What Ammon’s Story Can Teach Us About Blessing China

There are many Christians who want to do something to help China and the Chinese people. Latter-day Saints who are interested in China often consider the story of Ammon in the Book of Mormon and wonder if it could apply to China one day. I think that’s a useful question to consider. Ammon, as a reminder, was the son of a Nephite king who turned down the opportunity to rule in order to go on a self-selected mission among the Lamanites. He managed to become a servant to a local Lamanite king and through his work there miraculously helped bring about his conversion, opening the doors for the Gospel to be preached in a land that was once hostile to the Nephites and their religion.  So sometimes LDS people contemplate his example of service, and wonder if they can help China through compassionate service if they were to come here. Some then come here to teach English or to study, for example, and they may hope that perhaps by being very kind and service oriented, it will open doors for the Gospel to be more fully present in China.

However, Ammon’s success came not because he was so warm and loving as he mingled with the locals, though he undoubtedly was kind. He touched the heart of King Lamoni by surviving what might have been a suicide mission, surprising opponents and fellow servants with his military skills. Ultimately it was his brilliant expertise with the sling and the sword, coupled with fast thinking, sound strategy, great courage, and a heavy dose of assistance from the Lord, that touched the heart of the king and opened wide the doors for the Gospel to be taught among that people.

The fact that Ammon humbly continued carrying out his orders as a servant after his victory in defending the flocks of the king was a moving bonus. But it was his excellence and expertise in battle that catalyzed a monumental change among the Lamanites. Meanwhile, the other sons of Mosiah in other Lamanite towns who tried the direct approach of preaching (no doubt coupled with kindness and service) got nowhere and were quickly thrown in prison, as you will be in China if you don’t respect the regulations here.

From what I’ve learned these past 5 years in China, I’d say that China (at least at the upper levels of government) does not want your service. (Even when disaster strikes, China is often suspicious of foreigners coming to serve and would rather use their own capable resources to deal with the crisis.) It doesn’t want your missionaries. And now, China might not even want your singers and dancers. Though I love what BYU’s Young Ambassadors have done for China for the past 30-something years, I think government leaders are no longer impressed by sweet young people who can sing and dance well. What China wants and needs now is expertise and excellence that can lift China in key areas. Talented, capable, intelligent individuals that can help China achieve its goals such as strengthening its economy, increasing innovation, enhancing the environment, and alleviating illness.

If you want to change China with your love of its people and your love of God, first develop the skills and know-how that can help China in the areas that matter to the leaders here, and prepare to do it with courage and a touch of divine help to inspire and open doors. Develop skills that will help you stand out and inspire others. How, I don’t know. I haven’t done that. Not even close. But there are people out there who can. There are some great ones over here now, but we need more. There are some incredible Christians, including some great Mormons, with the vision and the skills to be instruments on the hands of God here to open doors that are not fully open yet. If you’ve got the talent and the faith to take on the impossible and prevail like Ammon, then please weave China into your plans. China is calling. It’s the most exciting and wonderful place I’ve ever been, and there’s an incredible journey waiting for you here, especially if you have the track record, the credibility, and the skills to make a difference here. Language skills also help!

Meanwhile, I hope BYU will recognize that if it is going to play a role in China, it must be through something more than song and dance, as useful as that has been. China is rising. The way to China’s heart and soul requires more relevant paths. This is a time for bold, aggressive cooperation and investment, in my opinion, to allow the deep expertise of BYU in numerous practical fields to inspire and bless China. So much good can be done with the right talent and expertise in the right place. And the right place, in my opinion, is China. And to be more specific, the place in China that seems most open and hungry for the skills that BYU and other Christian experts can bring is probably right here in Shanghai, a remarkably open community hungry for growth and the next generation of expertise.

