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ABOUT JAPAN AND THE JAPAN MISSION.
BY ELDER ALMA O. TAYLOR, PRESIDENT OF THE MISSION.
During the last three years, a great deal has been written. and said about Japan, and were it not that I desire to tell the young men of Zion a few things about the Japan mission, and correct a few mistaken ideas about this land and the prospects for the mission's success, I would consider it out of place to add anything.
Due to the fact that some of our mail went astray, I did not get the March number of the ERA till a day or two ago. In this number I notice an article by Dr. J. M. Tanner about "Christianity in Japan," and I desire to comment a little on the conditions to which he refers.
When Japan, at the opening of the present emperor's reign, began her material, military and educational reform, she recognized her inability to proceed without the assistance of experienced and capable men. Such men were very scarce among the Japanese, so, at first, nearly every adviser, director, or chief was a foreigner under whom the Japanese received their first lessons. was not long before the student absorbed the wisdom of the teacher and, as a result, the foreigner was dismissed from service to make room for the native who had acquired ability to attend to his
own affairs and educate himself. This is natural and right. The Japanese have the capacity to take advantage of an opportunity and to do things themselves. "What man has made, we can make. What man has done, we can do." This is their claim, and they are keen enough to perceive that sectarian Christianity which has come among them is a man-made system which, after a long training under foreign bishops and missionaries, they feel quite capable of running themselves. Hence, the rapidly growing sentiment in favor of a real Japanese Christian church, under the leadership of Japanese.
When this church develops into a reality, what will result? Nothing more serious than what already exists. By placing a Japanese interpretation upon Christ and his mission, I cannot conceive that any greater blunders are possible than those already made by the uninspired reformers of the past. Indeed, in some points, Japanese Christianity will teach more truth than either the European or American kind. Many of the absurdities in the modern Christian doctrine of Deity will be eradicated, and many rational ideas announced, for undoubtedly present-day science will play a greater part in the interpretation of scripture than Buddhist or Shinto traditions.
What effect will a Japanese Christian church have in opening or obstructing the way of the Japan mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? This is the question that interests us most. And I have wondered if the young men of Zion, reading Dr. Tanner's article, would not hastily conclude that a sentiment which would create a Japanese Christian church would work hard against the Latter-day Saints who teach that the New Jerusalem will be built on the American continent, the land favored of God, unto which all the seed of Israel shall flock. In answer to the question, I give my views as follows:
The new church and its new creed can hardly be expected to get farther away from the truth than the mother sects. sibility is that, in many points, it will get nearer the truth, and, in many, it will embrace truth. This being the case, the step into "Mormonism" will not be so long as before. The rise of such a sect will give force and proof to our testimony against division in the Church of Christ, and the absence of revelation and authority
in the administration of the gospel. It will create an agitation, especially in Christian circles, concerning church government and authority, which will lead to an investigation of the scriptures on this point. Such investigation will certainly do us no harm. It will give popularity to Christian questions, and many will join the new church. Of this number, hundreds and thousands may later forsake the fold or become lukewarm towards it. However, on the other hand, reverence for the name Jesus Christ, will increase, and belief in him will take hold of the hearts of the people. Surely the Latter-day Saints do not object to men believing in the Savior. This belief, though feeble, is an improvement a step towards the kingdom of God. The new church, after its financial struggles are past, will give positive assurance of the permanency of the Bible and Christian name in Japan. This is a paving of the way for "Mormonism."
Next, let me refer to the effects of the recent war upon the Christian movement in Japan.
That Christianity has spread and multiplied in Japan, in consequence of her opportunities during and since the war, is a fact beyond question. Charity has been given an open field, and, in the exhibition of this virtue, the Christians have eclipsed all rivals. The work of the Y. M. C. A., on the battlefield among the soldiers, received the praise of both high and low. In these works, and in the recent famine relief work, the Christian cause has been well advertised, and sentiment in its favor grows apace; while thousands are confessing Christ and being initiated into the several churches by sprinkling or pouring.
Let the emperor go to Ise and worship at the shrine of his ancestors as much as he pleases, the Shinto as well as the Buddhist shrines are doomed. The following extract from a Buddhist journal in Japan is significant:
Numerically speaking, Buddhism far outranks Christianity; but, by reason of actual work accomplished, the balance of power is in favor of the Christians. General hatred against Christianity is passing away, and the belief that it is better adapted to the new condition of things is daily gaining ground. Buddhist customs and rights are becoming more and more alien to the interests of society, and Buddhist temples and priests are often the subject of public ridicule.
The enormous amount of Yen 200,000 has been expended by the Hongwanji (the largest Buddhist sect in Japan) for the work among the soldiers, but it is far