A Quest to Grasp Mormonism
A new search is about to begin in Tokyo
It was more than forty years ago when an American man opened the door for me. The door had been closed for a long time, too long to see the rest of the world. The chance presented itself abruptly. A man behind the new journey was Mr. Melvin Young, a strict Mormon practitioner, who helped me see the Western world, the United States.
In the summer of 1981, Melvin Young welcomed a group of ten college students from Nagoya, Japan, to participate in the life-changing events including a guide tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City. That was astonishing. Before that, I had never seen so many believers in the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the auditorium and heard them sang a beautiful song in a Sunday morning.
A new experience brought to me some understanding and misunderstanding. At that time misinterpretation outweighed the other to reinforce the resistance. Young Japanese students including myself had never been so religious throughout their early childhood. Religion has somewhat negative connotation among public. The general public didn’t discuss religion. Naturally, a rumor has it to spread among tour participants. Most students were hardly religious and unreligious to boot.
Some members whispered that Mormons didn’t drink a cup of coffee. Most participants from Japan were coffee drinkers, some of them being labeled addicts. Coffee was perceived as Western symbol, not a dangerous or anything. A non-alcohol is a gateway to socialization among college students. A strict abandonment of coffee became a shield to break into mutual understanding.
Coffee shops were almost anywhere around every corner of the street in Nagoya. There were other more strange superstitions, not to describe here in Medium writing section.
On January 8th, 2022, a liberal newspaper in London described its theory behind the Mormon’s struggle to spread its teaching to a global scale. A correspondent explains three challenges facing Mormonism. One is its central nature of power to push a one-size-fits-all. The inclination to the sameness from the central teaching prevents a Mormon church in different locations from adapting to unique cultures embedded in non-Western countries.
The second is the style of a pastor who is generally strict on teaching in Mormonism. Mission followers hardly get off the track.
Thirdly, there is a challenge in localization. Among 16.6m registered Mormons, 40% of members are active, Matt Martinich, a demographer reckons. About 55,000 missionaries are currently serving worldwide. In Provo, Utah, 20,000 are receiving a trading at a small college to go. Sending Americans in church-going culture is insufficient to local marketing, a writer says.
I don’t know if this story is true. It is probably not so significant to answer the question, “Why does Mormonism struggle to retain converts abroad?” Politics and religion are not good topic to discuss but as the time passes, it is unavoidable.
Currently, the corona virus pandemic has separated me from Melvin Young for two years. But when the pandemic disappears and two countries reopen the door, I will be starting a new search in Tokyo.