Last Friday I gave a seminar at Ochanomizu Christian Center in Tokyo about Mormonism. Part One covered the origins of Mormonism and how its history shapes contemporary Mormonism. Part Two covered key Mormon claims like apostasy, priesthood, continuing revelation, additional scripture, etc. along with Joseph Smith’s doctrinal innovations, with a biblical response. Part Three compared the LDS “Plan of Salvation” with the biblical story of salvation.
While the seminar was well received, the highlight of the day happened afterwards. My host / interpreter and I met with a young Japanese woman who was born in the covenant, raised in the LDS church her entire life in an active family (her father was a stake president for many years), but who has since left Mormonism and now follows Jesus in a local evangelical church. She was very encouraged to meet someone else who had left Mormonism. Like so many, she feels quite alone in this experience. There are no support groups for former Mormons in Japan, and the helpful materials for the transition available in the US are not available in Japanese.
I was amazed as I heard her story, first, at how good and gracious God is. His leading was evident at so many points in her journey. I was also amazed at how all the twists and turns of her journey out were so typical of the experiences of so many others. Even though she was raised in Japan and came out of Mormonism mostly in Europe, she went through the same issues I have heard of from dozens of former Mormons in Utah and the US. In fact, if I were to compile the most common elements from the stories I’ve heard into one paradigmatic tale, it would look very much like hers.
For example, we talked about how to navigate family relationships now that she has broken with the LDS church — a very common issue. Also, she is afraid to tell the people at the church she now attends that she used to be Mormon. She fears people will shun her or be freaked out. I’ve heard that same fear expressed numerous times. I encouraged her to take her time. I especially wanted to let her know that God is leading her journey and that she can trust him. I suggested that she could have a wonderful influence to help others leaving Mormonism because she understands their journey.
I rode the train back to my host home elated at the opportunity to have some positive influence on a young person who could very well become a leader in the Japanese church, wondering if she represents the start of a new chapter in ministry among Mormons in Japan.