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Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901–1924
Reid L. Neilson
In 1901 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent its first missionaries to Japan. Just over 20 years later, the Church temporarily retreated from evangelizing in Asia. In Early Mormon Activities in Japan, 1901–1924, author Reid L. Neilson sheds light on why those first representatives were sent to Japan, how they functioned as “strangers in a strange land,” and what led to the church’s brief withdrawal from Japan and the rest of East Asia. He argues that the same nineteenth-century LDS theology, practices, and traditions that gave rise to the early LDS Japan Mission in 1901 were paradoxically also responsible for the eventual demise of the mission in 1924.
Utilizing a case study of the equally ill-fated 1853 LDS mission to China, Neilson works to provide an understanding of why the standard LDS missionary approach of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was so poorly suited for evangelizing non-Christian, non-Western peoples. The unvaried sense of evangelic propriety and practices hindered Mormon missionaries from adapting their message to the new and incredibly different cultures encountered in East Asia. This floundering on the part of church leaders and laity to adapt to the linguistic and cultural differences of Japan resulted in fewer conversions than in other contemporary LDS mission fields, and caused the LDS Japan Mission to struggle in comparison with other Protestant missionary efforts among the Japanese.
Those interested in comparative mission history, the rise of Mormonism and the international LDS church, or early modern East Asian history will find that Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901–1924 offers an extensive account of a not oft-mentioned point in Mormon history.
Reid L. Neilson is an assistant professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and has edited over a dozen academic books on Mormon history.
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations
Part I: Nineteenth-Century Explorations in Asia
1. Mormon Mappings of Asian Religions
2. Mormon Encounters with Asians
3. Euro-American Mormon Missionary Model
Part II: Twentieth-Century Challenges in Japan
4. Opening the Japan Mission
5. Mormon Missionary Practices in Japan
6. Temporary Retreat from Japan
Praise and Reviews:
“A significant contribution to scholarship and the mission history of this era. The work will be important to those interested in comparative mission history, early modern East Asia, and the rise of the international LDS church.”
—Greg Gubler, Brigham Young University, Hawaii
“In the midst of increasing interest in missionary history, the early growth of the Mormon Church, and the internationalization of American religious traditions, this engaging study provides insight into the first attempts to spread LDS beliefs to Japan in the early twentieth century. An important and rich contribution to our understanding of Christian missionary history.”
—Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"An excellent and most interesting book.... Neilson's book is important. The reader gets the opportunity to interact with a fine mind as the writer wrestles with causal factors [of the low level of success of LDS missionaries in Japan.]"
—Utah Historical Quarterly
"Neilson has created one of the few LDS books dealing with Mormon missiology. This book will be of real value to historians who are looking for a solid model of how to study the inner workings of early Mormon missionary work. It may also serve as a beacon to light the path to improving missionary work in foreign lands today."
—BYU Studies Quarterly
"Neilson's achievement in reaching beyond Mormon studies to consider an under-explored episode in Mormon missions history in its broader American hsitorical context is a significant contribution to the field. His narrative is certain to provide non-Mormon scholars with a better understanding of Mormon missionary experience and, in so doing, deepen their understanding of American missionary experience."