Mormon Journal

By P’an K’uan I


Chinese Echoes of Truth

When I graduated from college I was just like many other Chinese young men: I called myself a scientist. I did not really believe in God. I could not believe that the universe was created by God. I often accepted invitations to “Bai-Bai” (traditional Chinese family worship), but I mostly wanted to enjoy the company and the wonderful food offered to their gods as part of the ceremony, but eaten by the participants. I was not the only one with such feelings; sometimes neither the sponsor of “Bai-Bai” nor the guest knew which god or gods they were worshiping that day.

My family worshiped their ancestors only during Chinese festival days, but despite lack of a strong religious tradition in the family, Christianity was unthinkable as an alternative. We felt that accepting a “foreign” God would make us traitors to our ancestors. Furthermore, like many Chinese, I disliked Christian missionaries because their governments had, for the last two hundred years, invaded my country, selling opium to my countrymen, and almost destroying China just as they destroyed India, Egypt, and the Incas.

Nevertheless, one day a Latter-day Saint schoolmate, Young Ho Chin, told me he was going to visit two sister missionaries who lived close to his house. One was from Canada, he said. I went with him to see this Canadian because I had never seen one before. When I was introduced to Sister Moirg Blackmore, who was from Cardston, Alberta, and Sister E. Julia Smith from Salt Lake City, they began teaching me the gospel immediately, even before I could ask which one was from Canada.

For the first three lessons I did not fully understand the Christian terms they were using, and I had so many questions it was hard for the sisters to answer all of them. And many of these teachings seemed to contradict the “scientific” knowledge I had obtained in school. But not wishing to be rude, and touched by their enthusiasm, I continued to investigate the restored gospel. Eventually I was more interested in it than in anything I had ever studied before.

Then they asked me to be baptized. I knew this would be a turning point in my life. I knew the gospel was true, but the traditional Chinese concept of God was so deeply planted in my mind that I could neither get rid of it nor adjust it to the truth. I knew I must kneel down and pray, but when I started to, a strange force bound me and I could not utter one word. When I stopped praying, I was free from that force. After twelve unsuccessful attempts, I was finally able to pray. I was soaking wet with perspiration.

When I rose from my knees, it was 2:30 in the morning, but I had no doubts in my mind. My decision was made and I was baptized. My faith could not become complete in one day, and sometimes a doubt would flash over my mind. Nevertheless, the more I studied the scriptures the more I believed.

For instance, God told us to have our genealogy worked out, and the Chinese are a race that keeps genealogical records. My family’s record goes back to 1,000 B.C. I also found some parallels between Chinese tradition and Christian teachings. For example, Chinese lore preserves the story of Pan Ko Shi, who lived in heaven and died so his body could become the world. This legend has similarities to the mission of Christ, who was crucified so man could have eternal life. There are other examples: The Chinese character for ark can mean eight persons in a boat; Noah’s ark had eight persons on it. (See 1 Pet. 3:20.) We put red papers on the door frame to get luck and to cast out evils; the ancient Israelites put blood on their door frames to protect them from the destroying angel. (See Ex. 12:13.) Chinese records indicate that their ancient kings and emperors lived about eight hundred years; Genesis indicates very long lifespans for its early patriarchs. Chinese describe heaven and hell in multiples of three, each with a different glory or punishment. The Church teaches the three degrees of glory. Whenever we Chinese had a tyrannical leader, the people would say that a true heavenly son would descend, save the people, and become their new king. Chinese also know the definition and necessity of opposition.

When I found all these things, I knew that my people had once had the truth. Since those ancient times, Chinese have retained only a blurred idea of all these teachings. But they keep and honor them in their own way. I now know I am not a traitor to my ancestors in joining the Church, nor am I worshiping a “foreign” God.

In the many years since I was baptized, my parents and friends have finally accepted me as a Latter-day Saint: a funny man who drinks no wine, smokes no tobacco, has no mistress, and sometimes, incredibly, even eats no food. They think I have no pleasure in life. But I have gained pleasure and peace in my heart that is beyond their understanding.

His Hands on My Head

Because World War II was just over, I was very happy. We had recently married and our first-born child had arrived. I love my husband very much and felt myself growing in the warmth of his love for me. Then, in the fall of 1946, a drastic change occurred. My husband came home, beaming, and told me that he had found a treasure more precious than all others—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was miserable. I would not listen to his explanations. When he was baptized on 7 January 1947, I felt that an impassable gulf had opened between us. The next nine months were almost unendurable.

Then, one morning, I woke up particularly unhappy. Somehow I knew that I had been wrong, that my husband had been telling me the truth, and that I must join his church. Despite my confusion, I knew I must be baptized, and on 8 November 1947, my husband brought me into a new life. It was the happiest day of my life, filled with a joy I cannot describe.

In 1957, we were sealed in the Swiss Temple with our children. It was a wonderful experience for us—and a very important one. My husband was ill. After two difficult operations, we were told that he could not live.

Yet those last days of his life were, in spite of everything, almost happy. There were times when we felt pure joy at having been able to receive the gift of the gospel, times when we rejoiced with tears of gratitude that his coming death would not separate us forever.

But there were also times when I felt overcome by grief and worry. How could I manage without my husband’s companionship? How could I fulfill the responsibility of raising my children with their own strong testimonies? How would I manage financially?

On one occasion when these worries were depressing me, my husband asked, “Anna-Greta, would you like me to give you a blessing?” He sat up in bed, put his frail hands on my head, and in the power of the priesthood blessed me with the ability to handle all of my responsibilities capably. This blessing has been with me in a very real way during all the years since his death. Sometimes, facing a difficult problem, I have thought to myself: “You have received a blessing from your husband that you will be able to take care of these problems,” and I have again felt those frail but powerful hands upon my head. I have always been able to overcome the difficulties.

My children are now responsible fathers and mothers of a new generation of Latter-day Saints, serving their Heavenly Father with profound joy. And I share that joy. How grateful I am that the Lord did not tire of me because I failed to listen to him! How grateful I am for the link of the priesthood that will reunite me with my beloved husband, and that has kept us close throughout the years of separation.