It is a bit of a coincidence that, as I prepared my regular list of the books and other media mentioned in General Conference, one of the LDS discussion forums in Brazil I follow was lamenting the decision to discontinue selling classic LDS works in Portuguese, like Talmage’s The Articles of Faith and LeGrand Richard’s A Marvelous Work and a Wonder.
The claims made at the Church Distribution Centers in Brazil, according to the reports I’ve read, are that members in Brazil aren’t purchasing these books, making it difficult to justify stocking and re-printing these books. Why this would be true isn’t clear at all. Pessimistic commenters on the forum I read suggest that Brazilian Church members simply don’t read enough.
I think this isn’t very likely. While it is true that Brazilians read less than people in Europe or the U.S. (Brazilians average 1.8 books per year, while the French read 7 per year, according to a 2000 study by the Câmara Brasileira do Livro), at worst this would imply that the book sector is 1/4 the size of that in France, adjusted for differences in population. This is still large. Brazil still publishes books by the hundreds of thousands of titles, including every worldwide best seller and thousands of other titles translated from abroad. It also boasts a fine and vibrant literature and one of the world’s bestselling authors, Paulo Coelho (best known for his book, The Alchemist). In the Church, it seems likely that members read a bit more than the average, since Church members in Brazil are more educated than the average and have higher incomes than average.
Regardless of how many readers there are, I see other problems which might account for the lack of sales. Without any real distribution system, how will Church members know what books are available? And without new books being produced regularly (there hasn’t been a new title in Portuguese produced by the Church in about 5 years by my count), why would anyone stop by the distribution center to see what is available?
Given all this, when I prepared my list of books and media mentioned in Conference, I couldn’t help but notice that none of the Mormon books on the list (I exclude the scriptures, Church magazines and manuals from my list) are available in Spanish or Portuguese (and generally not in any other language either, although I haven’t checked thoroughly). The most often referred to work, outside of the Scriptures and Church magazines, is The History of the Church, which is not available in any other language.
Despite all this, I did find one (only one) title mentioned in Conference that is available in Portuguese: Peter Pan.