(Brother Britsch received a doctorate from Claremont Graduate University in 1968, in Asian studies. He is currently a professor of history at BYU and is the author of several books and many articles.)
President Lorenzo Snow, who had pursued a course of expansion since he became leader of the Church in 1898, announced plans on February 14, 1901, to open a mission in Japan. He chose Elder Heber J. Grant of the Council of the Twelve Apostles to preside over the new mission.
When President Snow announced the new mission, he explained that he had been thinking about such a mission for many years. In 1872, "a party of distinguished officials of the Japanese government [the Iwakura Mission] visited Salt Lake en route to Washington from their own country," reported President Snow in 1901.
During their stopover they called on the Legislature and were given an appropriate welcome. . . . They expressed a great deal of interest in Utah and the manner in which it had been settled by the Mormons. Our talk was altogether very pleasant and they expressed considerable wonderment as to why we had not sent missionaries to Japan. That, together with the knowledge that they are a progressive people has remained with me until the present time, and while it may not be the actuating motive in attempting to open a mission there now, it probably had something to do with it." (Deseret News 52 (April 6, 1901): 9.)On June 26, 1901, President Snow added:
As to these brethren who will shortly leave for Japan the Lord has not revealed to me that they will succeed, but He has shown me that it is their duty to go. They need not worry concerning the results, only be careful to search the Spirit of the Lord to see what it indicates to them. Do not be governed by your own wisdom, but rather by the wisdom of God. (Heber J. Grant, "A Japanese Journal," Gordon A. Madsen, 12-13).President Heber J. Grant and his companions were the first to admit that they did not know much about Japan. In Elder Grant's words the new mission was an "unknown quality." But in spite of some misgivings and apprehensions, President Snow, Mission President Grant, and the others all believed the new mission would succeed. Other Christian groups had done well, President Snow reasoned; why not the Latter-day Saints? [See "From the East" for an overview of how Christianity was introduced in Japan.]
Before going to Japan, President Grant chose two mature and experienced missionaries, Louis A. Kelsch and Horace S. Ensign, to go with him. Then, on May 10, 1901, he called eighteen-year-old Alma O. Taylor. Even before the missionaries left Salt Lake City, Elder Taylor worked on the Japanese language and later he demonstrated unusual linguistic ability.
The Japan-bound elders departed from Salt Lake City on July 24, 1901, and traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they boarded the Empress of India, which carried them to Japan. They arrived there on August 12.
On their arrival they found that even if they had desired to slip into the country unnoticed, they could not have done so. The foreign press in Yokohama had received word of their coming, and as became evident during the coming weeks, the Christian community was united together to drum the Mormons out of the country before they could gain a foothold. Almost before the four elders settled into the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, they found themselves in a verbal battle in the local newspapers that went on intermittently for several months. At least eight newspapers and many more writers became involved.
Somewhat surprisingly, in a land where Victorian morality had little or no place, the basic issue was whether the Mormons could be allowed within a reasonable distance of Christian women. When President Grant and his companions applied for permanent accommodations at a Western-style boarding house, the owner, Mr. Staniland, told them bluntly that he could not consider taking them in. When word of this action reached the press, it caused a heated debate between liberals who were willing to accept the elders in spite of the polygamy issue and those conservatives who claimed that polygamy was not dead and hence the missionaries could not be accepted.
Years passed before the Latter-day Saint missionaries developed any degree of mutuality with the established Christian missions. There is no evidence that the established Japanese religious denominations paid any attention to the Mormons.
On September, 1, 1901, Heber J. Grant (then a member of the Quorum of Twelve, and newly called president of the Japanese Mission) led his three companions to a secluded spot in a small grove situated on the slope of one of the rolling hills lying south of Yokohama, to dedicate the land of Japan to the preaching of the gospel. There they formed a small circle, sang, and prayed for the Spirit of the Lord to attend them. When they felt that they were in the proper spirit, President Grant offered the dedicatory prayer. According to Alma O. Taylor,
his tongue was loosed and the Spirit rested mightily upon him; so much that we felt the angels of God were near for our hearts burned within us as the words fell from his lips. I never experienced such a peaceful influence or heard such a powerful prayer before. Every word penetrated into my very bones and I could have wept for joy. (Alma O. Taylor, Journal B, September 1, 1901, BYU-Special Collections.)President Grant's prayer covered fifteen major points. Possibly of greatest importance was his supplication that Israel might be gathered, that Satan would release his hold upon the minds of the people, and that the hearts of the people might be prepared to recognize the truth when it was declared to them. With this prayer the mission was officially opened.
Probably in no other country have the first LDS missionaries had a harder time getting out among the people than in Japan. In India, Burma, and Siam the elders had begun preaching the gospel immediately upon arriving in those lands. This was also true throughout the Pacific. But the Japan elders seem to have felt the weight of history and tradition against them. Possibly the most formidable obstacle, at least in the beginning, was the Japanese language.
Within a week or two of their arrival, the elders hired a language teacher, the first of several over the next year or so. They decided that because they were all neophytes, they would devote their full time to language study until the next spring; then they would split into pairs and move out among the people. But this method proved tedious and slow, and by December Elders Ensign and Taylor had decided to move from the Metropol Hotel in Tokyo, to a completely Japanese area where they would have to use the language.
On December 4, 1901, Ensign and Taylor moved into the Nakai Hotel, actually a Japanese-style ryokan, where they were to live for the next fifteen months. Learning language was so difficult that the elders did not decide to go out among the people to teach the gospel until February 1903, eighteen months after the first group arrived in the country. (Ibid. February 9 to March 19, 1903).
During the early months of 1902, while Ensign and Taylor were adjusting to Japanese food, manners, bathing habits, and so forth, President Grant and Elder Kelsch occupied their time studying the language, and working on written materials to present to the Japanese people. In February, President Grant (who of course was also an apostle) proposed to his companions that it might be well for him to return to Utah for General Conference in April. He had several purposes in mind, among them to give a full report to Church leaders on conditions in Japan, to propose that additional elders be called to Japan, and to perform the marriage of one of his daughters. The other elders of course supported him in his plans.
Before President Grant left for home, however, two men were baptized into the Church, a happening that was totally unexpected, for the elders had not as yet sought converts. The first convert was a man named Nakazawa Hajime, a Shinto priest who seems to have been something of a firebrand. His visits with the LDS missionaries evidently caused his dismissal from his position as a Shinto priest.
Nakazawa, who considered himself a "small Luther," demanded baptism even though the missionaries did not believe he was ready. On the morning of March 8, the elders, Nakazawa, and an interpreter, Mr. Hiroi, traveled to the village of Omori on Tokyo Bay. Finding the tide low, they took a rowboat out far enough to immerse the candidate. Then President Grant and Nakazawa climbed over the side into the water and performed the ordinance. Mr. Hiroi translated the baptismal prayer as President Grant spoke it in English. Following the baptism, President Grant confirmed Nakazawa a member of the Church and ordained him as elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Two days after this first baptism, a second candidate, Kikuchi Gaboro, a man who had visited the missionaries, presented himself to President Grant early in the morning and pleaded for baptism. Although President Grant did not feel good about baptizing Kikuchi, he was so insistent arguing that he would understand the gospel better after he was baptized, and even claiming a willingness to die as the first Latter-day Saint martyr in Japan if necessarythat his request was granted later the same morning. He too was ordained an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. (Ibid., March 10, 1902.)
The next day, President Grant sailed for America. He was elated with the progress of the mission and enthusiastically reported the two baptisms to the Saints at home. Unfortunately, Nakazawa and Kikuchi both proved to be dishonest in their intentions and were later excommunicated from the Church. Sadly, they seem to represent the whole history of the early mission. A few excellent and devoted converts were made among the Japanese, but for the most part the mission was a great disappointment to the missionaries themselves and to the Church at home.
In 1902 Heber J. Grant returned to Japan, this time bringing with him his wife Augusta, their daughter Mary, Horace Ensign's wife Mary, and six additional missionaries. With the new missionaries, the mission was large enough to hold regular Sunday services. The missionaries started a Sunday School in the hope that prospective members would find it helpful in their quest for truth.
By March 1903, the elders had made considerable progress in the Japanese languagethey had spoken to each other in Japanese in their church services and had even translated some hymns ("We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet" was first) and some tracts--and were quite comfortable in their surroundings; therefore, President Grant assigned pairs of companions and sent them into the field -- to Hojo, Naoetsu, and Nagano
As would be expected, new elders came into the field from time to time, transfers were made, and cities were opened and closed. President Grant established the general pattern of missionary work before he was released to go home.
He was nevertheless dissatisfied with his performance while in Japan. He did not learn Japanese, nor did he move to Japanese-style accommodations or eat Japanese food when he could avoid it. Furthermore, during his presidency a very few converts came into the Church. When he received his release to return to Salt Lake City, his first impulse was to ask for a six-month extension. But when he questioned himself as to his motives for wanting to stay, he concluded:
What good is there for you to stay here? How much more can you do than Brother Ensign? And I began to realize it was a desire to be able to come home and tell you [the members of the Church] I had done something which prompted my wish to stay there longer. (General Conference, October 4, 1903)President Grant was too hard on himself. He had accomplished much and had established a new mission. On September 8, 1903, President Grant and his family sailed from Yokohama for home. He was replaced by Elder Horace Ensign, who was already in the mission.
