Elder Robert D. Hales
When Elder Robert D. Hales moved from the Presiding Bishopric’s office in the Church Office Building into his new office in the Church Administration Building, the first picture he hung on the wall was a painting of the Sacred Grove. “When I was a deacon, my father took me to the Sacred Grove,” says Elder Hales. “There we prayed together and dedicated our lives. Then he talked to me of sacred things. When we got back home, my father, who worked as an artist in New York City, painted a picture of the Sacred Grove for me. I’ve always hung that picture in my office, and when I look at it, I remember my father and our talk that summer afternoon.”
Experiences such as this were a continual part of family life in the Hales home, located in a heavily wooded area of Long Island, New York. Born on 24 August 1932, Robert was the third and last child of John Rulon and Vera Marie Holbrook Hales. “I was always grateful my older brother and sister, Jerry and Janet, let me tag along with them,” says Elder Hales. “We were a close family. My dad liked to work in the yard, and he wanted us to learn to work, so we all worked in the yard together. Our home was a beautiful place to grow up, and my family has always been a source of strength for me.”
The gospel was the center of family life for the Haleses. Over the years Robert’s father and mother served in various positions in the Queens Ward, located twenty miles from the Hales family’s home. His parents also served a stake mission. In fact, at one time the entire bishopric was made up of people who had been converted as a result of Robert’s parents’ missionary labors. While serving in the bishopric, Robert’s father would lead work parties with the Aaronic Priesthood to clean and beautify the meetinghouse grounds. It was in the Queens Ward that Robert, a college sophomore, met Mary Crandall. “After I met her, I never went out with anyone else,” says Elder Hales. The two were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 10 June 1953 and later became the parents of two children: Stephen, born in 1955, and David, born in 1958.
After graduating from the University of Utah in 1954, Robert—or Bob to his friends—served for three and a half years in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot. He then attended Harvard, where he received his master of business administration in 1960. Career opportunities quickly opened for him, and throughout his professional life he served in major executive positions with several national companies. As a result, the Hales family lived in England, Germany, Spain, and several different areas of the United States.
Personable as well as decisive, Elder Hales is a natural leader who has served in the Church throughout his life, including as branch president in Albany, Georgia, in Weston, Massachusetts, and in Frankfurt, Germany; in a branch presidency in Seville, Spain; and as bishop in Weston, Massachusetts, in Chicago, Illinois, and in Frankfurt, Germany. He was serving as a regional representative when he was called to full-time Church service in 1975 as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. In 1976, he became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“One of the great joys of my Church service came during the first three years as a General Authority as I helped plan twenty-seven area conferences,” says Elder Hales. “I loved traveling with members of the First Presidency, the Apostles, General Authorities, and other leaders and getting to know them and their wives. Watching prophets, seers, and revelators bearing witness of the truthfulness of the gospel to the Saints in country after country was marvelous.”
To watch and be a part of the growth of the Church has been the “joy of my life,” says Elder Hales. While a member of the Seventy, Elder Hales served as president of the England London Mission from 1978 to 1979. In April 1985, he was called to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Church, where his primary responsibility was the temporal affairs of the Church. “The greatest satisfaction was seeing the faithfulness and goodness of the members of the Church in their tithes and offerings,” says Elder Hales. “As we live the principles of welfare, love and compassion will abound in our homes, in our lives, in our worship, and in our service to others.”
Relaxation usually comes in the form of sports and music for Elder Hales. As a boy, he loved to play baseball. Today, when he has a few minutes to relax, he watches snatches of sports events—all videotaped earlier from the television. He also enjoys playing golf and spending time with his grandchildren.
Elder Hales also enjoys playing the piano—“if no one is listening,” he says. He remembers once when he was asked to play the piano for the opening hymn in a Seventies meeting. All was well until he began playing faster and faster. The faster he played, the faster the Seventies would sing. It was a close race, but Elder Hales says he finished “just barely ahead of the Brethren.”
Though in good health now, Elder Hales has suffered two heart attacks. “I’m happy for every day that I am here,” he says. “I have a renewed appreciation and gratitude for everybody and everything on earth and in heaven.”
One of Elder Hales’s favorite scriptures is D&C 41:11, in which, after the Lord called Edward Partridge as “bishop of the church,” he said that Edward Partridge’s “heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile.” Elder Hales has much in common with Edward Partridge. He, as his wife says, “has absolutely no guile. He has a pure heart. He just wants to do the right thing.”
