Wednesday, April 4, 2012
"Die Boek van Mormon"
My notes from an article written by John M. Pontius, a former missionary to South Africa. Mynhad translated the Book of Mormon into Afrikaans. This article was mentioned during testimony our meeting. The Professor, a nonmember, spoke at Stake Conference in Johannesburg on May 14, 1972
Mynhardt said that he had been given the gift of languages in his youth. He was fluent in English, Afrikaans, Hebrew and Egyptian as well as many other languages. A devout Christian, he prayed and asked God to give him some task, a divinely important task, that would justify his receiving such a special gift from God. Shortly thereafter he was visited by a group of Mormon leaders who sought to commission him to translate the Book of Mormon from English into Afrikaans. He knew the book from his religious studies but did not want to get involved realizing that by translating it he would likely get into trouble with his university which was owned by the Dutch Reformed Church. However, after praying about the matter he decided to accept the commission.
“I never begin translating a book at the beginning. Writing styles usually change through a book, and become more consistent towards the middle. So I opened to a random place in the middle and began translating. I was startled by the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon was not authored in English. It became immediately apparent that I was reading a translation into English from some other language.
The sentence structure was wrong for native English. The word choice was wrong as were many phrases. How many times has an Englishman said or written, ‘And it came to pass?’ When I realized this I know that I had to find the original language, and translate it back into the original language, or a similar language to the original, and then proceed to translate that into Afrikaans. I tried half a dozen languages. None accommodated the strange sentence structure found in the Book of Mormon.
I finally tried Egyptian, and to my complete surprise, I found it translated flawlessly into Egyptian. Not modern, but ancient Egyptian. I found that some nouns where missing from Egyptian, so I added Hebrew because both languages existed in the same place anciently.
I had no idea at that time why the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian, but I can tell you without any doubt, that this book was at one point written entirely in Egyptian. Imagine my utter astonishment when I turned to chapter one verse one and began my actual translation and came to verse two, where Nephi describes that he was writing in the language of the Egyptians, with the learning of the Jews.
I knew by the second verse that this was no ordinary book, that it was not the writing of Joseph Smith, but that it was of ancient origin and was in fact scripture. I could have saved myself months of work if I had just begun at the beginning. I am one of the few people in the world that is fluent in ancient Egyptian. I am perhaps the only person fluent in ancient Egyptian who is also fluent in Afrikaans and English. And I know for a fact that I am the only person alive who could have translated this book first into Egyptian, and then into Afrikaans. If your church ever needs an Egyptian translation of the Book of Mormon it is sitting in my office as we speak.
I do not know what Joseph Smith was before he translated this book and I do not know what he was afterwards, but when he translated he was a prophet of God. He could have been nothing else. No person in 1827 could have done what he did. The science did not exist. The knowledge of ancient Egyptian did not exist. The knowledge of those ancient times and people did not exist.
I will keep promoting this book as scripture for the remainder of my life. Simply because it is scripture and I know it. I haven’t studied your doctrine or your history since Joseph Smith. The only thing I know about the Mormon religion is that you have authentic scripture in the Book of Mormon, that your church was begun by a living prophet of God and that all the world should embrace the Book of Mormon as scripture. It simply cannot be denied.”
It was an electric moment. Some people wept. Some had waited a lifetime to read the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans. Many people had learned English for the sole purpose of reading the scriptures. The Spirit bore testimony that day through the words of Professor Mynhardt that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.