The conversion story of Kyoko Yaguchi is inspiring and instructive. Kyoko’s story helps missionaries to develop the faith to find by:
1. Illustrating the power of multiple finding methods
2. Demonstrating ways the Lord leads people to the missionaries and
3. Proving that no effort is wasted.
By considering sweet Kyoko and her experience, missionaries can learn from and duplicate a marvelous experience that will help to bring about the prophetic promises regarding missionary work in Japan.
Kyoko in Kimono
In early 2012, Kyoko Yaguchi was 14 years old. She was schooled in the art of traditional Japanese dance. Traditional dance requires discipline and grace and Kyoko developed both. At a first introduction Kyoko appears to be much older than her 14 years. Her grace and composure project the image of an older and more mature young woman.
Sister Baird and I joined the missionaries in a lesson with Kyoko when a concern arose which threatened her baptismal date. Members wondered if our missionaries might be pressuring Kyoko to receive baptism and suspected that her parents might also feel the same way. A member called me to express the concern. I asked a few questions and learned that Kyoko had attended church 7 or 8 times. Her mother regularly attended with her and her father acted as chaperone to each lesson.
I asked the parents and the member to join us in the lesson. We started the lesson by explaining that baptism was the mechanism by which we enter God’s Kingdom. Because it is God’s Kingdom the standards for entry are high. We taught that liking the missionaries and wanting to please them was not sufficient reason to be baptized. We explained that God had outlined the standards for receiving baptism in the Doctrine and Covenants section 20 verse 37. We opened our scriptures together and read, stopping at the end of each phrase and asking someone to share their understanding of the phrase. We first read “all those who humble themselves before God”. I asked Kyoko’s mom what she thought that standard meant. She gave a thoughtful and insightful answer.
We moved to the next phrase, “…and desire to be baptized.” This time I asked Kyoko directly. “Do you desire to be baptized?”
She gave a direct answer, “Yes.”
“Will you please explain to me why you desire to be baptized?” Her answer was simple but clear. Both her mother and the member were satisfied from her answer that Kyoko was not being pressured but that she was making a well considered choice based on her budding faith. We continued by reading and discussing each phrase. Many of our questions were directed to Kyoko’s mother; occasionally we sought a response from either Kyoko or the member. In conclusion we spoke about the gift of the Holy Ghost and read together John 14:26 and talked about the spirit being able to teach us all things and being able to recall all things to our memory. We then asked Kyoko, “You are scheduled to receive baptism on March 3. Do you still want to be baptized on that day or would you prefer to wait?”
“I would like to be baptized on March 3.”
“Mother, how do you feel about that?” I asked.
“I don’t want to postpone my daughter’s baptism. Her father and I support her in this choice and will do all we can to help her to honor the choice she makes today.”
“Member, how do you feel about Kyoko’s desire to be baptized on her appointed day?”
With tears of emotion, having been moved by the spirit, the member agreed that postponing her baptism would serve no useful purpose.
With everyone united in opinion we shifted our attention. I spoke to Kyoko’s mother. “Sister Yaguchi, you say that you and your husband support Kyoko in her choice. I have two requests for you and the family, is that okay?”
“It would be a great support to Kyoko if all the family could be present for her baptism and later, her confirmation. Will you all join us on those days?”
“Second, after her baptism, the missionaries will teach Kyoko all the lessons over again from the beginning. It would be of great help to Kyoko if her family participated in those lessons and had a clear understanding of the things being taught. Will you do that?”
These invitations are simply following the suggestions in Preach My Gospel p. 167. Bullet point number three suggests teaching recent converts and asking them to introduce other people you can teach. The final bullet point recommends inviting people to baptismal services. Both of these suggestions were useful with Kyoko’s family. When Sister Baird and I went to Kyoko’s baptism there were her parents seated near the front of the chapel. We had a wonderful visit with them and invited them to our home for a family home evening. They gratefully accepted. Again, when she was confirmed, her parents and her older sister were in attendance and were warmly welcomed by the members.
Elder Andersen and Elder Koesashi
Kyoko and her family participating in Family Home Evening.
Standing: Sister and President Baird, Sister and Brother Allen
Seated: Elder Rust, Elder Koesashi, Michiko, Shoko, Kyoko, and Ritsuo Yaguchi.
If the story of Kyoko’s conversion ended there it would be a wonderful story, but that is not the end. Our very wise missionaries continued to follow the guidance on pages 167 and 172 of Preach My Gospel. Page 167 suggests asking for referrals. Page 172 recommends an activity to help members to make a list of names. The missionaries pressed forward. They are trustworthy missionaries who know their purpose and who “act in the office in which they are appointed.” They helped Kyoko make a list of names.
