I believe that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do not love the people of North America, Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan more than They love their other children on this earth. However, people in these nations have been blessed with time and means the like of which no other people in the history of world have been blessed. I believe that this blessing has come to these people because Heavenly Father and His Son expect them to bear the major burden of building the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Jacob cautioned that we should gnot spend money for that which is of no worth, nor our labor (time) for that which cannot satisfy.h (2 Nephi 9:51) I fear that too many of us who have been so blessed have not used our time or our money as wisely as we could have done. Some of us have chosen unwisely and donft have the means or the health that will enable us to serve as we now wish. But all is not lost.
The love of our Father and His Son is so deep for those in need of our service that They can and will help us bless the lives of those we may be called to serve, despite our weaknesses. There is such a great need for our service. Consider the following.
Six billion five hundred million people currently inhabit this planet which we call earth. Approximately 52,000 full-time missionaries are out there now trying to present the precious message of salvation and restoration to these people. This is an average of one missionary per each 125,000 people. In the California San Francisco Mission where we lived for several years, the ratio is one missionary per 12,500 people. To reach this ratio worldwide, we need ten times as many missionaries, 520,000. In Japan, there are about 850 missionaries for the 125 million people who live in the islands from Hokkaido to Okinawa. This is a ratio of one missionary to 147,000 people.
About 10% of the current missionaries worldwide are senior couples. Because of demographics (the baby boom phenomenon in particular) the number of senior couples who are becoming eligible for missions is increasing significantly. At the same time, the number of young men eligible to serve missions is going down as a percentage of Church membership.
As you may realize, until 1968, there was only one mission in Japan when a new mission was created. In 1970, the number of missions was doubled to four. In 1973, the Nagoya Mission was created making the total five. In 1974, the Sendai Mission was added making six. In 1976, the Okayama Mission was opened making seven missions in Japan. In 1978, the Tokyo South Mission came into being and was followed by number nine in 1980 when the Osaka Mission was opened. From 1990 until 1995, there were ten missions in Japan with the opening of the Japan Okinawa Mission. The Osaka Mission was closed in 1995 dropping the number to nine. The closing of the Japan Okinawa Mission in 1996 left eight and the Kobe Mission was closed in 2001 leaving seven missions, the number in existence now. There have been some realignments, however and the seven existing missions are, in order of longevity, Nagoya, Sendai, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Kobe. For greater detail, please see the chart under Japan Church History.
As you can observe, many missionaries have had the honor of serving in Japan since the work began in 1901 and especially since 1970 when four missions began operating. I estimate between 20,000 to 22,000 missionaries, not including senior couples have served in Japan as missionaries. Of these, about 4,500 have come from Japan. Most of the remainder have come from North America with some from Australia and a few from several other countries.
Like me, those missionaries who were 19 in 1961 are now 65 years old. Over the coming years more and more returned missionaries from Japan will reach the age when they can serve. With good planning, many, if they choose to do so, will be able to serve before they become 65 years old. I believe there is a great need for them in Japan now. The number of people being baptized currently is hardly more than enough to replace those who are dying or otherwise leaving the Church. And I do not believe the need will decrease in the coming years. I feel Heavenly Father and the Saviorfs deep and powerful love for these very good people. I hope you will feel it, too. I hope you will choose to make a commitment now to serve as full-time missionaries as soon as you can.
It is my hope that you will feel again the love that moved you as you served faithfully as missionaries in the past. I pray you will have confidence in the love of our Father and Jesus Christ. If you seek to know and share this love, I have confidence you will be blessed to prepare yourselves to serve and that you will do much good.
Some of you may fear you have lost your ability in the Japanese language. I assure you that despite your language weakness you will be blessed to improve it sufficiently to serve effectively. Working a little bit on a regular basis will help significantly, but when the light of love fills your heart and glows in your eyes, the people you serve will see it and feel it and they will listen carefully to you and will trust you and they will understand the important things you are trying to teach.
Wade W. Fillmore