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Mormon Church announces talks to 'regularize' operations in China

Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China.
Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China.
Scott Taylor, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday that it is participating in talks to "regularize" operations in China.

The First Presidency released a statement that said, "(We) have had discussions with a senior official of the People's Republic of China from Beijing and have established a relationship which we expect will lead to regularizing the activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in China."

On Aug. 24, a senior Chinese official met with the First Presidency in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City. Previously, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy had attended two meetings in Beijing with Chinese leaders in February and May that Chinese representatives initiated.

"It is important to understand what the term regularizing means and what it does not mean," church spokesman Michael Otterson said. "It does not mean that we anticipate sending missionaries to China. That issue is not even under consideration.

"The church deeply appreciates the courtesy of the Chinese leadership in opening up a way to better define how the church and its members can proceed with daily activities, all in harmony with Chinese law."

Although the Mormon Church does not proselytize in China, it holds worship services there. Separate congregations exist for expatriates who are working and living in China and Chinese nationals who returned to their homeland after converting to the LDS faith while living abroad. For more information on LDS Church's history in China, click here.

Once the process of regularization is complete, the native Chinese congregations will gain greater leeway in holding public meetings.

Otterson said that although many details remain to be worked out, the church and China have been cultivating mutual respect and trust for more than 30 years.

"They have become thoroughly familiar with us through numerous contacts, and they have seen how we and our members operate in China. They know that we are people of our word when it comes to respecting Chinese law and cultural expectations," he said.

When asked if Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor who is currently the U.S. ambassador to China, had made a difference in these negotiations, Otterson said, "No, this had nothing to do with Jon Huntsman Jr. No U.S. government officials or diplomats were involved."