Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Indonesia Update: It Was True!

Back in October, I posted my recollection of a story I'd heard about how the president of Indonesia ended up becoming friends with Gordon Hinckley and getting a blessing at his hands. I had heard the story from a reliable source, but I wasn't entirely confident in my memory. Justin B. followed up with an awesome comment full of newspaper quotes substantiating parts of the story.

Chad Emmett, a BYU professor, has just posted a comment on that post. I'll top post his comment here since I think it is so important for people to see who read the previous post.
In general the facts of this account are correct. I am a BYU professor and am currently writing a book on the history of the LDS Church in Indonesia. A few summers ago I interviewed Hal Jensen (a California based businessman who has worked with Glen Overton on several projects) and he related to me the same general story.

He did refuse tea at his first meeting with Gus Dur (mid 1990s). (My experience with Muslims is that they are much more accepting of a rejection of hospitality (tea and coffee) if you cite religious prohibition--perhaps Brother Jensen found the same to be true) That refusal led to a continuing friendship.

When Gus Dur came to SLC (summer 1999) for the eye operation, Brother Jensen arranged for him to meet President Packer who then arranged for Gus Dur to meet President Hinckley. Gus Dur was given a blessing by President Hinckley. A few months later he was elected President of Indonesia.

A few months later he was back in SLC for a follow up operation. He met Pres. Hinckley again. This time he invited Pres. Hinckley to visit Indonesia as his official guest. In January 2000 Pres Hinckley traveled to Jakarta to met Gus Dur and to meet with 1,800 Latter-day Saints. A year later the Indonesian government approved the issuance of visas for foreign missionaries to once again enter the country.

From 1970-1981 foreign missionaries were permitted to serve in Indonesia (I was one of the fortuante few). Then from 1981-2001 no foreign missionaries were allowed in the country. That all changed when Gus Dur met Pres Hinckley. Since the summer of 2001 there have been a limited number of foreign elders and sisters serving in Indonesia.
Thank you so much, Chad, for providing this valuable update on the situation. I have often wondered what good came out of the relationship with the Indonesian leader. The relationship was very helpful in our efforts to provide humanitarian assistance after the tsunami. Apparently, it also helped open the door for our missionaries. We'll look forward to your book on the subject when it comes out.


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