When Heber J. Grant returned from a two-week vacation in Pacific Grove, California, in February 1901, the news he heard at first seemed favorable. One of his associates in the Quorum of the Twelve, Francis M. Lyman, had been asked to preside over the Church’s European Mission. Elder Grant congratulated himself that “missionary lightning had once more escaped me,” “heaved a sigh of relief,” and embraced Lyman in mock celebration.
Since Grant’s appointment as a General Authority, rumors had often circulated about a forthcoming proselytizing mission. Each time, however, the reports died stillborn. During the 1880s, the Church and its opponents warred relentlessly on theological, political, and even commercial terrain, and Elder Grant’s business acumen was repeatedly deemed too important to the Utah scene to allow a foreign assignment.
The repose given to Elder Grant by Lyman’s assignment to the Liverpool office was short-lived. Two days after his return from California, during the General Authorities’ regular temple meeting, he heard George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, announce the decision to open a new mission in Japan. “The moment he made this remark,” Grant later recalled, “I felt impressed that I would be called to open up this mission.” This prescience, however, brought a flood of reasons why he should reject the call. The Panic of 1893 and its subsequent depression had crippled his finances. He calculated his net worth to be a negative $30,000. Moreover, he had co-signed financial notes making him responsible for another $100,000 in nonpersonal debt. Because of his strained circumstance, neither of his wives had a home of her own, while his mother’s house was mortgaged to assist with his obligations.
As President Cannon continued for twenty-five minutes, Grant quietly weighed financial and religious commitments. Then came the call he expected from Cannon: “We hear that Brother Grant has overcome all his great financial difficulties and has announced that he is going to take a trip around the world to celebrate his financial freedom, and we have decided to stop him half way around at Japan, to preside.”
Having extended a call to Grant, President Cannon yielded to President Lorenzo Snow, who, since becoming the Church’s prophet, seer, and revelator in 1898, had slashed at every unnecessary expenditure to save money. Fearing that Elder Grant’s precarious finances might somehow encumber the Church, President Snow had some specific questions in mind.First he wanted to know whether President Cannon had accurately quoted the Apostle about touring the world.
“Heber, did you make that statement?”
“Yes, I did, but there was an extra word in it, and the word was ‘if.’” Grant had no plans to leave if he was unable to retire the rest of his debt.
“Well, then, you are not free?”
“No, I am not free, I owe a few dollars.”
President Snow wanted specifics. “Well, what are you making?”
“A little better than $5,000 a year.”
“Can you afford to lose that $5,000 for three years while you are in Japan?”
“Yes, I can.”
In later years, Grant’s memory of this incident remained very much alive. “[President Snow] tried for ten minutes to get something out of me [about my debts] and could not do it,” Grant remembered.
Finally I said, “President Snow, with the blessing of the Lord I think I can arrange all my affairs to go on this mission, . . . and it will be time enough for me to come and tell you I cannot when I feel in my heart I can’t.”
“The Lord bless you, my boy,” said President Snow, obviously pleased. “We will give you a whole year. You go right to work and fix up your affairs to go on this mission.”
As the meeting concluded, President Snow assured Grant that if he worked diligently, he “would accomplish a greater labor than any I had ever accomplished before in my life” and hinted that China might soon be opened for proselytizing as well as Japan.
The decision to launch a Far East mission had not come precipitously. As early as 1851, when Salt Lake City was not much more than a pioneer outpost, the First Presidency had written that “the way is fast preparing for the introduction of the Gospel into China, Japan, and other nations.”Nine years later Brigham Young dispatched Walter Murray Gibson to Japan, but the missionary stopped en route in Hawaii, where his religious impulses receded and he carved for himself a political career.
Curiously, there had also been contacts between Church leaders and high-level Japanese leaders. In spring 1871, Salt Lake Stake President Angus Cannon met Prince Itō Hirobumi as they traveled together on the Union Pacific. Already a major actor in Meiji politics, Itō would later serve as a special envoy, as a proconsul, and several times as prime minister.During their several-day journey across the Great Plains, the Japanese minister repeatedly inquired after Mormonism. “He listened most attentively . . . and expressed a desire to learn more,” Cannon reported.
Even more auspicious, Church leaders in 1872 had cordial discussions with members of the high-ranking Iwakura mission. Headed by Prince Iwakura Tomomi and composed of over one hundred Japanese government leaders and functionaries making a reconnaissance of the United States and Europe, the traveling embassy became snowbound in Utah for two weeks. With nothing else to do, they visited Utah points of interest, attended Latter-day Saint religious services, and called on several prominent Church leaders, including Brigham Young, Speaker of the House John Taylor, and Lorenzo Snow, then president of the Legislative Council. Snow recalled that their visit was “very pleasant,” and the officials “expressed considerable wonderment as to why we had not sent missionaries to Japan.” The diaries of several of the visitors as well as the embassy’s official five-volume report contained little of the prejudice normally accorded Mormons of the period.
