By LINDSEY SWITZLER
Government representatives of China visited BYU and met with the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Thursday to learn more about the LDS religion. The Chinese officials are responsible for setting the country’s domestic and foreign religious policy.
President Hinckley along with the First Presidency hosted the group in Salt Lake after their BYU visit. The group also toured Temple Square, Welfare Square and attended a special performance by the Tabernacle Choir. They met with Govenor Mike Levitt earlier that morning.
Paul Hyer, Professor Emeritus of Asian Studies and who is also a specialist in modern China, helped host the group which included Elder Chu-jen Chia, LDS Area Authority of Bejing, China.
“As China is opening to the world they are realizing that the LDS religion is becoming more important,” Hyer said.
The group’s BYU visit included a stop at the Harold B. Lee Library where they viewed some rare photographs of China’s earliest communist leaders, Mao Zedong, Zhour Enlai, and Zhu De, taken by Helen Foster Snow, a correspondent for China during its war with Japan from 1931 to 1945.
“Helen Foster Snow is a hero in China,” Hyer said. Snow’s life provides a unique connection between China and the Mormon culture.
After Snow passed away in January, her niece, Sheril Bischoff, donated 400 plus boxes of manuscripts and personal papers to BYU. Snow’s concern for helping China and the Chinese is apparent in her writings.
As the Chinese study this historical figure they have recently learned of Snow’s Mormon pioneer roots that go back to Nauvoo and the trek west to Utah, Hyer said.
After viewing Snow’s documents, the officials were able to meet with LDS and non-LDS students and ask questions about their BYU and church experience.
“They were impressed with the campus, the appearance of the students and that the church has such an impressive religious institution,” Hyer said.
Peter Chan, a Chinese Graduate Student at BYU in the Instructional Psychology and Technology program, visited with Jin Guang Liu the Deputy Director of Religious Affairs Bureau of the State Council of China. Chan told Liu that he was Buddhist before joining the church more than ten years ago in Hong Kong.
The Chinese officials will also visit New York and Washington, D.C., before returning to China.