Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks Visits Vietnam, Meets With The Vice-President Of The Fatherland Front In Hanoi

Update June 12th: LDS Church News published a much more detailed story about this visit. The delegation also visited Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Hong Kong.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is heading up a delegation visiting Vietnam this week. On May 25th, 2010, Elder Oaks met with Ha Van Nui, the vice-president of the Fatherland Front. None of the official LDS media, either the Church News or the Mormon Times, have picked up the story yet; the only report is from the English-language Viet Nam News.

The meeting took place in Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi. Ha Van Nui told Elder Oaks that Viet Nam had 32 recognized religious organizations, all of which could become members of the Fatherland Front (the LDS Church is not officially recognized, but is permitted to operate). Ha Van Nui said he hoped the LDS Church would obey Vietnamese law as well as operate under its stated principles. In response, Elder Oaks said the Church and the Front had a lot of similarities in doing charity work, uniting people and building solidarity. Elder Oaks said one of the Church's principles is to obey the law (12th Article of Faith), and that the Church is interested in the prospect of joining the Front. The LDS Church's official database lists no entry for Vietnam; according to the media story, the Church was introduced to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) more than 25 years ago and now has about 1,000 members. The Ho Chi Minh City branch has a Facebook site HERE. Some of the American troops who served in country during the Vietnam War were LDS and undoubtedly introduced people to the Gospel while in country.

According to a February 2010 Church News article, there is also a branch in Hanoi, and President Gordon B. Hinckley visited both branches in May 1996. The article provides considerable more detail about the history of the Church in Vietnam. An August 1980 Ensign article also provides more information. A June 2009 Mormon Times article chronicles the experiences of Stanley and Mavis Steadman, of Salt Lake City, along with LaVar and Helen Bateman, of Provo, the first two missionary couples called to serve in Vietnam in 1993.

According to Wikipedia, the Fatherland Front was founded in February 1977 as an umbrella group of pro-government mass movements in Vietnam, and has close links to the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese government. It is an amalgamation of many smaller groups, including the Communist Party itself. The Front is described by the Vietnamese government as the political base of people's power. It is intended to have a significant role in society, promoting national solidarity and unity of mind in political and spiritual matters. Many of the government's social programs are conducted through the Front. Recently, it has been given a role in programs to reduce poverty. The Front is also responsible for much of the government's policy on religion, and has the ability to determine which religious groups will receive official approval.

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