Elder Kikuchi encourages Korean, Japanese students

[Story and photo by Mike Foley, originally published online in the BYU-Hawaii Newsroom, April 20, 2006]

Elder Yoshihiko KikuchiElder Yoshihiko Kikuchi [pictured at right], a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 1977, shared words of encouragement and a powerful testimony during special meetings on April 20 with Korean and Japanese students at BYU-Hawaii.

Elder Kikuchi, the first native-born Japanese to be called as a General Authority, and his wife, Sister Toshiko Kikuchi, stopped over for the meetings in Laie en route to an assignment in the Kona Hawaii Stake conference. He is currently serving in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the Church temple and curriculum committees, but previously was a member of the Asia North Area presidency that includes Japan and the Korean peninsula, president of the Tokyo Temple, and president of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission.

Speaking to the two groups in turn, and addressing his fellow countrymen and several returned missionaries in Japanese, Elder Kikuchi told of his love for the people of Korea and Japan, and showed an Asia North Area slide presentation on the growth of the Church in those countries.

He also related how, as a young missionary called to serve in Japan for two years, he was first asked to extend for six months, and then for an additional 12 months. He agreed without hesitation, but each time asked his mission president to call the future Sister Kikuchi. “She was so happy that the Lord needed her future husband,” he recalled.

The young couple married soon after he returned, Elder Kikuchi continued. Then a Latter-day Saint American general who had been stationed in Japan offered to provide him with a complete scholarship and living expenses at BYU in Provo. “It was a wonderful, ideal situation,” he said, “but we felt we should stay in our country and serve the Church. We kindly turned down that great scholarship.”

Ten months after enrolling in the Asia University of Tokyo — where he eventually graduated in business psychology and management, and went on to a successful business career – “I was called as a branch president, and one year later our first daughter came,” Elder Kikuchi said, recalling he got by on four hours of sleep a night. “Those days were the most profound experiences of our lives.”

Elder Kikuchi stressed that though he never went to school in the U.S., the Lord also blessed him with the ability to speak English. “I studied English very, very hard,” he said, adding he realized many of the students were struggling with this same challenge. “I can promise all of you, if you trust in the Lord…if you have a desire in your heart and want to serve the Lord as a family as your ultimate goal, I promise you as a servant of the Lord, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, your language will come. With the help of the Lord, I invoke upon every single one of you the gift of tongues.”

“If you have a desire to serve Him, I promise you Heavenly Father will open your heart and mind. Let the Lord help you,” he said, adding that professors and others are important, “but far greater help will come from Jesus Christ.”

He urged them to commit to 20 full hours a week “to saturate yourself in studying the language. Mingle with the people and try to open your mouth and your ears. He also suggested listening to the radio and mimicking the announcer.

Elder Kikuchi asked the students if they had experienced their “own sacred grove.” He encouraged them to arise early, take a shower, get dressed and groomed, “then come to your own sacred grove and ask the Lord to help you. The light from God will come and, therefore, your understanding will come.”

“When you study, are you praying?” Elder Kikuchi asked them, recalling how hard he prayed as a young married/branch president/student that he “could retain everything. Father in Heaven, please help my memory, I prayed. Allowing the Lord to help you is the finest way,” he said.

Addressing the returned missionaries among the students, Elder Kikuchi encouraged them, “Go to the House of the Lord, sit in the Celestial Room and see the eternal perspective — if at all possible, once a week; if not, at least twice a month. Your lives should be extensions of your missions.”

He also encouraged them to read the Book of Mormon, “one chapter every morning. Then every night read the Doctrine and Covenants or the New Testament, one chapter.”

“Keep a journal,” Elder Kikuchi continued, pointing out that his wife has been doing so for the past 45 years. “All the General Authorities keep a journal. You are writing your own Book of Mormon…that will cultivate your sensitivity toward your spiritual nature.”

Addressing the singles among the students, Elder Kikuchi said, “If you find somebody special, don’t wait. Get married. When I went home after three-and-a-half years [in the mission field], we were married in 14 days. Find a special mate,” he continued, offering to lend his glasses to the young men “so you can see the beauty of the ladies. I am glad I married right after my mission.”

“We’re not in the mission field [any more], but you can come closer to the Savior while you’re on this beautiful campus. I know He lives,” Elder Kikuchi said.

“I love you,” he added. “Thank you for your faithfulness. I hope and pray that you will have a most glorious, wonderful student life here, and then go home and be great leaders in your beautiful countries.”

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