Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zone Leader Council September 1, 2010

Our monthly Zone Leader Council was held on September 1st. September 1st is the anniversary of the dedication of Japan for the preaching of the gospel. This year is the 109th anniversary of that historic event. For those staying in Kobe, we ran up to Maruyama Koen and held a short prayer meeting as we read the below address to the people of Japan from then Apostle Heber J. Grant. We also read the actual account of the dedication of Japan from the journal of Alma O. Taylor. We had a great conference that day. By the way, that is Elder Spohr hiding behind Elder Budge in this photo! I think we can see everyone's faces.

Address to the Great and Progressive Nation of Japan - Heber J. Grant, 1901

In company with my associates sent to you from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Utah, an Apostle and minister of the Most High God, I salute you and invite you to consider the important message we bear. We do not come to you for the purpose of trying to deprive you of any truth in which you believe, or any light that you have been privileged to enjoy. We bring to you greater light, more truth and advanced knowledge, which we offer you freely. We recognize you as the children of our common Father, the Creator of the universe. The spirit of man, the intelligent ego, is the offspring of God; therefore men and women of all races and kindred and tribes and tongues on the face of the earth are brothers and sisters. It is, then in the spirit of fraternity that we approach you, desiring your welfare now and hereafter. Our mission is one of duty. We have been commanded of God to proclaim His word and will to the world. It is by His divine authority that we act and not in our own name or for personal ends. We entreat you to listen to our words. There have been in all ages some inspired by the Almighty for the benefit of their own race and nation. The light they brought may be likened to that of the stars in the firmament. It was adapted to the times and conditions when they appeared. They all looked forward to a period when greater light and higher truth should be manifest. We declare to you that this greater revelation has come, and we have been commissioned from on high to expound it to you. The power and might and progress of the nations that are called Christian, proclaim the fact that there is something in their faith which is grand and potent for good. But the division and contention existing among various sects into which they are separated, give proof that there is something among them that is wrong and which tends to strife instead of union; to war instead of peace. The truth is that Jesus of Nazareth introduced to the world the divine religion intended to unite all mankind as one family and redeem the earth from evil. Error has crept in among His professed disciples, and darkness has come over the face of the world, and the pure light of heaven has been obscured. The great Eternal God in his infinite mercy, has restored that faith introduced by His Son Jesus Christ, who has reappeared, and once more organized His Church on the earth and conferred authority upon His chosen servants to proclaim the Christian faith in all its simplicity attended by the same authority and power. This is preparatory to the consummation of all things, spoken of by the seers and sages and poets and prophets of all the centuries from the beginning of time. The great Eternal God has spoken out of the heavens and opened up communication between Him and His people. He commands His children in every country, of every class and creed and position and color, to turn from their evil ways, repent of their sins and approach to Him in spirit, also to be baptized by immersion in water by one holding authority from Him for the remission of sins, with the promise that by the laying on of the hands of His deputed messengers, the Holy Ghost shall be bestowed upon all persons who thus obey His word. This will constitute a new birth and open the door of the kingdom of heaven to every obedient soul. By His authority we turn the divine key which opens the kingdom of heaven to the inhabitants of Japan. We say to them all, come to the light which has been shed forth from the Son (Sun) of Righteousness. We offer you blessings that are beyond price. They are not of man nor do they come by the power of man, but they are from heaven where the true and living God dwells and rules in majesty and glory. That which your ancestors received was good and which leads to do good, was but a glimmering of the twilight. We bring to you the truth in all it effulgence, direct from the great luminary of the day. Come to the light and the truth, and walk in the one way the leads to the divine and eternal presence! Then shall your souls be filled with peace and love and joy and you shall learn how to unite with the great empire of righteousness on earth, and hereafter you shall dwell with the just and the redeemed in the immediate presence of our Eternal Father, and your glory and dominion shall be celestial and everlasting.
Your servant for Christ's sake,
Heber J. Grant (Also Published in the Deseret Eve. News, Sept. 5, 1901)

As I have reread this address by President Grant, I have been impressed with how he positioned this message to the Japanese people. I believe we can learn much from how he first introduced the gospel to the Japanese 109 years ago. He has clearly used many of the same principles of teaching we are currently emphasizing to our missionaries today. Of course the message of the gospel and the restoration were the same 109 years ago, but it is wonderful and even inspiring to see the similarities in how he positioned this message, what he felt was important to include, and how we are taught to do the same today.

1) He begins with a bold invitation to listen to the message and come unto Christ.
2) He does not criticize the truth the Japanese already possess. In fact, he builds upon concepts and words the Japanese already understand to share and introduce the message of the restored gospel. He truly teaches for understanding and talks to them from where they are at or from what they currently understand. This is evident in several places, especially in the words he uses to address the people. For example, his usage of the words 'ancestors' and 'empire' are a clear appeal to the understanding of the Japanese of that day.
3) He teaches we are all God's children and brothers and sisters. He defines our relationship with each other and with God. We begin teaching the restoration with that same principle. He teaches that Christ came and established the church and that there was a great apostasy.
4) He boldly testifies of the restoration and continuing revelation and that the authority of God is on the earth today.
5) He introduces right up front Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost as the way to receive forgiveness of sins and come unto Christ. He even states that God commands all to be baptized. We have been instructed to invite our investigators to be baptized and set a goal to work towards baptism in the first lesson we teach them. Understanding the Doctrine of Christ and teaching it is central to all we do. (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End - The first principles and ordinances of the gospel.)
6) He boldly testifies and promises blessings.

There is more, but I just thought I would share a few personal insights. We are grateful for all those missionaries that came before us and the foundation they and the converts in Japan have prepared over the last 109 years. The work goes forth here in Japan and here in the Japan Kobe Mission!

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