The active Latter-day Saints in Japan and Korea are exceptionally committed to the gospel, said Elder Quentin L. Cook after visiting the countries May 22 through June 1 and meeting with members, missionaries and priesthood leaders.
“They function and are such examples of Christlike character and willingness to testify of the Savior in nations that do not have a majority of Christians,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Cook and his wife, Mary, were accompanied on the trip by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Katherine; Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Nancy; and members of the Church’s Asia North Area Presidency — Elder Michael T. Ringwood, Elder Koichi Aoyagi and Elder Scott D. Whiting.
As part of their assignments in Japan and Korea, Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson and Elder Maynes conducted a review of the Church’s Asia North Area; held priesthood leadership conferences, member devotionals and missionary meetings; participated in a mission presidents’ seminar; and met with government leaders.
“The Saints in the Asia North Area are independent spiritually and largely independent temporally,” reported Elder Cook.
Elder Christofferson said the Lord has blessed the members in the area because of their faithfulness. They were upbeat “despite whatever challenges they face,” he said, noting that they were a “distinct minority” in countries where Christianity is in the minority.
Elder Maynes said one of the great challenges facing members of the Church in Japan and Korea is trying to coordinate the time necessary to serve in the Church with their everyday work schedules. “Many of the members work late into the evening during weekdays. Many also work on Saturdays. The youth have school and special tutoring schedules that keep them occupied into the weekday evening hours. Many of their school activities are scheduled for weekend days. Both the adults as well as the youth do their very best trying to fulfill their many responsibilities.”
Elder Cook met with members and leaders in Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, Korea, and spoke to missionaries from the Japan Tokyo and Japan Tokyo South missions and the Korea Seoul and Korea Seoul South missions. Elder Christofferson participated in meetings in Tokyo, Sapporo, and Osaka, Japan, and Daejeon and Gwangju, Korea, and met with missionaries in the Japan Kobe, Japan Sapporo, and the Korea Daejeon missions.
Missionaries in the area are “excited and enthusiastic,” Elder Cook said. “One of our main messages is that the missionaries need to be branch and ward builders. They need to focus more fully with the ward council in finding and teaching less-active members.”
Elder Christofferson said the number of missionaries serving in the Church’s Asia North Area has increased by more than 1,000 during the last year. As a result, missionaries are “spending a significant part of their time working with less-active members and finding those in the lost and unknown category. They are involved in ward councils. Missionaries are helping them with specific families and individuals.”
During the mission presidents seminar Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson and Elder Maynes addressed 12 mission presidents and their wives from seven missions in Japan, four missions in Korea, and one mission in Guam/Micronesia. Elder Cook said it was exciting to meet with the mission presidents, who “are performing at an extremely high level.”
Elder Christofferson traveled to Osaka and Sapporo, Japan — meeting with members and missionaries and visiting the site of the Sapporo Japan Temple, which is under construction. Members are excited about the progress on the site, he said.
In addition to meeting with Church leaders, members and missionaries, Elder Cook met with Keiji Furuya and Hakubun Shimomura, both of the House of Representatives and members of the Prime Minister's cabinet in Japan. Elder Cook and Elder Christofferson also met with Gyu-hyeon Kim, a Latter-day saint who serves as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is acting director of the National Security Council in Korea. “We thanked him for his service,” said Elder Cook.
Elder Maynes participated in priesthood leadership meetings with Elder Cook in Tokyo, Japan, and Elder Christofferson in Daejeon, Korea. “The participation of the local Area Seventies, coupled with the participation of stake presidents and their counselors, bishops, high priest group leaders and elders quorum presidents in these priesthood leadership conferences, was powerful and inspired,” he said. “These great men represent seasoned and effective priesthood leaders who are dedicated to moving the Lord’s work forward in this beautiful and special area of the world.”
During the area review in Tokyo, Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson and Elder Maynes addressed the challenges of missionary work, the expense of property for chapels, the success of the new youth curriculum and the overall strength of the rising generation. All the leaders expressed appreciation for the Asia North Area Presidency. “We are incredibly impressed with the wonderful way the area presidency is presiding over the area,” said Elder Cook.
Elder Christofferson said the youth curriculum is “counter cultural to the way schools operate” in Asia where there is not a lot of free-flowing participation by students. The new youth curriculum is a different approach to learning than what they are used to, he said. “They are warming to it, and it is increasing people’s enthusiasm for gospel learning. It is beginning to spill over into the home, which is the goal in the first place.”
In Gwangju, Korea, Elder Christofferson dedicated a new meetinghouse. The new building was made possible as Church leaders sold smaller pieces of property in older neighborhoods and bought a larger piece of property in a growing area of strength in the city — something that is happening in both Japan and Korea. The Gwangju meetinghouse is an “impressive building” on a major thoroughfare and is easily accessible by public transportation, he said.
At the dedication of the chapel, Elder Christofferson spoke of the Church in Korea 50 to 60 years ago. Back then, the Church had just a few members, mostly young adults.
“The country was poor. There was a lot of poverty; a lot of hunger. Now it is a thriving country and a thriving Church,” he said, noting the transformation occurred over a half century of time. “The Lord has really blessed the Church and the people and the country — in part for the sake of the members due to their faithfulness.”
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