At a Women’s Studies Honors Society fireside, Susan L. Gong shared stories and observations about LDS women in Asia and the unique sisterhood that unites them in the gospel. Gong has served alongside her husband, Elder Gerrit W. Gong (former president of the Church’s Asia Area), in the Church’s largest and most diverse area in the world.
PROVO, Utah (Sept. 29, 2015)—When Susan L. Gong was serving in Surakarta Indonesia, a stake president shared a message from his father that impacted her in a profound way. The message was simple: “First, be true to the gospel,” Gong recalled, “and second, cherish your relationships—they’re meant to last forever.”
To emphasize the importance of such relationships, Gong, who serves alongside her husband Elder Gerrit W. Gong in Asia, shared stories of women in the Church in Asia at a Women’s Studies Honors Society fireside. She related the personal sacrifice found among an exceptional LDS sisterhood that is daily blessed by the gospel.
Before recounting the story of two Sri Lankan women, Gong explained that it is common practice in Sri Lanka for a groom’s family to present the woman with gold jewelry in return for a bride’s dowry. This jewelry serves as social security for Sri Lankan women, and in the event that a woman must leave her husband, she wears this “insurance” around her neck and writs, giving her the means to provide for herself should her husband insist she leave his home.
Gong then told the story of a young Sri Lankan couple that, against the wishes of their families, decided to forego a traditional Sri Lankan wedding and use the money to fly to the Manila Philippines Temple to be sealed.
When the couple arrived at the airport, however, they were not allowed to board the airplane. They discovered that the plane would be routing through Bangkok, and they did not have the proper visas to land in Thailand.
Not knowing what to do, this young couple called their close friends in the Church, President and Sister Anton. Sister Anton advised the young couple to buy direct tickets to Manila and meet her at the airport an hour and a half later.
Gong explained that Sister Anton then went down to the pawnshop, pawned her wedding jewelry and took the cash to her friends, who then used that money to buy a plane ticket to go to the Manila Philippines Temple to be sealed.
“This story gave me a sense of a dimension of sisterhood that I had never imagined before, that there was that kind of love between sisters in the gospel that she would make that kind of sacrifice,” Gong said.
She continued, “One of the things I’m seeing around Asia is this amazing sisterhood that builds up in the Church as women care for each other in very deep ways and serve each other beyond casseroles and babysitting.”
“I think one of the most difficult things to do as a human is to see the world through more than one lens,” said Gong. “The humanities is the way out of that trap that most of us find ourselves in. You can study another era, understand people’s values and concerns and visions from a different historical time.”
Gong said that through the eyes of these Asian sisters she has seen a glimpse of the value of the blessings that have come to them through their perspective on the gospel.
“The gospel blesses lives, and we have so much to learn from each other,” Gong concluded. “There are so many ways we can be better sisters to each other. We can be greater contributors to the kingdom, and I love the questions the sisters are asking about how they can do that.”
—Sylvia Cutler (B.A. English/French ’17)
Sylvia covers the Women’s Studies program for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a double major in English and French with a minor in women’s studies.
Photo courtesy of LDS media library.