Following the leaders of the Church has always been among the “right things” Elder Hales has tried to do. “My father-in-law said that when I see a document with the signature of the First Presidency on it, I will never go wrong if I follow its instructions. That’s a bit of advice I have always taken.”
His respect for the leaders of the Church has remained steady throughout the years. Now, as an Apostle, he will stand with them as a special witness for Christ.
“I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ and our Savior and Redeemer. If we will have faith in our Savior, He will see us through our trials and tribulations, and we will endure to the end and return to His presence after this mortal probation. As it says in 3 Ne. 5:13, ‘I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.’”
Six Called to Quorums of Seventy; New Presiding Bishop Sustained
In addition to the calling of Bishop Robert D. Hales to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, nine other brethren were called to positions of Church leadership and sustained by members during the Saturday afternoon session of the 164th Annual General Conference.
Elder Cree-L Kofford, who has served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy since April 1991, was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, bringing the number in the First Quorum to forty-five.
Newly called to serve for five years as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were Elders Claudio Roberto Mendes Costa of São Paulo, Brazil; W. Don Ladd of Potomac, Maryland; James O. Mason of Farmington, Utah; Dieter F. Uchtdorf of Mannheim, Germany; and Lance B. Wickman of Poway, California (see pp. 107–9). The addition of these five brethren brings the number in the Second Quorum of the Seventy to forty-two.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, who has been serving as president of the Asia North Area, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, was sustained as the new Presiding Bishop. Sustained as his counselors were the two counselors who had been serving as counselors to Bishop Hales: Bishop H. David Burton, first counselor, and Bishop Richard C. Edgley, second counselor.
Elder Kofford, 60, currently serves as president of the North America Northeast Area. A native of Santaquin, Utah, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and received his Juris Doctor in 1961 from the University of Southern California Law School. He had a private law practice in southern California until his call to full-time Church service. He and his wife, Ila, are the parents of five children.
Bishop Bateman, 57, was called to serve in the Second Quorum of the Seventy in June 1992. Prior to his call as a General Authority, Bishop Bateman headed his own consulting and capital management companies. He also served as dean of the College of Business and the School of Management at Brigham Young University. A native of Lehi, Utah, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Utah and received a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has served as a bishop, stake president, and regional representative. He and his wife, Marilyn, have seven children.
Bishop Burton, 55, has served in the Presiding Bishopric since October 1992. Prior to his call, he served as secretary to the Presiding Bishop. A graduate of the University of Utah, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan. He has served as a stake president, high councilor, and bishop. He and his wife, Barbara, have five children.
Bishop Edgley, 58, was also called to serve in the Presiding Bishopric in October 1992. Prior to that assignment, he had worked as managing director of the Church’s Finance and Records Department. He is a native of Preston, Idaho, and a graduate of Brigham Young University. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University. He has served as a bishop and stake president. Bishop Edgley and his wife, Pauline, have six children.
Update: Church Membership
Church membership continued to grow during 1993. There were 8,696,224 Latter-day Saints at the end of last year, up from 7,300,000 in December 1989. According to statistics released during general conference, more than 300,000 of those baptized in 1993 were converts. The remaining were eight-year-old children of record.
Elder Claudio Roberto Mendes Costa
When Elder Claudio Roberto Mendes Costa received a testimony of the gospel following a night of prayerful study and meditation in 1977, he wanted to be baptized the very next day.
“The Lord touched my heart,” recalls Elder Costa, who was born 25 March 1949 in the Brazilian coastal city of Santos. “I realized I had wasted a lot of time by not being a member of the Church.”
Elder Costa, a newly called member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, had first met the missionaries as a youth. He was so impressed that he introduced them to his family, who soon joined the Church. Ironically, however, Claudio left Santos at age seventeen to work in nearby São Paulo and didn’t join the Church until he moved back home at age twenty-seven.
A year later, on 4 July 1978, Brother Costa married Margareth Fernandes Morgado in São Paulo. They were later sealed in the São Paulo Temple. They have four children.
Elder Costa has served as a bishop, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency, mission president, and regional representative. Most recently, he was director of the Church’s institute of religion in São Paulo. Before going to work in 1981 for the Church Educational System, Brother Costa studied gemology and marketing and worked in jewelry store management.
He says the gospel truly is a “pearl of great price.” But unlike the precious stones he marketed as a professional, “the gospel doesn’t have to be divided into parts. All of it is precious.”
Elder Costa enjoys reading books in English about the Prophet Joseph Smith. His reading has not only helped him to learn English but has strengthened his testimony of the Prophet.
