Although Mormons do not, due to legal restraints, carry out missionary work in China, many Chinese people join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while traveling, working, or going to school in other countries. In addition, many foreigners work and live in China. It can be complicated for Chinese Nationals who become Mormon and for foreigners moving to China to figure out where to attend church and to understand the complex laws regulating religious life in China. To assist with this challenge, the Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have created a website to help them learn how and where to practice their faith in China. The Church has blocked the website within China out of respect for laws, so it must be accessed while still out of the country.
The Mormons have a legal presence in China, but are not one of the five officially recognized religions. This means they must follow strict rules in order to exist. Mormons are not allowed to do any sort of missionary work in China except among their own family in certain approved situations. If a Chinese citizen is baptized outside the United States he can take his family to church with him and they can be baptized. No Chinese citizens can be baptized in China. Foreigners and citizens must meet separately. Church lesson materials have been translated into Chinese and can be used in the country during meetings, but online LDS materials may only be used outside the country.
It is important that Mormons in China not hand out religious literature or to develop religious blogs or websites, because all of those things can be seen as missionary work. They also have to be careful to attend the correct meetings—citizens in one congregation and foreigners in another. People from Taiwan or Hong Kong who live in China attend with citizens, while those who are just visiting or working in China attend with the foreigners.
To help Chinese citizens who are Mormon and the Mormons who go there on vacation or to work, the Mormons have assigned a Priesthood Administrative Leader who can help Mormons in China find the appropriate congregation and who can explain the rules to them. This person’s contact information is on the website and he can be contacted in advance of arrival in the country.
Mormon leaders also hope the website will stop rumors circulating among both Mormons and those who are not that the lowering of ages for missionaries (eighteen for men who have graduated from high school and nineteen for women) is related to China in some way. Some rumors have suggested there will be an increased effort to slip missionaries into China illegally. This is something the Mormons do not do. They believe one must obey the law and that when God commands us to take the gospel to all the world, He will also open the doors to make this possible.
The Mormons have already seen this happen in other countries. Many countries were initially closed to missionary work or church recognition but are now open. Bosnia officially recognized the Mormons in 2012. The German Democratic Republic began allowing missionaries into the country in 1988. Czechoslovakia began to recognize the Church in 1990. Mormons are patient and continue to use the power of prayer to open doors for them around the world. The new Chinese website will, in the meantime, help those Mormons already in China to enjoy the gospel in their homeland.
Learn more about the new Mormon website for Chinese Mormons.