“Where do my patriotic feelings fit into the gospel?” Ensign, June 1976, 62–63
Kan Watanabe, area manager of the Translation Services Department of the Church in Japan and Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve I cannot answer this question for each individual, but will describe the situation as I see it in Japan. For a long time the government was run by the military class in Japan with no participation by the average man. After rapid industrialization began in the 1870s, governing power still tended to be held by an oligarchy. The militarism of the 1920s, ’30s, and early ’40s elevated the ideas of patriotism and national feeling to a quasi-religion: State Shinto. After the Pacific War (World War II) there was no opportunity to express love for Japan in the usual ways. State Shinto and militarism were done away with so that now there is a prejudice against people who show the strong national or political feelings that were so common before, and people are reluctant to express their feelings toward our country.
Because of the historical background and the current political atmosphere, not too many members of the Church are participating in politics. Most members vote at the polls, as they are encouraged to do by priesthood leaders. Latter-day Saints in Japan show their feelings of patriotism in a quiet way.
In comparing the United States and Japan, some express the idea that in the U.S. people made their country with their own hands—the “frontier spirit.” Our tradition says that the land of Japan was a gift from the gods and, while this is not accepted by all Japanese today, the idea has permeated the culture for many centuries.
One member expresses his feelings this way: “I love my country. I am proud to be Japanese.”
Another member says, “It is important that Church members understand the true patriotism: we Japanese were purposely born in Japan so we can do something for the other people who were born in this country. We were chosen to be born here. Our commission is to teach the Japanese people, who are very choice, about the gospel.”
That kind of patriotism applies to all members of the Church, everywhere. Those are feelings that stem from the gospel and touch upon our responsibility as children of God.