Making this information public on the website will counter many unsubstantiated rumors that occasionally circulate.
With the launch of mormonsandchina.org, a new website aimed specifically at those from the People’s Republic of China who have joined the LDS Church while living in other nations of the world, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is publicly addressing for the first time a number of questions about its membership and operations in China.
“Our more open communication about the church in China follows our developed relationship of trust with Chinese officials and our concern for the PRC citizens who are joining the church throughout the world,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who has supervised the church in the People’s Republic of China under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for a number of years.
“We will continue to teach our members to be good citizens,” Elder Oaks said in a video about the website posted late Friday on the church's Newsroom website. “Providing accurate information about the church will allow them to better contribute to society in China and throughout the world.”
That information is aimed at the thousands of people born in China who have become members of the LDS Church while living in other nations, most notably the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. The church has organized Chinese language congregations in several countries.
While many Chinese Mormons continue to live in the countries within which they joined the church, many also return to China and don’t know how to find LDS congregations there. They also may not understand the relationship between their religious practice and compliance with Chinese laws.
The new website attempts to provide that information and answer many of the questions Chinese Mormons returning to China may have, as well as questions for church members who visit China for work or personal reasons. It's also for church leaders everywhere who minister to PRC Latter-day Saints.
For example, the website explains that church members should not mail religious materials to China or carry scriptures or other church materials into China beyond a copy for personal use. It points out that Latter-day Saints should not discuss religion in general or Mormonism specifically while traveling in China. And it describes how, in compliance with Chinese law, worship services for foreign passport-holding Latter-day Saints are separate from worship services for Chinese members, whose branches are directed by their own local priesthood leaders.
The new website acknowledges that the church has historically been guarded in response to questions about the LDS Church in China. Elder Oaks said he believes the new website will answer many of those questions and hopefully counter many unsubstantiated rumors that occasionally circulate, including whether or not the church is sending missionaries to the PRC.
"The church has no proselyting missionaries in the People's Republic of China," Elder Oaks says in the video. "Nor does it have any plans to send missionaries, or to engage in any proselyting activities in China.
"Furthermore," he continues, "this new site is in no way related to the recent church announcement lowering the age of eligibility for full-time missionary service."
Elder Oaks explained that "the church has built a strong relationship of trust with the People’s Republic of China by always respecting the important laws and traditions of that country." For that reason, he said, "the church is blocking access to this website so it cannot be viewed in China.”