China is calling.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

9 thoughts on “What Ammon’s Story Can Teach Us About Blessing China

  1. Jeff, I generally love your site. However, as a specialist in IP, you have to be ignoring the fact that most of their prosperity has been built upon stolen IP. And therefore you are advocating for good decent intellectuals to assist them to grow even stronger without any hint that they show even a modicum of remorse.
    As a cyber expert, I can tell you that I look through millions of data streams, all with Chinese origin, that constantly attack the infrastructure of the US. There is so much evidence, there is almost no room for doubt. In fact, such evidence proposes that there is very little chance that it is not state sponsored. In my view, there are likely 50,000 to 100,00 state sponsored actors that active pursue IP, PII, corporate strategies, etc. You are advocating for an empire that is entirely self engrossed and growing such an empire will create a monster within the world economy. I believe that you've twisted Ammon's story as there is little chance that your enormous godzilla will ever change for the good.

    Just my 2 cents,

  2. Jeff,My first reaction was that of the cynic, that of the anonymous poster. But as I pondered and thought about the story of Ammon, I have come to understand your point. China is a little different from the Lamanites, but there are some similarities. I don't think that the Chinese people are taught to hate Americans as the Lamanites were taught to hate the Nephites. But the Chinese leadership is rather paranoid, and that is where our efforts would have to be directed. Maybe we do have an Ammon in our midst who has the faith to become a servant to the Chinese leaders and be provided an opportunity to perform some extraordinary service that would open the door and their hearts to the gospel. Maybe our own faith is what is lacking. Ammon's faith (and heroics) opened doors with a cruel and hardened group of people. The gospel changed their lives.


  3. Jeff, just be careful with the analogy because Ammon's mission to the Lamanites precipitated a Lamanite civil war, and was the impetus for the beginning of the major Nephite-Lamanite wars.

    Still I hear echos of what many Nephites said of the Lamanites in Russ's comment, and yet some did give up their weapons of war and did join the church.

  4. Well now, who has converted whom?

    The twisted Ammon analogy applies better to Taiwan. After receiving military assistance, King Lamoni's people separate themselves to a new land and later decide they are no longer Lamanites, calling themselves the People of Ammon. Sound familiar. After receiving military assistance repelling the Japanese, Chiang Kai Shek flees with his people to Formosa. After a generation, his people begin to think of themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese.

    In need of the same expertise Mormanity advocates, there are a billion Indians, near half-billion Southeast Asians, and near billion Africans, not to forget the indigenous peoples of the new world, who according to the Book of Mormon are the rightful heirs of Mormon efforts.

    Mormanity, the Spirit is a challenging communication channel. The slightest misread can blow you off course hundreds, even thousands, of miles.

  5. Anon, it's fair to be concerned about hackers from Asia, just as one should be concerned about the burgeoning spy and hacker industries in the United States. But I question the statement about seeing "millions of data streams, all with Chinese origin, that constantly attack the infrastructure of the US". All? Only China? Never Russia, Iran, or any other nation? I think it is well known that there are multiple origins for hacker attacks on the US, just as it is known that US hackers are involved in constant efforts to breach the security of systems in China and other lands.

    Whatever land you are in, there are both foreign and domestic threats to our security, including the probability that one day your bank account will suddenly not be accessible and ATMs will run dry or malfunction and banks will be shut down. Have some cash and food storage on hand.

    You also said, "You are advocating for an empire that is entirely self engrossed and growing such an empire will create a monster within the world economy." No, I'm actually quite opposed to the Federal Reserve Bank and the US Establishment. I can love America and pay American taxes yet feel I don't deserve much blame for the empire that the usurpers of my country are creating with my tax dollars. Oh, but I think you were thinking of China when you said that. Well, I don't advocate for China as the world's policeman either, though it doesn't seem like they are actually doing that. They seem much more focused on their environs and are not sending warships to mess with, say Florida and its seas. I hope that doesn't change.

    In general, to love China and its people is not to endorse all activities of its government, just as loving America is not the same as endorsing its empire and unconstitutional role as global policeman with military bases in dozens of countries and the gall to invade and bomb foreign countries that have not attacked our borders. I'm tired of endless wars and police actions around the globe that are destroying the global economy and creating global hostility toward what one was the beacon of freedom.

