I served a mission to one of the Four Tigers. This Asian economy rapidly developed and when I was there not quite ten years ago, didn’t seem all that different, in many respects, from the United States. There were many advantages to serving in a country where capitalism had literally transformed daily life. Consider the following:
- Many people had leisure time to spend with their families and to hear the Gospel as a result of regular time off (like a weekend or a vacation, for instance); it wasn’t that long ago when six and seven day work weeks were much more common in one of these countries. This also means that Church members would have more time to spend helping and assisting in the work: temple trips, missionary exchanges, and Home Teaching are just three examples.
- Many people had much higher incomes than just a generation or two previous: financially, they could contribute much more to the Church than those who are impoverished. They were more able to travel to the temple, serve missions, get an education, and support their family on one income.
- Housing included luxuries like indoor plumbing, hot water heaters, air conditioning, and privacy. My wife, alas, was not so lucky: she had a semi-private outhouse in her backyard which served as a latrine and cold-water bucket shower, and no air conditioning in a very hot and humid Central American country.
- Time-saving devices like bicycles were not only common but inexpensive and high quality as well. The work, in my opinion, would not have progressed as quickly without bicycles. Laugh if you like, but this would have been a significant constraint in sharing the Gospel.
- Another time-saving device was the traditional fast-food hole-in-the-wall restaurants. These neighborhood restaurants may not have passed OSHA or FDA inspections, but the food was delicious and inexpensive and relatively healthy: we trusted places where the locals ate. I can’t think of any food poisoning downtime as a result of one of these many decisions to eat out. You may attribute this to the Lord’s protection of His servants, that they may be able to consume poison and not be harmed.
You may find it silly to consider the benefit of capitalism in the work of the Lord, but I can’t help thinking of David O. McKay’s account of their trip to China to dedicate that land for the preaching of the Gospel, around 1920 or thereabouts. He told of countless beggars desperately looking for food. Elder McKay and his companion were swarmed at the Beijing train station. Conditions were primitive. Due to unrest and instability, he recommended to the First Presidency that China would have to wait for the preaching of the Gospel.
To consider the miraculous changes in China since the early 1920s (or even Mao’s cultural revolution in the 1960s) is remarkable to me. I see it as the hand of the Lord preparing China to open its doors to the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.