English Student Aids in Macedonian Translation of Book of Mormon

Lila Rice spent 18 months serving and teaching people in Macedonia, and she continues to serve them from home as she helps translate the Book of Mormon into Macedonian. 

(July 20, 2020) PROVO, Utah—BYU student Lila Rice (English, ’22) returned home from missionary service in Macedonia in April 2019. Just a few months later, she got a call inviting her to help translate the Book of Mormon into Macedonian.  

In 2012, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent their first young, proselyting missionaries into Macedonia. As the Church is still very new in the country, they only have one branch in the city of Skopje. 

While Rice served in Macedonia, only 8-12 proselytizing missionaries lived there, and they mainly used Serbian or English church materials to teach investigators. But for those who only spoke Macedonian, the missionaries worked together with a local member of the Church to handwrite their own unofficial translations of scripture verses to share with those they were teaching. The Book of Mormon translation project was approved by Church leadership in October 2018, and Rice was asked to join the translation committee shortly after her return from Macedonia. 

Rice’s main responsibility in the project is to “read through [the initial translation] and make sure it’s doctrinally accurate, and that the language sounds scriptural instead of like modern lingo.” Rice remarked, “I think it means a lot to [Macedonians] that we’re actually trying to translate it into their language, because oftentimes they feel forgotten. It means a lot that we’re at least trying to connect to them and their language. I think, with time, people will realize that there’s something special about it and hopefully cling to that.” 

Translation is all about connecting with other people. As Rice and her committee work on translating, they make sure that “it feels Macedonian and will mean something to Macedonians,” she commented. “It’s more about the ideas and the feelings of the verses, and that’s what you’re translating rather than the exact words.” 

In Rice’s words, working on this project has had an invaluable impact on her life. She has learned to rely on God’s help to guide her through the difficult aspects of the imperfect work of translation. But she has also learned more unexpected lessons. Rice stated, “Going in, I figured I’d get a better idea of what the Book of Mormon really means and how it works linguistically. And I have definitely gotten a greater appreciation in all of that, but what has had an even bigger impact on me throughout this process is having to work so closely with other members of the translation team and being able to build relationships and work with them in all areas of their lives in order to complete this one task.” 

—Heather Bergeson (English, ’21)