October 14, 2016 - Update on the 50th Anniversary Celebration
Above Photo and text from the Bangkok Post [Note: The Bangkok Post's website has gone to just gray-scale displays in memory of the King.]
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest reigning monarch on earth (more than 60 years) passed away today. This event brings with it a mandatory period of 30 days of morning throughout Thailand. Long admired by the Thai people, he was given the added title of "The Great" in 1988. Known also as Rama IX, he is the 9th monarch of the Chakri Dynasty.
This event will impact the planned 50th Anniversary Celebration of Missionary Work in Thailand, formerly planned for November 11-13, 2016. Additional information on that will be forthcoming.
Today the long anticipated day finally arrived. Today, Thailand's King, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, passed away at age 88. He had served as King for just over 70 years, being the longest serving King on planet earth. The question has always been what happens next for Thailand? Many people have wondered about the aftermath of his death. I must say I still don't know what will happen. I'm doubtful that the monarchy will continue, but Thailand must go on.
Long revered and beloved by the Thai people, his image was tarnished in the aftermath of the 2006 coupe d'etat, in September 2006, just over ten years ago. It came to light that the palace had agreed that the well liked prime minister Tuksin, should be deposed. Since then there has been a rift in Thai society about the monarchy, many in favor of it, many opposed to it.
Some years ago I read a biography about the King titled, "The King Never Smiles". The title comes from the fact that in most photographs of the King, he is not smiling. While not every part of the book was complimentary to the King, I still came away with admiration for him based on the substance of the book. To me it showed that the King tried many different things during his life to bless the Thai people. Was every project he backed (some of which he designed himself) successful in accomplishing the expected result? No, but in every case the King tried to do something to improve the lives of the people of Thailand. In his heart was a true love for the Thai people.
It is possible, that with the King's passing, new previously hidden information may come to light about the King. Until such happens, my opinion of him won't change. He was a good man that worked to improve his country and help Thailand develop into a better place than when he became King over 70 years ago.
At a ceremony in Hanoi, the government of Viet Nam gave official recognition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Representing the Church were Elders Cook and Stevenson of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Elder Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy and former president of the Asia Area, and President Lewis Hassell, President of the new Viet Name Hanoi Mission.
Official recognition allows the church to own property in the name of the Church in Viet Nam, and act as an officially recognized religion within the county.
Fifteen young missionaries (including President Hassell) worked in Viet Nam April 1973 - April 1975. They left Saigon as the north was about to conquer the south and unify the country. Not all of Vietnamese Saints were able to leave before the north took control.
No official representatives of the Church would return to Viet Nam until January 1993 when two senior couples (Bateman and Steadman) arrived to serve as humanitarian missionaries and teach English at elite schools in Hanoi. Senior couples serving as humanitarian missionaries have served in Viet Nam ever since that time. Much of the credit for the church achieving recognition in Viet Nam goes to these senior humanitarian missionaries who built trust with the government over many years.
In 2012, young missionaries were introduced to Viet Nam (as part of the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission). They were known as branch builders, serving in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They were under proselyting restrictions that prevented them from going out to find investigators, but anyone interested could come to either of the registered church locations and ask to be taught the gospel. These restrictions were not modified as part of the granting of official recognition. Later the Bangkok Thailand Mission introduced young missionaries to Vientiane Laos and Yangon, Myanmar under similar restrictions.
The article spoke of their visit to Thailand and the meeting that was held on February 21, 2016 at the Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok at which 3,000 were in attendance. Please note that this was the first of several events in Thailand commemorating 50 years of missionary work in that country. The major celebration is scheduled for November 2016.
This was the headline and lead photographs in the print edition.
Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy and President of the Asia Area, worked through LDS physicians to open new doors for the Church. LDS physicians had visited Vietnam to perform charity work with Operation Smile. Through them Elder Lybbert arranged for the church to donate a surgical microscope to a hospital in Hanoi. This made it possible for further humanitarian services to the country. In 1992, Elder Lybbert arranged for two LDS couples to be called to prepare to serve in Hanoi as teachers. The way opened with the start of the new year in 1993 for Stanley and Mavis Steadman along with Levar and Helen Bateman to depart for Vietnam. They arrived on January 6, 1993.
Humanitarian missionaries form the Church have been serving in Vietnam since that time. Starting in 2012, young missionaries, known as "branch builders" have been serving in Vietnam under strict proselyting restrictions. Dr. Hassel has made many return trips to Vietnam starting in the 1980s. During such trips, he had the opportunity to meet with Vietnamese physicians to share knowledge and often make donations of equipment. He has been doing research at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The Deseret News reported that the Hanoi Vietnam Mission would be created during the first half of 2016. It is rather unusual for new missions to be created at any time other than July 1 of each year. The Bangkok Thailand Mission was such an exception as it was created in August of 1973.