This page was posted at least before April 4, 2002. On July 19, the son of
Sami Hanna sent an email (below) asking to post a retraction to the
following statement. Sami Hanna has since denounced Mormonism.
REFLECTIONS OF SAMI HANNA AS RECORDED BY RUSSELL M. NELSON:
My neighbor, Sami Hanna, is a native Egyptian. He is an academic scholar who moved into our
neighborhood to accept an assignment with the University as a specialist in Middle Eastern Studies
and the Semitic group of languages such as Arabic, Abyssinian, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Assyrian.
Being a newcomer into our community, he felt the Mormons were a bit of a curiosity.
Upon learning the name Mormon came from our belief that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture,
he was intrigued by the existence of the Book of Mormon. He had erroneously thought this was
When he was told that the Book of Mormon was translated from the ancient Egyptian or modified
Hebrew type of hieroglyphic into the English language by the prophet Joseph Smith, he became even
more engrossed, for this was his native language and he knows much about the other Semitic
languages as well as the modern languages.
So challenged was he by this book that he embarked on the project of translating the Book of
Mormon from English to Arabic. This translation was different from other translators, for this was
to be a translation back to the original language of the book. To make a long story short, the
process of this translation became the process of his conversion; for he soon knew the Book of
Mormon to be a divine document even though he knew virtually nothing of the organization of the
Church or of its programs.
His conversion came purely from the linguistics of the book which he found could not have been
composed by an American, no matter how gifted. Some of these observations I think will be of
interest to you, as they were to me, for they clarify some of the unique aspects of the book.
1. Jarom 2: "It musts needs be..." This expression, odd and awkward in English is
excellent Arabic grammar. Elsewhere in the book the use of the compound verbs "did eat",
"did go", "did smile" again awkward and rarely used in English, are classical
and correct grammar in the Semitic languages.
2. Omni 18: "Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory."
Brother Hanna indicates that this is a typical custom of his Semitic forbearers to recite their
genealogy from memory.
3. Words of Mormon 17: Reference is made here as in other parts of the Book of Mormon, to the
"stiffneckedness" of his people. Brother Hanna perceives that this word would be a very
unusual word for an American youth, Joseph Smith, to use. An American would likely prefer an
adjective such as stubborn or inflexible. But the custom in the Arabic language is to use just
such a descriptive adjective. Stiffnecked is an adjective they use in describing an obstinate
4. Mosiah 11:8 "King Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings and ornamented them
with fine work and precious things, including ziff." Have you ever wondered about the meaning
of the word "ziff" referred to in this scripture? This word, although in the Book of
Mormon, is not contained in dictionaries of the English language. Yet it translates freely back
into the Arabic language, for ziff is a special kind of curved sword somewhat like a scimitar
which is carried in a sheath and often used for ornamentation as well as for more practical
purposes. The discovery of the word "ziff" in the Book of Mormon really excited my
neighbor, Brother Hanna.
5. Alma 63:11 Reference is made to Helaman, son of Helaman. Why did not Joseph Smith interpret
this as Helaman, Jr., which would have been more logical for him, bearing the same name as his
father, Joseph, and being named Joseph Smith, Jr. In Arabic, Brother Hanna explains, there is no
word "junior" to cover this circumstance. Their custom is to use the terminology Joseph,
son of Joseph; Helaman, son of Helaman, etc.
6. Helaman 1:3 Here reference is made to the contending for the judgment seat. Brother Hanna
observes that the use of the term "judgment seat" would be quite strange to an American
who might have used a more familiar noun such as governor, president, or ruler. Yet, in Arabic
custom, the place of power rests in the judgment seat and whoever occupies that seat, is the
authority and power. The authority goes with the seat and not with the office or the person. So,
this, in the Semitic languages, connotes the meaning exactly.
7. Helaman 3:14 In this verse, there are a total of eighteen "ands." Reviewers of the
Book of Mormon have, on occasion, been critical of the grammar in such a passage where the use fo
the word "and" seems so repetititious. Yet Brother Hanna explains that each of the
"ands" in this verse is absolutely essential to the meaning, when this verse is
expressed in Arabic, for the omission of any "and" would nullify the meaning of the
8. Helaman 3: 18-19 Have you wondered why the Book of Mormon cites a numbering system such as
this? Do we say "forty and six, forty and seven, forty and eight?" No! Joseph Smith's
natural interpretation would more appropriately have been forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight
without the "ands." Brother Hanna excitedly observes that the use of "and" in
"forty and six" is precisely correct Arabic. Remember they number, as well as read, from
right to left and recite their numbers with the "and" to separate the columns.
Well, I have just cited a few of these examples. There are many more! As Latter-day Saint
leaders, we are aware of the Semitic origin of the Book of Mormon. The fact that an Arabic scholar
such as this sees a beautiful internal consistency in the Prophet Joseph Smith's translation of
the book, is of great interest. The Prophet Joseph did not merely render an interpretation, but a
word for word translation from the Egyptian type of hieroglyphic into the English language.
Brother Hanna said the Book of Mormon simply flowed back into the Arabic language.
Russell M. Nelson
Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2003 8:19 PM
Subject: Arabic Translation of BOM
Dear Sterling, Please remove the "Witness of the Book of Mormon in the Arabic
Translation" reflections of Sami Hanna from your website. The account is a testimony from
Russell Nelson regarding my father Sami Hanna's previous views of the BOM. But nearly 10 years
ago, my father renounced Mormonism as a non-Christian cult. We grew up as neighbors of Russell
Nelson, and it is true that Nelson gave a speech advocating that my father had affirmed the
Semitic origins of the Book of Mormon. However, since this time, my father has fully retracted his
so called "findings" and has left Mormonism. We are Christians, and would be happy to
share the truth of Christ with you if you are interested. Mormonism is a counterfeit, and as such,
espouses a false gospel. While you may think you have heard all the arguments and reasons from
"anti-mormons"...you haven't. Please don't harden your heart...you yourself know that
your conscience is not clean, and you have serious doubts about your eternal destiny. These doubts
you have are a WARNING. Do not ignore them, and do not ignore this message. God is giving you a
chance. He gave my father, Sami Hanna, a chance, and Sami after CAREFUL study, and honest
evaluation could do no other except RENOUNCE the religion of Joseph Smith. Remember that in
Deuteronomy, God commands you to test the prophets. Do so and repent from your arrogance and
religious pride. If you do, God will accept you as you humble yourself and trust in the Jesus of
the Bible...not the false Jesus of Mormonism. Again, please remove the reference to Sami Hanna
from your site unless you would like to publish that my father now has retracted his views and
denounces Mormonism and the Book of Mormon as heretical and counterfeit. Thank you, and as
mentioned, please feel free to write if you'd like to dialog further. Sincerely in Christ Mark