“When you know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, it’s very easy to receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of today’s living prophet,” he says. “True liberty and happiness are found in following the Lord and his prophets. Our responsibility is to share that knowledge with others and to do the things the Lord requires.”
Elder W. Don Ladd
Don Ladd’s son Christopher had a paper route, a large route that wasn’t close to home. So Christopher’s dad or mom had to get up early, often before sunrise, to help their son deliver the newspapers. One dark, cold morning, Don found the following words scrawled on the dusty car: “Dad + Chris = Fun.” Don smiled. It was obvious his son had inherited his optimism.
By his own admission, Elder W. Don Ladd tends to make lemonade out of life’s lemons. “I can always find something positive,” he notes.
His wife, Ruth Pearson Ladd, and his four children agree. “In all our years of marriage [the couple were married 20 December 1962 in the Logan Temple], I can’t remember a time when he’s been negative,” she observes. “He knows that things will work out.”
The gospel has only reinforced that natural tendency. Born 14 July 1933 in San Mateo, Florida, Don grew up with some exposure to the Church. His mother was a member, but his father was not. However, a dedicated bishop took the teenage Don under his wing and made a lasting difference in the boy’s life.
“It was this man’s influence that got me going,” Elder Ladd notes. And once he got going, he never quit. Baptized at nineteen (“My father wanted me to wait until I was an adult”), Elder Ladd was serving in a bishopric by the time he was twenty-one. Drafted into the army after the Korean War, he was called as a branch president while stationed in Germany. Since then, he has served as a stake president, regional representative, and as a Church adviser on governmental and public affairs.
After his army service, Elder Ladd headed to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an administrative assistant to a U.S. congressman. He then spent fifteen years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture before being named vice president of government affairs for Marriott International, Inc., in 1982.
“The Church has always been my focus,” Elder Ladd says. “Everything I have ever achieved or accomplished has been because of the gospel and its influence.”
Elder James O. Mason
When he was a nineteen-year-old student at the University of Utah, Jim Mason had more on his mind than school—a mission loomed in the future.
“I felt the gospel was true,” he explains. “But I’d never had the experience that Moroni talks about in Moro. 10:3–5. I wanted to go into the mission field not just accepting the gospel, but with a witness that it was true.”
So Jim took a quarter off solely to read the scriptures. One Sunday in a fast and testimony meeting, “a woman got up and said she knew these things were true,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, I wish I could say that. The next thing I knew, she sat down and I was standing up, testifying to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the manifestation of the Spirit that I had prayed for was given me.”
So Jim went on a mission to Denmark. Soon after returning, he married L. Marie Smith on 29 December 1952 in the Salt Lake Temple. Jim (born 19 June 1930 in Salt Lake City) continued his education, earning degrees from the University of Utah and degrees in public health from Harvard University.
He worked at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and became its director in 1983. He also worked as Church commissioner of health services and as the first managing director of the Church’s Unified Welfare Services. Later he served as executive director of the Utah Department of Health and taught at the University of Utah Medical School. In 1989 the president of the United States asked him to head the U.S. Public Health Service, an appointment that required Senate confirmation. He retired from government service last year.
A nationally recognized expert on disease prevention and health promotion, Elder Mason is well qualified to give counsel on healthy lifestyles. “The best advice I can give,” he notes, “is that to enjoy the blessings of peace of mind, health, and happiness, keep the commandments.” He has served as a bishop, stake president, and regional representative. He and his wife have seven children and seventeen grandchildren.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
As a pilot, Dieter F. Uchtdorf often cruises high above the earth. “I see how beautiful the deserts and the jungles and the seas are,” he says. “Even after ten long hours in a cockpit, I am amazed at the sunrise. I marvel at the world’s different cultures. Everyone is different, and yet we are the same.”
Elder Uchtdorf remembers when one of the first astronauts to orbit the earth declared: “I went up there, and I did not see God.” In contrast, Elder Uchtdorf says that though he has not gone up so high, he has seen God through witnessing his works. “I am so grateful to the Lord for his creation,” he says.
Elder Uchtdorf has spent most of his professional life with Lufthansa German Airlines. He served earlier as a fighter pilot in the German air force. He studied business administration in Cologne, Germany, and attended the International Management Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Born 6 November 1940 in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, where his father worked for Germany’s customs office, Dieter later relocated with his family to Zwickau in Germany’s Saxony region. His family joined the Church there when he was six years old. Six years later, the family moved to Frankfurt, where Dieter often passed the sacrament to young Harriet Reich. He married Harriet in December 1962 and was later sealed to her in the Swiss Temple. The Uchtdorfs, who live south of Frankfurt in Darmstadt, have a son, a daughter, and twin grandchildren.
