Conversion Story of Elder Koichi Aoyagi
So I began my life as a Christian, but there was much that I still
didn’t fully understand and my faith wasn’t 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 didn’t 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. “How are you Brother Aoyagi? According to the
tale of the wind, you are not going to church.” 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, “Brother Aoyagi,
though you were called by receiving baptism, now you are
not among those who are chosen, are you?”
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
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 didn’t pray about it I couldn’t 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
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 God’s 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 God’s 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
When I entered the building, I couldn’t 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
I felt strongly in my heart that I should serve a mission. I didn’t 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 didn’t 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.