How the gospel brought this Asian General Authority’s family together in a remarkable way

Sister Naomi Toma Tai and Elder Benjamin M. Z. Tai pose for photos at the Church office building in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 8, 2019. Elder Tai was called to serve as a General Authority Seventy. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Joseph Tolman
Elder Benjamin M.Z. Tai was sustained Saturday, April 6, 2019, as a General Authority Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Matthew T Reier, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Benjamin Ming Zhe Tai’s paternal grandfather was captured, imprisoned and executed by Japanese forces invading Hong Kong during World War II in the early 1940s.

Still, decades later when Benjamin told his father, General Authority Elder Kwok Yuen Tai, that he was dating and hoping to marry a Japanese woman attending Brigham Young University, there was no bitterness.

Instead Naomi Toma’s parents — second-generation Church members in Japan Rikuo and Fumiko Toma — visited Hong Kong and met Benjamin’s parents. They called their daughter and reported that the gospel of Jesus Christ had made a marriage possible.

“We come from different cultures,” said Elder Tai. “But there are threads of common faith and sacrifice.”

The couple married Dec. 23, 1995, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have six children — fourth-generation Church members in Asia.

Elder Tai, sustained April 6 as a General Authority Seventy, knows those threads of faith and sacrifice will now connect him with Latter-day Saints across the globe.

Benjamin Ming Zhe Tai was born in May 1972 in Hong Kong to Kwok Yuen and Hui Hua Tai. His father’s employment took the family from Hong Kong and around the world before the family immigrated to Southern California, where Elder Tai spent his teenage years.

The Church has always been an important and essential part of his life.

When he was a child, Elder Tai’s parents displayed a scroll in their home with a scripture from Joshua 24:15 written in Chinese calligraphy. The scripture is still imbedded deeply in his heart: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

“That was the motto in our house,” recalled Elder Tai. “We knew what it was.”

Born a second-generation member of the Church in Hong Kong, Elder Tai was baptized at age 8 and his parents talked to him often about growing up to become a Latter-day Saint missionary.

Elder Tai served in the Australia Melbourne Mission from 1990 to 1992 and attended BYU, where, while serving as elders quorum president, he participated in ward council meetings in his student ward with his future wife, the Relief Society president.

She, too, had been born into the Church and raised in an active family. “We could feel the blessing of the fruits of the gospel because my grandparents joined the Church,” said Sister Tai of her childhood.

Her parents spoke often of “how blessed we were to know the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. We felt the joy of repentance and had the opportunity to grow and learn.”

In gratitude for all she had been given, Sister Tai served as a missionary in the Japan Fukuoka Mission from 1990-1991.

Sister Tai’s grandfather served as the first native branch president in Okinawa, Japan. In the same general conference that her husband was sustained as a new General Authority, a temple was announced by President Russell M. Nelson for Okinawa. She felt great joy knowing that the work her family did to build the Church in Okinawa — comprised of more than 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and mainland Japan — had taken root and was growing. The Okinawa Japan Temple will be the fourth in Japan.

| Credit: Joseph Tolman

Elder Tai’s family had a similar impact on the Church in Hong Kong, where his father, Elder Kwok Yuen Tai, participated in the dedication of the Hong Kong China Temple in 1996. President Gordon B. Hinckley said then that the dedication of the temple was an indication that the Church has come to full maturity in Hong Kong.

The Tais have worked to make sure their six children have opportunities to spend time and learn about their heritage in both China and Japan.

Elder Tai’s own career has allowed him to work in various locations throughout Asia and in other areas of the world. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science from BYU in 1996.

Elder Tai studied at BYU for four years planning a career in medicine, only to discover he did not “want to become what I studied to be.”

At a crossroad and not knowing exactly what to do next, Elder and Sister Tai responded to a feeling to return to Asia and embrace their Chinese and Japanese heritage. They moved to Japan, where he worked in the banking industry. He then returned to the United States, earning an MBA from UCLA in 2003.

Elder Tai spent the majority of his career in Hong Kong, working in investment banking and later real estate development.

Elder and Sister Tai said they felt “a spiritual nudge” to be there. “That is where we could have opportunities to serve and be of help,” said Elder Tai.

He served as a branch president, Sunday School teacher, district executive secretary, district presidency counselor, district president and Area Seventy in the Asia Area.

The Tais enjoy spending time together and with their children, traveling and experiencing different cultures. They hope to pass on to their children the great faith of their ancestors and help them recognize the consistent pattern of the hand of the Lord in their lives.

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