During Elder Ensign's presidency some important things were accomplished. For example, Sunday Schools were organized in Hojo and Tokyo. Most important, however, were his contributions in the area of publications. He directed the writing and printing of a number of tracts and published a hymnal in Japanese. He also instigated the lengthy process of translating the Book of Mormon.
On January 11, 1904, President Ensign asked all of the missionaries to begin translating different sections of the Book of Mormon. This procedure did not work out, for a number of reasons, but it was a beginning. By September, however, President Ensign could see that the translation would have to be placed in the hands of no more than one or two men.
By September 15, he had completed the First Book of Nephi - forty-nine English pages. Neither Elder Taylor nor President Ensign knew at the outset how large a project it would prove to be.
Shortly before President Ensign received his release to return home, new elders arrived in Japan, and it was possible to open the work in Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido and Sendai in northern Honshu. Ensign's release came on July 27, 1905. Young Elder Taylor was to be his replacement. By the time of the Ensigns' departure, seven people had been baptized, but two had been excommunicated.
During President Taylor's period, 1905 to 1909, the work moved at a generally slow pace. The number of missionaries grew slightly and averaged thirteen during these five years. But convert baptisms were few - one in 1905 and two in 1906 and 1907 - and people at home began raising questions concerning the practicality of the mission. In answer to these criticisms, President Taylor sent a blanket rebuff to the doubting members of the Church.
Is the Japan mission a failure? Is it premature? The shortest answer to both these questions is an emphatic "NO!" It is the mission of "Mormonism" to preach the gospel to all the world for a witness before the end shall come. Therefore, counting its success or failure by the number of converts made is a gross mistake. (Alma O. Taylor, "About Japan and the Japanese Mission," Improvement Era, November 1906).The first translation of the Book of Mormon was completed on March 21, 1906, but the corrections and revisions took longer than the original work. Because he was dissatisfied with his early sections, Taylor revised the entire first translation, and this took from May 1906 until December. The finished product was off the press on October 6, 1909. Five thousand copies were printed.
President Taylor and Elder Caine received their releases to return home on December 18, 1909. Taylor had served almost nine years, and Caine had devoted eight. Elder Elbert D. Thomas was appointed the new mission president.
In 1909 Elbert D. Thomas became the president of the Japanese Mission. President Thomas believed that it was unnecessary for missionaries to remain for five or six years. In his opinion they could become proficient in speaking the language in a shorter time and learning to read it was not necessary. Because the First Presidency agreed with him, mission terms seldom lasted more than four years from then until its closure.
During the Thomas years, 1910 to 1912, the elders opened work among the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, and started missionary work in Osaka, a large industrial and commercial city in the west. They also started using street meetings as a method of finding investigators and advertising their church services. In early 1911, the elders in Kofu initiated English language classes at Kofu Commercial School. These regular English classes were part of the school's curriculum. During 1911 and 1912, some of the elders played baseball with the Tokyo American Baseball team. This was the most important effort of the entire mission to establish warm relations with representatives from other churches.
From 1910 until 1921, the missionaries never ceased working on one kind of translation project or another. They published several books and a number of tracts. They also worked steadily at enlarging the number of meetings that were held in the branches. The Mutual Improvement Association was started in 1916, and the first Relief Society was organized in Tokyo on May 30, 1917.
During President Joseph H. Stimpson's era, from 1915 until 1921, the Church grew faster than at any earlier time. Between 1915 and 1920, the elders performed sixty baptisms, sixteen children were blessed, thirty-seven men were ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, and the total membership grew to 124. President Stimpson was proud of the mission's accomplishments, but he was concerned about the small number of missionaries in the field - only eight.
President Stimpson struggled with this handicap and sought the help of Elder David O. McKay of the Council of the Twelve. In March 1920, Stimpson wrote a letter to Elder McKay to invite him to an international Sunday School convention to be held in Tokyo that fall. In that letter, he pleaded with Elder McKay to use whatever influence he could to have six more missionaries sent to Japan. Three new elders did arrive in May 1920, the first to come in two and a half years, but they merely replaced several others who were released. There were only two elders working in each conference, and Sendai had been closed for lack of missionaries. Stimpson wrote: "We have so few missionaries here in the mission at the present time that the devil has to look elsewhere for a workshop." (Joseph H. Stimpson to David O. McKay, March 18, 1920, Copybook H, 359, LDS Church Archives.)
From 1920 on, the Japan Mission was on trial. There is no question that by this time the leaders of the Church in Salt Lake City were harboring grave doubts concerning the value of continuing the mission. During Stimpson's era, the missionaries continually received rumors from home that Church authorities were thinking about closing the mission. Confirmation was never received by Stimpson from the Brethren, but when Elder David O. McKay visited Japan as part of his world mission tour, one of his purposes was to assess the situation and decide whether or not the mission should be continued.
Elder McKay arrived in Japan on December 20, 1920. While there he visited all of the conferences of the mission (except Sapporo, Hokkaido, where a blizzard prevented such a visit) and remained in Japan for a month. He spent considerable time asking questions and seeking to learn more about the Japanese people. At the end of his visit he concluded that the mission was worth continuing and that if this was so, enough missionaries must be assigned to make it a success. "It is like trying to run a sixty horsepower machine with a one horsepower motor and that out of repair," said Elder McKay. He decided that the mission would be much better if there were several married couples appointed and distributed to each of the conferences. These couples were to have six or eight missionaries working under them, and they were to act as guardians and counselors for their missionaries. This idea began to be put into effect during the coming months but never became fully operational. In June 1921, Hilton A. and Hazel Robertson arrived in Tokyo, and in November 1922, three more couples arrived in the mission. At the end of the year there were twenty missionaries in the field, three more than in any other year.
In addition to the plan for more missionaries, Elder McKay also made some suggestions concerning improving the work. He stressed the need to turn every conversation into a gospel discussion. Missionaries were always to carry tracts and other literature. They were to spend more time in teaching the gospel in public places such as markets. Street meetings were to be continued. Evidently, the visitor did not feel that the missionaries had been working hard enough. He told them to work at least as hard as if they were earning salaries.
The last official act of Elder McKay was to release the Stimpsons to return home. They left Japan on February 11, 1921. In March 1921, Lloyd O. Ivie, a former Japan missionary, and his new bride, Nora, arrived in Japan to assume leadership. Ivie continued in the spirit of the reforms or innovations started by Elder McKay. He tried to expand the work. He sent missionaries to four new areas and introduced new methods of language study. For a brief moment total numbers of missionaries, Book of Mormon sales, and baptisms increased, but by the end of 1922, matters had returned to the old pattern. In January 1922, Kofu, after having been worked for fourteen consecutive years, was closed. This left only three conferences in the mission. Unfortunately, after the arrival of the couples the leaders in Salt Lake City did not continue to send the numbers of missionaries that had been suggested by Elder McKay. The result was a dampening of enthusiasm among the missionaries.
Elder Hilton A. Robertson was appointed president of the mission when the Ivies were released in October 1923. The period of his leadership, which ended with the closing of the mission, was short-lived for two principal reasons. The more serious was a problem that arose in Japan as a result of passage of the Oriental or Japanese exclusion laws in the United States. A second contributing factor was the great Tokyo earthquake of September 1, 1923.
First, some comments about the earthquake. The destruction that came in the wake of this terrible disaster was very great. About 91,000 people diedmany in the flames that engulfed Tokyo, some under falling debris, and others as a result of riots and disorders. Several missionaries, including the Robertsons, were in Tokyo at the time of the disaster and were fortunate to escape bodily harm or death. Through the entire disaster, Robertson reported, not one member of the Church was injured, nor were any of the missionaries. The mission home lost some tile from the roof and plaster from the walls, but aside from that the place fared very well. (Hilton A. Robertson, General Conference, October 1924)
America's Japanese exclusion law caused the most serious problems. In 924 Congress enacted a new immigration law, the second Johnson Act (also called Exclusion Act of 1924), containing a section forbidding admittance to the United States of "aliens ineligible for citizenship." Because the Asians of China and Japan were the only aliens not eligible for citizenship, the law was a direct insult to the Japanese nation and was interpreted by the Japanese as such.
The law went into effect on July 1, 1924. That day was observed throughout Japan as a "day of humiliation," and Tokyo blazed with posters which read "Hate Everything American." The situation became very tense for the missionaries after this law was passed. On one occasion, shortly after the 1924 exclusion law went into effect, President Robertson found two posters tacked to his door saying, "Bei-jin Haiseki" or "American go home."
On June 13, 1924, President Hilton A. Robertson received a telegram from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City; it contained 12,000 yen but no message of explanation. Nevertheless, Robertson and his missionaries had a good idea why the money had been sent. For several years rumors had circulated among them concerning the possible closing of the mission. (Japan Mission Journals, 1901-1924, June 13, 1924, LDS Church Archives)
Why an earlier telegram from President Heber J. Grant had been delayed is not known, but on Thursday, June 26, 1924, the following arrived at the mission office; it was dated June 9:
Have decided to withdraw all missionaries from Japan temporarily. Cabling you twelve thousand yen for that purpose. If more needed cable us. Arrange return immediately. Grant. (Grant, Letterbook, February 21, 1924 to July 19, 1924, LDS Church Archives).The man who had opened the mission in 1901 had made the decision to close it temporarily.
