The Pacific island of Taiwan now has 100 congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Last month Mormon officials organized the new Mingchien Branch (small congregation) by dividing the larger Nantou Ward (large congregation).
Mingchien is a small central Taiwan town that sits in a scenic agricultural valley. From Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south, the 100 congregations of the Church serve a total Latter-day Saint membership approaching 50,000.
The first handful of Mormon missionaries arrived in Taiwan in the late 1950s and began establishing the Church from scratch. One of the early Mormon missionaries to serve in Taiwan was Gerald Walker, who arrived on the island in January 1959. He is now back in Taiwan and, with his wife, Christie, directs the operation of the Church’s Taipei Taiwan Temple.
“When I was here as a young missionary, I don’t believe there was one member of the Church in the area where Nantou and Mingchien are located,” he says. Walker notes that he and 40 other missionaries were thinly dispersed throughout the 36,000-square-mile island (about the size of Indiana). There were just five scattered congregations organized then and about 600 Latter-day Saints. The young missionaries were often assigned to lead the congregations.
Today all lay ecclesiastical leaders of the Church in Taiwan come from the ranks of the local members.
The town of Mingchien is a 40-minute ride on public transportation from where the Nantou Ward meets, so the formation of the new congregation is welcomed by Church members who live in and around Mingchien.
“Having a large enough core of faithful Church members to begin a branch in Mingchien makes it much easier for the members to attend our services,” says Chen, Chu-huang, the newly assigned branch president. Adds his wife, Chen, Mei-shia, “We will do our best to make the congregation a warm and friendly place so that new members will join us and we will grow.”
Grow is what the Church has been doing in Taiwan for over 50 years now. The establishment of the 100th congregation in Mingchien is proof of that.