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Posted 13 Sep 2001   For week ended September 14, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Sep01

By Kent Larsen

100 Years of Mormonism in Japan Celebrated

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 100th anniversary of missionary work in Japan on September 1st by unveiling two bronze commemorative plaques to be installed on the base of the steeple of a new chapel. The chapel will be built not far from the Japanese park where Elder Heber J. Grant, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, dedicated Japan for the gospel in 1901. Since then Church membership in Japan has grown, at first slowly, and then quickly after a long hiatus, to include more than 110,000 members in 30 stakes and 20 districts.

The commemoration ceremony was presided over by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, President of the Asia North Area and by his counselors, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi and Elder Gary S. Matsuda. The ceremony included remarks by Elder Hallstrom in tribute to the early missionaries that started missionary work in Japan, translated the Book of Mormon into Japanese and gained a few converts. In addition to Elder Hallstrom's remarks, the benediction was given by Sister Naruko Suzuki, daughter of the first woman convert in Japan.

Also attending the ceremony were the first stake presidency in Japan. President Kenji Tanaka, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi and Kenichi Sagara were called as the first stake presidency in Japan in 1970, when there were about 12,500 church members in the country. All three men later served as mission presidents, Presidents Tanaka and Sagara as Regional Representatives, while Elder Kikuchi was the first native Japanese called as a General Authority.

Reports earlier this summer indicated that a group of American missionaries who had served in Japan were chartering a plane to travel to Japan for the centennial. In addition, a commemorative history book and video have been produced in conjunction with the centennial.

After dedicating Japan for the preaching of the Gospel, Elder Grant went on to get the Book of Mormon translated into Japanese in 1909. But in spite of the missionaries' best efforts over 23 years, the mission was closed in 1924, after just 166 people had been baptized. The work had been hampered by the difficulty of the Japanese language, which required missionaries to spend 18 months studying before attempting to contact the people.

But even though the missionaries were withdrawn, the Japanese members continued operating the Church, publishing a newsletter for a time and even meeting through World War II. The Church did re-establish a Japanese mission in 1937, but that mission was to the Japanese living in Hawaii, among whom missionaries found many converts that later helped the Church in Japan.

Only in 1948, after World War II was missionary work resumed and many of the original 166 converts were located and brought into the Church. By the late 1950s, a new mission president, President Paul Andrus had reorganized and revitalized the mission, resulting in a large increase in the number of baptisms. In 1970, the first stake was organized from the 12,500 Church members in Japan and growth since then has continued at a relatively high rate.


Centennial in Japan
LDS Church News 8Sep01 D6
By David B. Iwaasa: Church News contributor
Membership now 110,000

Stakes anchored growth
LDS Church News 8Sep01 D6
By David B. Iwaasa: Church News contributor
Japanese leaders emerged

See also: A

A History of the Church in Western Japan


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