When the telegram arrived on June 26 instructing them to return, the missionaries promptly set about making arrangements for closure of the mission. During the first three weeks of July, elders and sisters arrived at Tokyo from their various locations. They spent most of their last month or so in Japan visiting members, selling and giving away mission-owned goods, shipping books, and engaging in similar activities.
Then, on July 24, 1924, Elders William E. Davis and Milton B. Taylor, along with Elder and Sister F. Wallace Browning (who had visited China since the notice of closing came), boarded the S.S. President Cleveland and sailed for the United States.
All meetings were canceled after June 29 except sacrament meeting, which was held until the last Sunday before departure. Only two to four Japanese Saints attended during that time. The elders passed out three thousand seven hundred tracts during these last days. Finally, on August 2, President and Sister Robertson went to Osaka to encourage the Saints there to "live up to their duties." They boarded the S.S. President Pierce in Kobe, and all the remaining missionaries, Elder and Sister Elwood L. Christiansen and Elders Rulon Esplin, Vinal G. Mauss, Lewis H. Moore, and Ernest B. Woodward, boarded the same ship in Yokohama. They sailed from Japan on August 7, 1924 and the early mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Japan was closed.
When the missionaries arrived in Salt Lake City on August 22, 1924, President Grant greeted them with, "Thank God you are home because I know what is in store for the people of that land and we are glad you are safely home." President Robertson made a statement many years later that was similar in spirit to that of President Grant's greeting. He said:
I think that the mission was closed for a purpose in 1924 when we returned home. I feel that the Lord knew what was going to transpire [speaking of ultranationalism and World War II] and he called the missionaries home and ordered the mission closed temporarily. Later on we find that the other denominations throughout the world who were proselyting in Japan were forced to close their missions and return to America at great loss and sacrifice. (Hilton A. Robertson, General Conference, April 1947).Considering the number of problems the mission had faced through the years, the disruptions of the final two years, and the psychological distress suffered by the missionaries, it is easy to understand the decision of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve to close the mission. It was true that the results had been "almost negligible." Nevertheless, the mission did produce some lasting contributions, translation work in particular, and a few converts were brought into the Church who remained faithful through the years until the work was recommenced following World War II.
In 1924 the Japanese Mission was closed after a twenty-three-year history. Despite many challenges, the mission did produce some lasting contributions, translation work in particular, and a few converts were brought into the Church who remained faithful through the years until the work was recommenced following World War II.
Following the closing of the early mission in 1924, Japan moved steadily into the period of ultra-nationalism that eventually resulted in the Sino-Japanese War and World War II. During the 1930s the Japanese government required all citizens to visit Shinto shrines and to worship the emperor. The government took the position that "bowing to the portrait of the emperor was simply a patriotic gesture and that attendance at the Shinto shrines was devoid of religious significance." This was hard for the Christians to accept, but in 1936 the churches were forced to submit to the government's position. (J. Herbert Kane, _A Global View of Christian Missions_ rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 252. and D. C. Holtom, _Modern Japan and Shinto Nationalism_ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943), 97.)
When Protestant and Roman Catholic ministers, missionaries, and priests left Japan on "furlough" during the late 1930s, they were not allowed to return. . . . By 1941, most Americans and other foreign missionaries had returned to their own lands. During the war, Japanese Christians and their churches were subjected to many pressures. Compulsory emperor worship was introduced, all hymns referring to the Lordship of Jesus Christ were removed, and Sunday School materials were used by the government as a potent vehicle for the dissemination of government propaganda.
When the war finally ended on August 14, 1945, the Japanese nation was exhausted, prostrate before the Allied forces. Although the Japanese people had been told that the American and other Allied troops would be harsh overlords, such proved to be untrue. The Allied forces, in turn, were surprised to find that the Japanese people, a people who had fought bitterly, even ferociously, were submissive and cooperative subjects of the Occupation government.
On January 1, 1946, Emperor Hirohito issued a proclamation that he was not a divine or quasi-divine person and that the Japanese people were not superior in any way to other races and peoples. "By this statement," writes Richard H. Drummond, "the traditional spiritual basis of the Japanese government and society, the doctrine of the divinity of the emperor, which had been developed with increasing explicitness for over half a century, was at one stroke demolished. For many Japanese the act was psychically more shattering than military defeat and surrender, and it left literally millions to reconstruct their spiritual foundations and standards of value. . . ." (Richard H. Drummond, _A History of Christianity in Japan_ (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 272-73.)
It was in this spiritual vacuum that dedicated LDS servicemen first taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The time was right for the growth of all Christian churches as well as many new religious movements that sprang from the Japanese people themselves. Protestants and Roman Catholics frequently refer to the period from 1945 to 1951 as the "Christian Boom." Circumstances were definitely right for the establishment of the LDS Church during that period.
In 1944, Edward L. Clissold, who was at that time a member of the Oahu Stake Presidency, president of the Hawaii Temple and the Central Pacific Mission (the mission to the Japanese people of Hawaii), and an active-duty Navy officer, was sent to military government school at the University of Chicago. While there he was trained as a government administrator and expected to be assigned as a provincial governor in Japan when the war ended. As he anticipated, Clissold was sent to Japan immediately after the conclusion of hostilities. But contrary to his expectations, he was assigned to work in the education and religion section of SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers, literally General Douglas MacArthur's own office).
During his short tour of duty in Japan (he remained there for only two months), Brother Clissold became acquainted with not only with a number of LDS servicemen and the operation of servicemen's groups, but also became thoroughly familiar with the officers within the section of SCAP that had greatest influence on the development of religious affairs in postwar Japan.
In addition, Clissold did what he could to find the remaining Japanese Latter-day Saints from the previous mission era. On October 30, 1945, he placed a small ad in Japanese in a Tokyo newspaper, saying: "URGENT NOTICEI would like any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Near-Day (sic) Saints (Mormon Church) to contact me as soon as possible. Daiichi Hotel, Room 548. Lt. Col. Edward Clissold." Brother Nara Fujiya, who had shepherded the Japanese Saints from 1924 until 1933, responded to Brother Clissold's notice. As a result, a few other Japanese members were located and integrated into the activities of the LDS servicemen. (Yukiko Konno, "Fujiya Nara: Twice a Pioneer," _Ensign_ 23 (April 1993): 31, 33.)
In February 1946, the Clissolds returned to Honolulu to resume their business and Church activities that had been curtailed by the war. Brother Clissold was soon called as both a stake high councilor and stake mission president.
In the spring of 1947, the First Presidency called Brother Edward L. Clissold to go to Japan to investigate the possibility of re-opening the mission, and if appropriate, to do so. He received word of this appointment and was set apart as mission president on October 22, 1947. The First Presidency instructed President Clissold to preside over the members, to organize the Church, to establish a mission headquarters, and to make arrangements for missionaries to enter the country. He arrived in Japan on March 6, 1948.
President Clissold began immediately to search for living and office quarters. In April, he located a partly burned mansion in Azabu, Tokyo, and through the help of many influential people, even Prince Takamatsu, and after a series of extremely complex negotiations, he obtained permission to buy the property.
Renovation of the building began in May, and by the 22nd of that month President Clissold moved into the servant's quarters over the garage. Although Sister Clissold and other missionaries moved into the home in September, the remodeling work was not completed until November 25, 1948. A large addition was later built on, and in the late 1970s the building was razed to make way for the new Tokyo Temple. It was in an excellent part of the city and served the Church well as a mission home and office for almost thirty years.
The initial group of missionaries arrived in Japan on June 26, 1948. The first of their number, Harrison Theodore "Ted" Price, was called to serve in late 1947. The other four were Paul C. Andrus, Wayne McDaniel, Koji Okauchi, a nisei (second generation American of Japanese Ancestry), and Raymond C. Price, brother to Ted.
Between December 1947 and March 1948, these elders were assigned to the Central Pacific Mission in Hawaii for language training under Paul V. Hyer, an elder who had learned to speak Japanese well. They not only studied the Japanese language but also tracted and taught the gospel with companions from the Central Pacific Mission. Their experience in Hawaii prepared them to know how to teach the gospel as somewhat experienced missionaries. Otherwise they would have entered the Japanese mission field as total "greenies." (Paul V. Hyer, "Preparations for a Mission in Postwar Japan: Paul Hyer's 'Mini-Mission Training Center,'" unpublished paper).
The elders were allowed to enter Japan only after President Clissold had made arrangements for them to live with American Saints in the Occupation Forces. Between June and the end of 1948 the mission force grew to seventeen: President and Sister Clissold, thirteen elders (seven Caucasians and six nisei) and two lady missionaries (both nisei).
One of the early assignments President Clissold gave the first group of elders was to find any members from the former mission who were still alive. Some of the converts of the early mission, such as Brothers Nara, Shiraishi, and Takagi, and a few women, had already found the Church and were serving well in one or two small groups. But by no means all of the old members had found the Church. Paul C. Andrus and his companion, Ray Price, found some members in the Yokohama area who had been out of touch with the Church since the late 1930s, but who had nevertheless remained faithful.
