When Fan Hsieh read about the restoration of the priesthood, he had to know more. “For the first time since I was released from the priesthood in my own church, I thought I might be able to hold the priesthood again,” he says.
After serving eighteen years as a Catholic priest, Hsieh had given up his ministry because he felt “a spiritual void.” Now, as he studied the restored gospel, he was about to discover the true priesthood of God.
Fan Hsieh was born 23 August 1922 in Tayeh, China, an isolated farming community. He did not begin formal education until he was ten years old. After four years in a private school, he enrolled in a Catholic school, began to learn about Jesus Christ, and was baptized a Catholic. “I saw the example of many good Catholic missionaries,” he says, “and I thought maybe China needed more of them to teach the people about Jesus Christ. I decided to become a priest.”
Hsieh’s road to that goal was long and arduous. He attended a Catholic seminary in Wuhan for four years. Then he studied at a Catholic university in the capital city of Beijing [Peking]. A year later, the communists took over the city, and Hsieh escaped to Shanghai, where he attended the Aurora Jesuit University. When the communist forces invaded Shanghai, he moved to the Catholic seminary in Hong Kong. Then, because of the political situation, the seminary was transferred to Macao. While there, Hsieh was ordained a priest in the Catholic church.
Following his ordination, he was assigned to Rome, Italy, where he studied Italian, Latin, and law for four years. Next he moved to Paris, France, where he studied French, Greek, Hebrew, English, Spanish, and German so that he could better understand the original texts and the various translations of the Bible. He wanted to learn all he could about the Savior.
Finally, in 1967, Hsieh’s original desire to teach his people about Jesus Christ became a reality. Cardinal Yu Ping, president of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, invited him to become a member of the faculty as a professor of philosophy and French. In this assignment, Hsieh began to share his growing testimony of Jesus Christ.
“I spent eighteen years teaching and fulfilling my responsibilities as a priest,” says Hsieh. “I was very busy, but I wasn’t happy. I had had the opportunity to study in Europe; I had been a teacher, a student, a professor, a chaplain, a seminary director—my life was colorful—but there was a spiritual void.”
And there were rules and customs within the Catholic church with which Hsieh was uncomfortable, such as the ban on certain books—and he liked to read and study all he could. Another problem that bothered him as an ordained priest was the Lord’s statement: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
“This particular scripture became a vivid reality for me once when I was seriously sick and there was no one close to take care of me. I felt very alone. I realized the need for a companion to share my life. I decided then that being alone forever wasn’t right.”
This combination of feelings built up over time. Finally, in 1973, he asked to be released from his priestly vows. He resigned from Fu Jen University and was immediately hired by National Cheng Chi University in Taipei. There, one year later, Hsieh met, courted, and married one of his university assistants. He was about fifty years old at this time.
“But giving up the priesthood was difficult for me,” he says. “I had been a priest for so long. Now I had given up everything that I had lived for up to that point in time. I missed sharing my knowledge and understanding of the gospel, something I had been able to do as a priest. I thought about becoming a minister in another church that allowed priests to marry. But because of my belief in the Catholic church, I couldn’t make that change.”
Three years after his marriage, Hsieh was alone in his home when two young men knocked on his door. “They asked to talk to me, and I said I had no time and no interest in whatever they wanted to talk about.
“But as I thought about them, I became more curious. I wanted to know who they were and what they were doing in Taiwan, so I looked out from the balcony of my apartment and saw them going from door to door. I waited for a long time for them to come out of one of the apartments, and then I called to them to come back to mine.
“The first question I asked them was, ‘Are you missionaries?’ When they answered yes, I questioned them about their religion. Many of my questions were left unanswered, and I didn’t feel satisfied with our first conversation.
“That evening, as I discussed their visit with my wife, she reminded me of the Lord’s admonition to ‘beware of false prophets.’” (See Matt. 7:15.)
When the missionaries made a return visit, Hsieh was not going to let them in, but he didn’t want to be impolite. For the entire evening, Hsieh explained to the missionaries what true religion should be. He did not tell them that he had been a Catholic priest, but they felt encouraged by his knowledge of Christianity.
One of the missionaries, Donald B. Cenatiempo, wrote of the experience, “I felt as if we were the students and he was the teacher. We could tell he was a very intelligent and religious man.” The missionaries asked if they could return, and Hsieh said yes. The visits became a weekly ritual.
“I didn’t want to send them away,” Hsieh remembers. “I thought that if their church were true, it would have a prophet and continuing revelation. I asked them why their church didn’t have crosses or crucifixes, and they said, ‘Because Christ is risen; Christ lives. If one of your friends or parents dies,’ they said, ‘do you take out a photograph of them dead and show it to everyone?’ I was spiritually touched by the wisdom of their response.”
Hsieh started to read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, which he especially liked because it is a record of the Lord speaking to man in these latter days. He asked for other books to read, and the missionaries gave him a copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by Elder LeGrand Richards.
“We told Brother Hsieh that it was possible for him to receive the priesthood and perform certain duties within that priesthood,” Elder Cenatiempo wrote. “Brother Hsieh understood as well as anybody could in his stage of spiritual progression what it would mean to hold the priesthood—the true priesthood of God.”
Hsieh explained to his wife what he had read, and she found it very interesting. Together, they began to study and pray for understanding. Eventually, Hsieh’s wife announced to the missionaries, “We have prayed and we feel it best to be baptized together.” They were baptized in December 1977.
In the years since that special event in their lives, they have developed strong testimonies that they enjoy sharing with others.
“We have always said that we would be willing to do whatever the Lord wants us to do,” says Brother Hsieh. “And we’ve always tried to use every opportunity and every talent he has given us to help build up the kingdom of God on the earth and to share the gospel message.”
Some unique opportunities have opened up to Brother Hsieh to do this. He has lectured seven times at the International Conference for Christian Professors. “They are interested in the Church because it is quite new and unique in modern Christianity,” he says. “The Lord has given me many opportunities to bear my testimony to these scholars.”
Currently, Brother Hsieh, a member of the Mu Cha Ward, serves as a high councilor in the Taipei Taiwan West Stake and has assisted in work on a second Chinese translation of the Book of Mormon.
“The gospel is the love of God,” he says. “It is important that all men and women hear this message. What we do, we do for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Friendship is the method by which we share the gospel. The final goal for all is salvation and exaltation.”