Locals say miracles lead to digitizing of Hawaiian language Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price
After following their own individual inspiration to make the scriptures in Hawaiian more accessible, three locals with ties to BYU–Hawaii said they worked together with more than 30 volunteers to digitize the scriptures in Hawaiian. Robert Lono Ikuwa, Keali’i Haverly, Kamoaʻe Walk, and Alohalani Housman explained the project required meticulous effort but was also transformative as they witnessed the Lord’s hand throughout the process and in the lives of those who helped.
BYU–Hawaii associate professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, Housman oversaw the digitizing of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price in Hawaiian. She said, “It was prophesied this book would go to the remnants of the house of Israel … now it’s becoming a reality.”
Housman said the project is fulfilling the prophecy told in the Book of Mormon, that the hearts of the children would turn to their fathers. “BYU–Hawaii faculty, students, alumni, and friends were involved.” Also involved were friends from other islands and even the mainland in the digitizing of the scriptures in Hawaiian, she said. “They’ll even say how this has strengthened their testimony, turned their hearts to their ancestors, and brought them closer to Jesus Christ, and that’s the whole goal of the scriptures.”
Haverly, BYUH alumnus, Stake President for the Laie Hawaii YSA 2nd Stake, and director of facilities and maintenance for the Polynesian Cultural Center, said, “I think that, to an extent, people who are not too familiar with the circumstances of Hawaii may feel the Hawaiian language is a dying language. … I think it’s important to note the Hawaiian language was never a dying language and it is actually thriving day by day.
“This isn’t some academic process or activity. It’s the process of saving more souls by sharing [the scriptures] with our community whose language is Hawaiian.”
Ikuwa, from Laie and BYUH alumnus, works as the Hawaiian culture based educator at Kamehameha Schools. He said it was the Lord who helped in reformatting the scriptures. “[That should be] the message, that the Lord inspired several individuals and groups of people.”
Housman said she met people like Ikuwa and Haverly after she began teaching at BYUH. “The Lord brought us together. … We worked together to bring this to fruition,” Housman said.
“Many hands came together. Many people came together,” Haverly said.
The Language of the Heart
However, the scriptures available to the saints in Hawaiian previously was the version that was not organized into verses, Haverly said. “As we the people who read and speak Hawaiian, those scriptures don’t work for us.”
He said it was also difficult to study without the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, which were not widely available to the saints in Hawaiian.
One day, Haverly said he went to the BYUH University Archives and asked for the Doctrine and Covenants in Hawaiian. He took pictures of the book and put the pictures on a website so others would have access to it. “Our children and families were hungering and thirsting for our scriptures in this language.”
He said one Sunday he asked his 7-year-old son to grab his scriptures for church, so his son grabbed his Hawaiian Book of Mormon. Haverly said he explained to him how they couldn’t look up scriptures easily in the Hawaiian Book of Mormon. “My son looked kind of disappointed,” he said. “I asked him, ‘Would you like me to follow up and see if we could get a more appropriate version?’ He said yes. He’s 17 now.”
Haverly continued, “It’s been a 10-year process for our family to see if we could get these resources more available to us. … It was all in the Lord’s time.
“It’s pretty emotional just thinking about it because you know our Heavenly Father is in the details … To be able to sit around as family and feast upon the words in the language of this land, of the land that we sit and stand and breath and live and eat from … is miraculous.”
Ikuwa said he was a convert to the church in 1996. Of his conversion, he said, “The day I was baptized, I didn’t speak Hawaiian. But when I went up to bear my testimony, the first words that came out of my mouth were Hawaiian. … I feel like it’s this gift for me.”
Ikuwa worked previously as a Hawaiian translator for the Church and has taught the Hawaiian language for close to six years at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo. Ikuwa gathered 25-30 volunteers, including BYU students and community members, to help with reformatting the scriptures in 2015 while he was teaching Hawaiian language courses at BYU in Provo. Ikuwa referred to the volunteers as “Hui Iosepa,” or the Iosepa branch. He said this group acted as an “impetus in building momentum to align our scriptures in Hawaiian with current English text for modern-day speakers of Hawaiian.”
This Utah-based group of volunteers was named after the Iosepa saints to honor the sacrifices of the Native Hawaiian pioneers who moved to Utah in the 1880s to receive their temple endowments and to build Zion, Ikuwa explained. The Hawaiian language served as the primary language of daily communication and worship over a 30-year span in the town of Iosepa, [Utah],” Ikuwa said.
Ikuwa said the Iosepa branch he worked with did their work “pakanā style,” where one partner would read while the other would listen. The two would work together to compare the digital version to the text version to make sure they match up, he said. The proofreading process required the volunteer to look at the text and then the digital version repeatedly. “Your eyes start to get sore. The process is so painful,” Ikuwa said.
To combat the difficulty of the work, Ikuwa said he focused on inspiring the volunteers. He said, “I actually taught them the history of George Q. Cannon, his history, his influence in Hawaii. I feel like you have to feed them spiritually in order to get into the tedious work.” Ikuwa said the Iosepa Branch proofread for about two months and stopped around the end of Alma.
“Let me tell you about the spirit of the volunteers,” Ikuwa said. He explained that the true miracle happened within the lives of those who helped.
“We had an individual who was inactive and she felt so touched I would reach out to her to be a part of this sacred work,” he elaborated. “She and her two daughters worked together … and the daughters shared with me how beautiful it has been to read the scriptures with their mom and feel the spirit of the Lord as they did the work.”