One of those who was overjoyed to know that the Church had returned to Japan was Sister Suzuki Nami. According to Elder Andrus "she remained faithful even though during the war and during the Japanese incident in Manchuria she lost two of her sons and one daughter. . . . Her very nice home in Yokohama was bombed and burned and destroyed completely. When Ray Price and I found her, she and her husband were living on two tatami straw mats. Each mat is six by three feet. Over these they had a corrugated iron lean-to. They cooked in there on a charcoal brazier, a hibachi, and they slept there. This was their property where they had had their restaurant, which had also been destroyed." (Paul C. Andrus Oral History, interviews by R. Lanier Britsch, 1974).
As the missionaries went to work proselyting among the Japanese, they found them much more willing to listen to the message of the restored gospel than had been true before the war. The elders had several advantages that the missionaries before 1924 had not enjoyed. Among these were translated materials to share with prospective converts. The most important item was of course the Japanese version of the Book of Mormon. A collection of hymns and a few tracts were also available. But more important than the literature were the people, both those members who remained faithful from the early mission and the U.S. military people who not only lived the gospel and taught it to their Japanese friends but also contributed time, money, and leadership to the newly established mission.
Even before the mission was officially opened in March 1948, some Japanese had been baptized into the Church. The first Japanese to join were Sato Tatsui and his wife, Chiyo, who were taught the gospel by Ray Hanks and C. Elliott Richards. Mel Arnold and Boyd K. Packer also became friends and gospel teachers. On July 7, 1946, the Satos were baptized in a swimming pool at Kansaigakuin University. Elliott Richards baptized Brother Sato and Boyd K. Packer baptized Chiyo. (Lucile C. Tate, _Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower_ (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995), 64-66).
Brother Sato, who remained faithful to the Church until his death in Salt Lake City in 1996, organized a Sunday School in Nagoya in 1946 and conducted it almost single-handedly until missionaries were sent there in October, 1948. (Harrison T. Price, "A Cup of Tea," Improvement Era, March 1962).
In 1948 the Japanese mission opened again under the direction of President Edward L. Clissold. The day after President Clissold arrived in Japan he was taken to a Japanese Sunday School that was directed by his friend Nara Fujiya and conducted by Tsukayama Kiyoshi. Forty-three people were in attendance. Certainly the circumstances of the re-establishment were better than those that had prevailed during the early mission. Brother Nara's little group became the nucleus of the Ogikubo Branch, which was organized later that year. By the end of 1948, President Clissold had organized a branch and four Sunday Schools. And these organizations were separate from the servicemen's groups. At that time, President Clissold reported that nine hundred people were attending LDS services every week. Twenty-two convert's names were entered on the Church records in 1948. (MFSR, Japanese Mission, 1948, LDS Church Archives.)
When President Clissold submitted his year-end report to the Presiding Bishopric, he expressed confidence that the missionaries would bring many converts into the Church during the coming year. "The great needs of the mission at this time," wrote Clissold, "are literature in Japanese and more missionaries." The missionaries were working on the literature problem, but the shortage of missionaries Clissold perceived could be alleviated only at Church headquarters. Considering the world-wide missionary demands of the Church, it was difficult for the Church leaders to meet his requests. But it is regrettable that more missionaries could not have been sent.
Although President Clissold was not satisfied with the number of missionaries assigned to Japan, he used those whom he had to expand the proselyting area to Sapporo in the north and to Osaka-Kobe in west central Honshu. By the time he was released to return home on August 31, 1949, elders and sisters were teaching the restored gospel in at least ten major cities, including Tokyo, the largest city in the world.
On June 11, 1949, Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife arrived in Tokyo for a tour of the mission. He was at that time president of the Asian and Pacific missions of the Church. During his stay in Japan he visited most of the branches and traveled as far west as Hiroshima. While in Japan, Elder Cowley prophetically promised "many Church buildings and even [LDS] temples in this land." (Kan Watanabe, et al. "Japan: Land of the Rising Sun," Ensign, August 1975).
Vinal G. Mauss was called to be the new mission president. When President Mauss arrived in Japan on August 20, 1949, he began a mission that lasted for over four years. Mauss, a businessman and mortician from Oakland, California, had served as a missionary to Japan during the last year or two of the early mission. During the years of his presidency he moved the work along well, especially considering the international developments that occurred while he was in Japan.
Between 1949 and 1953, Japanese membership grew from 211 to over 800; the number of districts expanded from one to five; and the number of Japanese branches grew from twelve Sunday Schools and one or two branches to twenty-five branches. The number of missionaries also expanded to a high of eighty-four during this time.
President Mauss's greatest contributions, however, were not in numerical growth but in the areas of missionary training and expanded proselyting, Church organization, acquisition of property, and work with LDS servicemen's groups. If President Clissold laid the foundation for the Japanese Mission, President Mauss can be credited with the erection of the walls. By the end of 1949, the missionary force was up to forty-four. During 1950, President Mauss was busy integrating still another thirty-six elders and sisters. With the added numbers of workers, he asked all branch leaders to expand the Sunday Schools and to begin holding Sacrament meetings. It was at that time that many of the Sunday Schools in fact became branches. By the end of 1950, there were fifteen branches in the mission. Almost all of these units were presided over by missionaries.
Midway in that year, however, war broke out in Korea, and before the end of the year its effects were being felt by the Japanese Mission. The military draft greatly diminished the supply of new LDS missionaries. Another effect of the Korean war was the assignment by the U.S. military of thousands of servicemen not only to Korea but also to Japan (which was a major staging area), Guam, Okinawa, and the Philippines. Among these military people were hundreds of Latter-day Saints. By 1953, there were seven groups and two servicemen's districts in Japan.
The service personnel supported the development of the Church in many ways, not the least of which was by way of example. When it became evident to President Mauss that the supply of American missionaries was going to be diminished, he decided to call local Japanese members on full-time missions. By the end of 1952, eleven young Japanese men and women were serving two-year missions and by mid-1953 the number was up to twenty. Almost all of them were supported by money contributed by LDS servicemen. (Vinal G. Mauss Oral History)
President Vinal G. Mauss served long and well. His release to return home came in October 1953. His replacement was Hilton A. Robertson, who had recently been released as president of the Chinese Mission, which had been terminated a few months before in California. Robertson and his wife Hazel had also served previously in Japan, where he closed the early mission, and in Hawaii, where he organized and presided over the Japanese-Central Pacific Mission from 1937 to 1940.
When President David O. McKay set Hilton A. Robertson apart as mission president, he gave him unusually broad authority. He was to preside not only over the Japanese Mission but also the Chinese Mission. "Yours is now a distinct responsibility, a mighty one, in holding the Presidency of the Missions in the Orient, in Asia. . . ," said President McKay. He told him to "organize these missions" and to "expand in excellency, in permanency." He specifically told President Robertson to take care of the little group of Chinese Saints in Hong Kong (Hilton A. Robertson, Daily Dairy, Japanese Mission 1954-1955, 3).
When President Robertson arrived in Japan, he found the demands of the mission and the servicemen's organization to be very time-consuming. In fact, he hardly had time to think about China or other areas such as Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Guam. But Church leaders in Salt Lake City, particularly President McKay, had a larger vision of the world and the missionary responsibility of the Church. In the summer of 1954, President McKay sent Elder Harold B. Lee of the Council of the Twelve Apostles to Japan and Asia to survey the progress of the mission and to study the possibilities for growth. Elder and Sister Lee arrived in Japan on August 20. During their stay they visited all five mission districts and the servicemen's districts. When Elder Lee reported his trip to Asia at General Conference a week after he returned to Salt Lake City, he told the Church, "The signs of divinity are in the Far East. The work of the Almighty is increasing with a tremendous surge." (30) During his travels in East Asia Elder Lee met with 1,563 LDS servicemen and service women.
Elder Lee was obviously impressed with the missionary possibilities he saw. Only a year later, undoubtedly as a result of Elder Lee's recommendations, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Council of the Twelve, visited Asia, made some significant changes in mission organization, and dedicated several new lands for the preaching of the restored gospel. President and Sister Smith arrived in Tokyo on July 25, 1955. Two days later President Smith met with the missionaries and service people at Karuizawa. He there proposed that the mission, which had sometimes been called the Far East Mission but was generally known as the Japanese Mission, should be divided into two missions. Japan, Korea, and Okinawa were renamed the Northern Far East Mission. Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Guam were named the Southern Far East Mission (Joseph Fielding Smith, "Report From the Far East Missions, " _Improvement Era, Dec 1955, 917).
President Robertson's missionaries, however, did not convert many Japanese. The principal reason was the tremendous turnover in missionaries. Most of the local Japanese missionaries completed their terms during 1954 and early 1955, and President Robertson did not see the need to replace them with more local missionaries. Had he done so, he could have largely eliminated the other part of the problem, that of having too many missionaries who did not speak Japanese well enough to be effective.
President Robertson's leadership was important in three other areas. He supported and helped Sato Tatsui with his retranslation of the Book of Mormon - a project which Sato began while President Clissold was still in Japan - and with his translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, which he worked on concurrently with the Book of Mormon.
Another contribution was in the acquisition of property. President Robertson purchased for the Church at least three homes that doubled as chapels and living quarters for missionaries. He noted that wherever the Church had buildings the work was "greatly facilitated" (MFSR, Japanese Mission, 1954, LDS Church Archives).
Finally, President Robertson did much to strengthen the auxiliaries: MIA, which had been held throughout the mission since the early months; Sunday Schools, which had been started early, even before sacrament meetings in most instances; and Relief Societies, which had been organized during Mauss's time. Primaries had their beginning under Robertson's direction in 1954.
