Jesse Armstrong is currently employed at the Missionary Training Centre in New Zealand, and thought he was pretty ‘missionary savvy’.  That was until he met the missionaries in San Diego, California.

These missionaries didn’t have recognisable name badges and they certainly didn’t sound anything like any of the missionaries he trained back in New Zealand. These, very interesting missionaries were speaking Arabic and are assigned specifically to teach Arabic speaking ‘friends of our faith’ in approved missions.

Jesse said:

“Check this out…I’m sitting here watching missionaries being taught the Arabic Language. They are teaching the Chaldean people who descend from Abraham! These are the people whom the Saviour walked amongst in his day…How cool is that?!?! They told me that there are less than 100 of them [Arabic speaking missionaries] around the world”.



The missionaries teaching an Arabic man

The man in photo is Ghassan Seba, he is a convert to the church and has been assigned by the mission president to teach the missionaries Arabic in his home. He reports that there are around 50,000 Chaldean people living in San Diego. The missionaries have a special assignment to work with these people.

According to a former missionary, there are also “Arabic speaking missionaries in the Uganda Kampala Mission, which includes Sudan and South Sudan” (if you know of anywhere else, just comment below)

A book entitled “Into the Desert: An Arab View of the Book of Mormon” by Ehab Abunuwara, informs that “The Middle East remains one of the few areas in the world where the reach of missionary work continues to be very confined”.

He continues, “Currently, small Arabic-speaking branches exist in Lebanon and Jordan. On the other hand, a large number of people of Arab origin have joined the church outside the Middle East; so even though it would be hard to speak of an Arab LDS culture in the Middle East, members of Arab or Middle Eastern origins can provide insights into understanding and reading the Book of Mormon from a Middle Eastern point of view”.

In 1986 the first Arabic Book of Mormon was published. It was translated by Sami Hanna. By that point the Book of Mormon had been translated into 39 languages. Anderson, Kai A. (June 1997), “In His Own Language”, Liahona: 29


An Arabic Book of Mormon


Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke of this Sami’s incredible Book of Mormon conversion story at the 1992, Mission President’s training seminar.

“Sister Nelson and I have a close friend and former neighbor, Sami Hanna, who was born in Egypt. He is a scholar with special expertise in Semitic languages. As a linguistic exercise, he translated the Book of Mormon from English into Arabic. The exercise converted him to the divinity of the Book of Mormon. Among the many linguistic features that convinced him of the book’s divinity was this unusual sentence in Helaman, chapter 3, verse 14. [Hel. 3:14] This would hardly be an expression of a 24-year-old man from the New York frontier:

“But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work”.

That single sentence has eighteen ands. Now, if you were a teacher of English you might tend to downgrade the composition of that sentence. Yet my scholarly Egyptian friend said that every one of those ands was an important element in the construction of that sentence, allowing his translation to flow smoothly back to a Semitic language”.

President Kimball Said, “We want the leaders of the Arab nations to understand we believe that the Arab people are children of Abraham and as such are entitled to the blessings of Abraham”.


Arabic missionary badge

Maybe this is the start of something incredible. Perhaps this moment will one day be compared to the waves of converts from South America and the Philippines.

Just maybe, like for Sami, the Book of Mormon will fulfil it’s promise of “convinc[ing] Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” and resonate with Arabic speaking people as a “whisper out of the dust”. Isaiah 29:4

And hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of those really cool Arabic missionary name tags.



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17 Responses

  1. Central Texan

    In the paragraph following the quote of Helaman 3:14, the word “thousands” should be “those ands”

  2. Blaine Hawkes

    My son is in that companionship featured in your article. He took an interest in the Arabic language in sixth grade when his school offered it as a language option. As he grew up and progressed in the language, we felt he had a special calling to fulfill. He was called to the San Diego English speaking mission but then he was asked if he’d be willing to modify his call and speak Arabic.

  3. Lauren

    The Canada Toronto mission. Is the first mission to have Arabic missionaries : )

  4. Nanawan

    I have a grand-daughter who is preparing to serve a mission. She has always been interested in her Arab ancestry, her great grandmother being of Syrian/Lebanese ancestry, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt where her grand-father was also born. The family moved to England and then migrated to New Zealand in the early 50s. How cool would it be to be called to a mission like this? I know … that’s not quite how it works, but, it would be rather cool if it did, don’t you think? 🙂 She knows the plan, and is just excited to go serve wherever the Lord wants her to serve. Interesting article.

  5. John Teal

    The gospel is reaching places in unbelievable ways. My son is serving in the Greece Athens Mission, there are only 40 missionaries in the mission including couples and the President and his wife. They speak Greek, the original language of the New Testament , and work in areas written about such as Mars Hill , Thessalonica and Corinth. Greece was the gateway from Christianity from the east to Europe and beyond as Paul taught the gospel there. He currently serves on the island of Cyprus, just 250 miles from Jerusalem.

  6. Marc

    There may be less than a hundred Arabic-speaking missionaries around the world, but there are thousands of Latter-day Saints who have learned Arabic and come to love North Africans and Middle Easterners of many tribes and nationalities through military, intelligence, and/or government service. Additionally, thousands more have studied Arabic during academic pursuits. I have no doubt that this collectively acquired skill in understanding both languages and cultures will play an important role over time in bringing our brothers and sisters who descended from Ishmael to the knowledge of the gospel.

    • Arabic!

      I was an Arabic linguist with the Air Force and NSA, now I help out missionaries with discussions here in Utah. I love Arabic!

  7. Darbee

    I served my mission in the Canada Toronto West Mission and there were of a ton of Arabic speakers from Africa and the Middle East. I wanted to learn Arabic so bad, but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the plans. I know that the Lord prepared Arabs and sent them to Canada to hear the Gospel. Maybe that mission will have Arabic speaking missionaries soon.

  8. Zach

    My wife and I just finished two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco, along with a handful of other LDS couples, and loved learning Arabic and having our faith strengthened by the examples of our Muslim brothers and sisters who devoted themselves to the truth and light they possessed.

    Does anyone know of any digital copies of the scriptures in Arabic? I have the Book of Mormon in PDF, and although the gospel library app had Arabic, the only content is the titles for General Conference addresses. I would love to have the scriptures in Arabic electronically. Thanks.

    • KM

      Hi Zach. I have an iOS app called simply “Scriptures.” It has the LDS scriptures in many languages. When I last used it (years ago, tbh), it had the Bible in Arabic, not the Book of Mormon yet.

  9. Jessica

    Eleven years ago I was in my hometown of Monterey California and joined the church there. The wards there were packed with members who were in the military and were stationed there to learn Arabic at the DLI. I remember my dad and I saying “Something big is happening. All these members are learning Arabic and it can’t just be a coincidence.” Now it’s happening! I believe these men from my ward all those years ago were prepared for a wave of converts from Middle Eastern backgrounds!

  10. Emily

    I believe there are missionaries in the Stockholm Sweden mission who are occasionally asked to serve in the Arabic language.

  11. Nate

    I’ve read that there is no word but “Allah” used for God in all the Abrahamic religions in the Arabic world, including among Christian and Jewish Arabic speakers. Is Allah the word for God in Arabic translations of the Book of Mormon?


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