Subsequent contacts ensued. In 1888 the Japanese Consul at San Francisco, Koya Saburō, visited the territory, followed the next year by another party of dignitaries.Seven years later, when Elder Abraham H. Cannon, Grant’s associate in the Quorum of the Twelve, called on Koya, he was urged to open a Latter-day Saint mission in Japan. Considering the favorable opinion of Utah held by Prime Minister Itō, Cannon said, Koya “thought it very probable that we might secure permission to preach the Gospel in Japan without any government interference; in fact his people are anxious to hear the Christian religion proclaimed, as they have an idea that the success of the English-speaking people is due to their language and their religion.”
All this was prologue to Elder Grant’s call. At the time of his selection, he was forty-four years old, the husband of two plural wives (a third had died seven years earlier), and a leading businessman. He was president of the State Bank of Utah, the Salt Lake Theatre Company, three insurance companies, and the Cooperative Wagon and Machine Company, one of the largest retail outlets in the territory. In addition, Grant served as chairman of the Utah Sugar Company and Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, which were two leading Utah businesses, and was a board or committee member of a half dozen other organizations.
Grant had left school while a teenager, and the hectic pace of his business life had subsequently given him little opportunity for reading and reflection. At the time of his call, he was the only Apostle who had not served a regular proselytizing mission.Most had served several. All these circumstances left Grant feeling unprepared and inadequate. “I do not know when anything has struck me much harder than being called to Japan,” he confided. “I really dreaded being called to the British mission . . . , but I look upon the European mission in comparison to opening up the work in Japan, as a picnic on the one hand and a great labor on the other. However, I shall go and do the best I possibly can.”
Part of Elder Grant’s hesitancy, of course, could be explained by his finances, which he set about to improve within an hour or two after the meeting of the Twelve. Locking his bedroom door, he prayed for relief. “I told the Lord I did not want to wait until tomorrow morning to make some money, but I wanted to put in that afternoon making a little.” An impression came. “Get the Sugar Company to pay a stock dividend, that they can pay the same [money] dividend on the watered stock as they were doing on the original.”
The Utah Sugar Company, founded only a decade earlier to provide Utah’s farmers with a much needed cash crop, was at last reaping large profits, which in turn fueled ever increasing stock splits, higher dividends, and feverish speculation. Although the company’s reserves hardly warranted the action, Grant hoped for another round of share splitting and dividend boosting. With the board scheduled to meet the following day, the timing was exquisite. After concluding his meditation, he hired a buggy and went to entreat the Salt Lake City–based directors, informing them of his mission call to Japan and pointedly reminding them how in the early 1890s he had gone into debt to support the company, only to face the onslaught of the great panic. The next day the board unanimously approved Grant’s proposals and his securities jumped $16,000, an increase that temporarily left him incredulous. Catching his breath, during the next several weeks he further speculated in the stock and reaped enough profit to pay all his debts, including a $13,000 note that he had owed for over twenty years.
With his finances under control, Grant turned to organizing his mission. He hand-picked three men to go with him. First, he requested the twenty-nine-year-old Horace S. Ensign, who had earlier served as his private secretary and most recently had returned from a three-year mission in Colorado. In addition to his business and church experience, Ensign possessed a magnificent baritone voice that Grant hoped would attract Japanese attention.Second, he selected the mustachioed, bespectacled Louis A. Kelsch, who after his conversion to the Church had filled missions to the Southern States, the Pacific Northwest, England, and Germany. Since 1896 he had presided over the Northern States Mission, whose headquarters were in Chicago. Elder Kelsch accepted Grant’s invitation with alacrity. Finally, Grant asked Alma O. Taylor, an eighteen-year-old living in his own Salt Lake City congregation, to join the mission. Taylor, who was cherubic-faced but serious-minded, had studied at Chicago Harvey Medical College and worked in his family’s undertaking business. Upon receipt of his call, Taylor sought Japanese-language textbooks and began studying Buddhist philosophy.
These four men constituted what became known as the “Japanese Quartet,” the first wave of the intended Latter-day Saint missionary force to Japan (illus. 11-1). It was hoped that they would “go on ahead,” Grant noted, “look over the country, see what we can do, and if everything is all right and conditions are propitious we will then send for our wives and will probably need more Elders.”During this first stage, the missionaries planned to spend a year learning the language and then begin proselytizing.
Grant approached his mission in his usual ambitious style. He first planned to ask his business and banking friends in New York to prevail on United States President William McKinley to speak to the Japanese ambassador on his behalf. Perhaps the ambassador would in turn write favorable letters of recommendation. In another idea variation still more bold, Grant considered the possibility of getting himself appointed to head the American legation in Tokyo. But his fellow General Authorities vetoed these and other ideas as too extravagant, advising that the mission start out in a “humble way.”
Shortly after 11:00 P.M. on July 24, 1901, Grant and his companions boarded the train for Portland, en route to Japan. The date had not come by chance. Suggestive of the weight that the Mormon community placed upon the mission, Grant had chosen to start on Pioneer Day, the anniversary of Brigham Young’s 1847 entrance into the Salt Lake Valley. Because of the possibility of cohabitation prosecution, neither of Grant’s wives was there to see him off. There was, however, a partially compensating crowd of one hundred and fifty friends and relatives, including Grant’s mother, Rachel; eight of his ten children; and six of the General Authorities, all of whom partially compensated for his wives’ absence. As the train pulled away from the station, Grant claimed he had never been happier in his life. He was now, with the support and love of hundreds of friends and relatives, off to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ to Japan.
