Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Mission History, 1949: First Missions to “the Orient”

Mission History, 1949: First Missions to “the Orient”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 10, 2012

A short lesson in the history of missionary work in the Far East, presented to the children of the Church in 1949:










Research by Edith S. Patrick
Artwork by Jerry Sain



  1. This is fascinating on many levels. Thanks, Ardis.

    Comment by Amira — April 10, 2012 @ 7:48 am

  2. Of course. I was looking at this thinking, this is fascinating on so many levels, and then I read Amira’s comment. I love this, Ardis. Are there any more installments? Perhaps they were throwing stones at that missionary in Ceylon because he was so obviously overdressed for the climate.

    Comment by Diana — April 10, 2012 @ 8:38 am

  3. The things I find most interesting:

    1. Mission stories that practically end in failure. You rarely hear such things today, and it happened/happens a lot more than we’d like.

    2. The statement that the fall of the Japanese imperial state leaves people more open to Christianity.

    3. The recognition of the service of Japanese-American Mormons in WWII. Were there Japanese Mormons interned in camps, I wonder?

    Comment by Michael H. — April 10, 2012 @ 8:47 am

  4. Glad you’re enjoying it!

    There are installments about other missions in other places, but this is all there is for Asia. They brought it fairly current (this was drawn in 1949) by bringing it to the post-war era … but obviously all the real story takes place in the two generations since then.

    One of these days Real Soon Now (no fixed date, because I always miss those) I’ve got a tale to tell about the woman I think was the first Church member in Ceylon. If she wasn’t the very first, then she was at least the first to remain faithful for the rest of her life and to pass the faith on to the second and third generations.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  5. I served in Hong Kong in the 1990’s and we learned a little about those first missionaries in 1853. Cool stuff.

    What do you know about the artist Jerry Sain? The Japanese characters written on the board are quite good if they were written by a non native. The style is hard to learn without years of practice, even if you are an artist.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 10, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  6. We often hear about Levi Savage and his role in the Willie handcart company; I’d love to hear more about his missionary experiences in the Orient before he wound up on the ill-fated trek.

    Comment by lindberg — April 10, 2012 @ 11:44 am

  7. I don’t know a thing, Bruce. Some of the pictures — the stoning in Ceylon — must have been drawn from imagination, of course, but at least one — Heber J. Grant in the rickshaw (or whatever it’s called) — is drawn from a photo. I wonder what photos he may have had access to for those characters?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  8. I also enjoyed the statement that the Japanese people “are now ready to receive Christianity.” I guess it’s relative — it was certainly truer in 1949 than in 1924.

    Comment by lindberg — April 10, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  9. So many interesting tidbits. I wish I could have informed the wonderful Japanese folks I encountered on my mission that they had already lost faith in their old religions.

    And good luck sailing from San Bernardino to anywhere!

    Comment by DCL — April 10, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  10. I found the following on Jerry Sain. He did spend some time in Japan in the military. I doubt he could read or write kanji, but at least he would have seen it enough to have some idea how it was supposed to look.–FREDERICK-G-JERRY-SAIN.html

    Comment by lindberg — April 10, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  11. The mass internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans did not include Hawaii, and only about 1% were interned in Hawaii–about 1,200 to 1,400 men and another 1,000 family members who joined them “voluntarily.”

    I don’t know whether any of those in Hawaii were members of the church.

    I know several LDS Japanese-American families who have been in Utah and Idaho for years–since the 1950s at least–but I’ve never asked them whether their families were interned (or maybe I did but I forgot the answer).

    Comment by Mark B. — April 10, 2012 @ 11:56 am

  12. As happens so often, contributions by readers add so much value to the original post. Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  13. Okay; I’ll admit that I looked at the pictures and didn’t read the text before reading the comments. That’s funny about San Bernardino!

    I don’t know about histories of the missions in some of these countries, but there have been a couple of histories written recently about the church in Japan including Reid Neilson’s Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901–1924, which includes some material on the 1853 mission to China.

    Comment by Amy T — April 10, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  14. This is wonderful. Do you know where I might find this in print? My – not sure how many Greats – Grandpa was Chapman Duncan.

    Comment by tonya — April 11, 2012 @ 1:42 am

  15. Tonya, the only printing it ever had, to the best of my knowledge, was its original 1949 publication. I suppose one of the antiquarian Mormon booksellers could keep an eye out for a copy, but it wouldn’t be easily findable, I don’t think.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 11, 2012 @ 3:38 am

  16. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to turn these into an e-book. No copyright, is there?

    Comment by MC — April 12, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  17. My understanding of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, was that as long as they signed a statement renouncing Japanese citizenship (which for most of them meant having no country since the quotas for “Asiatics” was embarrassingly low until the 1950s) as well as an oath denouncing the Japanese Emperor, the divine right of dynasties and vow to not teach their children that tradition.
    (History Detectives did a good job dealing with this in the 2010 season, including the history of the No Nos, who refused to submit to either of the oaths.)
    The other way to avoid being interred was to have ALL of the military age men in your family be US military personnel. A good friend who grew up in Hawaii, shared the experience of a number of members in her stake that shared memories of that time period. Apparently Area Authorities told all young men of Japanese descent, and any who might be mistaken for someone of Japanese descent, (I am guessing all Asians?) that they should prove their love for the gospel and the US by volunteering for military service.

    If I remember all of the details from her research project, which I read about 12 years ago, this was given at a special Priesthood Conference for all Aaronic and Melchezidak priesthood holders, and there were military recruiters at the meeting who signed up almost everyone between 17 and 25.

    She also talked in the paper about families where the women had war time jobs, who sent their children to Utah for safety and because there were so many soldiers in Hawaii. It was a very real problem that girls as young as 12 were being raped by soldiers who only saw them as Asian women and therefore fair game. Both girls who became pregnant from those rapes, and girls who were simply afraid of being assaulted were sent to Mormon relatives or friends, during the war, who then and returned to their families after the war.

    There were several questions raised at the end of the paper as needing more research. The one I was most curious about is what happened to those children of rape by American soldiers. According to the church records, and census records, that she could find, those children of rape did not return with their mothers to Hawaii, and were not listed as children of the mothers on their membership records.

    Sorry if I got a little off topic Ardis. My dad and his twin brother served their missions in Japan in the late 60s, and our family was in contact with a lot of the families who were baptized in Japan. At the time, most of the families he baptized, would leave Japan within a few years, and sometimes just a few months, for Hawaii, the mainland – usually California, or Australia/New Zealand.


    Comment by Julia — September 3, 2012 @ 8:18 am