The Church in Taiwan
One of the first LDS area conferences ever to be held in the Orient met last month in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, located in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.
Since 1956, when four elders from the Southern Far East Mission first began preaching the gospel in Taiwan, the Church there has quickly grown and now includes over 7,000 members.
Because the country is so densely populated (15 million people in an area 1/7 the size of Utah), land for LDS meetinghouses is scarce. At first, missionaries held meetings in their own apartments for those interested in hearing about the gospel. However, there are now four chapels, a number of branches, and 200 full-time missionaries serving in the Taiwan Taipei Mission.
One reason the gospel has been so well accepted in Taiwan and other Oriental countries is because of the Church’s emphasis on genealogy work. Great honor and respect are given to ancestors in these countries where many of the people can trace their lineage back thousands of years.
Ten years ago the Book of Mormon was translated into Chinese, which has been a great help in sharing the gospel with Chinese-speaking people.
Southeast of the bulge in China’s eastern seacoast and across the Formosa Strait is the country of Taiwan. Named by Chinese immigrants in the 1600s, Taiwan means “terraced island.” But even before the Chinese settled there in the seventeenth century, Portuguese explorers, in 1590, saw the island and called it Ilha Formosa (beautiful island) because of its lush greenery.
Almost two-thirds of this subtropical land is covered by mountain forests, laced with lakes, streams, and crystal waterfalls. Taiwan is the largest producer of natural camphor, a substance used for medicines and other industrial purposes. Wherever possible, rice, tea, sugar cane, and vegetables are grown. The surrounding waters of the China Sea provide tuna, sardines, and mackerel. A main part of most meals in Taiwan includes rice and fish.
Red is a popular color and is used extensively in Taiwan for clothing, pagodas, Buddhist temples, and for the decoration of sculptured dragons—Chinese emblems for goodness and strength. During the Lunar New Year these “fire-breathing” monsters are decorated with tinsel and sparkling jewels to symbolize the “good earth.” During this most important holiday of the year, there are parades, feasts, and firework displays.
New clothes are part of the celebration. Children are given money in small red envelopes, entitling them to wishes. Often they buy firecrackers to add their part to the excitement of the holiday.
The people of Taiwan pay great honor and respect to Buddha and Confucius, two religious philosophers whose teachings support the Christian Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Children in Taiwan must attend school for nine years. After they complete this schooling they may take a nationwide examination given each summer. Those passing may enter college.