Months before Elder Grant’s arrival in Japan, the mainline Protestant clergy had planned a major campaign to mark the turn of the new century in Japan. In early 1901 they began with a series of neighborhood prayer meetings in the nation’s largest cities. These failed to stir enthusiasm. But when the Whitsunday festivals began in early summer, their program gained momentum. To advertise their planned revivals, the staid ministers adopted the flamboyant methods of the Salvation Army, which had entered Japan only recently. The Protestants placed notices of their meetings in newspapers and posted eye-catching placards. They canvassed house-to-house, extending special invitations to those who were thought to be open to Christian influence. Capping their preparations, an hour or two before their scheduled meeting they hoisted banners and lanterns along the street, loudly chanted Christian hymns, and distributed broadsides.
Although the Protestants’ “Forward Evangelistic Campaign” earned a relatively small harvest for a nation of forty million, most clergymen were buoyed. They had been about their task since at least the mid-1870s, when the government had granted the Christians religious tolerance, but gains were always hard won. During the last decade, progress had become still more difficult. Part of the problem lay with Meiji policy. When the nation ended its self-imposed isolation and embraced Western culture, some government leaders had equated Christianity with material progress and had looked upon the ministers with favor. But by the 1890s Japan again turned inward. The popular watchwords of the time became: “Down with frivolous Europeanization!” “Keep to our national heritage!” “Japan for the Japanese!”
These were not the only conditions working against the missionaries. The setting of rural Japan was especially restrictive. There, tenant farmers who comprised half of the nation’s population until the middle of the twentieth century were fettered by feudal social structures and the historic family system, both of which were reformulated and given new life during the period of anti-Christian reaction. Religious and social change became increasingly difficult, with many Christian congregations, which had begun optimistically only a few years earlier, waning and eventually closing. Even in the more fluid urban society, there were challenges. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the nation’s military expenditures exacted heavy and impoverishing levies. Under this burden, some former Christian converts, who had hoped that their new faith would assist them in getting ahead, recanted. Thus, at the very time that the Latter-day Saints launched their mission, despite the Protestants’ public clamor and mass rallies, the Christian churches were aﬄicted by decreased attendance at their mission schools, slower conversion rates, and widespread apostasy.
Part of the problem lay with the Christian missionaries themselves, who too often failed to separate their own Western and national ways from their Christian message. Many Japanese bridled under such ethnocentrism, complaining that the Christian churches were “mere importations,” with titles, organizations, methods, and teachings that had “nothing to do with the interests or needs of the Japanese.”All this created stony soil. When Grant and his companions approached Japan, Christianity had at best a toehold. The Greek Orthodox denomination may have had thirty thousand Japanese members; the Roman Catholics, fifty-five thousand (many of these descended from families who had practiced Christianity underground for three hundred years); and the Protestants, who had been most active since the Meiji Restoration, seventy thousand. Taken together, the Christian population constituted a little more than one-third of 1 percent, and, given the ephemeral discipleship of many Japanese, even these figures were probably inflated.
* * *
Yet this did not stop Grant and his fellow laborers (illus. 11-2). Early in the morning of August 12, land was sighted, and at 10:00 A.M. the Empress of India dropped anchor at Yokohama on the western coast of Tokyo Bay’s expansive waters. Quarantine checks required about an hour, following which the “Japanese Quartet” took a steam launch for shore. For Grant, their arrival came none too soon. “I said good bye to the Empress of India without any regrets,” he said.He had been seasick much of the way.
Several days after landing, the missionaries found themselves in the center of a growing controversy. Learning that a local boardinghouse had turned them away because they were Mormons, a Yokohama newspaper charged the innkeeper with religious “fanaticism.” Another journal quickly defended the act, with charges and countercharges soon filling the press.“A heavy war is raging,” wrote Alma Taylor only eight days after the missionaries’ arrival. While many of the newspaper features were “severe” or “slanderous” against the missionaries, the dispute in Taylor’s mind, nevertheless brought invaluable publicity.
During the following weeks, Grant worked long hours defending the Church in the press. Not understanding the toil involved in composition, he grew frustrated that his writing required time-consuming draft after time-consuming draft. “I have never felt my own lack of literary knowledge so keenly as since I came here,” he confided to his Utah friends.And as he had so often expressed since the beginning of his mission, he also lamented his unfamiliarity with the finer points of Latter-day Saint theology. He found topics such as original sin and the Church’s view of premortal life “difficult to fully explain.”
With newspaper publicity came letters and visitors, the receipt of which soon began to be a part of the missionaries’ daily routine. While claiming a lively interest in the missionaries’ religious message, many of their visitors, once their motives were searched more deeply, seemed merely curious about the Americans. Others revealed what appeared to be a crass self-interest, seeking position, salary, or the opportunity to sharpen their English language skills.
This experience was certainly a factor in Grant’s decision to vacate Yokohama for Tokyo, which, it was reported, had “fewer foreigners, a higher class of natives, a more religious sentiment, and by far better instructors in the language and much cheaper living.”Thus, two months after the missionaries had debarked, they secured accommodations in Tokyo’s leading hotel, the eleven-year-old Metropole, and settled into an established routine.
