The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first Japan Mission closed in 1924, after twenty-three years of effort and sacrifice on the part of missionaries and Church members, as the First Presidency believed that missionary efforts could be more effectively spent elsewhere. Because the Church is growing rapidly in Japan today, students of Asian mission history often wonder why the Church is successful now, since the early mission failed.
The early missionaries faced cultural and language difficulties; even Heber J. Grant admitted the language was difficult to learn. Many Japanese investigators were mainly interested in learning English rather than joining Mormonism, and they had a strong sense of family identity that made them wary of joining outsiders. A new American immigration law passed in 1924 prohibiting Asians from immigrating to the US was seen as insulting to Japan, and sparked severe anti-American feeling. Nevertheless, the mission did produce some lasting contributions and a few converts were brought into the Church who remained faithful until the work was recommenced following World War II.