At the time of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Uchtdorf presided over the Mannheim Germany Stake. He has also served as president of the Frankfurt stake, a high councilor, a stake mission president, and vice chairman of the Frankfurt temple committee.
“My experiences as a priesthood holder have taught me to be confident in public, to know who I am, and to realize that everything is possible with the Lord,” Elder Uchtdorf says. “My work experience, in turn, has prepared me to better serve in the Church. The gospel is life!”
Elder Lance B. Wickman
As a Primary boy sitting in sacrament meeting, Lance B. Wickman chose his life’s focus. Above the rostrum shone a lacquered plaque. Inscribed on the plaque—and etched forever on the boy’s mind—were Joshua’s stirring words: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Josh. 24:15).
“Those words penetrated my heart deeply,” says Elder Wickman, newly called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. “In hindsight I see my testimony and love of service in the Church as dating from those days.”
Lance, born 11 November 1940 to Alton C. and Irene Carlson Wickman, grew up in Glendale, California, and enjoyed his ward’s numerous missionary farewells and homecomings, which “cemented in my mind a desire to serve a mission.”
After his mission to England, Lance resumed his studies at University of California at Berkeley and married his “college sweetheart,” Patricia Farr, in the Los Angeles Temple in 1963.
Then for five years he served as an infantry officer, two of them in Vietnam. His dark sense of foreboding before one combat operation was quelled, he says, by the Spirit’s “still, small voice as clear as a bell quoting Prov. 3:5–6: ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; … and he shall direct thy paths.’” That scripture was a cornerstone of his faith after he and his platoon survived a land mine explosion that destroyed the armored vehicle they were riding in. Lance received, among other military decorations, the Bronze Star Medal.
After his military duty, Brother Wickman graduated from Stanford University and began practicing law in Los Angeles. The Wickmans have four sons and one daughter; their second son, Adam, died of a rare illness at age five. They moved to San Diego when the firm Lance worked for opened an office there.
Elder Wickman’s Church service has included calls as bishop, stake president, and regional representative. For devoted service in the Boy Scouts, he received the Silver Beaver Award.
“I have deep gratitude for the ministering of the Holy Ghost,” he says. He knows he can rely on that guidance in this opportunity to serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
Elder Clinton L. Cutler of the Seventy Eulogized
Born in the season of Christmas, Elder Clinton L. Cutler of the Seventy, age sixty-four, passed away April 9 in the season of Easter. His life was marked by faith, observed President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency.
Presiding at Elder Cutler’s funeral, President Hinckley noted that Elder Cutler was hired at Mountain Bell as a telephone installer and retired more than three decades later in a position of high authority, “moving up the ladder through integrity, honesty, hard work—simple integrity. … That says more than a long, long sermon could say.”
Elder Cutler was sustained a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy on 31 March 1990. At the time of his call to the Seventy, he was serving as mission president in Seattle, Washington.
“When I think of Clinton Cutler, there’s one particular passage of scripture that I can’t get out of my mind—’Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile’ [John 1:47],” said President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted and spoke during the funeral. “There was not an ounce of guile in Clinton Cutler; he was an example unto the believers.”
President Howard W. Hunter, President of the Quorum of Twelve, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve, as well as other General Authorities, were also in attendance at the memorial service.
Born 27 December 1929 in Salt Lake City, Elder Cutler gained a testimony early in life. “My mother had a set of children’s Bible stories,” he said after he received his call to the Seventy. “As a small boy, I would listen to her read them. The lives of those great biblical heroes inspired me.”
While attending Jordan High School, young Clint served as student body president, dated his wife-to-be, Carma Nielsen (they married in the Salt Lake Temple on 22 June 1949), and developed a great love for basketball. He earned all-state honors in the sport and went on to attend Utah State University on a basketball scholarship. Later, he transferred to the University of Utah, where he graduated with honors while earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
For thirty-two years he worked with Mountain Bell (now US West), retiring as an assistant vice president in 1986, one month before receiving his call as mission president. Prior to that Church calling, he had served as regional representative, stake president, stake president’s counselor, and bishop.
As a General Authority, Elder Cutler served as second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency from October 1991 to August 1992 and first counselor since August 1992. He was also an assistant executive director of the Family History Department.
Elder Cutler is survived by his wife, their six children, and twenty-eight grandchildren.
