The March 11, 2006 issue of LDS Church News reports there will be a “worldwide” commemoration and celebration later this month. Several planned events will mark a “historic milestone”–namely, “The 50th anniversary of the beginning of the preaching of the gospel in Taiwan.”
I was surprised to see the claim that the gospel had only been in Taiwan since 1956. This couldn’t be right, could it? What of all the stories of missionaries in the Orient during the 19th century? Indeed, Hudson Taylor arrived in China with the gospel in 1854, and he was not the first missionary in that nation. So I did a little research on Christian missionaries in Taiwan. This is what I learned:
“Christianity was first brought to Taiwan by Dutch Protestants and Spanish Roman Catholics in the 17th century…
“In 1860, two British missionaries, the Reverend Carstairs Douglas and Reverend H. L. Mackenzie, arrived in Danshuei and Bangka (present-day Wanhua in Taipei) to preach the gospel. In 1864, Dr. James L. Maxwell was sent to Taiwan by the English Presbyterian Mission to preach Christianity. With Tainan as his base, he concentrated his efforts in southern Taiwan. In 1872, the Canadian Presbyterian Church dispatched Rev. Dr. George L. MacKay to northern Taiwan to do missionary work, choosing Danshuei as his center.
“Prior to the Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1895, there were 97 Protestant churches, 4,854 believers, and 13 foreign missionaries in Taiwan. …When the Japanese left in 1945, Taiwan had 238 Protestant churches and 60,000 believers.” (From the Yearbook of the Republic of China)
Furthermore, the Bible was translated and published in Chinese (Mandarin) back in 1919.
So what’s up with this March 30th commemoration of 50 years of the gospel in Taiwan? For Latter-day Saints, the preaching of the historic gospel for three centuries before Mormon missionaries arrived in 1956…well, it just doesn’t count.
I love the above statement from the Church News because it tips the LDS hand. No matter how often it is asserted that Mormonism is Christianity, no matter how often the claim is made that the divide between Mormonism and Christianity is narrow, the truth is there for all to see: Mormonism and Christianity proclaim different gospels. What’s more, the LDS Church recognizes this fact.
Paul chastened and warned the early Christian church against another gospel. Those words bear repeating:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,…if we, or an angel from heaven. preach any other gospel to you that what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)
By time the Mormons arrived in Taiwan there were already 40 Christian denominations there, holding church services and “preaching the gospel.” There was a Christian missionary broadcasting the gospel via radio. As mentioned earlier, the Bible had been available in the formal language of the nation for 37 years. And there were hospitals dotting the country which had been founded by Christian missionaries in the 19th century.
So 2006 may mark the 50th anniversary of Mormonism in Taiwan, but it certainly doesn’t mark “the beginning of the preaching of the gospel” there. That is something God’s people have been faithfully doing for at least 300 years.