“Conference in Taiwan,” Ensign, Oct. 1975, 92–93
The Chinese are familiar with wise men, for great teachers have appeared in every dynasty and influenced the succeeding centuries. But the idea of a man actually being able to communicate directly with God is new. China, founded on Buddhist and Taoist traditions, does not trace the lineage of its culture to the biblical system of prophets and patriarchs. Although today nearly everyone has heard the words “Bible” and “Jesus Christ,” few have heard the word “Prophet.” The missionaries have spent hours trying to explain what a prophet is, the nature and importance of his calling. But recently they have been able to conclude their explanations with the invitation, “Come and see for yourself.”
Near the end of May, when the area conference was announced, the planning and preparation were taken over completely by the local leadership. A major planning council of twenty members was called, the mission president acting only as an adviser. To fulfill their responsibility, the council met for a two-hour session each week for two months. They secured the meeting facilities, arranged for out-of-town members to stay with members in the Taipei area, and rented “conference buses” for members in the southern part of the island. The council also took care of publicity, set up press conferences and interviews for the General Authorities, ensured the attendance of high government and civic leaders, and arranged for President Kimball and others to meet with several heads of state. The entire conference was broadcast island-wide over radio, and President Kimball’s address was televised.
A controlled enthusiasm and excitement were evident at the council meetings. At the final meeting, Mission President Thomas P. Nielson expressed his gratitude: “I’ve known for many years the greatness of the Chinese people and the strength of their leaders. From the beginning of this project I’ve never worried. When the Prophet asks me who prepared this conference, I will tell him it has been the Chinese leaders, all of you.”
Under the guidance of these able priesthood brethren, the Saints of Taiwan were prepared to meet the Prophet. Announcements were made incessantly. Branch leaders strove to contact every member, that this rare opportunity might not be lost. Choirs were formed in the larger branches, with members of smaller branches joining these efforts.
Typical of the energy of the choir members is Chou Weihwa, director of the North District choir and a convert of seven years. He successfully directed the choir in an inspiring rendition of Handel’s “Messiah,” sung in English. “God has given us a big challenge, but he has also given us great blessings. The music is difficult, but as we put forth our effort God will bless us even more,” he repeatedly said at practices.
When the opening day of conference came, over 2,500 members, missionaries, investigators, and other guests filled the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall with an increasingly expectant mood. The expectations were not in vain. Words came alive under the voices of the General Authorities.
Elder Theodore M. Burton delivered a pertinent talk on “the best and true way to revere ancestors”: genealogy and temple work. Elder Adney Y. Komatsu gave his encouragement to those who encounter family and tradition problems because of their testimonies. President Marion G. Romney talked on prayer and revelation. “Just as there are many types of prayer, so there are many types of revelation … revelation is the method by which God talks to man.”
Between sessions the hours were full. President Ezra Taft Benson was the guest speaker at a special “prayer breakfast” held by thirty top Chinese and American officials. His address was penetrating and personal as he recounted some of his experiences and bore testimony of a living God. In the afternoon, President Spencer W. Kimball arrived from Hong Kong with other General Authorities. They were joyously received by a large crowd of Chinese members—“a gracious and respectful mobbing,” as one elder put it. After a press conference at the Grand Hotel, President Kimball, President Benson, and Brother David Kennedy were taken to meet Yen Chia-Kan, president of the Republic of China. Together they spent forty-five minutes discussing genealogy and the role of the family. President Kimball also explained the Church Welfare System, which impressed President Yen, who pointed out similarities between it and the operation of some of the ancient family clans. President Yen was presented with a beautiful, white, leather-bound edition of the Book of Mormon.
Thursday night, August 14, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was an enormous fusion reactor of people and anticipation. All eyes were fixed on President Spencer W. Kimball as he arose to speak. He spoke as a prophet. There was no indirectness or hesitancy. He explained the purpose of the temple to be built in Japan. “You, too, can have one,” he said. He elaborated on his theme of missionary work. “We expect hundreds of your local young men” to serve on missions. He touched upon service. “We receive blessings, then we go give blessings.” He preached the gospel with authority, then said in closing, “We leave the blessings of the Lord upon you, your posterity, and upon this land.”
After a tearful closing song, some remained in their seats as the hall emptied, looking at the abandoned stage.
“I don’t know how to explain it. I feel so good inside.”
“This is all I had hoped, except I had hoped it would never end.”
Investigators, too, were impressed. “I didn’t understand all he said, but I felt something new and peaceful.”
“Who is this man? I’ve never heard things like these before.”
Many lingered outside, immersed in a special spirit of reunion, fellowship, and testimony.
In the morning President Kimball and the other General Authorities were at the airport, vigorous and smiling. “The great man first sets the example, then invites others to follow it,” says a Chinese proverb. The example is challenging.
After a flurry of firm handshakes and brief exchanges of warm words, they were gone. Korea is a four-hour flight away. “We leave with you our appreciation, love, and blessings.” A prophet of God had visited the Chinese people.