Decision Of Destiny For Asia
The Creation of the Northern Far East Mission
and the Southern Far East Mission in 1955
In the divine providence all of the children of Our Father in Heaven will have the opportunity to learn of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the timetable of the Lord, 1955 was the year for the church to begin to provide this opportunity to more of his children living in the vast continent of Asia. In 1955 there were unprecedented opportunities for the church in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines. In the aftermath of world war II, and in the aftermath of the Chinese revolution, and in the aftermath of the Korean war, the people in each of these six nations were open and receptive and the political situation was favorable.
However, at the beginning of 1955 the church had a foothold only in Japan. Except for this small foothold in Japan, and except for LDS Servicemen, the church was nowhere to be found in all of Asia. Korea had never been dedicated nor opened; Okinawa had never been dedicated nor opened; Hong Kong had been dedicated and opened but then the mission had been closed; Taiwan had never been dedicated nor opened; and the Philippines had never been dedicated nor opened. In all of Asia there were only sixty missionaries, all of whom were in Japan.
Nevertheless in each of these nations the people had been humbled by war and the political circumstances were sufficiently stable for the church to move in and take advantage of these unprecedented opportunities.
Moreover, through the efforts of the LDS servicemen in all six of these countries and the efforts of the earlier missionaries in Japan and Hong Kong, there were members in each of these lands eager to welcome the church and the missionaries and to participate in building the Kingdom of God.
The question that faced the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve was how to best take advantage of these unprecedented opportunities. The church itself was still small with only a little over one million members worldwide and with fewer than 3,000 missionaries in the field. At that time in the aftermath of world war II there was a great demand for church resources and missionaries in Europe. What could be done and what should be done in Asia?
The momentous decision was to create two entirely new missions: The Northern Far East Mission, including Japan, Korea, and Okinawa, with headquarters in Tokyo, and The Southern Far East Mission, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines, with headquarters in Hong Kong. Underscoring the importance the brethren attached to this decision, President Joseph Fielding Smith, President of the Twelve, traveled to the far east in the summer of 1955 and organized these two new missions with Hilton A. Robertson, who had been serving as president of the Japanese Mission, as President of the Northern Far East Mission and H. Grant Heaton as President of the Southern Far East Mission. In November of 1955 President Robertson, who was not well, was released and Paul C. Andrus was called to replace him.
This decision of The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve placed the responsibility for moving ahead in Japan, Korea, and Okinawa, squarely on President Andrus, and the responsibility for moving ahead in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines squarely on President Heaton. President Andrus found himself charged with the responsibility of carrying on and building up the work in Japan, and simultaneously charged with the responsibility of opening up Korea and building up the work there, and simultaneously charged with the responsibility of opening up Okinawa and building up the work there. Similarly, President Heaton found himself charged with the responsibility of reestablishing and building up the work in Hong Kong, and simultaneously charged with opening up Taiwan and building up the work there, and simultaneously charged with opening up the Philippines and building up the work there.
Beyond these six nations lay the untouched vastness of all Asia with over three billion of the children of our Father in Heaven waiting to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. The creation of the Northern Far East Mission and the Southern Far East Mission affirmed that the stepping stones to these waiting billions were to be Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines!
Looking back from the present year of 2001 it is thrilling and exciting to see the growth of the church in numbers and strength in these six nations, and even beyond these six nations in many more of the nations of Asia. It is thrilling and exciting to see the church now established and/or operating in Far-East Russia, Mongolia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan! Ongoing activities and preparations for further expansion in China and Islam are well underway and continue apace! How thrilling and exciting!
The saga of the church in Asia is excellently presented by Lanny Britsch in his wonderful book From The East as he traces the history of the church in each nation in that vast continent. Included in this marvelous work is an account of President Joseph Fielding Smith's historic visit to Asia in 1955 and the organization of the Northern Far East Mission and the Southern Far East Mission. Also included are accounts of President Smith's dedication of the lands of Korea, Okinawa, and the Philippines during this historic trip. Accounts of the dedication of China in 1921 by President David O. McKay and the special prayer for Hong Kong and China offered by Elder Mathew Cowley in Hong Kong in 1949 are also included, as is an account of the dedication of Taiwan by Elder Mark E. Peterson in 1959. The history of the church in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines is beautifully set forth.
Notwithstanding the excellence of the extant histories of the church in the far east, there is yet room for a work covering the history of the Northern Far East Mission and the Southern Far East Mission and the special role for which they were created, that is, to prepare Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines to become the stepping stones to all of the nations of Asia. Indeed, because of the unique importance of the decision to create these missions, and because the success of these missions has led, and continues to lead, to the proclaiming of the restored gospel in all of Asia, the need for such a work is crying to be filled. Such a work would fill an important and as yet unfilled chapter in the saga of the church in Asia.
Such a work should be from the perspective of the Northern Far East Mission and from the perspective of the Southern Far East Mission as these events came to pass, rather than from the already well documented perspective of each separate nation. This treatment should include firsthand accounts from the mission presidents, from the first missionaries to enter each country, and from the members the Lord raised up in each country to assist in getting the church started. There is a wealth of information to be drawn upon, information for which there was not room in the more general historical works which have been written. Those who could contribute such information are as yet living and this work should be completed before these sources are no longer available.
The year 2005 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the decision of destiny for Asia, the creation of the Northern Far East Mission and the Southern Far East Mission. Accordingly, now is the perfect time to document this great event. In Korea in 2001, a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the baptism of President Ho Jik Kim is being carried out, and in 2005 a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of Korea for the preaching of the gospel by President Joseph Fielding Smith is already being planned. Elder Won Yong Ko, Area Authority in Korea, asked me in August of 2000 to send him some information on how the first missionaries were sent to Korea and how the church was first established in Korea and the role played by President Ho Jik Kim. I searched my journals, compiled and sent to Elder Ko four articles: A Tribute To President Ho Jik Kim; Church Beginnings in Korea-Part One; Moving The Church Ahead In Korea; and Korean Missionary Hepatitis Meeting. Similar articles could be and should be prepared for Japan, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines. I am now going through my journals again and this year (2001) I am writing the history of the church in the Northern Far East Mission 1955-1962. Similar articles could be and should be prepared by President Grant Heaton, by the first missionaries in each country and by the first members in each country. There is a vast reservoir of information that could be and should be tapped.
In the present day and age the best way of documenting this inspired decision of destiny for Asia and its resulting ramifications is by way of a top quality video documentary. Every missionary who has ever served in any country in Asia, and every missionary who is called to serve anywhere in Asia from here on out would be delighted to buy a copy of such a video for a reasonable price. A reasonable price could include a profit and 100% of the profits could be used to help support full-time missionaries called to serve from the poverty stricken nations of Asia. The potential to do good with such a video is immense indeed!
Paul Andrus. 3/9/01