Mormons


Mormons
The first attempt by the Mormons (officially, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) to enter China in 1853 was a failure. Arriving in Hong Kong during the Taiping Rebellion with no language preparation or understanding of the culture, the three missionaries had no success converting Chinese or Westerners. They stayed for about eight weeks before returning to the United States. On 9 January 1921, David O.McKay, an apostle of the church on a world tour to evaluate areas for possible missions, stopped in Peking and dedicated China for the preaching of the gospel. However, the turbulent times of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s made missionary work impractical. The end of World War II brought another apostle to China, and on 14 July 1949 Matthew Cowley officially opened the Chinese mission of the church. Internal tension in China and the Korean War prompted the United States consul general in Hong Kong to advise all American dependents to leave. The mission moved to Hawaii and then to California and worked with Chinese Americans. There was little success. As hostilities ceased in Korea, again an apostle was sent to Asia. Joseph Fielding Smith created the Southern Far East Mission, 17 August 1955. It included Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, South and Southeast Asia and the People’s Republic of China. Headquarters were established in Hong Kong. People were more receptive and the church grew. On 4 June 1956, four missionaries were sent to Taiwan where they were hosted by an American family serving in the US military. The church grew as people in Taiwan were exploring new ideas brought in from the West. Translating church materials has been a challenge, but the standard scriptures and texts are available.
By 2001 there were 21,084 members meeting in forty-one congregations in Hong Kong. They make up 0.3 per cent of the population, accounting for one in 331 residents. In Taiwan there are 35,506 members in eighty-one congregations (0.01 per cent or one in 667).
In 1979, as Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world, a song and dance performance group from the church’s Brigham Young University performed before 17,000 people in four major cities. Other BYU groups followed. This resulted in the development of relationships between the church, its leaders and several Chinese entities. The church’s Polynesian Cultural Centre in Hawaii became a model for several minority folk villages. The BYU China Teachers’ Programme, started in 1988, has grown, and in 2003 seventy people were employed. To date over 600 teachers have served in China and trained some 10,000 students. The teachers are not allowed to preach or teach about their religious beliefs, but are to perform humanitarian service. Other church members in business, education or government service increased in number after 1979 and lived in various cities across China. The government has allowed expatriate congregations and several small groups of church members to meet for services in China since the 1980s. Chinese who joined the Mormon Church while studying or working abroad have faced challenges upon their return. Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, the government has forbidden Chinese citizens from attending services conducted by expatriates. The church has worked hard to develop the trust of government officials and avoid any underground teachings or distribution of religious materials. The church looks forward to the day when it can be more active in sharing its message, but for now is practising patience and placing its efforts in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Other Christian groups have influenced China’s educational, health care and orphanage systems. The impact of the Mormon effort has been more on a personal level attempting to make individuals better human beings, better family members and citizens.
Britsch, R.L. (1998). From the East: The History of the Latter-Day Saints in Asia, 1851–1996. Salt Lake City: Deseret Books.
RICHARD B.STAMPS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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