During his mission, Grant studied as he had never before. He read and reread the standard scriptural works, Church history and apologetics, Christian homilies, and several books dealing with Japanese history and culture. In candid moments he admitted that such a steady diet of studying was “just about the hardest thing on earth for me to do,” though on other occasions he put forward the best possible face.
But no amount of good cheer could camouflage the distress he felt over the Japanese language; its unusual syntax and thousands of Chinese ideographs posed a massive challenge for the tone-deaf Grant.Though he toiled hundreds of hours studying the language and eventually compiled a detailed, one-hundred-page notebook filled with Japanese vocabulary, his progress was virtually nil. “I do not seem to be able to remember anything that I learn and even the words that I have learned when I hear someone else use them I do not recognize,” he complained. For such an achievement-oriented man, who preached the universal virtue of pluck and application, the unyielding, flint-hard language exacted a heavy emotional toil. With considerable pain, he finally reconciled himself to his language failure and devoted himself to what seemed more profitable pursuits.
Yet the language study of his colleagues continued, and on the missionaries’ move to Tokyo, Grant hired their prime Japanese investigator, Hiroi T., whom they had met in Yokohama, to serve as tutor. But the man’s talents failed to speed the younger men’s progress, and Taylor and Ensign argued for living among the Japanese in order to learn the language. Grant was reluctant. From the beginning, he had hoped that the mission could “start at the top” with the country’s more influential citizenry. That would require learning “standard” or literary Japanese and not the dialects of the people.
The tension between the missionaries and their leader unsettled Grant. He slept fitfully four nights in the middle of November, and he admitted to friends back in Utah that, while he seldom was attacked with “the blues,” he could “almost get up an attack this morning and not half try.”With Ensign and Taylor increasingly restive and even demanding, Grant finally yielded to having the missionaries learn the language among the people, though the decision went against his better judgment.
Grant’s decision was confirmed the next day by what seemed a cold and distant letter from the First Presidency that appeared to contradict everything he had done since arriving in Japan. The missionaries were told to avoid newspaper controversy and to mingle among the people, and, in Elder Grant’s case, they were pointedly instructed to resume language study.“I would have appreciate[d] ONE word of approval,” he lamented, “but as it was not written I had to accept it as an evidence that there was none to give.” His reaction probably owed as much to his own emotional state as to the letter’s actual contents. Obviously written in haste and without full attention to Grant’s various reports, it gave offense where none was intended. Nevertheless, he hastened to implement its directions. “I know that to obey is the only way for an apostle,” he told a friend. He and Kelsch secured accommodations at a nearby boardinghouse, while Ensign and Taylor moved to a hotel catering to the Japanese trade.
Before their separation, the missionaries had entertained at Hiroi’s request two men of unusual demeanor, Miyazaki Toranosuke and Takahashi Gorō. Miyazaki, the scion of a prominent family, who would later distinguish himself as the self-proclaimed “Messiah-Buddhist,” a spiritual leader who mixed Christian primitivism with the native culture.But it was Takahashi who clearly attracted Grant’s eye. He had already gained the Saints’ confidence by publishing on his own initiative a defense of their mission in the Sun, a leading Japanese periodical. Takahashi spoke English well, read Hebrew and French, and even understood some Egyptian. He had distinguished himself as an educator, a lexicographer, a translator of the Protestant New Testament edition, and a prominent Christian polemicist. While resisting Grant’s pleas to convert, Takahashi volunteered to write a book introducing the Latter-day Saint missionaries and their message to the Japanese public.
There were other impressive investigators, too. In mid-February 1902, Grant and the other missionaries dined at the home of Ichiki S., who, according to Taylor, had “figured prominently in many of the wars in Japan especially during the troubles of the Meiji restoration.” Also present were Miyasaki and a Mr. Suyenaga, a newspaper editor. The Japanese appeared drawn to Latter-day Saint teachings, especially to the missionaries’ description of Mormon economics and group life in the many villages established in the Intermountain West. Ichiki and his friends promised to arrange a hearing for the Utahns before a group of literati drawn from the national press and members of the lower house of the national Diet.
Ichiki’s presence was obviously formidable. Hiroi, who claimed to know him well, noted that in his circle Ichiki “speaks and the rest obey” and reported that the man “executes whatever he decides to do no matter how hard or what the odds.” Takahashi, obviously overwhelmed, found Ichiki to be “a man such as is rarely found in Japan.”
Suddenly, almost in spite of themselves and certainly contrary to the low-profile language-training mission they had at first conceived, the missionaries seemed on the verge of considerable success. The momentum continued when Nakazawa Hajime, who described himself as a Shintō priest with influence over fifteen hundred followers, appeared at Grant’s rooms. In previous visits Nakazawa had expressed dissatisfaction with his religion and voiced a desire to investigate the Church. When his superiors learned of his conduct, they severely rebuked him and eventually expelled him from his order.This hastened his search for the truth. On March 8, 1902, Nakazawa became the missionaries’ first formal convert, baptized along the shoreline of Tokyo Bay.