President Robertson's health began to fail during 1955. He mentioned his health problems, particularly trouble with his vision, to President Smith. He undoubtedly also mentioned his long years of service in the mission field. In late October, only a day or two after Robertson had it confirmed that he had cataracts in both eyes, he and his wife received their letter of release.
In 1955 thirty-one-year-old Paul C. Andrus was called as the new mission president over Japan. In 1848 he had been among the first group of missionaries to enter Japan after World War II. President Andrus could see nothing but significant progress during the five years since his release from his first mission and magnificent opportunities for proselyting in the future. He wrote:
The growth and the progress of the Church in Japan seems striking indeed as I return after an absence of five years and compare our position now with our position at that time. Although the number of branches is approximately the same, they are organized and functioning much more completely; there are more good leaders serving in the branches; the Church owns more property, and meeting places in general have improved; our members generally have grown stronger in faith and in works as their experience has increased and their testimonies have congealed (MFSR, 1955).Shortly after President Andrus arrived, he learned that there was no uniform teaching plan and that each pair of elders or sisters used whatever methods suited them best. President Andrus met with his traveling elders (later called supervising elders or assistants to the president) and asked them to create a uniform plan for teaching the gospel. A suitable plan was not accepted by the mission until late in 1956. In the meantime, President Andrus placed the missionaries on a strict work schedule and encouraged them to move toward uniformity in their teaching methods. These simple measures more than doubled the number of converts per missionary in 1956.
Toward the end of that year, President Andrus received a copy of Willard Aston's book, Teaching the Gospel with Prayer and Testimony. One of the basic principles taught in that book was that one teaches the gospel, bears testimony, and invites the investigator to be baptized. "At the end of 1956," said Andrus, "I called together our leading elders and talked about this. We came up with a six-lesson teaching plan that was geared for the Japanese. We incorporated into it these principles. We announced the introduction of this plan and began using it in 1957." (Paul C. Andrus Oral History, interviews by R. Lanier Britsch, 1974.)
For the first time, the missionaries realized that their former slow approach had been wrong. Moreover, there was no need to convert the Japanese investigators to Christianity. The important objective was to convert Japanese directly to the restored gospel and "and let them find out about so-called Christianity thereafter." (Ibid.) It was this idea that moved the mission forward and brought the great growth of the next five years. Convert baptisms jumped from 129 in 1956 to 616 in 1957. The average number of baptisms per missionary climbed to 5.8.
As the Church grew, President Andrus was able to an important change that helped prepare Japan and Korea for stakes. For reasons that were more Japanese in origin than American, very few Japanese men were ordained to the priesthood during the pre-Andrus years. In fact, by the end of 1955 there were only forty-one Japanese Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
As more members came into the Church, Andrus set up a two-year program for advancement in the priesthood which, over the years of his mission, brought the number of Japanese and Korean Melchizedek priesthood holders to over 350. This enlarged number made it possible for the mission leaders to place local men in almost all (75 to 80 percent) branch and district positions (Ibid).
The growth of the Church in Japan made it obvious to all concerned that chapels were sorely needed. To meet this need, President Andrus purchased twenty-three chapel sites. These properties, which were obtained at great expense and after considerable expenditure of time and effort, became the basis for a large building program during later years (Ibid).
Without question, the most important property purchase made during this time, and probably the most profitable in the history of the Church, was the acquisition of the Yoyogi Street property in Omote Sando, Tokyo. President Andrus described the background of the purchase in this way:
As we organized our five branches in Tokyo we wanted a good central location not only for a stake center, but someplace that would be a showplace for the Church in all of the country and represent the Church in all of the Far East. After all, this is Tokyo. It's the largest city in the world.When Elder Hinckley looked at the property he was impressed with its potential but staggered by the price. But before he had a chance to reject the property, President Andrus told him that the land President Mauss had purchased for $20,000 was now worth $500,000. On hearing this, Elder Hinckley immediately saw the possibility of gaining approval for purchase of this land. After prayerfully considering the matter and discussing it by telephone with President Henry D. Moyle of the First Presidency, Elder Hinckley recommended that the Church should buy it. President McKay approved, and on June 3, Elder Hinckley and President Andrus completed the transaction. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Journals, May 29-30, 1960).
So for years I looked for a place and finally found one in Tokyo that we thought would fill the bill. . . . We found this property just at the time that Brother Hinckley was coming [to Japan as part of his first tour of Asia]. The interesting part of the story is that this property, which was about 30,000 square feet in size [186 feet in the street and an average depth of 138 feet], was selling for $670,000, [plus $12,000 real estate commissions] (Ibid).
Over the years, the house on the Omote Sando property served as the Central Branch meeting place. At the same time the land continued to appreciate in value. The Church finally sold the property in 1973 for $24,150,943.40. The remarkable fact was that the net outlay from the Church was $150,000. The principal and interest from the transaction became available to help with the acquisition of hundreds of other chapel sites throughout Japan or however the leaders of the Church were inspired to expend the funds.
For believing Saints few earthly acts have more significance than participation in temple ordinances. The young leaders within Japan were no exception. They wanted to receive their own endowments or special blessings from the Lord and to be sealed to their wives or husbands and children for eternity. This hope notwithstanding, until l964 no one had figured out a way to take a group of Japanese Saints to the temple.
The stimulus to organize a tour group to travel to Salt Lake City or to Hawaii came from Yamanaka Kenji, an older convert who, in addition to being a tour director, knew many people in influential places. He concluded that at least a small group of branch and district officers, thirty or forty people, could afford to go to Salt Lake City. At about the same time, early l964, President Andersen learned that Flying Tiger Airlines would be willing to carry a charter of approximately l60 people for $300 each. With this possibility in mind, mission leaders sent word to all branches asking how many people would like to participate in an excursion to Hawaii during the summer of l965, a year and a half away. One hundred and seventy people said they would make the financial and spiritual preparations for the trip. The mission sponsored a number of money making projects to raise funds, such as selling pearl tie tacks and recording a stereo record of Church music and Japanese songs.
After the mission had announced its intention to follow through with the excursion, numerous problems arose, the most serious ones related to the cost of fare. The Civil Aeronautics Board would not allow Flying Tiger Airlines to come into Japan to pick up passengers. The mission leaders turned to Japan Air Lines. But Japan Air Lines was generally uncooperative until President Andersen pointed out that during l964 the Church had done over $70,000 business with them. The Church, in fact, was their largest single client. After that JAL agreed to charter a jetliner for $273 per person, round trip.
Making charter arrangements was time-consuming, but more important and more time-consuming were the spiritual preparations. The participants studied the significance of temple work, made changes in their lives if necessary, and in every way prepared themselves to be morally and spiritually ready to enter the temple. When the First Presidency learned through Elder Hinckley that the trip was going to become a reality, they asked President Andersen to send a translator to the temple in Hawaii to prepare the entire temple ceremony in Japanese. Sato Tatsui was selected for this assignment.
When the JAL jetliner was coming in over Pearl Harbor in July l965, one of the l66 participants looked down and said to himself, "I wonder what kind of reception I will get since my fellow Japanese dropped bombs . . . on Pearl Harbor? How will I be treated?" When the plane landed, the Hawaiian Saints gave the Japanese Saints one of the greatest welcomes ever. They piled leis high on every neck and greeted the newcomers warmly. "I had heard about brotherly love," said the worried brother, "but I never really knew what it was. Now I know what brotherly love is. Now I want to share this brotherly love that I have felt among these people who we tried to destroy, but in return they have shown kindness and love." (Terry G. Nelson, "A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japan from 1948 to 1980," (M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1986), p. 26)
Elder Hinckley joined the group in the temple and sealed some of the couples. Many of the visitors had deeply moving experiences. In the words of Watanabe Kan, "The spirit that was there was just indescribable and it burned so strong that those offering prayers were choked up for lengthy periods of time before continuing in the supplications to the Lord." (Kan Watanabe, et al, "Japan: Land of the Rising Sun," Ensign 5 (August 1975): 42.)
Of the l64 Japanese who went to Hawaii, l34 were adults who received their own endowments. The rest were their children.
An added benefit from this excursion was the opportunity for the Japanese Saints to participate in meetings of the wards and stakes of Oahu. Arrangements were made to have each Japanese member assigned to a person who was his or her counterpart in the Church. Branch presidents from Japan spent considerable time with bishops in Hawaii and attended all of their meetings. Likewise district presidents went with stake presidents, district councilors with high councilors, and so on. The leadership training was of immeasurable worth to the Japanese Saints.
The l965 temple trip was the first of many. The next one came in l967, and after that the charter groups went to Hawaii almost yearly until the last group flew to Hawaii in July l979. The Tokyo Temple was completed by the time the next departure would have taken place.
In 1965 Adney Yoshio Komatsu became the new mission president. President Komatsu's mission can best be characterized as a time of final preparation for the growth of the l970s and 1980s. He saw it that way when he was there. When he had been in the mission for a year he wrote:
The Japanese people need stakes and wards. They need a temple. The full force and impact of the gospel on the lives of the Japanese will not be realized until the Saints here have the opportunity to receive their endowments and to perform other temple ordinances. The main thing which stands in the way of the organization of stakes and wards and the building of a temple in Japan is the lack of real strength in the Church here; not only in number of members, but in priesthood holders and real leaders. (Success Messenger, June 1966, 116, LDS Church Archives.)Adney Y. Komatsu was different from previous mission presidents in several ways. He was the first "American of Japanese Ancestry" or first nisei to serve as mission president in Asia. He was the first product of the Japanese-Central Pacific Mission so to serve.
