Matthew Cowley, Conference Report October 1949, pp. 45-49
I am indeed grateful, my brethren and sisters and friends, to be back again in a general conference of the Church. During the past eight months I have visited the Hawaiian Mission, the Central Pacific Mission, the Australian Mission, the New Zealand Mission, the Tongan Mission, the Samoan Mission, the Japanese Mission, and in company with President Robertson and President Aki, we officially opened a mission at Hong Kong, China.
SINCERITY OF MISSIONARIES
I have visited with every missionary in the respective missions who was there at the time of my visit. I have heard the testimonies of these young men and women, and I wish I could relay to you the language of sincerity and conviction which these young missionaries are carrying to the world. If there was ever a day in the history of this sorry old world when we needed to hear the voice of conviction and the language of sincerity, this is the time, and in all the world's confusion it is not only inspiring but refreshing to hear hundreds of our men and our women speaking a language of sincerity to all who will listen. I have heard their testimonies, and I have been inspired.
I have heard the testimonies of some who have said that their own parents were not very active in the Church. If any of those parents are within the sound of my voice, I trust that you will from this very moment sustain your sons and daughters by your own activity, by your own devotion to the Church while they are out in the world at your expense, giving their all in testifying that the gospel has been restored.
In China, at Hong Kong, on the fourteenth of July, in company with President Robertson and his wife and daughter, President Aki and his wife, and my wife, we went upon what is known as The Peak, the highest eminence overlooking the beautiful city of Hong Kong, and on to the mainland of China, and there we officially opened the mission by a brief service, each of us praying in turn. I will never forget the prayer of Brother Henry Aki, who, as he stood there, facing his homeland, with its four hundred and sixty-five million inhabitants, poured out his soul to God that he might be the means of bringing salvation to his kindred people. What great odds, brothers and sisters, one man holding the priesthood of God among four hundred and sixty-five million of his race! I was never so impressed with the preciousness of the priesthood of God as I was when that dear Chinese brother, who felt the burden that was upon him, implored God to bring salvation to his people.
In our prayers we included by reference the dedicatory prayer offered by President McKay in 1921, I think it was, when he asked God to open up the way for the gospel to be brought to that great nation. We will need missionaries for China—those who are willing to serve among a people who have not yet received the light and knowledge of the gospel.
OPPORTUNITIES IN JAPAN
In Japan we have one of the greatest opportunities for missionary service I have ever heard of or read of in the history of this Church. While I was there, we had twenty-seven missionaries in all of Japan among eighty million people, and coming to the services held by those twenty-seven missionaries were twenty-one hundred people, and they were coming to the missionaries; the missionaries were not seeking them out as we do in other missions of the Church. We would have the same results if we had three hundred missionaries among those eighty million people.
In the city of Tokyo I attended a conference at which we had five hundred in attendance. Possibly only fifty at that conference were members of the Church. We had a choir of ninety voices, young men and women who came about a hundred miles by bus to sing at the conference. They sang our hymns and our anthems, and not one of those ninety young men and women was yet a member of the Church. Some have joined since.
The director of our choir in Tokyo, a graduate of Cambridge University, a successful business man, directed the choir, made up of members and non-members, and it was just as good as many of the choirs I have heard here at home.
CITY OF SHIBATA
President Clissold and I went on one of our trips to the city of Shibata. The mayor of the city heard that we were coming, and after attending to some business with a gentleman about four miles from Shibata, we went into the mayor's office, and he asked us to come with him. We followed him upstairs over a bank building to a large chamber, and there assembled were one hundred and six of the leading businessmen and civic leaders of the city. He had phoned them and gone out to see them to bring them in to hear the ministers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After he introduced us,
he asked us to speak to those people as we saw fit. With the aid of an interpreter I bore my testimony. President Clissold spoke in Japanese, and at the conclusion of our talks the mayor said to the people: "Ladies and gentlemen, these are the representatives of the Church which we want established here in the city of Shibata." And he said to us: "Send immediately, missionaries," and the following week two missionaries were sent there, a Hawaiian sister and a Nisei Japanese sister from Hawaii who were there on missions.
The mayor of the city has turned over to them a big assembly room in another bank building, and he said: "They can use that until we have a chapel in the city of Shibata."
One of the wealthy men of the city has turned his home over to them as a residence, and in that residence they are holding cottage meetings.
