Prayer is a powerful tool that can help us with all our life tasks, whether it involves employment, religion, or personal life. We can’t know everything, but when we need to do something important and moral, God stands ready to help us succeed. We do what we can and He makes up the difference.
The translation of the Book of Mormon into the Africaans language is an example of how we can appropriately use the power of prayer.
As the population of Mormons began to grow in Africa, it became important to translate the Book of Mormon into the native languages. Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—accept both the Book of Mormon and the Bible to be scripture.
Bishop Johannes P. Brummer of the Johannesburg Second Ward (a lay pastor) started translating the Book of Mormon, but not being a professional translator, the process was taking far too long. He felt it needed to be completed more quickly. People were learning English just to read the Book of Mormon, but it took them years of study to be able to do that, and non-Mormons, of course, would not make that effort.
Someone he knew introduced him to Felix Mynhardt, who had a powerful gift for languages. He knew Latin, Greek, English, Afrikaans, Aramaic, Hebrew; German, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. He could read Chinese as well. Professor Mynhardt, who is not Mormon, was a professor of languages at Pretoria University, an Anglican school
When Professor Mynhardt struggled with translation, he would check how the Book of Mormon translated the problem phrases in other foreign language editions. If that failed to offer a solution that felt right, he would kneel down and pray. He reported that this method never failed him—God always taught him how to translate the scriptures. (See I Have a Question, Ensign, September 1977.)
This fits in with a long-standing teaching among Mormons. When the Book of Mormon was first being translated into English by Joseph Smith, he used scribes because he’d had very little education. One of his scribes wanted to try translating. After receiving permission to try, he discovered he couldn’t do it. God told him that he had thought he didn’t have to do anything but wait for inspiration. In truth, we have to do our share as well. Life is a partnership between God and man.
Professor Mynhardt worked hard on the translations, studying it on his own and consulting other sources. He went to God after he had done this work. He did what he could do and God made up the difference by giving him the answers he’d been unable to achieve on his own.
God was prepared to help the professor because it was important to God that the book be properly translated. Although our efforts might not bring thousands to Christ, we often do things in our lives that are important at some level. If these things are in line with God’s teachings and standards, He will help us to accomplish them, even when they aren’t spiritual. We can ask for help in our careers, our families, and our everyday lives and God promises to give us answers.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.