Other candidates were also petitioning for baptism. Attracted by the newspaper publicity, men who knew little of the missionaries’ beliefs sought baptism, and Grant found that the chance for adding names to the Church’s rolls was ample if he merely accepted every request made of him. But in each case he put them off, demanding they receive formal instruction.Some candidates had impressive credentials. Mr. Koshiishi, editor of the newly established Tokyo Shimbun and apparently a compeer of Ichiki, petitioned Grant several days after Nakazawa’s conversion, but a catechizing of the applicant found that he knew “practically nothing of the gospel” and that he would be “stepping blindly into the church.” Like others before him, Koshiishi was refused.
More persistent in the quest for baptism was Kikuchi Saburō, a Christian preacher who, the missionaries were informed, held open-air meetings in Ueno Park attended by five hundred to fifteen hundred people. Unlike others before him, Kikuchi would not be dissuaded, declaring his determination by vaingloriously offering himself to be crucified, if necessary, for the faith. Grant yielded before such ardor. Two days after Nakazawa’s rite, the missionaries rowed into the nearby bay, and baptized Kikuchi. In keeping with the Latter-day Saint practice of conferring priesthood authority on its male laity, both converts were ordained to the office of elder.
Kelsch, Ensign, and Taylor must have observed these events with troubled feelings because of a major change that was in the offing. The day before Nakazawa’s baptism, just as the mission appeared to be gaining success, they learned that Grant would be returning to Salt Lake City for a visit. When Ensign woke Taylor with the news, the zealous Taylor could hardly believe it. “The idea, I thought to myself, of Bro. Grant thinking of returning home. Why he has only been here it seems for a week or two.”However, the time had not passed so quickly for Grant. Imprisoned by his inability to learn the language and ill-fitted by temperament to the slow, almost monastic life of his mission, he greeted the opportunity to return home as a welcome relief. Moreover, with his eldest daughter Rachel announcing her engagement and a new Church president about to be sustained, the Apostle also had personal and official reasons for leaving. He sailed for America in March 1902.
Nearly a half-year later, Grant was back in Japan, accompanied by several new missionaries: Frederick A. Caine, Erastus L. Jarvis, John W. Stoker, Sandford Wells Hedges, and Joseph Featherstone. In addition, some of these missionaries brought family members with them, an acceptable practice for foreign missionaries serving long missions in the nineteenth century. Grant’s wife Augusta and his daughter Mary came, as did Ensign’s wife, Mary, and Featherstone’s wife, Marie. Marie and Joseph Featherstone had just been sealed. Mary Ensign was called to join her husband. The presence of the women, Grant thought, would add a sense of permanence to the mission (illus. 11-3).
Grant and Augusta, along with the other married missionaries, secured a “semi-Japanese” house, only a block or two from the residence of the crown prince, that had five Westernized rooms and six
Japanese ones.While the Japanese section was clean and pleasant, its sliding doors and shutters seemed too con fining to the Americans. When walking through this part of the house, they felt as though they were “in a box” and consequently used it only for storage. The unmarried elders joined Alma Taylor at a Japanese hotel that provided room accommodations and one Western and two Japanese meals a day for fifteen dollars a month.
The mission headquarters at Grant’s house was surrounded by a high board fence and sat on a small hill. Immediately outside the front gate was a rickshaw stall, which was normally occupied by half a dozen cabmen waiting for fares. Still further beyond, situated immediately in front of the house, lay a four-hundred-acre Japanese army parade ground, with barracks in the far-off distance.From their vantage on the hill, the missionaries could observe the soldiers, who sometimes drilled from dawn to dusk. During the summer season, the troops wore white duck suits with contrasting navy blue caps trimmed in red. Augusta thought the young recruits picturesque, sitting as they often did “on the green grass, their guns stacked and [their] bugles hanging on them.” The troops were preparing for the nation’s impending conflict with Russia.
Elder Grant used a highly personal reason to secure permission for Augusta to travel with him to Japan. Though his three wives had borne him an even dozen children, Grant’s only two sons had died in childhood. In the Church’s turn-of-the-century patriarchal society, the prospect of having his name “blotted out when I die” was deeply distressing.Accordingly, he had appealed to his superiors that Augusta “will soon be past all hope [of bearing a son] . . . , unless in the near future we can be together.” But even this chance was slim. Their only child, Mary, had been born thirteen years earlier.
Perhaps for the first time since their marriage eighteen years earlier, Augusta and Heber now experienced what could be described as a normal and unhurried relationship. Each evening, they strolled through the neighborhood, walking across the parade ground or maybe down close to an adjoining railroad track.The couple noticed new things about each other. For one thing, Augusta sensed that Heber’s patience did not run as deep as she supposed. Heber readily conceded the point. “When a man is at his office and away from the little annoying things that come in a home almost every hour, he may be very patient,” he reflected. “But the change comes when he has his office [in his home] and these things [are] with him all the time.” Augusta found it strange to see her husband study, take so much rest, and, for that matter, be so closely tied to the mission home and its domestic concerns. Once she discovered him scrubbing the kitchen floor, an act that an offended domestic servant immediately halted.
Elder Grant had hoped that the literary-inclined Augusta could assist with his official mission correspondence, but the newspaper controversy had lapsed in his absence in Salt Lake City. Augusta’s writing ability, however, did fill an important function. Her many letters to friends and relatives in Utah chronicled their everyday life. After one rain shower, she found their shoes “moss grown,” while their clothing had “patches of mould . . . that looked like small vegetable gardens.” The offending articles of clothing had to be brushed, shaken, and sunned. “The houses smell mouldy,” she complained; “every one that I have been in has the same smell and the ground is never dry around the yard. When we get into bed the sheets and clothing feel perfectly wet, as all our clothing does when we put it on in the morning.”
