We requested more on the story, and received this . . .
The crowning experience of my mission occurred during the last three months I was in Taiwan.
The following is the official account of what happened.
This story was written by me and submitted to the First Presidency by my Mission President — President Taylor.
It was the late summer or early fall of 1961 in Taipei when this event occurred. These are the facts as near as I can remember them.
The elders assigned to the Taipei Mission Home were eating lunch one day when the cook came into the dining room and asked Elder Cliff Edmunds to look at a newspaper ad that he had in his hand. [The ad was taken from a Chinese newspaper that had been wrapped around the fish he bought that morning at the market.]
The government was selling parcels of land in Taipei at a closed-bid auction. The ad gave the location of the land and the name and address of the government agency to contact.
After lunch Elder Edmunds and I rode our bikes to the address given in the newspaper ad.
The land, as it turned out to be, had been a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War.
The ugly barbed wire fences and guard towers still stood as sobering reminders of what happened there so many years before.
After we viewed the property we then rode out to see the agent named in the ad.
The agent, Mr. Chang, was a government-appointed attorney who was authorized to handle the sale of the land.
We identified ourselves and told him of our interest in obtaining land for the Church. He gave us all the information we needed.
We went home and sent a letter to President Taylor in Hong Kong and then waited for his reply.
Within a week we received his letter — YES, the Church was definitely interested, President Taylor said.
He told us that the information had been sent on to the First Presidency along with a request for permission to bid on the land.
The excitement among the missionaries and members began to build for, by now, the word was out that the Church had found property and was definitely interested.
Several weeks went by and then it came — a letter, signed by President David O. McKay, authorizing me to bid on the land. [By now Elder Edmunds had been released and had gone home.] I took the sealed envelope, containing the authorization, our bid, and a check to Mr. Chang.
The next day I too was released and returned home.
As I recall, it was about a month after I got home that a letter came from President Taylor informing me that our bid had been accepted by the Taiwan Government and that the Church was now a land owner.
Needless to say, I was thrilled! Little did I know then of the eternal impact that this event would have on the people of Taiwan, for it was on this property that the Taiwan Temple was built many years later.
For the past 32 years I have dreamed of the day when I could return to the island of Taiwan and see, first hand, the result of that transaction that the Lord accomplished through two young missionaries. Note: Prior to this land purchase, all attempts to buy land in Taiwan had failed.
The government would not permit us to buy land because the Church was not registered as a “corporation.” We could not register as a “corporation” because we didn’t own land — a catch 22.
This event allowed us to register as a corporation and begin looking for other property on the island. The Lord’s hand was manifest in this transaction in many ways but certainly the most significant has to be the Chinese newspaper ad.
This advertisement did not appear in the English newspaper and we (the missionaries) probably would never have known about the land auction had it not been for the newspaper wrapped around the fish that morning.
Furthermore, of all the pages in the newspaper why did that particular page happen to be chosen for “our fish?”
To me it has been a testimony of how the Lord operates, yes — sometimes in strange and mysterious ways, to accomplish his work.”
The link below is also interesting if you can access the original file through JSTOR at your local library:
“One of the Great Moments of the History of the Church”: The Construction of the First Chapel in the Chinese Realm
My grandpa Robert Suman (Papa) served his mission in Taiwan in 1958-61. One day he saw an ad on the newspaper that his fresh fish was wrapped in, it was for a piece of land for sale. As a young elder, on behalf of the church, he made an offer to buy that land.
With lots of fasting and prayers the offer went through and it was officially owned by the church. Later the Taiwan Temple was built to bless the lives of millions of people on both sides of the veil!
The link below is also interesting if you can access the original file through JSTOR at your local library: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/jmormhist.42.3.0211?seq=1