Just outside the city of Shibata there is a man named Mr. Ichishima, who was the second largest landowner in Japan prior to the war. When we visited him, he had with him his banker, his lawyer, and two or three others, and after they had held a meeting together for an hour or so, they joined President Clissold and me, and Mr. Ichishima made a formal offer of his seventeen hundred acres, which surround his home, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for some project, school or otherwise. We told him we could not accept it without consulting the Authorities of the Church, and then he said: "Well, send missionaries immediately, not next month, not next year, but immediately."
And so the following week two missionaries were sent to Mr. Ichishima's home, and he turned part of his home over to them as a residence.
When President Mauss arrived in Japan, President Clissold took him to Tennen Shinden to show him this land, this estate. Mr. Ichishima met them at the railway station. The first thing he said to President Clissold was: "We had two hundred and fourteen out to church last Sunday—two hundred and fourteen!"
On his land is a private chapel which belongs to the estate, a Buddhist chapel, and they have boarded off the figure of Buddha and are using it as a chapel for our Church. Mr. Ichishima is the organist for the services. I believe it will not be long before he joins the Church.
REHABILITATION OF PEOPLE
I could go on, brothers and sisters, and tell you about the way these people are coming to our missionaries to study the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have this new freedom offered by the occupation government, and they are trying to make the most of it.
They are receiving the occupation forces of the United States, not as conquerors, but as deliverers, and it is magnificent the way they cooperate with General MacArthur and his forces in rehabilitating their country which was practically destroyed by our bombs. I never once felt a spirit or an undercurrent of opposition to our American forces, and I never heard one member of the occupation forces say an unkind word about the Japanese people. I thank God for General MacArthur who tries to understand the people, who knows as Lincoln knew that the best way to defeat our enemies is to make friends of them. And that is what the Americans are trying to do in Japan.
We have a marvelous opportunity there. The people will join the Church there if we give them the missionaries. They want to know the gospel.
They have a ladies' dressmaking school in the city of Tokyo. There are three hundred women attending this school, and they have invited a missionary to come over twice a week and teach the gospel to the school. So one of our young Nisei brothers goes over twice a week to hold an assembly of the three hundred women. He teaches the gospel to them in a meeting which lasts an hour and a half twice a week.
We have orphanages there where we are teaching Sunday Schools every Sunday morning. We have a school there at which one of the elders teaches English, and the head of the school said: "You may teach your gospel along with your English."
It is almost unbelievable, the work our missionaries are doing among the Japanese. They have been released from their allegiance to the emperor as a divine personage, and the people want to make the best of the opportunities which Christianity affords and which the freedom we have to give them affords.
I hope that we will do what Brother Merrill suggests, that we will preserve the heritage which we have. Confusion reigns all over this world. I wonder today what kind of valley we would have here now had there existed in the days of our pioneers the spirit which exists among men and women today, this spirit of wanting more and more for doing less and less.
I thought of the pioneers when I was in Japan. When I would arise in the morning, I would see those people out in their rice paddies and their little wheat fields, working from before daylight until after dark at night; it was a hive of industry; there was no idleness, no one looking to anyone else for support or for a livelihood, but all looking to the work of their own hands. And I prayed that the way would be opened for them to receive the means and the ways for bringing temporal salvation to them, eighty million people in an area the size of the state of California.
SUSTAINING OF MISSIONARIES
I testify to you, my brothers and sisters, that the Spirit of God is with your missionaries. They are teaching truth, and they know it. They are paying their own expenses or their people are paying their expenses. You cannot question that kind of sincerity.
It is a sad thing, my brothers and sisters, to hear people say in their testimonies, while they are giving their all for the Church, that in their own homes there are some who are not living the gospel and are not sustaining them in the positions which they hold. Let us begin this business of sustaining one another in our own homes. There is a power of regeneration (Matt. 19:28) in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It lifts us up if we will obey it.
I saw Japanese creating pearls at the Mikamoto Pearl Farm in Japan. I saw them injuring an oyster and from that injury creating a beautiful pearl. That can be done with human souls. Some of us may be damaged; some of us may have within ourselves foreign matter, foreign influences, but if we take within ourselves some of that live tissue of Christ—as they take from a live oyster and place in another one, killing the one to produce pearls in the other—if we do that, brothers and sisters, we can make ourselves and those who are not working in the Church, those who are not active in our own homes, pearls of great price (Matt. 13:46). That is the gospel plan.
God grant that we may respond to it, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.