Cover photo for Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye's Obituary
Melissa

Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye

d. April 23, 2024


Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, 44--beloved wife, mother, scholar, historian, professor--passed away due to complications from cancer on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Melissa is remembered for her warmth, intellect, and courage by all who know her. 


Melissa was born in Newport Beach, California, to Warren Sanji Inouye and Susan Lew. She was the oldest of 5 children, the only sister to four younger brothers. She graduated from Estancia High School where she was on the cross-country, track, and soccer teams. She set the school record for the 3200 meter race. After graduating high school, she attended Harvard College where she pursued a degree in East Asian Studies, ran on the cross-country team, and sang in the Harvard choir. Melissa took an 18 month break from school to serve a full-time proselytizing mission in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While on her mission, she met Joseph Phillip McMullin, and after their missionary service, they married in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 16, 2003. Melissa continued at Harvard to begin a PhD program in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her first child, Isaiah, was born in Boston.   


Melissa and Joseph moved to Los Angeles while Joseph completed law school at UCLA. During this time, Melissa taught in the history departments of Loyola Marymount University and California State University, Los Angeles, while doing research for her doctoral dissertation. She was instrumental in caring for her mother, Susan, who was entering the final stages of cancer. Melissa’s second child, Kai, was born in Los Angeles. 


After her mother’s passing, Melissa and Joseph’s young family moved to Xiamen, China, to research her first book, China and the True Jesus: Charisma and Organization in a Chinese Christian Church. The family returned to the states, during which time Mika joined the family, and then moved to Hong Kong where Joseph had just been hired at a law firm. She researched extensively at the Hong Kong Baptist University Archives to prepare her dissertation for book form. Han, Melissa and Joseph’s youngest child, was born in Hong Kong. 


In 2014, Melissa and family moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where Melissa taught Asian Studies at the University of Auckland. She was a founding member of the Global Mormon Studies research network and served on the advisory board for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. In 2017, Melissa was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and in 2019, Melissa and family moved back to the United States where she was hired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints History Department. Melissa, who spoke four languages, worked on the Global Histories project, bringing to life the stories of church members outside the United States. 


Melissa’s professional work continued, as did several projects that were intensely personal. She began an effort to remove the invasive phragmites from the Mehraban Wetlands in Draper, Utah. This passion grew until she had dozens of neighbors showing up on Saturdays to pull phragmites, plant willows, attend educational lectures from local Utah scientists, and join the Wetland Rangers (a group that she started). Melissa is well-known for her numerous efforts to serve refugees; at one point, she carted back several plastic totes worth of fabric from her grandmother’s house in California so she could make and sell furoshikis (the profits of which went towards her refugee friends). 


Melissa’s four children were the joy of her life. She shared her love of knowledge by reading extensively to them and with them. The kitchen table was always covered in posters, maps, and infographics; a clear plastic sheet on top ensured that the family could eat dinner as messily as they chose and still learn about the climates zones of the world, the topography of New Zealand, or a map of the constellations.


An accomplished author, Melissa referred to her books as her “other children.” Her first was China and the True Jesus: Charisma and Organization in a Chinese Christian Church; it is an examination of the formation of a native Chinese Christian sect against the backdrop of Chinese historyHer second book was Crossings: A Bald Asian American Latter-day Saint Woman Scholar's Ventures Through Life, Death, Cancer, and Motherhood. She began writing this immediately after she was diagnosed with cancer, and it was intended to be a distillation of her thoughts and writings to leave to her children. 


As Melissa’s cancer progressed, she continued to work and co-edited a collection of essays with beloved friend and fellow Mormon scholar Kate Holbrook entitled Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart. Her penultimate book, Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance, is a reflection on learning to love the wide array of experiences that constitute a faithful life. She completed one final book, a memoir based on her cancer journey, which will hopefully be published posthumously. 


Melissa is survived by her husband, Joseph; her children, Isaiah, Kai, Mika, and Han; her siblings, Abraham, Benjamin, Isaac, and Peter; her father, Warren; her stepmother, Cathy Tibbitts; and her maternal grandmother, Marjorie Ju Lew. She is preceded in death by her mother, Susan. 


Public services for Melissa will be held on Monday, April 29, 2024, at 1187 Draper Pkwy, Draper, UT 84020. A viewing of Melissa’s life work and memorabilia will be held from 9:30 am - 11:30 am. Her funeral begins at 12 pm. There will be a private graveside service for family members following the funeral. 


Donations may be made to the GoFundMe on Melissa’s behalf. Flowers may be sent to Memorial Mountain View Mortuary, 3115 E Bengal Boulevard (7800 S), Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121. 

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