The carnivorous mosquitoes were especially troublesome. On Augusta’s first night in Japan, she set aside her protective netting. As a result, the insects kept her awake most of the night, and upon arising she was a “perfect sight.” There were numerous other pests, “strange and marvelous.” Augusta wrote:
When we keep the mosquitoes out the fleas have their turn, and we saw outside our windows three immense spiders One night a rat ran across the net over the bed, and then there was a great scrimmage to catch it, and the bravest man who was ‘not afraid of a rat,’ skipped up on the bed in a hurry when the pest ran over his bare foot.
There seemed to be no end to such aﬄictions. Once, she insisted, the men in the mission home caught in the dead of night “two of the strangest looking great big things” imaginable, which they took outside and tied to a tree. According to Augusta’s excited and perhaps imaginative report, some of the irritating creatures had forked tails, while others had long horns or hoods over their heads. Still others had a “thousand legs.”
As the months progressed, the missionaries developed an established Sunday regimen. They reserved mornings for themselves, when the entire contingent gathered at the Grant home for Sunday School. These services were conducted in English, with a choir, consisting of everyone present, lending musical counterpoint (Grant joined Caine, Ensign, and the women in establishing the melody).At 2:00 P.M., the Saints invited the Japanese to worship with them, and six to a dozen usually did so. The visitors, who were often different young male students every week, closely observed the missionaries’ mannerisms, inquired about Western music and culture, and asked occasional questions about religion. To place them at ease, the Americans eventually held this meeting in the Japanese part of their home, trading chairs for native floor cushions and forgoing the use of the Western piano.
Such low-key and low-profile dealings with the Japanese were a major change from the excited and publicized moments that had followed the missionaries’ first arrival. Not only had the newspaper controversy passed, but so also had the opportunity to teach Ichiki and his supposedly influential friends. During Grant’s absence in the United States, Japanese authorities had placed Ichiki’s friends under arrest, possibly as a result of their political beliefs or activity. Chagrined by having had contact with men who had become felons and apparently fearing adverse publicity, Elder Grant accepted their imprisonment as prima facie evidence of insincerity. “I have to smile when I think of the important men we thought we had made friends with, now being under arrest,” he wrote. He made no further effort to contact or teach them.
Efforts to introduce the gospel in Japan were beginning to unravel. The leading Japanese who had befriended the missionaries were now in prison. Despite his initial expressions of interest and sympathy, Hiroi, the missionaries’ salaried translator, had grown increasingly aloof and uncooperative. He was eventually dismissed with two months’ notice and what was hoped to be an assuaging dinner at the Metropole Hotel.The missionaries’ converts were even less satisfying. Shortly after his baptism, Kikuchi proposed that the Americans underwrite his venture to sell patent medicine. When they declined, the Japanese proselyte announced the need to “set aside religious duties for a time.” He was seen rarely again by the missionaries. Nakazawa Hajime seemed similarly motivated. Following his conversion, he requested fifteen hundred dollars to start a job-printing office. When his proposition was rejected, Nakazawa threatened to revert to his Shintō vocation unless the missionaries employed him. Begrudgingly, Elder Grant extended to him a loan, but when Nakazawa’s wife sought further monetary support, the missionary declined. “My impression is that the only interest either one of . . . [the Nakazawas] have in the Church or us is to try and get some money,” he confided to his diary. Months later events appeared to confirm Grant’s judgment; Nakazawa was captured while attempting to burglarize the mission home.
With several converts being similarly unproductive, Grant’s overall assessment was dour. “I think we have had some fearfully poor material join the Church,” he concluded.“The way some Japanese jump at the gospel and then drop it as soon as they learn there is no pay in it or no employment is really amusing.” Undoubtedly, the Japanese view of the matter was different. Accustomed to the Protestant practice of allowing some of their converts active and often paid leadership roles, they saw no inconsistency between religious quest and personal advancement. Indeed, many Japanese Christians expected it.
This certainly was the case of Takahashi Gorō, the scholarly polemicist and self-styled Church advisor and critic. He hotly criticized Grant for not supporting Nakazawa’s printing venture, and following the burglary of the mission headquarters he compared Nakazawa with Victor Hugo’s tragically impoverished Jean Valjean. “Of course, speaking intellectually, you have no responsibility for . . . [Nakazawa’s] doing, but intellect is not all and all. Everybody knows that Nakazawa lost his lucrative profession for sympathizing with ‘Mormonism.’ . . . But Mr. Grant quite cold bloodily, has left him destitute of help.”
The missionaries were not swayed by Takahashi’s argument, preferring to believe that the scholar’s scorn reflected his own failed ambition. Elder Taylor had a plausible explanation: because President Grant had first entertained the Japanese scholar at the prestigious Metropole Hotel and talked expansively about the Church’s past achievements, Takahashi had assumed that they intended to spend millions of dollars funding Japanese charitable projects, which might in turn provide him a sinecure. According to Taylor, Takahashi “dreamed himself into the position of [the Church’s] chief Japanese advisor, director, or something else with a mint and a name.”