Church Recognized in Cambodia
The Church has received official recognition in Cambodia, according to the First Presidency. The announcement was made at Brigham Young University during a March 6 fireside address by President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency. The recognition came on the previous Friday.
Missionary couples called to Cambodia will be involved in service work only; they will not proselyte. This is the same status as missionary couples currently serving in neighboring Vietnam.
Church Pageant Schedule
A schedule of Church pageants has been announced for 1994. Here are performance dates and locations:
June 22–25, Independence, Missouri: “A Frontier Story—1883” at Independence Visitors’ Center.
July 7–9, 12–16, Manti, Utah: “Mormon Miracle” on Manti Temple grounds.
July 8–9, 12–16, Palmyra, New York: “America’s Witness for Christ” at Hill Cumorah.
July 28–30, August 2–6, Castle Dale, Utah: Castle Valley Pageant at Mountain Amphitheater.
July 29–30, August 2–6, Nauvoo, Illinois: “City of Joseph” on hillside adjacent to Nauvoo Visitors’ Center.
August 12–13, 16–20, Clarkston, Utah: “Martin Harris, the Man Who Knew” at amphitheater in Clarkston cemetery.
December 18–25, Calgary, Alberta: Calgary Nativity Pageant at Heritage Park.
Additional details about any of the pageants may be obtained by calling (801) 240-2767 or by writing to Church Pageants, 430 West 400 North, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103, USA.
Church Progress Continues in Japan and South Korea
Japan and South Korea are known for their strong work ethic and family orientation. To learn how the Church is prospering in the two nations, the Ensign talked with Elder of the Seventy, when he was president of the Asia North Area, and with his counselors, Elders and , also of the Seventy, prior to Elder Bateman’s call to serve as Presiding Bishop.
Question: Can you tell us how the gospel is being received in Japan and South Korea?
Answer: A solid membership base has been established in both countries, with ninety thousand members, twenty-five stakes, and ten missions in Japan and forty-three thousand members, sixteen stakes, and four missions in South Korea. Quality leadership exists in both countries, and an excellent infrastructure is in place, with almost 250 chapels and two temples—one in Tokyo, Japan, and the other in Seoul, South Korea. The Church has a strong foundation upon which to build.
Member activity has been increasing at a rate of 4 percent per year for the last decade, as measured by sacrament meeting attendance. This is an excellent rate of growth and reflects the faithfulness of the membership. Japanese and South Korean Saints are willing to introduce the gospel to their friends and family members, and we believe that conversions will accelerate during the 1990s, given the faithfulness of the Saints.
Japan and South Korea are jewels in the Pacific Rim. We see both countries eventually fulfilling President Kimball’s vision of providing the base for missionary work in eastern Russia and China. Church development in the area has not quite reached that point yet, but the day is not far off.
Q: In what ways do South Korean and Japanese Saints manifest their commitment to the Lord?
A: One indication of their commitment and strength is the number of families being home taught by active Melchizedek Priesthood brethren. On average, each pair of Japanese home teachers visits three families per month, while the South Korean brethren visit four families. One Japanese stake averages ten families taught by each pair of home teachers. They are extremely well organized. The Japanese and South Korean sisters are making a concerted effort as well. With respect to visiting teaching, both the Japanese and Korean sisters contact or visit three to four sisters monthly. These visits occur in spite of high costs, both in terms of travel time and money.
Another measure of commitment is the tithing and fast offering faithfulness of the Saints. The Japanese members are very close to being financially self-sufficient, as their contributions cover practically all of the costs of Church operations in the country. We expect that self-sufficiency in South Korea will be reached near the end of the decade.
Q: What are the kinds of challenges facing Church members and investigators?
A: Both countries are inhabited by hard-working people. Children spend five and one-half days in school each week, and in addition, many of them attend night school. For example, many children return home from school at 5:00 P.M. and are back in school from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. in preparation for the eventual university entrance examinations, which are highly competitive. School activities are generally held on Sunday. For the youth of the Church, that becomes a special challenge. They are forced to choose between school sports, drama, and other activities and attending Church meetings on Sunday. Fortunately, most of the youth have strong testimonies and are committed to the gospel. The majority stay close to the Church by limiting their participation in school activities. The faith of the youth is reflected in seminary attendance, which exceeds 50 percent in many areas.
Most adults in Japan and Korea work five and one-half to six days per week and ten to twelve hours per day. Male workers generally are not home until 8:00 P.M. or 9:00 P.M. That presents a challenge in teaching and converting families. It is difficult to find men at home during the normal teaching hours. However, there are success stories.