One name on Kyoko’s list was one of her friends, a young man in her school class, Shotaro Furukawa. Kyoko invited Shotaro to a lesson with the missionaries; he accepted. When the missionaries got to the end of the first lesson, they did exactly as they are taught and they invited Shotaro to be baptized. He accepted. The missionaries knew there was still a permission barrier looming so they studied a handout they had received in specialized training on how to get permission. They scheduled an appointment with Shotaro’s mother, a single parent raising two children, Shotaro, age 15, and his younger sister age 9. When they met her, they praised Shotaro’s mother for being such a great parent, pointing to Shotaro and his desire for good things as evidence. They shared some of the teachings of the church, focusing on For the Strength of Youth as an example of things they had been teaching her son. They explained to her that her son believed the things the missionaries taught and that he wanted join the church. They explained that joining the church meant being baptized. They then asked Shotaro to share with his mother his own feelings about the things he had been taught and his desire to be baptized. At the conclusion, Shotaro’s mother said she simply could not refuse her son permission to be part of so great an organization and she signed the baptismal record that the Elders had prepared. Shotaro Furukawa was baptized 22 April.
Shotaro with Elder Koesashi and Elder Rust
Again, a great end to the Kyoko story??? Not yet.
The missionaries, sensing an opportunity asked Shotaro’s mother, Sister Furukawa, if she would like to see for herself some of the things the church taught. They explained that the following Sunday would be the church’s General Conference, that prophets of God would speak there. They invited her to attend. She came, along with Shotaro’s younger sister.
Sister Misako Furukawa and Shotaro’s younger sister, Aoi.
After the conference the missionaries asked Sister Furukawa how she felt. She confessed that she had been touched by the talks and the focus on families. She concluded, “I may want to join this church myself!” Sister Furukawa not only attended Shotaro’s baptism but she spoke from the pulpit—providing the introduction of her son to the congregation. She and her daughter became investigators and are preparing to be baptized on 2 June.
Because of her peaceful and composed nature, a shy 14 year old Kyoko was able to win permission to be baptized for herself. She influenced her father, mother and older sister to become investigators. One of her friends became and investigator and has already received baptism. That friend’s mother and younger sister also became investigators and will soon receive baptism.
No one connected with this story thinks it is over. The progress of Kyoko’s parents is slow but it is steady. There are yet other friends to reach out to and an ever widening circle of influence and people to contact.
So if we don’t know the end of the story yet, at least we know how it started. A young girl interested in English class connects with the missionaries and finds something far more than she ever dreamed. In a great story about faithful missionaries and the hand of the Lord, even the beginning of the story has a surprising twist. That first young girl interested in English class was Kyoko’s grandmother. Thirty years ago Kyoko’s grandmother wanted to study English and met the missionaries. She didn’t join the church but thirty years later when her granddaughter was interested in English, the Grandmother shared her own experience and told Kyoko to find the missionaries and they would teach her English.
The first section of chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel is entitled Developing the Faith to Find. The first paragraph promises missionaries that God will lead them to people who are preparing to receive the Gospel or he will lead such people to the missionaries. Kyoko’s story demonstrates how the Lord will lead people to the missionaries including using English class and relationships with existing and new members. As missionaries follow and become more skilled in multiple patterns of finding outlined in Preach My Gospel, they will be able to exercise a greater measure of faith in the Lord’s promise.
The final section of Chapter 9 is No Effort is Wasted. One sentence stands out, “Even when people do not accept the opportunity to learn the gospel, your service and words are evidence of God’s love for them and may plant seeds that future missionaries and members of the Church will harvest.”
I think of those two missionaries of 30 years ago whose names I do not know. They must have worked hard.
They must have been tried. They may have questioned the value of their effort. There may have been days that they felt like they were wasting their time here. There were probably days they thought no one would hear or accept them. Perhaps one or more missionaries wrote in their journal about a middle-aged woman they hoped would become an investigator who told them she had no interest in religion, she only had interest in English class. On that day, perhaps, they thought they had failed. Little did they know that they were planting a seed that would grow into a great miracle 30 years later.
Elder Ringwood promised our missionaries, “Two missionaries who follow the spirit and give everything they have all day every day will be blessed with a miracle every day of their missions even if they don’t see it personally.” The story of Kyoko and her conversion helps missionaries in the Japan Nagoya Mission to understand and believe in those words. It helps them to develop the faith to find. It gives them peace that their efforts will bear fruit—even when they do not see it.