Skip to main content

Ermel J. Morton papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 7566

Scope and Contents

Collection includes the photocopies of journal entries, experiences, memories, and research papers of Ermel J. Morton regarding the Tongan Mission from 1907 to 1967. The manuscript of this compiled history was published in an abridged version for the Golden Jubilee of the Tongan Mission in 1968, however, the manuscript edition in this collection is a complete form. Collection also includes mission journal, letters and other correspondence; includes a telegram instructing him to go ahead with the Tongan translation of the Book of Mormon. Also includes essays written by Morton about his preparations and work to translate. Materials dated 1936-1997.


  • 1936-1997


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Ermel J. Morton mission papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Ermel J. Morton (1914-1992) was a Mormon missionary to Tonga, and helped to translate the Book of Mormon into the Tongan language.

Ermel Joseph Morton was born on October 1, 1914, in Mapleton, Utah, to parents Joseph and Belva Hatfield Morton. He graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a BA and MA, then went to Indiana University for his PhD. He served a mission to Tonga in 1936-1939, then became a reporter for the Salt Lake Telegram. He married Lena Gertsch (1911-2008) on March 3, 1944, and together raised five children: Lorraine, Allen Ermel, Marsha Kaye, Richard Wayne, and Annette.

Morton taught at BYU (1944-46) and Ricks College (1946-80). He was the principal at Liahona College in Tonga (1951-57), while serving on the Tongan Board of Education; later serving on the Pacific Board of Education (1957-60). While at Ricks College, he served as the President of the Ricks College Missionary Training Center (1969-76). After he retired, Ermel and Lena Morton served a mission to Seattle, Washington (1983-84). Over the years, Ermel served in the church as High Counselor, temple worker, in the name extraction program, and as a Patriarch.

Morton is best known for his work to translate the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price into Tongan. He also wrote a Tongan grammar book and dictionary. A student of 60 languages, Morton translated missionary discussions in Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Tongan, Niuean, Mandarin Chinese, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. He was also a student of Hebrew and many other languages. He taught Spanish at Ricks.

Morton died on March 23, 1992 in Rexburg, Idaho. He is buried in Mapleton/Springville, Utah.


1 box (0.5 linear ft.)

3 folder (0.3 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Donated by Lorraine M. Ashton, daughter of Ermel J. Morton, in 2010.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Lorraine M. Ashton; 2010.


Utah and the American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (20th century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.VII, 2007).

Processing Information

Audrey Spainhower, student processor, 2010.

Margaret Weddle, student manuscript processor; and John M. Murphy, curator; 2014.

Register of Ermel J. Morton papers
John Murphy, curator, and Audrey Spainhower, student manuscript processor
2010 April 28
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States