SEOUL, South Korea Members of the Church in South Korea capped a year of celebration with a seminar on the Prophet Joseph Smith for religious understanding among academics. The event recognizing the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet followed yearlong celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Korea for the preaching of the gospel.
Attended by 160 people, including 30 of other faiths, from academic fields of religion, history and sociology, as well as media, government representatives and religious leaders, the Dec. 9 seminar was titled "The Worlds of Joseph Smith, Ideas for the 21st Century." The Seoul Key City Public Affairs Council of the Church sponsored this event.
Earlier in the year, Korean Latter-day Saints celebrated the anniversary of the country's dedication by hosting the BYU Young Ambassadors, participating in a Helping Hands service project, blood donation drives, and a nationwide culture night and conference at which President Hinckley addressed them.
Elder Won Yong Ko of the Seventy and second counselor in the Asia North Area presidency, wrapped up the seminar telling about Joseph Smith's influence on him in his personal life. Elder Ko said that while this was a seminar for academics, it is not possible with academic discussion alone to understand all that Joseph Smith did. Many of those things must be accepted on faith.
"Joseph Smith was a great example of faith to us," he said. "Hundreds of millions of people over hundreds of years had read James 1:5, but Joseph Smith showed the faith to turn that verse into action.
"He was the Lord's great tool," Elder Ko continued. "By the world's standards, his achievements were impossible. He lived in the weakness, despair and trials of mankind, but he never lost courage."
Another presenter at the seminar was Dr. Fred Woods from the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. He is also the Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding. Speaking on "The World of Joseph Smith's Thought and Teachings," he spoke of Joseph Smith's great respect and defense of religious freedom.
Dr. Woods compared and contrasted Joseph Smith's search for truth to other truth seekers of past ages in Asia, such as Confucius, and Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).
"There are three positions as to who can receive truth," Dr. Woods said. "Exclusivists feel they have the truth and nobody else does; pluralists maintain that no religion has claim to truth and that all religions are true, and inclusivists take a middle position. They believe that there is one true religion, but that others contain truth, which is the position of (the Church)."
He said Joseph Smith taught that people can hold on to the truth they already have and then add more through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hee Jung Rho, a lecturer at two Korean universities and a graduate student at the National Institute for Korean Studies, spoke on the topic, "A Comparison of Latter-day Saint Families in Korea to Families of Other Religions in Korea."
Mr. Rho has just completed a two-year study involving sociological research on members of the Church and people of other religions in Korea. Reporting that Latter-day Saints in Korea are far more committed to marriage, to chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage, to having children, and to two-parent families than those of other faiths, he broke his data down by other religions showing that the Buddhist faith's lifestyle is most similar to Latter-day Saints.
From BYU's Department of Marriage, Family, and Human Development, Dr. Terrance Olson spoke about "Joseph Smith and The World of the Family." He said research shows that children and teenagers want families who love one another, parents who are together and teach and emphasize values.
"As research on quality marriage and family relationships continues to increase, its compatibility with religious doctrine also increased," said Dr. Olson. "Joseph Smith was called to fulfill the Lord's purposes, not his own. Joseph Smith was merely the messenger of the same truths God has revealed to man through prophets from Adam's time to the present."
Dr. Olson told how Joseph Smith laid the foundation for the doctrine on the family that the Latter-day Saints believe today. He then introduced "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" and discussed many of the principles found in it.