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From Returned Missionaries

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Conversion Story of Elder Koichi Aoyagi

Part 2

So I began my life as a Christian, but there was much that I still didnft fully understand and my faith wasnft very strong. I had little knowledge of the Gospel.  

The next year, I took university entrance exams and was able to enter a university in Yokohama. I became a member of Tokyo Central Branch, a large branch compared to the small one in Matsumoto. There was no one I knew at this large branch. I felt lonely going there. After Church each Sunday, I didnft feel happy and going to Church was an unpleasant experience for me. It was hard for a country boy in the big city. I made friends with classmates. I enjoyed being with them. So on Sundays I spent my time with them instead of going to Church.    

After several months, I received a postcard from a member of the Matsumoto Branch. On that card, there was a simple message. gHow are you Brother Aoyagi? According to the tale of the wind, you are not going to church.h Then there was a notation of D&C 121:40. As you may know this is the scripture which says many are called, but few are chosen. Then these words followed, gBrother Aoyagi, though you were called by receiving baptism, now you are not among those who are chosen, are you?h

As I read this, I was amazed. My heart ached inside. So I began to worry about this. What did it mean that I was called but not among the chosen? I felt guilty about not going to Church. This anxiety continued for several days. Then I began to think: there is no God so it is probably OK. But my anxiety did not go away. Then I remembered something the missionaries had taught me. That was the promise found in Moroni 10:4-5. If we pray to God from our hearts, the Holy Ghost will tell us the truth of all things. 

Although the missionaries had encouraged me frequently to pray to know if what they were teaching was true, I had not done so. So I felt that if I didnft pray about it I couldnft know if God was real or not. So I thought I should try to pray. And if I prayed and did not understand anything more, then I would give up on going back to Church. But if I did learn from the Holy Ghost as promised by Moroni, I would go back to Church and be faithful from then forward. 

So I got up early the next morning and prayed in my room. At that time I felt something I had never felt before. I knew it was the Holy Ghost. I felt warm in my heart. I then knew all at once that the things I was taught were true. I knew God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Savior, that they appeared to Joseph Smith, that the church was restored by him, and that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. I knew that all of these things were true.   

It was a time of great rejoicing for me. I wept. I felt Godfs love for me. I will never forget this wonderful answer to my prayer. I then determined that from that day forward I would keep all of Godfs commandments.     

I started going to church again. Instead of going all the way to the Tokyo Central Branch, I found the branch in Yokohama. It was much closer to where I lived. The first day I went to the branch, I found it met in a large Japanese style building.

When I entered the building, I couldnft find anyone there. The large meeting room was empty. There were bags and other things in the room, but no people. Then I heard something outside. I went into the garden area. There they were, all of the branch members and other guests.

Later I learned they were having the ground breaking ceremony for a new branch building. President Dwayne N. Andersen, the mission president, was speaking. He used an interpreter. I stood in the back, but I heard him ask for full-time missionaries and especially for full-time construction missionaries.

I felt strongly in my heart that I should serve a mission. I didnft know about construction missionaries, but I wanted to respond to the call to serve.

When I went home to Matsumoto at the end of the year, all my relatives had gathered together. I boldly told them of my desire to serve a mission. They all turned against me. I was surprised at how strongly they felt. They said since my father was supporting me, I was obligated to finish college. I thought to myself that I would have to do that and delay my mission until after I graduated.

But when I returned to Yokohama, I still had a great desire to serve a mission. I prayed with all my heart that the way would be opened for me to serve. At the end of the school year in June, I returned home to Matsumoto. Things had changed dramatically at home. A man cheated my father, and he lost most of his land and was bankrupt. He could no longer support me in college. So he didnft object to me serving a mission. (Later my father did get some of his property back.)

There seemed to be a greater need at that time for construction missionaries. So I was asked to serve there. I agreed. This was a great experience for me. Not only did I learn construction work, but we studied the gospel each night. I learned so much in those study sessions. My testimony grew, along with my knowledge.

When the construction mission ended, I was able to serve a full-time mission also. That was such a great experience. I saw and felt the hand of the Lord almost daily.  

After I returned from my mission, I married Shiroko Momose, the person in the Matsumoto Branch who sent the postcard that changed my life.

 

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