I was in Tokyo on Sunday and was able to attend the full three-hour block of meetings at the Shibuya Ward -- a Japanese-language ward, not an English-language branch. I don't speak Japanese, but still had a wonderful time. Here are some reflections on what Correlation looks like from this end. It doesn't look so bad.
Priesthood with the high priests, all in suits or white shirts. Sounds pretty Mormon until you walk the streets on a warm and humid Monday morning and see a zillion Japanese men trooping off to work, all wearing suits or white shirts. Nice lesson based on an Elder Hales talk encouraging men to be good fathers. Which means working long hours at work, doing hours of church work as required, then spending the rest of your time helping kids do homework and helping out around the house rather than playing golf (really big here) or chowing down with the workmates at a local eatery (of which there are thousands, and the food is very tasty). Seems like the right message. Nice teacher, nice discussion.
Sunday School on the war chapters in Alma. A friendly lady who works in LDS translation taught a fine lesson, or at least as fine a lesson as you can get out of the war chapters. Most of the comments were offered by women in the class, which was a pleasant surprise.
Sacrament Meeting. Nice chapel -- the ward has four small floors of a nice building across the street from a five-star hotel. On the stand are the bishopric, the speakers, and about five other guys in suits. I'm guessing its male ward auxiliary leaders, but it could have been half the stake high council. I suspect that's a reflection of Japanese cultural respect for elders and leaders, but not sure. Most American leaders do almost anything to avoid sitting on the stand. While I didn'f follow the topics well (the last speaker's topic was we are all children of God, all of us), the speakers connected well with the congregation of about 120. Wonderful Saints -- I got to visit with a few.
And ... lunch! There was lunch in the basement following services -- a fundraiser for the youth. For 1500 yen (about 20 bucks) we got bowls of hefty ramen noodles with a variety of veggies, along with root beer floats and some shave ice (the boys were having a great time mashing up the ice in those cruncher machines). Enter Correlation: the root beer! The acceptable Mormon soft drink. What LDS can drink and not drink is a problem all over the world given how vague the Word of Wisdom is and how it tends to be intepreted through the lens of American culture. Vending machines are ubiquitous here. The typical drink machine offers thirty choices, about 25 of which are some variation on green tea, a terribly healthy drink which is prohibited by our LDS law of health. And Coke remains one of our shades of grey. Milk is almost impossible to find. So root beer is what you drink at the ward lunch. Which was, I might add, very tasty. The LDS youth were happy and helpful. Nice people.
Conclusion: I wonder what Japanese Christian Evangelical services look like compared to those in the US? Or Japanese Catholic services? Hard to compare LDS Japanese services and make meaningful comments on Correlation without a larger context. But I will venture one generalization: outside the US, Correlation looks more like cultural correlation than doctrinal correlation.