søndag 7. juni 2020

This US church with expansion in its DNA wants to open a temple in China

Every Sunday, when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) meet in the conference room of a blue-glass skyscraper in downtown Shanghai, one person always takes a seat right at the back, by the doors. They are there to intercept the wrong person coming in. This is not to protect any religious mysteries; Mormonism is not a particularly secretive faith and usually seeks out new converts, but because if a Chinese passerby were to join the service, it could mean all those taking part were breaking the law. 

There are only five state-sanctioned religious associations in China, all under the tight control of the Communist Party. Others walk a delicate legal tightrope, with the threat of a crackdown always hanging over their heads. While the government tolerates foreigners practicing their religion and attending services together, it takes a hard line against anything approaching proselytising or missionary work, a prohibition the Mormon Church takes seriously. 

"We have to ask to see if they have a foreign passport to attend," said Jason, a lifelong member of the Church who worked in Shanghai for almost a decade until relocating back to the United State in 2018. "I have frequently been this person watching the doors and on many occasions I have sadly had to turn away Chinese citizens who wished to worship with us."