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How a convert from Beijing shares God’s light with millions of Chinese people

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Connie Xiaohua Zhang

I grew up in Beijing, China, in a typical atheist family. My father was a leader working in the Beijing government, and my mother was a sixth-grade Chinese teacher. My parents taught me good values, such as integrity in our actions, a strong work ethic, respect for others, and equality among all people regardless of their profession or background. I went to Beijing University for my undergraduate degree in economics and then worked in multinational companies.

I met my husband at work. He grew up in Shanghai and, in 1996, was working for GE Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati. Through a phone interview, he hired me, a college senior, as his intern. We worked together for six months over the phone and the internet. After graduation, I joined LG Electronics in Beijing, and he went on to a different rotation in his company. We lost contact for over a year, and then he found me again through another GE college’s connection. A few months after we got reconnected, we met in Beijing for the first time in person. It was Christmas, and we quickly fell in love with each other. Soon enough, I found out that he was a member of the Church (though he was not very active then). It was the first time I had heard of the Church. After seventeen months of a long-distance relationship, we decided to get married. To be together as a married couple, I needed to move to the US to start a new life. Obtaining a graduate degree became a natural choice for me to build a solid foundation to obtain future employment in the US. I applied to the MBA program at Harvard Business School and got in.

During my second year, I met Professor Clayton Christensen. He was very vocal about his beliefs in class and was very involved with the students. He and his wife, Christine, hosted a fireside for all Church members at the business school one Sunday, and my husband and I went as well. After listening to his and his wife’s talks, I walked up to Professor Christensen and asked if I could hear more about his beliefs. He punched his fist into his palm and said, “You made my day.” He invited my husband and me to learn the gospel at his house every week. It was at his house where I learned to pray and where I felt the Spirit. It always felt holy and special in his house; then when we drove away and went on with our day-to-day life, I would struggle to feel the Spirit. I could not help but wonder if God existed or not. After eight months of study and thirteen missionary elders, I was finally baptized on the day after my graduation commencement. The way I see it is this: right after graduating from a top business school, I entered a school of faith as a new student.

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After graduating from Harvard, I stayed in America, except for a period of three years living in Hong Kong. During the past eighteen years, I have worked in both large and small companies and established my own consulting business.

In my life, my faith has played an extremely important function. After a true conversion to the Lord, all the actions I took and all the decisions I made were influenced by my faith, one way or another. For example, my primary work was in the area of sales. In the business world, sales are always related to trading and transactions. Because of this relationship to profit, it’s very likely that conflicts of interest will arise. But, as I see it, the significance of whether or not I sell a particular project is not as important as whether, in our interactions, the customer and I have established a positive, constructive relationship. China has a saying: “Even when buying and selling are not successful, righteousness should still be there.” The righteousness referred to is that of Confucian “benevolence and righteousness,” but in my mind, this righteousness is the loving-kindness and righteousness of Heavenly Father. It has to do with the truth of the gospel. Before each client meeting, I always say a prayer to Heavenly Father. I ask, “Father, please bless me that I can build a constructive relationship with this person. I would like to be an instrument in thy hand to do thy work for thee. Please have the Holy Spirit be with me so this person can see the light and have interest in knowing the truth and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The person I was before my baptism would respond to a conflict with someone at work or at home in a black-and-white or win-or-lose way, which tended to generate resentment. Now that I have been baptized and possess the doctrines of the gospel, I respond with prayer, asking for Heavenly Father’s help to let me understand the other person’s position and to deal with our differences in a loving way. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, I changed into a person who had more wisdom in the eyes of other people. My business unfolded more smoothly, and my family became more harmonious.

In May 2016, my mother became ill and passed away. She had worked as an elementary school teacher. Quite a few of her students, many of whom had reached their fifties, came to pay their respects. I thought, When I am lying on my deathbed, what will I leave behind in this world? Sales performance? Or accumulated wealth? I’m afraid that neither of these will remain. I hope what I will leave the world will be a positive and truthful influence on every single person around me. If I can achieve this, I believe that my life has its worth. Since that time, I have eagerly sought to find opportunities and to take actions to help others. This sort of thinking does not only come from my mother’s funeral but reflects the influence of my professor, Clayton Christensen.

In searching for the purpose and worth of my life, in November 2016, I started to use my free time after work to write on the microblog site WeChat under the name “Connie USA Channel.” Very quickly, a few essays were picked up by some big media sites and were read by hundreds of thousands of people. In July 2017, I started to teach an online course on networking. I hoped to use networking techniques I learned at Harvard Business School and had picked up through working in America to help students in China. In March 2019, I published my first book in China, titled Network Up. A year later, tens of thousands of people had read it, and over a million people had listened to my lectures and talks on numerous subjects. Before writing or speaking, I would always kneel down and say a prayer to Heavenly Father.

