Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Scallywags to Its Ranks,” 1901

“Scallywags to Its Ranks,” 1901

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 06, 2014

11 December 1901

The Mormons

Tokyo. — A Mormon prophet of the name of Heber J. Grant and three Elders, one of them a boy of 19, are at present staying in the Hotel Metropole here, but will soon move to a house close by, as they have received official permission to preach, on the express condition that they do not preach polygamy, and as they consequently intend to remain here a number of years. They are all merchants, able to pay their way, and their outward appearance differs in nowise from that of average laymen. But it is impossible to remain near them long without learning who they are, for they seem to be anything but ashamed of their belief and are eagerly on the lookout for converts, – European or Japanese, it’s all the same to them. In the evenings they sometimes take possession of the Hotel piano and sing inoffensive religious songs of the “Holy City” type until they imagine that they have worked the audience up to the proper degree of fevour [fervor?] whereupon they venture a little further and exhort people in general (in alleged poetry) to “Judge not harshly,” etc., etc., the concluding hymns being tearful appeals for tolerance and, if possible, sympathy (for the poor, dear Mormons, of course, although the sect is never mentioned by name).

The European Press here is unfavourable, on the whole, to the newcomers, not so much I should think because of any extraordinary orthodoxy on the part of the European journalist, as of influence brought to bear on able editors by Christian missionaries already in possession. This is, however, only a surmise of mine. The “Mail” is particularly Mormonphobe and even wanted the Japanese Government to refuse the Apostle and his elders permission to preach. It contended that, even though the Mormons promised not to publicly inculcate it, polygamy was one of their articles of belief and their converts would soon come to understand that, and to act accordingly. I might here mention that only one of the Mormons is married. This one is the “Apostle”and he frequently takes visitors to see the photographs of his two wives and his numerous offspring which are hanging (the photographs of course, not the wives; they have not come to Japan) on the wall of the “apostolical” apartment.

There seems to be absolutely no reason for the Christian missionaries to trouble themselves about the Mormon propaganda, as that “religion” can never have any attraction for the Japanese and will only succeed in gaining scallywags to its ranks, if it has any chance even with scallywags. The latent religious mania which makes some Europeans fall victims to the Mormons is altogether absent in the hard, worldly, rationalistic Japs.



  1. With no information as to who the author is, at least he/she owns up to being a “mormonphobe,” as the article indicates. I am assuming, but don’t know for sure, that “the Mail” referred to is the Daily Mail, the tabloid first established in the UK in 1896, and is either a reporter, or someone writing a letter to the paper, from Japan. That must have then been picked up and reprinted in the North China Herald, which according to that fount of curious workmanship Wikipedia, appears to have been targeted initially to the expat community in China, and to some extent plays on stereotypes in general. For instance, does anyone think that “the hard, worldly, rationalistic Japs” isn’t just another way of saying “inscrutable?”

    Comment by kevinf — March 6, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

  2. Maybe “fevour” was his (or the North China Herald’s) way of spelling fever. Too many years as an expat will do that to the best of spellers.

    I’m putting my money on the China Mail, published in Hong Kong from 1845 to 1974.

    And the “boy of 19” was Alma Taylor, who would remain for over a decade, translate the Book of Mormon into Japanese, and become the mission president before finally returning home.

    The best line in the letter, of course, is his clarification that it’s the pictures, and not the wives, that are hanging in the apostolical quarters.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 6, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

  3. Fascinating! (Thanks, too, Kevin. Upon finishing the article, I kept thinking, “Who wrote that?!”)

    Comment by David Y. — March 7, 2014 @ 12:34 am

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