In addition to supervising the growth of missionary numbers from approximately 200 in l965 to over 250 in l968, completing and dedicating five chapels, starting three others, and guiding the labor missionary program, President Komatsu presided over or participated in other important developments and events, some of which follow.
Japan seems to have come into focus on the map at Church headquarters when President Hugh B. Brown, First Counselor in the First Presidency, toured Asia and Japan in April l967. He was thrilled with the strength and numbers of members. The part of his visit that is most remembered by the Japanese Saints was his address at the dedication of Abeno Branch chapel in Osaka, Friday, April 2l. He was deeply moved by the size and quality of the congregation and spoke of his amazement at the quiet but rapid growth of the Church throughout the world.
Among visits from leaders in Salt Lake City, the tour of Japan by Elder and Sister Spencer W. Kimball in February l968 was a highlight. Elder Kimball stopped off in Japan in a non-official capacity. That is, he was not assigned to tour the mission or to hold any meetings. He came because of personal interest, choosing to return from an official visit to Australia and New Zealand by way of Asia. By that time President Komatsu was working hard to duplicate stake organization in the districts of the mission, especially in Tokyo. He had taught the leaders how to hold Priesthood Executive Meetings and other necessary meetings to correlate the programs of the Church. Elder Kimball arrived in Japan at a time when these programs needed encouragement from outside. In Tokyo Elder Kimball met with all district and branch presidenciesin fact, with all of the leadership at a general meeting. He addressed the congregation in a warm and comfortable way, saying, "I'm Elder Kimball. I'm seventy-two years old. I want to introduce myself to you. . . . I have four children." And so forth. Then he had each leader stand and introduce himself. He then noted the ages of the leaders and said, "How many of you have been to the temple?" After counting the hands, he said, "I average the age of leadership here to be in the early thirties. And ninety-five percent of you have been to the temple. This is better than many stakes of Zion that I know of within comparable distance of a temple."
Elder Kimball then leaned over to President Komatsu and said, "President, let's talk stake now, not a year from now. Let's talk stake organization now. In the stake we do these things this way. What are we doing? How can we get closer to the stake program? How can we implement the program most closely with our best abilities?" Then he told President Komatsu that if he followed this procedure a stake would probably be organized two or three years earlier than was usual. From that time on, President Komatsu and President Bills, who succeeded him, constantly emphasized preparation for stakehood. Two years later, the Tokyo Saints were ready for Japan's first stake.
By mid-1968 Japan had nearly twelve thousand Japanese Mormons in fifty-one branches and ten districts. Missionary numbers were well over two hundred, and there was obviously too much for one mission president to handle. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve decided to divide the mission. Shortly before President Komatsu was to return home, the First Presidency changed the General Authority supervision of the area. Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Twelve and Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the First Council of the Seventy were assigned to lead the Asian Missions. On June l5, 1968, Elder Benson, in a letter to President Komatsu, asked him to begin preparing for a division of the mission by adding another set of assistants, another mission secretary and commissarian, and by moving the missionaries around so that both missions would have people of equal ability.
Walter R. Bills, a former missionary in the Central Pacific Mission, replaced President Komatsu in mid July, l968. The next month Edward Y. Okazaki and his wife, Chieko, both converts of the Central Pacific Mission, who now lived in Denver, Colorado, arrived to take control of the new mission. On September 1, 1968, the Northern Far East Mission was divided to become the Japan Mission with headquarters in Tokyo, and the Japan-Okinawa Mission, with headquarters in Osaka. With the division of the mission Japan entered a new era of Church history, the contemporary period institutional development. Following 1968, the missions in Japan grew so rapidly and the stakes multiplied so quickly that it is not possible here to plot the course and development of all missions and stakes.
Although the Church announced its participation in Expo `70, the Japan World Exposition, in November 1968, by that time more than a year of planning and negotiations had taken place. On October 16, 1967, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and President Komatsu went to the offices of the Osaka International World's Fair, where they discussed with officials the possibility of a Mormon exhibit. The officials told Elder Hinckley that they would sell space only on the outer perimeters, but he showed little interest in that idea.
Other meetings followed, with Komatsu and local leaders doing the legwork. Then, in April 1968, Elders Hinckley, Komatsu, Watanabe, Iami, and Marvin Harding, building supervisor, agreed upon a site, l000 square meters, that was among the Japanese exhibits. Elder Hinckley was especially concerned that the Church would have a Japanese rather than an American image. (Hinckley, Journal, October 16, 1967 and April 26, 1968.)
On May 2, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve approved participation and allotted $300,000 for the project. Before long, final architectural drawings and plans were under way.
Emil B. Fetzer, Church architect, designed the pavilion, a modern Oriental building having two stories. Its main feature was its spire, capped with an eight-foot fiberglass replica of the Angel Moroni statue that adorns the Salt Lake Temple and many other temples. The ground floor provided an assembly area, offices, and two displays, one on Japanese family life and the other a twelve-foot marble replica of Thorvaldsen's masterpiece, the Christus. On the second floor, visitors were conducted through a Creation room, a Plan of Salvation room, a Life of Christ room, and a Restoration of the Gospel room. They were then taken into one of two theaters which were showing the movie "Man's Search for Happiness." (Gerald Joseph Peterson, "History of Mormon Exhibits in World Expositions," (M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1974), 144-45.)
The ground breaking for the pavilion took place in May 1969. Elder Ezra Taft Benson presided while important civic and Expo `70 officials as well as three hundred members and friends looked on. He told the assembled crowd that the Mormon pavilion would give the Church the opportunity to explain its history, doctrines, and programs and to make clear that the Mormon Church was a world Church with a world message. ("Expo `70 Ground breaking," Church News, May 17, 1969, 4.)
Nine months later the building, which was constructed largely of materials that could be re-used in other LDS buildings, was ready for use. All that remained to be done was to install the displays and movable facilities. Everything was in readiness by March 13, one day before the official opening of the exposition. On that day President Hugh B. Brown offered the dedicatory prayer on the building and the project workers. Other important Church leaders were also there: Elders Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, Assistant to the Twelve. Elder Brockbank, who had directed previous exhibits in New York and Texas, was assigned to be commissioner for this pavilion. He was assisted by mission presidents Bills and Okazaki.
From a missionary point of view the setting for the pavilion could not have been better. It was next door to the Japanese national exhibit and close to the Russian and United States exhibits. People thronged to the Mormon Pavilion. During the six months of the exposition 6,658,532 people went through the building, and 780,000 left their names and addresses on the registers, expressing a willingness to have missionaries call at their homes. A total of 852,000 more people visited the Mormon exhibit in Japan in six months than visited the Mormon exhibit in New York in two years. (Peterson, "History of Mormon Exhibits," 143, 146.)
The message of the pavilion was different from those of all other exhibits. While national and business pavilions centered their messages on the material and technical progress of mankind, the Church centered on the divinity of Jesus Christ, the reality of a living God, the importance of the Book of Mormon, the plan of salvation, and the role of the family in that eternal scheme. The guides were missionaries, generally American, and Japanese members. The American missionaries surprised many with their fluent Japanese (as well as Korean and Chinese) and impressed them with their cleanliness, courtesy, and obvious love for the Asian people.
Beyond the attractiveness of the missionaries, the Church had gone to extra efforts to provide appropriate literature for the visitors from the major nations of Asia. Copies of the Book of Mormon were available not only in Japanese (50,000 copies sold) but also in Korean and Chinese. Tracts and pamphlets too were available, as were several other books. Undoubtedly the most impressive part of the pavilion tour was the showing of "Man's Search for Happiness," a movie depicting man's journey through life and the meaning of that experience. W. O. Whitaker and the motion picture staff of Brigham Young University Studio traveled to Japan to produce the film in Japanese, with Japanese actors. After Expo `70 closed, the film became an important missionary tool in Japan. (For an extensive account of the production of the Japanese version of "Man's Search for Happiness," see Palmer, The Church Encounters Asia, 9-15.)
The week from March 13 to 18, 1970, was exhilarating. The Mormon Pavilion was dedicated on the 13th; the Tokyo Stake was organized on the 15th; the Japan East Mission, with headquarters at Sapporo, Hokkaido, was created on the 16th; and the Japan West Mission, with headquarters at Fukuoka, Kyushu, was founded on the 18th. From that time on, most of the leaders in the missions and virtually all stake leaders were Japanese. During the 1970s, most of the mission presidents were nisei who originally joined in Hawaii.
In l935, President Heber J. Grant had a vision of a later time when Japanese from Hawaii would take the gospel to their people in Japan. During the l970s that vision was fulfilled through the nisei mission presidents.
More important than the contribution of the nisei from Hawaii and the U.S. mainland was the coming of age of the Japanese Saints themselves. The first stake presidency was entirely Japanese. In most stakes throughout the Pacific, the first stake president or at least one of his counselors had been expatriate Americans; not so in Japan. Tanaka Kenji, who had joined the Church in l952, was selected by Elders Benson, Brown, and Hinckley, to be the first president. He chose Kikuchi Yoshihiko to be his first counselor, and Sagara Kenichi as second counselor. The bishops of the six wards were all native Japanese.
