`Future is bright' for Church in Asia -- Many to come into kingdom from the East

Though its growth in recent times has been phenomenal, the Church in Asia is "just getting started," a General Authority said in a lecture Nov. 6.

"The future is bright," declared Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy. "The gospel light will shine and help the East to meet its destiny, and it will become a great part of the Church, much as South and Central America have become, much as the Philippines is now." Indeed, there may come a time when there are as many Church members from Asia as from all the rest of the world, he suggested.Elder Carmack, executive director of the Church Historical Department and a former member of the Asia Area presidency, spoke as part of the Museum of Church History and Art Pioneer Sesquicentennial Lecture Series, "Modern Day Pioneers." His was the second lecture in the fall series. Gary Browning of BYU spoke on Latter-day Saints in Russia Oct. 30. (See Church News Nov. 8 issue.) Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy was to speak on Latter-day Saints in Eastern Europe Nov. 13, and Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy is to speak on Latter-day Saints in Africa on Nov. 20.

Underscoring his accounts of the Church's establishment in Asian countries, Elder Carmack quoted Matt. 8:11, "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."

He explained patterns or "models" by which the Church has taken root and grown in individual countries.

In one model, Latter-day Saints find themselves in a country as U.S. members of the armed services or as expatriates sent by the U.S. State Department or American businesses. They share the gospel with a few people, who in share it with relatives or friends, and a branch is formed. Missionaries are needed and sent to teach the gospel to interested persons. More branches are organized, then a district and ultimately a mission.

In spreading the gospel to the eastern nations, Church members "have to learn versatility," he said. "Versatility is the extent to which a person makes adjustments and gives effort to meet the needs of another. We don't have to give up any basic gospel principle."

Some of the values among Asian peoples are more compatible with gospel principles than are Western values, Elder Carmack commented, such as a reverence for family solidarity and for the role of the teacher.

He summarized some of the origins of and his experiences with the Church in individual Asian countries. Here are some selections from his comments:


As a young army officer in the 1950s, Elder Carmack was stationed in Korea, where he became acquainted with Dr. Kim Ho Jik, "one of the great pioneers of Church history" in the country. "Dr. Kim brought in a ragtag little group of mostly students, mostly men, who joined us in our services and sacrament meetings. And that started a very close friendship. Among those people there were Rhee Ho Nam, who later became the first stake president of the Church in Korea, and who, at the time, was dressed in student attire, and Hong Byung Sik, who was a student studying physics, who later emigrated to the United States and became a wonderful Church leader in California and an engineer, and when he retired, he was sent as mission president back to Korea, where he is presently serving."

Today, Elder Carmack noted, there is a temple in Korea and about 60,000 members of the Church.


In 1901, Heber J. Grant was sent to open the work of the Lord in Japan. Initial efforts did not get very far. Then came World War II and its aftermath, when many U.S. servicemen were in Japan. "And one pilot for the Air Force baptized the first convert following the war. That pilot happened to be a man by the name of Boyd K. Packer

now acting president of the Quorum of the TwelveT."

After the nation's militaristic ideas had ended in defeat, they needed something to replace them, Elder Carmack said. "Servicemen came, they shared, they baptized, then along came the missionaries. Now we have a temple in Tokyo, we have 100,000 plus members, we have more than 25 stakes, eight missions and a thriving, growing Church."


Just six years after the Church settled the Salt Lake Valley, missionaries were sent to China.

But "it took World War II and soldiers and expatriates to open the way, and soon there was the opportunity. The war was over. Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve went to Hong Kong and basically opened the work with a very impressive, solemn service held at Victoria Peak, and that day, July 14, 1949, is celebrated every year in Hong Kong. He didn't dedicate the land of China, because it had already been dedicated."

That happened in 1921. President David O. McKay and Hugh Cannon were sent to China by President Heber J. Grant, who instructed them that if they found the right circumstance and felt so inspired, they could dedicate the land to the preaching of the gospel.

Unable to find a spot that was not teeming with people, they set out one day in the spirit of 1 Ne. 4:6, "being led by the Spirit not knowing beforehand the things which they should do." Unknowingly, they entered the ancient "Forbidden City," walked past broken-down buildings, and finally found a sort of park. It soon became secluded, and President McKay delivered a prayer, blessing the entire realm of China.

When Elder Carmack was in the Asia Area presidency, substituting in Taiwan for the mission president, he received notification to meet President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, in Hong Kong. The experience, which Elder Carmack recorded in his journal, was remarkable. Elder Carmack and Elder Monte J. Brough were invited to President Hinckley's hotel room the morning after his arrival. He outlined for them his idea of dismantling the mission home and meetinghouse, then erecting a building on the spot, to include a mission home, meetinghouse, apartment for the temple president and on the top three floors, a temple. President Hinckley, something of an amateur architect, had even sketched the temple as he envisioned it.

"The location was wonderful," Elder Carmack related.

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