The words of my prayer were as follows: “Dear Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful for the opportunity thou hast provided for me to speak to or write for these audiences. I’m so grateful for Jesus Christ and for the gospel. I ask thy blessing to have the Holy Spirit be with me, so I can loosen up my tongue to speak the words thou wouldst have me speak. Let the messages I would share with them benefit their lives and also generate sincere interest in their hearts to know the truth and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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Living in the US for over twenty years and not speaking much Chinese has definitely caused my Chinese language capability to deteriorate significantly. When I started my writing journey, my father joked about my writing being like a running account, no focus, just plain stuff. I didn’t have confidence in delivering content through writing or speaking. Actually, many, many times, either before writing something or before speaking in front of people, I was not sure what on earth I was going to write or say; I felt inadequate being in that role and felt emptiness in my head. Especially when I faced the camera, knowing that there were 800,000 people actually watching me, my heart raced and almost jumped out of my chest.

Once again, I turned to Heavenly Father and prayed. After praying, the words and the language bubbled up like water from a fountain and gushed out like a running spring. In writing an essay or giving a lecture, I always share with the audience the wisdom I have received from the gospel. In China, missionary preaching is against the constitution, and speaking on religious topics is not encouraged. But I use the more subtle approach of using quotes and explanations to share gospel messages with my readers and listening audience. People perhaps do not know who Jesus Christ and President Nelson are, but they can listen to their words in my messages.

For example, I have taught parents how to have Family Home Evening regularly to build connections with their children in my Raising Socially Intelligent Children podcast series. When the Hollywood movie Coco was on air in China, I wrote an article with the title “Remember Me,” referring to genealogy studies. In the article, I used Elder Gong’s family record as an example and quoted Professor Christensen’s words from his book How Will You Measure Your Life? I also quoted from Matthew 6, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and David O. McKay’s words, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”[1] I was not trying to preach a message explicitly about Jesus Christ or God, which could cause trouble in China, but to share core truths of human life. In this subtle approach of sharing, I believe that the messages themselves can register in people’s hearts.

Often enough, when I look back on what I’ve written or when I listen to my recorded talks, I think, Is that really me writing or speaking? I do not dare to believe it because the way I organized my thoughts and the words I chose to deploy were of a caliber that was way beyond my ability.

For example, in my “Remember Me” article, I asked the question, How much do I know about my ancestors? I continued by talking about the visit I paid to the Shanghai Public Library Genealogy Center where I found Elder Gong’s genealogy records. Comparing the genealogy efforts done in the US (also mentioning in the article) and my regret that my family has no records in China led me to the second question: How do I recognize my ancestors when I pass the veil of death? I went on to talk about how I organized the family history on my mother’s side. I wrote about the history of my grandmother and grandfather with the hope that we can pass on their legacies to our descendants. I also mentioned how I am going to memorialize my mother by writing about her and assemble a memoir for her by gathering stories from relatives and her colleagues and students.

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In the last part of the article, I posed another question: What can we leave for our descendants? How will we be remembered as a good father, mother, spouse, friend, mentor, etc. versus being remembered by the worldly successes people try to pursue? I invited readers to ponder on President McKay’s quote regarding worldly and family success and said, “Worldly wealth will disappear. The most popular movie or song today will be irrelevant next year. But family is eternal. Let’s open the softest part of our heart, in the beginning of this new year, to our family. Let spouses, parents, and children work together, cultivate this intimate relationship with each other, to strengthen our families.” This article was read and shared by 100,000 people in China. Every time I read my own writings, I know that I have received the Holy Ghost’s gift and revelation because I am doing the Lord’s work. …

I know in my deep heart that I am a precious daughter of our Heavenly Father and that he has a plan for me. All I need to do is follow his plan and hearken to the counseling voice of the Holy Spirit. Because of my faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, I can put myself completely in God’s hands and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me, to be an instrument in God’s hands, to be a vessel, to carry God’s light into every corner of the world, especially nurturing the sons and daughters of China on the earth.

Every Needful Thing

A collection of essays from accomplished academics and professionals who speak about discipleship not only with their minds but also from their hearts. Instead of pushing us to choose between faith and reason, love and law, truth within the restored gospel and truth in the wider world of God's children, these writers urge us to seek "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report" and learn to live in a world of complexity and abundance. With humility and openness that makes their specialized work accessible to a general reader, these authors model how to live life as a whole person. They relate the twists and turns of their intellectual and spiritual journeys, giving readers confidence to make their own ways and to pursue "every needful thing" (D&C 88:119).


[1] David O. McKay, in the Conference Report, April 1935, p. 116, quoting from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization (Southern co-operative league, 1924), 42;

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