In the missionaries’ eyes, Takahashi had been treated fairly. Shortly after their initial meeting, Elder Grant had advanced Takahashi about four hundred yen (two hundred dollars) for his proposed book, after which Takahashi had further exposed himself by borrowing against his royalties. When the book failed to sell, he sought another loan from Grant. Rather than advance more money, Grant at length decided to relieve the man’s financial embarrassment by buying most of the 700-volume run. Eventually the missionaries placed 362 books with members of the National Diet’s House of Peers and another 8 to high-level functionaries. The rest were apparently used in their proselytizing.
Takahashi’s Morumon Kyō to Morumon Kyōto (Mormons and Mormonism) was, in fact, an able, several-hundred-page work that introduced the basic story and history of the Church to the Japanese
audience, but it was also filled with archaeological and philological excursions, a philosophical defense of polygamy, and an extended discussion of the Church’s ability to meet modern social ills. These topics gave the volume a heavy quality that no doubt dampened sales in a market that already found Mormon topics passé.
The failure of Morumon Kyō to Morumon Kyōto and the younger missionaries’ growing estrangement from their former contacts failed to dampen their enthusiasm. During a conference in early 1903, they politely challenged Grant’s cautious policy that more time and preparation were required before active proselytizing could begin. Describing himself as “surprised and pleased” by their attitude, Grant immediately rescinded his request to tour Latter-day Saint churches in Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia—a long-standing personal goal—and began preparation for the start of formal preaching of the gospel.
After producing a tract that introduced the Church to the Japanese public in broad terms, Grant hired the Kinki Kan Hall for the formal inauguration of Latter-day Saint preaching in Japan. The history-conscious missionaries carefully recorded their proceedings. Two of them tried to deliver their message in Japanese. Caine’s effort drew muﬄed titters, but Taylor flawlessly recited the content of the Mormons’ new tract. Then Grant followed with a sixty-five-minute sermon. Setting aside his carefully selected Bible references, the mission leader spoke with “very good liberty” on such basic gospel themes as the mission of Joseph Smith and the Articles of Faith.Hearty applause followed each song and talk, despite the missionaries’ initial protests; and when the crowd learned that an English text of Taylor’s remarks was available, the response was immediate. According to Grant, “there was a rush like those trying to get to a bargain counter at a Z. C. M. I. special sale.”
Several weeks later, the elders were dispatched to their fields of labor. Two went to Naoetsu on the Japan Sea coast, two were assigned to Nagano, where Grant had toured during his first months in Japan, and four, including Grant himself, remained in or near Tokyo.The day after he and his companion began distributing tracts, Ensign reported himself “happy and contented.” But such enthusiasm was hard to sustain. At one location, the missionaries learned that impostors calling themselves Mormons had already preceded them, leaving behind “a bad record” and a ruined image. Elsewhere rumors circulated that the Mormons were Russian spies, which may have partially accounted for the people’s sometimes hostile behavior. After distributing tracts in a small village, Elder Hedges reported that initial receptivity had quickly turned negative. At one house, “the door was slammed so quickly in my face that I did not know what struck me.”
The missionaries’ lack of success deeply troubled Grant and brought on one of his periodic dark moods. He wondered if the lack of discernible progress could be traced to a possible failure in his leadership, and though the First Presidency had long released him from the mandate of learning Japanese, he still brooded over his inability to grasp the language. “To the end of my life I may feel that I have not done what He expected of me, and what I was sent here to do,” he complained.
His increasing isolation may have contributed to his negative feelings. With his elders now in the field and his own movement restricted by the barriers of language and culture, Grant, in the words of Taylor, “irked at the leash, as any man of energy and action would do.”During late spring and early summer 1903, Grant’s emotions oscillated widely, sometimes within the narrow range of a single letter. He might first petition the First Presidency for eight or ten more missionaries, for he clearly hoped for concrete results before leaving his mission. Then, a paragraph or two later, as the reality of the Japanese mission once again imposed itself, his steadfastness wavered. Wasn’t his time “being thrown away”? Couldn’t he be more productive elsewhere? Such ruminations about leaving were probably encouraged by Brigham F., his half-brother, and by others who repeatedly assured him of his imminent release.
Grant himself may have precipitated this prospect, but in a way consistent with his sense of duty. In early May 1903 he had written to Anthon H. Lund, President Joseph F. Smith’s newly called counselor in the First Presidency, hinting of his availability to succeed Francis M. Lyman as head of the European Mission. Grant did not wish the Presidency to think that he was calling himself on a mission or releasing himself from another. “I am well and happy and as contented as I ever was in my life, and feel that I can live here for years with pleasure,” he wrote. Still, and here he made his point explicit: “I would love to be where I could have something to do.”
Nor was he prepared to leave the question entirely in the hands of the First Presidency. Frustrated and anguished, he retired to some woods for prayer. “I told the Lord that whenever He was through with me . . . [in Japan], where I was accomplishing nothing, I would be very glad and thankful if He would call me home and send me to Europe to preside over the European mission.” By his own account, it was only the second time during his life that he had sought a Church position (the other was an earlier plea to serve on the board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association to serve the youth).