Ikuwa also talked about a volunteer who hadn’t attended church in a while. He said as this volunteer was reading, she felt the spirit tell her she needed to come back to church so she could go to the temple. “Isn’t that beautiful?” Ikuwa said. “I can feel the spirit in this monotonous work.”
Ikuwa described a Come Follow Me group of about 82 people who meet regularly. He said the group fasted and prayed together to show their thankfulness to God for the work done in the digitization of the scriptures in Hawaiian. He said two days after the fast, the announcement came that the scriptures would be available on the Gospel Library app in Hawaiian.
When speaking of this group, Ikuwa said one sister shared a particularly sacred experience the group’s fast. She said as she was closing her fast, she heard a soft voice that said, “Lohe au i kou pule,” which means “I heard your prayer.”
Of this experience, Ikuwa said, “The voice she heard was in Hawaiian. It wasn’t in English. … The fact Heavenly Father responded to her in Hawaiian was kind of an answer to all of our prayers. … The Lord Himself said, ‘Lohe au i kou pule.’”
The Lord’s Hands
Housman said a few years ago she felt impressed to do her dissertation. Although she already had a plan for what she was going to do, she felt like she needed to go in the direction of the scriptures. So her plan changed, she said.
One day, Housman said she read the George Q. Cannon intro in the 1905 version of the Hawaiian Book of Mormon. In the intro, Cannon described some challenges he faced with the translation. Housman said she read Cannon’s words, “If I do the work to fulfill the Lord’s words, He will do the rest.”
“I felt like it was a message from George Q. Cannon. Just do the work and the Lord will do the rest,” Housman shared.
Housman said she was gifted a copy of the Hawaiian Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. “It’s hard to find a copy. You can only find it in the archives.” Housman said she felt prompted to make these scriptures more widely available to the Hawaiian saints as part of her dissertation.
As part of her work, she typed up the entire Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price with the help of her daughter and some BYUH students. In the summer of 2018, she said she typically spent 10 hours a day, six days a week proofreading and creating a document using modern orthography, "using the okina and kahako and updating spellings of the language." They would then compare the text version to make sure they matched up.
However, in November 2020, "The Church approved a copy of the original books without the use of modern orthography." She then spent 70 hours that month creating and proofreading a new document to meet their request.
More volunteers in December spent time proofreading that version as well.
“The Doctrine and Covenants being available is just heroic,” Haverly said. “There’s so many parts of the administrative lead in the Doctrine and Covenants.” He said having the information about missionary work available is a great blessing to his children as they prepare to serve.
Reading the scriptures in Hawaiian provides insight into many words, Housman explained. She said many English speakers do not know what the phrase, “Verily, verily I say unto you” means. Many think of it as a filler word. However, in Hawaiian, the phrase means, “A truth, a truth, I speak unto you.
“Certain words are so much clearer and deeper in understanding in Hawaiian,” Housman shared.
A Blessing in Disguise
An organized effort to digitize the scriptures happened during the pandemic, Ikuwa said. “This is where the blessing in disguise came about.” After consulting with the ad-hoc advocacy team, he said he extended 100 invitations to trusted Hawaiian speaking members via email, and over 40 responded. Many who helped in 2015 as part of Hui Iosepa resumed work on this project despite a four-year hiatus, Ikuwa said.
Housman said, “It’s interesting how the Lord works.” Because of the pandemic, she said people had more time and could do the proofreading online.
Haverly said they made sure they worked in the spirit of what the Church wanted them to do. “This is strictly a digital effort. We were under no authority to translate. … We did our best to digitize the scriptures in alignment with our predecessors.”
Ikuwa said within three weeks, the 30 volunteers had proofread the first round of the whole Book of Mormon in Hawaiian. Ikuwa then said he told the volunteers they needed to do a second round to double-check their work.
During the second round of proofreading, Housman invited her BYUH students to help with the work.
“You’re dealing with scripture that is over 100 years old,” Haverly explained. “So, the scans [of the scriptures] need to be proofed and reproofed and reread and assessed and corrected.” He said they proofread “very thoroughly and meticulously.”
Ikuwa explained, “I did Zoom trainings with Keali’i and myself and then Alohalani joined in. … We were looking for tedious things like punctuation marks, making sure it was perfectly aligned with the original 1905 text of the Book of Mormon.
Housman said, "In early December 2020, the final edits were collaboratively completed by Kamoa'e Walk, Keali'i Haverly, Lono Ikuwa, and me."
Kamoaʻe Walk, assistant professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, treasures the opportunity to be a part of the project. “To have the ability to study and learn the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in the language of our Hawaiian ancestors has been one of my families’ greatest blessings,” said Walk. “To have this blessing now shared with the entire church is a miracle.”
In January 2021, Housman said their team was able to view all three books on the Gospel Library app and recommend edits.
"On Feb. 9, 2021, we received an email stating that Ka Buke A Moramona (1905), Na Berita a me na Kauoha (1914), and Ka Momi Waiwai Nui (1914) was going online and would be accessible to everyone," Housman explained.
“From April of 2020 until now, we were able to promptly proofread all the Hawaiian language scriptures because of the sacrifice and love of our dear volunteers. Our advocacy team provided frequent updates with Elder Taeoalii, our area authority in Hawaii, who then communicated to the area presidency,” Ikuwa said.
Haverly said he also traveled to Salt Lake City and communicated with church leaders about the reformatting.
The three books of scripture including Ka Buke A Moramona (1905), Na Berita a me na Kauoha (1914) and Ka Momi Waiwai Nui (1914) are now available on smartphones using the Gospel Library app and on the Church’s official website.