  6. Yep, the Chinese converted you vice you converting them.

    True, American foreign policy experimented with the post-Cold War, Neo-Conservative hypothesis that removing dictators is a good thing. I am not sure that meets the definition of “empire.” Traditional conservatives frequently questioned this naïve assumption now proven dubious, at best.

    America assisted in removing the Japanese Empire from China. Globalist trade, made possible by America winning the Cold War against imperialist Russia (AKA the Soviet Union), fantastically accelerated Chinese industrialization. Winning the Cold War came with significant debt accumulation to America.

    China never said thank you. That is OK. Americans are so awesome they do not require a thank you for their endless military and humanitarian assistance. When they look in the mirror, the fascists cannot see any flaws and the socialist fills with self-hate. Americans just see more opportunities for self-improvement.

    Two hundred years ago when Americans were stealing European intellectual property, the Europeans prohibited some engineers from going to America and placed tariffs on American goods. As Americans look for the next area of improvement, they may take this lesson from history.

    America decided it wanted minimum labor and environmental standards. Minimum wages, no child labor, clean air and water, and odd restrictions on oil exploration. These standards posed some difficulty, so the American government told American business that if too burdensome, for $3,000 in shipping expense they could ignore these rules with almost no tax (tariffs).

    This outsourcing may change as Americans begin to reflect on the next area of improvement. America has no Smoot-Hawley trade war to fear. America’s economy is no longer manufacturing dependent like it was at that time. But China's is. As you seem to confess, China needs America way more than America needs China.

  7. With regards to misreading the Spirit just a little, the following from Gordon B. Hinckley:

    “A switchman in the St. Louis yard moved a little piece of steel just 3 inches, and we discovered that a car that should have been in Newark was 1,400 miles away in New Orleans. Now that's the way it is with our lives. . . . We've got to watch the switches in our lives. We've got to be alert and follow the right track."


  8. Jeff, the bipartisan Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property of the U.S. International Trade Commission released a report in May 2013. Dennis C. Blair, former director of National Intelligence and commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., former ambassador to China, governor of Utah, and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, were the co-chairs of the commission. Forbes summarized the report and stated, "that China accounts for at least half – and maybe as much as 80% – of U.S. intellectual property theft." No, not all of our stolen IP, but 50-80%. I'll call horse shoes.

    Russian and Iranian state sponsored attacks certainly exist, however, they are smart enough or concerned enough to proxy their attacks via Tor or other services. Chinese hackers don't care about covering their origins. Their malware can be very sophisticated, but they don't seem to care if they get caught. Don't rely on my judgments, read any of the Mandiant reports. It's quite clear that the state sponsorship of Chinese hackers is what fuels their activities. The level of traffic coming from Chinese portals dwarfs anything I see coming thru Tor or other proxy 4 and 5 servers. As you know, all Chinese traffic is filtered and if hacking wasn't state sponsored, they just shut down the portals. A lot of the traffic I examine comes thru tunnels that are designed to thwart Chinese restrictions against gaming sites. Determination of intent, when the traffic is encrypted end-to-end, is almost impossible. Gaming traffic gets out because they don't see it happening. Hacking traffic gets out because they don't try to stop it.

    While the US may hack to get into Chinese infrastructure in an effort to gain a foothold, if it is ever needed, the US doesn't do it to gain an economic advantage. I'd be happy to read any contra references. Huawei was built on Cisco's router code. Baidu was built on Google's code. Dow Chemical looses hundreds of millions in IP every year (not just seeds). Any US corporation that based their success upon the development efforts of any Chinese company would be ruthlessly sued in US courts. Can the US sue Chinese companies? Sure, but would there be any success in a Chinese court?

    I appreciate your love for the Chinese people. But the Government? Not so much. The more we move that steel, 1,400 miles will seem like a hop, skip and a jump.


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