At the same time, Watanabe Kan was called to serve as the first president of the Japan West Mission in Fukuoka. He was the first native Japanese to serve as mission president. Since that time the list of local Japanese mission presidents has become extensive. By the early 1970s the Church in Japan had come abreast of the Church in most other developed parts of the world.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson, who in his capacity as supervisor of all Asian missions visited that part of the world five times between 1968 and early 1970, was deeply impressed by the Church's progress all over Asia. He was so impressed, in fact, that he wrote:
There has never been a time until now when the Church has had the strength and means to reach out effectively to the Asian nations. In the timetable of the Lord, the door is now open, and this is apparently the day for work in Asia.(Ezra Taft Benson, "The Future of the Church in Asia," Improvement Era 73 (March 1970):14; also Benson, "A World Message," Improvement Era 73 (June 1970): 96.)In 1970 there were approximately 12,500 members of the Church in Japan. The creation of Tokyo Stake helped the development of the Church in Japan in a number of ways. One of the most important was the regular visits General Authorities made to attend quarterly and, after the change, semi-annual stake conferences. Whereas the number of General Authorities who had visited Japan until 1965 could be numbered on the fingers of one hand, with the interest in Expo `70 and the new stake, General Authority visits became not only frequent but almost commonplace.
Shortly after the founding of the Tokyo Stake, Adney Y. Komatsu was called to serve as Regional Representative over Hawaii and Japan. He held that position until April 1975, when he was called as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. Soon after, he was assigned by the First Presidency to live in Japan and supervise the Church in all of Asia. This assignment was later changed to include only Korea and Japan, and Elder Jacob de Jager was assigned to supervise the Philippines-Southeast Asia area.
In addition to the assignment of resident General Authorities, the Saints in Japan were blessed with visits by members of the First Presidency. President N. Eldon Tanner, Counselor in the First Presidency, came in the early 1970s; then President Harold B. Lee visited there and marveled at the tremendous progress of the Church since his first visit in 1954. The most significant visit by a General Authority to that time came in August 1975, when President Spencer W. Kimball presided at the first Japan Area Conference.
The seventh in the series of world-wide area conferences was held on August 8-10, 1975, in the Budokan, a large cultural arts facility that had been built for the Tokyo Olympics. Saints from all over Japan, including Okinawa, gathered in Tokyo for the three days of meetings and activities. At the request of President Kimball, the Japanese members prepared an elaborate cultural program for Friday evening, August 8. Songs, drum playing, dances, and brief dramatic performances by over two thousand participants delighted both local people and the foreign visitors.
The next morning, Saturday, August 9, at the first general session, President Kimball spoke to the 9,800 people in attendance. He laid a scriptural background for temple building and then dwelled on the sacrifices and hardships of those who built the Kirkland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake temples. He then said, "Now I bring to you a matter of great importance to all the people of the Asian world. We therefore propose to you that we build a temple in Tokyo for all the Church in Asia." The announcement of the Church's eighteenth temple deeply moved the Japanese Saints.
On Sunday, a day free from employment, twelve thousand three hundred people attended the last and largest session of the conference. The devoted and attentive audience deeply appreciated the counsel given by their leaders. Elder Hinckley, who had directed the work in Asia for eight years, told the people: "No one seeing what I have seen transpire in this land could deny the workings of the Almighty. He has laid His hand upon this nation; His spirit has brooded over the people. Their hearts have been touched as they have listened to the testimony of His witnesses."
Following 1975, the Church grew more rapidly in Japan. Five new stakes and two new missions were added in the next four years, and the membership increased by close to fifteen thousand. Chapel construction continued in many cities. But of course the new temple received the main attention. Ground breaking was held on April 10, 1978. The local Saints over contributed financially to the building of the temple by many thousands of dollars. Not only Japanese Latter-day Saints but also members from many Asian lands contributed to the fund for the building.
The call of Elder Kikuchi Yoshihiko, a Japanese, as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and as Area Supervisor (and later Executive Administrator) of Japan and Korea at General Conference in October of 1977 symbolized the coming of age of the Church in Japan.
Elder Kikuchi, who was thirty-six years old at the time of his call as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, had previously served his fellow Japanese Saints in a number of important callings, the most recent of which was as president of Tokyo Stake. The first Asian to serve as a General Authority of the Church, Elder Kikuchi received his call from President Spencer W. Kimball.
During this time, the genealogy program of the Church in Japan was broadened. Japanese microfilmers were engaged, and continue to be, in photographing thousands of pages of records from registers at civic repositories and Buddhist temples throughout the land.
The Church Education System has operated Seminaries and Institutes in Japan since 1972. By 1978, there were 642 seminary students, 130 regular institute students, and 3,582 individual study institute students enrolled.
In May of 1978, President Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, dedicated a new seven story Area Administration Headquarters of the Church two blocks from the temple site. And the Japan Tokyo Mission was divided into the Japan Tokyo North and the Japan Tokyo South missions on July 1, 1978. In December 1978, the Church announced that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would perform in Japan and Korea the next September. In that same month, December 1978, the BYU football team played in Japan, an event that brought the Church recognition among a different Japanese audience.
In February 1980, the Church announced that on July 1, 1980, the Japan Kobe Mission would be divided to create the Japan Osaka Mission, the sixth mission in Japan. A month later the Church announced that six area conferences would be held in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and concluding in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) during October 1980. Four weeks later, on April 19, the dates for the Tokyo Temple open house and dedication were made public. Only the final construction work and many local plans remained to be completed before the events of September and October 1980 could take place.
On September 13, 1980, ribbons were cut and "about 650 businessmen, politicians, university professors, ambassadors and media reporters" visited the temple as part of a VIP tour. In the opening ceremony, David M. Kennedy, special representative of the First Presidency, gave a message from President Kimball. On September 15, the public phase of the open house began. Between that time and October 18, 48,000 visitors walked through the ten-million-dollar edifice.
"On Monday Oct. 27 one of the most significant events of this dispensation will take place. It will be the dedication of the House of the Lord in Tokyo, Japan." So began an editorial of the "Church News". In a way the editorial seemed to exclaim, "THIS IS A WORLD CHURCH, A GLOBAL CHURCH. The Church is moving. Let's move forward with it!"
On that day the Saints in Japan and Asia gathered to hear words of counsel and the sacred prayer of dedication and sanctification that were offered by President Spencer W. Kimball. Six additional dedicatory sessions were held during the next two days in the Tokyo Stake Center in order to accommodate larger audiences. A total of around 7,500 people attended the seven sessions.
The first president of the temple was Dwayne N. Andersen, former missionary and mission president in Japan. His wife, Peggy, was called as matron of the temple. Andersen was the mission president who helped so much in the effort to take the first group of Japanese Saints to the temple in Hawaii in 1965.
Over the years since the temple opened, President Andersen was the only president lacking a Japanese heritage. He was followed in 1982 by Elder Adney Y. Komatsu and several other converts from the Japanese-Central Pacific Mission in Hawaii.
The entire dedication process was an exhilarating spiritual experience. The temple served as the engine to move the Church forward at an increasing pace. Not surprisingly, 1981, the year following the temple dedication, was the banner year for live endowments-1,247.
Following the dedication services in Tokyo, the visiting authorities held area conferences in Tokyo (October 30-31) and Osaka (November 1). The 10,000 in Tokyo's Budokan Hall and the 6,387 at the Matsushita Center in Osaka were enthusiastic and inspired by the messages from a large array of Church leaders. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said, "This is a place where the Church has a tremendous future."
During the area conference in Tokyo, all 1,500 missionaries serving in Japan were blessed to meet with and hear from President Kimball and other leaders of the Church on the morning of the first day of the Tokyo conference. They were encouraged to move the work forward more rapidly.
Since the first stake was created in Tokyo in 1970, the Japanese Saints were blessed by frequent visits from General Authorities and general officers of the Church. The most important occasions for visits, Area Conferences, have been noted. But many regional and stake meetings have been important locally and, as is true throughout the Church, have kept the leaders and members in harmony with the movements, changes, and concerns of the leaders of the Church.
Unquestionably the greatest statistical Church growth in Japan was the period from 1978 to 1982. During those years official membership grew from around thirty thousand to near seventy thousand and the number of wards, branches, stakes and districts more than doubled.
Elder Kikuchi Yoshishiko, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy served as Area Supervisor/Executive over all of Japan and Korea until 1982, when Elder William R. Bradford was called to that position. On July 1, 1984 the Church divided the world into thirteen administrative Areas. The Asia Area was created with Elder Bradford called as the first Area President.
Through the years, especially since the dedication of Tokyo Temple, the Japanese Saints have been steady in their temple and genealogy service. The average number of live endowments per year since the Tokyo Temple dedication has been 660. During the 1980s, as the total number of endowed members grew, the annual number of endowments for the dead rose steadily, topping out at 46,801 in 1988.
The Annex to the Tokyo Temple was completed and put into use in July 1986. Through good fortune, the Church was able to acquire another lot beside the temple. On this land the Church constructed a multi-purpose building that included several apartments for temple missionaries and the Japan MTC president and his wife, a small chapel and other facilities for a Tokyo ward, dorm rooms and classrooms for the JMTC, and dorm rooms for members from out of town who were there to do temple work. A small parking area was also added for Church employees and Sunday use.
