Since the 1960s, when instructional materials in the Church began to be consolidated under the principles of correlation, there has been a fundamental order with which these materials are made available in languages other than English.
Given the amount of good and necessary material published by the Church, it is obvious that some sort of prioritization must come to bear in determining which of it to translate and how soon to do it.
"It is important that we have order as we move out into the world with the gospel materials," said Ronald L. Knighton, managing director of the Curriculum Department of the Church. "We do it in such a way that the resources of the Church are not overburdened and the developing areas of the Church are not overwhelmed."
It is the area presidency in a given area of the Church, made up of three members of the Seventy, that makes the recommendation to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve that materials be translated in a specified language. Often this occurs after missionaries have come to encounter more and more people whose primary language is different from that in which the missionaries are teaching them.
If the recommendation is ratified by the presiding councils of the Church, materials are provided in the language according to a series of translation phases: the Introductory Phase and Phases 1, 2 and 3.
It must be noted, however, that the boundaries between these translation phases or steps are fluid and flexible. Priesthood leaders might decide that specific materials from one of the later phases are needed right away in a given language, even before that phase has been reached in translation of materials into that language. Also, the translation phases are cumulative; that is, the items in earlier phases are included as part of the later phases, not discarded.
Here are some of the materials translated under the respective translation phases:
Introductory Translation Phase
- "Joseph Smith's Testimony," the time-honored missionary tract that tells the story of the Restoration including the Prophet's First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of priesthood authority is among items to be made available in the Introductory Phase.
- Gospel Fundamentals is a pre-scriptures edition of the well-known book Gospel Principles." That is, scriptural references and quotations are not included in "Gospel Fundamentals," because the scriptures would not yet have been translated into the language in which it is made available in the Introductory Phase.
- Included in the Gospel Fundamentals package are the name of the Church translated into the given language, Articles of Faith, selected hymns and children's songs of the Church, and the sacrament prayers printed on cards. Instrumental accompaniment of the hymns and songs would also be made available in the Introductory Translation Phase.
Translation Phase 1
- The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price are translated and made available in Phase 1. The Book of Mormon is made available both separately and as part of the triple combination of these books of scripture.
- The "First Presidency Message" and "Visiting Teaching Message" that appear monthly in the Ensign magazine are translated and distributed monthly in Phase 1 languages. That they would be made available in a given language even before the Church's international magazine, The Liahona, is ready to be issued in that language attests to the essential importance of these regular communications written by and under the direction of living prophets.
- Phase 1 also includes translation of some essential materials for proclaiming the gospel: the missionary discussions, and the "Discussions for New Members."
- Administrative materials for operating a branch of the Church are included in Phase 1.
Translation Phase 2
- Basic curriculum materials beyond the Gospel Fundamentals manual begin appearing during Phase 2, including Primary, Aaronic Priesthood, Young Women and Sunday School teachers' manuals, Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Parts A and B, and Latter-day Saint Women, Parts A and B.
- Some Church Educational System materials are translated enough to begin a seminary program in the given language.
- The Liahona, the Church's magazine for languages other than English, is made available with limited frequency.
Translation Phase 3
Other materials not provided in the previous phases, but necessary to support the program of the Church in fully developed areas, are translated under Phase 3. A booklet titled "Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum" delineates "General Curriculum Materials" and "Basic Curriculum Materials." The latter is for use in units where the "general curriculum" materials are not yet available in the language or where directed by the area presidency.
With all of the effort to make the materials available, that is only half the battle, Brother Knighton noted. "It's one thing for the Brethren in the presiding councils to approve the materials to meet the members' needs and for the Church departments to make them available. It is just as important for the members to obtain them and use them for the purposes for which they were created in helping to carry out the mission of the Church to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of our Father's children."