Recently, two missionaries were teaching a family except for the father. He worked on a construction site from 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. seven days a week. The missionaries decided to visit the father at the work site.
In hopes of getting rid of the missionaries, he agreed to return home early one evening at 7:00 P.M. so they could talk with him. For the first time in years, he was able to have a meal with his family. During the meal, his wife began to cry, and he realized how much his being home meant to her and the children. He decided to change his work pattern, and the family has since joined the Church.
Unemployment has not been a problem in Japan until recently. For the first time since World War II, Japan is in the midst of an economic crisis. The current economic recession in Japan may help missionary work. The recession is forcing people to examine their values and goals. A newspaper reporter recently interviewed a number of Japanese people regarding their views of the future. Many commented that the recession has forced them to question their values, that life should be more than just working from morning until night. Some of those interviewed spoke of the need for the encouragement on a regular weekly basis that some religions, specifically Christianity, provide.
Q: Does the demand for higher education limit the availability of young men to serve missions?
A: The Japanese and South Korean circumstances are different. In Japan, a young man can begin university at age eighteen or nineteen, take a sabbatical leave for two years, and then return without losing his position at the university. Consequently, most second- or third-generation Japanese Latter-day Saint brethren and sisters enter the mission field as soon as they reach the appropriate age. Most of the native missionaries in Japan are still the first generation of Latter-day Saints in their families, however, and they are twenty-two or twenty-three years old before entering the field.
Korean university students are not allowed to take more than a one-year sabbatical from school. If a young man leaves the university for longer than one year, he loses his university standing and has to retake the entrance examination and qualify all over again. In addition, South Korean men are required to serve for thirty months in the military. Consequently, many young South Korean brethren are not available for missions until their twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth birthdays. However, most still desire to serve a mission, and they are encouraged to do so.
About 20 percent of the missionaries in both countries are native. One of the Church’s strengths in the Asia North Area is the growing force of returned missionaries, which numbers more than two thousand in Japan and one thousand in South Korea. They are becoming a prime source of leadership in the stakes and districts.
Q: How do members in the area deal with demands on their time?
A: Active members exhibit incredible faith in their decision to participate fully in the Church. Some have changed their jobs or have accepted lower-paying positions so that they may have time to devote to Church callings. Both societies indirectly put pressure on people not to join the Church or not to participate fully. A spiritual witness is critical to any conversion, but it is especially important in these two countries if a member is to remain active over a lifetime.
Q: Are there other challenges?
A: One of the differences between Japan and South Korea is that Japan is only 2 percent Christian, whereas South Korea is 35 percent Christian. Most Japanese know little about Christianity and almost nothing about the Church. One of the key challenges is teaching them the plan of salvation with a special emphasis on the Savior and the Atonement.
Japan and Korea are relatively homogeneous societies. The Japanese, in particular, are not used to foreign influences. There is a lot of societal pressure to be loyal to the institutions that are pure Japanese. Although we consider ourselves a worldwide church, the Japanese consider the Church a foreign institution. For most people, time is required for their hearts to soften so the Spirit can work with them.
We expect the Church’s family history program will become a major factor in opening doors in both countries. Both the Japanese and Koreans have strong feelings for their ancestors and are family oriented. Family history can become an important tool in building common links between the Church and the people. At this point in time, most Japanese and Koreans know little about the Church’s vast family history effort. They don’t know of the strong feelings we have for our ancestors. Family history has considerable potential in advancing the growth of the Church in Asia.
We are encouraged. We see great potential and possibilities for the Church in Japan and South Korea. We expect a dynamic decade ahead.
Missionary Training Center Presidents Named
The First Presidency has appointed seven new presidents to preside over missionary training centers.
The presidents, their wives who will assist them, their home cities, and the locations of their assignments are:
—R. Raymond and Chloris Barnes, Oakland, California, to serve in Chile.
—Val H. and Elsie Hermine Carter, Morgan, Utah, to serve in Brazil.
—Arnold B. and Janet Gilbert, Brigham City, Utah, to serve in New Zealand.
—Ryo and Yoshiko Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan, to serve in Japan.
—Alejandro and Beatriz Portal, Maracaibo, Venezuela, to serve in Peru.
—Won and Young Seo, Seoul, Korea, to serve in Korea.
—Milton G. and Rhea Wille, Fallon, Nevada, to serve in Guatemala.
All of the new presidents have previously served as mission presidents.