Two Meiji Scholars Introduce the Mormons to Japan



By the time Mormon Apostle Heber J. Grant and his three companions arrived in Yokohama to begin their missionary labors in August of 1901, other Christian denominations had been proselyting actively in Japan for over thirty years. The entire Bible had been translated into Japanese nearly fifteen years earlier, and a native clergy had arisen. Influential, though few in number, the Christians were firmly entrenched in Japan, and they were both curious about and apprehensive of Mormonism.

The press soon learned of the arrival of the Mormon party and Apostle Grant found himself the center of much attention. His notoriety increased when he and his companions were denied rooms in a foreign-owned boardinghouse. The landlord’s excuse was that Elder Grant was a polygamist. The incident was reported in several English and Japanese newspapers, and at about this time Elder Grant was interviewed by reporters from two leading papers, the Jiji Shimpo and Niroku Shimpo. Both interviews were highly informative and relatively free of bias, but they, like the articles in the other newspapers, focused on polygamy.

Many of these articles and letters in the newspapers exhibited great animosity towards the Mormons, mainly because of the polygamy issue. In order to lay to rest some of the rumors about himself and the church, and to actively begin his labors, Elder Grant met the editors of some English-language newspapers. He also had calling cards which were printed in Japanese and bore his portrait. A major activity was replying to letters and editorials. Although Elder Grant and the others could do this by themselves in English, when it came to working with the Japanese language it was difficult to find a teacher. Many qualified teachers were missionaries of other churches and were hostile toward Mormonism. Finally the Mormon elders were fortunate to find two Christian Japanese gentlemen who willingly gave them assistance. One of these was Takahashi Goro.


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