Since the dedication of the Tokyo Temple, the Church and Church members in Japan have received a considerable amount of media attention. Kent Gilbert and Kent Derricott, missionaries who returned to Japan to work in law and business, respectively, attracted considerable attention. Both Kents surprised Japanese TV audiences with their ability to speak Japanese and with their wit and understanding of Japan. Gilbert even published two or three books of his opinions about life and the world.
In 1985, a Japanese TV corporation traveled to Los Angeles to videotape footage on Mormon lifestyles, etc. In that same year, the Tabernacle Choir made its second tour of Japan and created a good deal of media attention. Other famous Mormons, for example Wally Joyner and Dale Murphy of big league baseball, were also recognized by the Japanese media. These two gave a fireside for the Church in November 1986 that generated considerable attention.
Translation of Church materials has a long history in Japan. By 1982, a well-managed office of capable translators was in operation. The most important project in recent years was the retranslation and publication of the Book of Mormon done by a committee which operated under the supervision of the Quorum of the Twelve. Eugene M. Kitamura, Director of Temporal Affairs, was chair of the committee during most of the process.
(New second edition translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price were also published in 1996. Other recent publications in Japanese include Elder M. Russell Ballard's "Our Search for Happiness" and President Hinckley's "Be Thou An Example.")
The new version brought consistency between Bible names that appear in the Book of Mormon and the standard biblical Japanese translations of those names. (The standard Holy Bible used by the Church in Japan is the 1955 edition by the Japanese Bible Society. The Church is now the biggest buyer of this conservative version.)
All materials that are provided to the Saints in North America are also translated into Japanese and Korean, including Church Education System materials that are necessary for seminary and institute classes. In Japan, videos of CES firesides that originate in the Marriott Center on Brigham Young University, and other important events, are also dubbed with Japanese and distributed to the Institutes around the country.
The Church provides a magazine in Japanese, "Seito no Michi", or Way of the Saints (Michi means road, path, or way.) In addition to articles provided by the International Magazines office in Salt Lake City, the magazine contains sixteen pages of material dedicated to Japanese concerns and interests.
On September 1, 1992, the Asia North Area Presidency was created to administer affairs in Japan and Korea. Elder W. Eugene Hansen was the first Area President. His counselors were Elder Han In Sang, from Korea, and Elder Sam K. Shimabukuro, from Hawaii. Many Japanese members felt that the creation of the Asia North Area was a reaffirmation of the importance of their part of the world. A year later, Elder Merrill J. Bateman replaced Elder Hansen as Area President, but he was soon called as Presiding Bishop of the Church and replaced by Elder David E. Sorensen.
Since its dedication, the Tokyo Temple has symbolized the Japanese Saints' faith. The Japanese members are concerned for the salvation of their ancestors. During 1993, the total number of family names submitted by Japanese member passed 300,000. In that same year, the total number of endowments performed in the Tokyo Temple since it opened exceeded 500,000. In 1994, Elder Kikuchi Yoshihiko of the Seventy was called home to Japan to preside at the temple and in 1995 the Japanese Saints performed over 50,000 endowments-no small feat for 7,300 recommend holders who were spread all over the country.
Providing meetinghouses and meeting places in Japan and East Asia has been a difficult and expensive proposition. By the mid-1990s the Church had constructed 160 meetinghouses in Japan. Most of the wards and branches in Japan are in metropolitan areas. Meetinghouses are generally spaced forty minutes to one hour apart from each other. When members move to smaller cities or towns they may find it necessary to travel up to two hours in order to attend Church meetings.
Many meetinghouses are freestanding, much like LDS chapels in North America. But most recent buildings have been constructed following what might be called an Asian model. Land is so expensive that wisdom demands that buildings be built up more than out. The latest meetinghouses have parking on the ground floor and the chapel and classrooms, etc., on two floors above. The main hall, usually thought of as the chapel, is now used as a multi-purpose room. Folding chairs are used in place of permanent benches. The Church is well housed throughout Japan and the necessary features of LDS buildings are present.
On January 17, 1995 Kobe was struck by a massive earthquake. It was the second largest earthquake in Japan, in terms of damage, in the twentieth century. A staggering 5,000 people lost their lives, and 26,000 people were injured in the quake. More than 20,000 homes were destroyed and 56,000 buildings were damaged. Fortunately, even though the epicenter of the quake was only a short distance from the Kobe Ward chapel and the Kobe Mission home, these buildings were not damaged. They were available to serve as a center for preparing meals, distributing food and supplies, and organizing relief efforts.
One member, 76-year-old Nagai Kimiko and her non-member husband were killed. Two children of an investigator family also lost their lives. Considering the number of Latter-day Saints in Kobe, the Church was fortunate in not losing more lives. Among the 300,000 Kobe residents left homeless were 35 member families. The ward and stake moved quickly to provide shelter and to meet their other needs.
Stake President Donomoto Tsutumo and Kobe Ward Bishop Takagi Kenji took charge of Latter-day Saint help and rescue operations. Kobe Mission President Curtis P. Wilson was also very much involved. All three men were impressed with the untiring labors of the Japanese people, members and others, and their willingness to share and help each other.
By 1996 the LDS Church in Japan had grown to 106,000 Japanese Latter-day Saints who were living in 300 wards and branches that were part of 25 stakes and 20 districts.
When President Gordon B. Hinckley announced on October 4, 1997 that in order to make temple blessings available to more members, the Church would begin to build smaller temples, the members of the Church throughout the world were hopeful that a temple would be built in their area.
On May 7,1998, hopes of Japanese members were realized when President Gordon B. Hinckley announced plans to construct a second Japanese temple at Fukuoka, on the western island of Kyushu. The temple was to be built on hillside property owned by the Church where a mission home and early meetinghouse were located.
Ground was broken for the temple on March 20, 1999 by Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, president of the Asia North Area. One of the smaller temples, it is unique in its construction. The main entrance of the white-granite faced edifice opens onto the hillside on which it is situated. Underneath the temple, opening to the bottom of the hill, is a dark-gray faced lower level that includes a new mission home, mission offices and an apartment for the temple president. ("Church Members rejoice over temple in southern Japan." LDS Church News, 17 Jun. 2000)
President Hinckley dedicated the temple in four sessions on June 11, 2000. In the dedicatory prayer, he asked the Lord to "Bless Thy Saints of this great nation. Magnify them, inspire them, bless them among the millions of this land that by the virtue of their lives they may stand as a city upon a hill whose light cannot be hid."
Masaru Tsuchida and his wife, Junko Wakamatsu Tsuchida, were called as president and matron of temple. President Tsuchida had previously served as first counselor in the Japan Fukuoka Mission presidency, as president of the Japan Missionary Training Center, as president of the Japan Sapporo Mission, as a stake president and as a district president. Both he and his wife were born in Nagoya, Japan. Michio Kurogi and Kimio Yoshioka were called as counselors to President Tsuchida.
The temple is a great blessing for the members in the temple district. The temple serves over 16,000 members from the Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Okinawa Ginowan and Okinawa Naha stakes, Yamaguchi District (Japan Hiroshima Mission), Nagasaki and Kagoshima districts (Japan Fukuoka Mission), Okinawa Military District and Honshu Military District.
Since 1996, five new stakes have been created in Japan bringing the total number of stakes in Japan to 30. On May 18, 1997 Elder David E. Sorensen created the Kumamoto Japan Stake. A year later on April 26, 1998 the Yokohama Japan South Stake was created under the direction of Elder Rex D. Pinegar. Elder L. Lionel Kendrick organized the Asahikawa Japan Stake on September 20, 1998 and the Ginowan Japan Stake on January 24, 1999. Most recently on March 5, 2000, Elder E. Ray Bateman created the Kanazawa Japan Stake.
Missionary work in Japan continues to progress despite cultural and social hindrances. Religious beliefs in Japan remain a sensitive personal topic, even though few Japanese are deeply committed to any particular religious faith. In a country where only 1 percent of the population is Christian and Latter-day Saints account for about 10 percent of that number, bringing the church out of obscurity has been no easy task. (Don L. Searle, "Japan: Growing Light in the East" Ensign, Sept. 2000, 44)
The gospel continues to strengthen individuals and families in Japan in spite of their being faced with the many pressures of a prosperous and ambitious society. Long work hours and mandatory school activities on Sunday are the norm in Japanese society. Testimony, creativity and support from family and leaders are helping members of the Church in Japan to realize the blessings of the gospel.
Fortunately, in spite of the realities of contemporary life in Japan, there has been real growth of the Church in Japan over the years. Many priesthood leaders and sisters who are as knowledgeable, experienced, dedicated and spiritual as any place in the Church lead the Church in Japan.
The 1975 words of Elder Watanabe Kan, then a Regional Representative, are a fitting conclusion to the history and an accurate prediction of the destiny of the Church in Japan:
"We in Japan haven't scratched the surface yet. As the great concepts of Mormonism become better known and more fully understood among the Japanese people as a whole, the potential of the Church in Japan, and likewise throughout Asia, will be of unlimited magnitude. Thousands of testimonies witness that the sun of faith has risen in the Land of the Rising Sun; and in these testimonies the promise of the future is sure." (R. Lanier Britsch, "From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996" , 166)
R. Lanier Britsch provided the outline and much of the content included in this message. Brother Britsch is the author of several books about the history of the Church around the world.