The Church in Japan

Kari Huus of MSNBC has a story, “In Japan, the Mormon network gathers the flock.” I recommend it.

The only thing that rivals the Mormon church’s ability to spread the word is its ability to cope with emergencies.

Within 36 hours of the earthquake striking off the coast of Sendai on March 11, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that all 638 of its missionaries in the country — 342 Americans, 216 Japanese and 80 from other nations – were safe.

Within a few days, the church also had accounted for all but about 1,000 of its 125,000 members in Japan….

Efforts have now turned to relief, not just for members of the Church in Japan but to the region at large as the Church works with the Red Cross and others. Appreciate the positive perspective from Kari Huus.

I was living in Atlanta when Hurricane Andrew wiped out some regions of southern Florida, especially Homestead. I was one of thousands of Latter-day Saints who joined LDS-led relief efforts shortly after the hurricane struck. I was amazed to see how well the Priesthood organization functioned. Men who I suspect weren’t all that great at home teaching, giving talks, or organizing a ward social all looked like real professionals when it came to stepping up to the challenge of helping a community reeling from disaster. Order, hard work, compassion, and kindness prevailed thousands poured into the grounds of LDS buildings to camp and work. Just amazing. The image of thousands of yellow T-shirts is still in my mind. They helped us recognize one another for increased order, and let the people know who were and reminded us who we were as well. I think they said “Mormon helping hands” or something like that. It was a tiring couple of days but well worth the sacrifice. So impressive to see how supplies and labor had been so effectively organized by people in the Church.

Keep Japan in your prayers. Donations are good, too.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “The Church in Japan

  1. Enjoyed your comments regarding Japan. As a non Mormon who lived in Utah for nine years, I can tell you that I would have expected no less than this type of reaction from the LDS church. While Texas will always be home, Utah and especially the Cache Valley are very dear to my entire family. I recently wrote a piece on the BYU basketball team and would love for you to take a look. It can be found at

  2. Our church is noted for being the very best and fastest in disaster relief. The hoard of yellow t shirts inspires an touches many. Other churches and organizations response pale in comparison. Including the red cross.

    One small group outside the church are the Baptist Chain Saws. (google them). They are a group with chain saws and expertise to clear roads etc so relief trucks can reach their destination.

    It is amazing our missionaries are safe. A small group of Catholic Missionaries were injured and one killed. There is a lesson there.

  3. Ouch. I am pained that someone would think that relative survival rates between missionary groups from different religions might reflect God's approval. Christ warned against such harsh logic in Luke 13:1-5 as he explained that victims of disaster are not necessarily greater sinners than the survivors. Rain and tsunamis fall upon the wicked and the righteous.

    Based on the stats alone, it is no huge surprise that there were no fatalities among our tiny missionary population. Compared to Catholic missionaries, I suspect that ours had the advantage of being mostly young, healthy, mobile, with cell phones to alert them quickly, with companions and others to help, etc. And they were probably not tied down to a hospital or orphanage, making it easier to escape.

    let us be more careful about drawing lessons from who survives disaster. We will yet have plenty of sorrows of our own. Mortality is a rough neighborhood.

  4. I hope/assume the commenter meant the lesson is in LDS mission preparedness and connectivity in emergency situations. Not based in blessings vs. curses, as could easily be inferred from the earlier post.

  5. Wasn't there a movie made about that Baptist group? Are these Chain Saw folks from Texas? Wait, maybe they aren't the same one…..

  6. Yes, I hope the reference to the lesson was meant in better faith and taste than how I took it. Thanks, Beck 'N Ben, for the thought.

  7. One small point.

    Since we are LDS, there is a tendency to think that everything the Church does is the biggest and the best. Folks fail to understand how relatively small we are.

    Someone above claimed the Church's efforts are bigger than the Red Cross. Simply not so.

    The Church averages about $45 million a year in humanatarian efforts. Total Red Cross (American) spending last year was over $3 billion.

    Catholic charities are a magnitude larger than ours. Many others are too.

    As to manpower, during Katrina, our efforts were a fraction of the total.

    LDS charitable efforts are commenable. But we shouldn't diminsh that of others.

  8. Yes, we are a tiny fraction of what goes on. Let's make sure we celebrate and respect the work of major charities, many of which are tied to our fellow Christians from different faiths. Christian or not, God bless all of them (especially those that have low overhead, of course–an area where we rank at or near the top, think).

  9. This article is BS. There is no way that the church contacted almost all of it's members. I bet they don't even know where half of them are. I live in Japan and I know that in our branch we had a project to contact all the members to "clean" the records. And it took us a number of weeks and we never found many of them. Many didn't even still live here. Maybe they contacted active members.

  10. Yes, it probably was active members who were accounted for–

    though, it's hard to say–

    Thank you, Jeff, for defending the Catholics; I am not Catholic; actually I am LDS, and I served a mission in Japan, and my experiences with Catholic missionaries there were highly positive; they were/are amazing people, and there are more of them there; it is no suprise one was killed–

    LDS people who are righteous lose their lives in inexplicable, sometimes violent, ways all the time, including missionaries.

    We can rejoice that these young people are safe, but my heart goes out to those whose loved ones have been lost–

    I think it is important that LDS not 'brag' or boast about their works; we are no more special than any other people–

    we SHOULD be, perhaps, but if we are, we won't say anything about it!

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