About a year ago I heard the story for the first time. An LDS friend who was seriously questioning her chosen religion told me the story, punctuated by her confusion. If the LDS Church wasn’t of God (the conclusion she’d recently embraced), how could this reported miracle be explained?
It seems a friend of hers had once been at a fireside and listened as a Japanese man told of his conversion to the LDS Church. The story went like this:
On December 7, 1941 Japanese planes flew over Hawaii on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor. One of the pilots (the man telling the story) noticed a big, white building sitting smack in the middle of fields growing pineapple and sugarcane. Reasoning that this building must be important to the US military, the pilot peeled off from the rest of the formation and flew over the building — the Laie Hawaii Temple — and attempted to drop a bomb to destroy it. But something went wrong and the bomb wouldn’t release. So, giving up, the pilot rejoined the other planes and completed the attack on Pearl Harbor, dropping his bombs with no further mechanical complications.
After the war, the Japanese pilot came into contact with LDS missionaries. When they showed him a picture of the Laie Hawaii Temple he recognized it as the building he had been unable to destroy. Noting that the temple had been protected by some unseen power, the man joined the LDS Church and spent the rest of his days telling his faith-promoting story at firesides.
My confused friend wondered, how can this be? Why would God protect the temple if it didn’t belong to Him?
Of course, we know that God often protects things that don’t “belong” to Him. As was said by a commenter here on Mormon Coffee recently, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). But what about this particular “miracle” involving the Laie Hawaii Temple?
I’d never heard the story before, so it took me a bit by surprise. My friend knew the person who heard this story first-hand, right from the horses mouth, so to speak. I didn’t know what to say. But I went ahead and did a little research so I would be better prepared the next time I encountered the story.
What I found was that the LDS story is a myth that has grown out of a different true story. According to Mormon Myth-ellaneous by LDS author J. Michael Hunter, 30 years ago BYU history professor Kenneth Baldridge set out to prove or disprove this report. For many reasons, he finally judged the story to be false; if there ever was a pilot, the man never joined the LDS Church, and he never gave fireside talks. Dr. Baldridge concluded,
“I humbly suggest that the tale be confined to the vast collection of Mormon folklore and not be repeated as an actual faith-promoting incident.”
So this LDS story is untrue, but it had a beginning and Dr. Baldridge thinks he knows where it came from.
“Baldridge thinks the fireside rumor came from the story of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, a Pearl Harbor pilot who later converted to Christianity–not the LDS Church–after reading a religious tract during the war-crimes trials. One of the few Pearl Harbor veterans to survive the war, he later became a traveling evangelist and often told his story throughout Japan and North America in his speech, ‘From Pearl Harbor to Calvary.'” [At the linked site scroll down to access Captain Fuchida’s testimony.]
Okay, one mystery is solved, but another is left in its wake: Why did my friend’s friend claim to have heard this fictional pilot tell his story at a fireside she attended? This mystery is one I can’t solve.
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.