to remain in Europe another year. He recorded in his journal, "It immediately occurred to my mind to go to Germany."

Elder Taylor, who would become the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came to England to find a member who could assist in the translation, but had no success. What he did learn was that George P. Dykes, a Scandanavian missionary, knew the German language, and he sent word for Dykes to meet him in Hamburg.

They met there in September 1851. Elder Taylor, who had come by way of Paris, introduced Dykes to German school teacher George Viett, who joined the church in France, and the translation work began. The trio also engaged in missionary work and baptized a man named John Miller, who joined in the translation team.

The work went well at first. Elder Taylor asked some of the best professors in Hamburg to review their work, and only a few corrections were made.

But when threatened with arrest, Elder Taylor left Germany with the translation only half done. But he had planned ahead. Before initially going to Germany, he had asked President Young to send Daniel Carn, a German convert in the United States, to Germany to be a mission president and assist in the translation work. Elder Taylor met Carn in London and sent him on to Hamburg. He arrived in April 1852. President Carn, Dykes, Viett and Miller finished the project in May.

The first German edition and the second printing of the French translation were published side by side, because those were the two main languages spoken in Hamburg. Separate copies of each language translation were also printed.

Many additional German editions of the Book of Mormon were printed over the next century. Jean Wunderlich, Max Zimmer and Immo Luschin helped prepare revised editions from 1959 and 1979. Luschin, who spoke several languages, served in the German army before joining the LDS Church. Before his death in 1998, he served as a translator and president of the Bern Switzerland Temple.

Counting the first edition in 1852, a total of some 39 different printings have appeared. The most recent revision took place in 2003.

Source: Information for this article came from Gilbert W. Scharffs' article, "Das Buch Mormon: The German Translation of the Book of Mormon," Maxwell Institute, 2002.

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