Presumably Grant’s personal struggle was kept from most of his missionary associates, who, in contrast to his own self-doubts, seemed to have a high estimate of his labor. Certainly his leadership often left them moved.Once, after Elder Stoker had turned his ankle and the sprain discolored with infection, Grant suggested that the missionaries fast and pray in Stoker’s behalf. He called them into a meeting, where he began with singing and more prayer. Then he and others spoke of the spiritual healing that they had witnessed. “The feeling that characterized the meeting grew stronger & stronger,” Stoker reported. “I was almost overcome.” Elder Ensign then took some consecrated oil and rubbed it on the aﬄicted limb and asked for an immediate healing as a “testimony” for all present. As the final act, Grant laid his hands on Stoker’s head and promised the “free & perfect usage” of the foot. As he spoke, Stoker sensed a movement within the limb and heard a snapping sound. The conclusion was as spectacular: the missionary “involuntarily” stood on his feet and walked for the first time in ten days.
Despite his accomplishments, Grant was ready to move on. Yet by the third week of August, Grant had surrendered any hope that he might soon leave the country. A recent letter from Abraham O. Woodruff, his associate in the Quorum of the Twelve, carried no intimation of a release, despite an earlier request for discreet information. News from Grant’s family was more to the point. These sources suggested that while President Smith had not yet decided the timing of his return, the most likely possibility was not until early 1904—the next year. Grant claimed himself “not in the least disappointed” with this information. With his sense of duty again paramount, he expressed the hope for six more months of service in order to get things “moving.”
To avoid the extremes of the Tokyo summer and to position himself in what appeared the mission’s most promising area, Grant took his family to Hojo, a seaside resort in Chiba Ken. There, on August 23, he received a registered letter informing him that a cable was being held in Yokohama. Its contents could only be relayed to him in Tokyo. He left for Tokyo at once, arriving at the Metropole sometime after midnight. The decoded message left him stunned. “You are now released,” it cryptically read. “Leave the business in the hands of Ensign,” wrote the First Presidency.Rather than the emotional relief that Grant had long assumed his release would bring, he now felt deep and painful regret. His tearful prayers that evening contrasted the seeming “failure” of his mission with the larger-than-life successes of his apostolic predecessors. It was 5:00 A.M. before he was able to set aside his thoughts and fall asleep.
Two hours later he was somewhat refreshed and had a more objective view. Writing several letters, he acknowledged the success of his earlier ministry and was also confident about upcoming events. “I have a willing heart,” he reflected, and “know that I will do more [good work].” But his mind clearly remained troubled. “I am in hopes that I am not released, . . . that it is only a call to come home,” he wrote the First Presidency. But his resolve vanished before he ended his sentence. “I have done so little here,” he concluded, “it may be felt that it is better to use me in some other field where I can do more good.”
Grant already knew that there was only one available steamer that could get him to America in time for the October 1903 general conference, and he quickly booked passage. He also requested that other missionaries return to mission headquarters for a two-week farewell conference, the highlight of which took place in the wooded terrain above Yokohama harbor. Commemorating the dedication of the mission exactly two years earlier, the missionaries rehearsed their original program, repeating the same hymns and reading an outline of Elder Grant’s dedicatory prayer. There was, however, a significance to the site that was probably unknown to any of the group besides Grant himself. At the beginning of the mission, he now explained, he had often come to the place to dissipate his melancholy in prayer.
The three-hour meeting, in Grant’s words, was “the one meeting of all meetings ever held in this land.” While all twelve missionaries were “blessed with remarkable demonstrations of the Spirit,” he seemed specially endowed. Invoking his apostolic authority, he blessed his missionaries and reminded them of their duty. “I never saw a man that was as full of the Spirit of God as he was then,” recounted one of the young men.
Eight days later, Augusta, Mary, and Grant embarked on the S.S. Aki Maru. He left with a surprisingly high view of the Japanese. From his many contacts and experiences, he sensed the nation’s great military potential. Moreover, he saw the Japanese as “patriotic beyond any people” he had ever known, and described them as “workers.” Their ambition and curiosity seemed limitless except, lamentably, on the paramount matter of religion.Yet, there was something within Grant that suggested that he himself had not experienced the last chapter. To the end of his career, he would remember the emotion he had felt during the pronouncement of his dedicatory prayer. “I feel impressed that there is yet a great work to be accomplished there. How soon this may come I do not know.” He also felt that “there will yet be a great and important work accomplished in the land. . . . there is to be a wonderful work accomplished in Japan; that there will be many, yea, even thousands of that people that will receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He departed with the hope of returning someday. His experience, he realized, had not been entirely negative. He had placed on his frame a precious fifteen pounds, and his quieted nerves once again permitted Spenserian writing. Moreover, he had outfitted himself with a pair of spectacles that corrected an astigmatism that for many years had hindered reading and studying.Nevertheless, despite listing all the positive things he could muster, he knew that Japan had aged him “at least ten years” although he had spent only two in the land of the Mikado.
As the ship departed, his missionary friends walked to the edge of the bund to see him off. At first they shouted pleasantries across the mooring. Then, as the Aki Maru gradually steamed from port, they waved handkerchiefs until the passengers could no longer be seen.