“The First of a Thousand Souls,” Ensign, Mar. 2007, 71
My companion and I, serving in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, were working in an area known as Kasuga, located near the Kumamoto Station. The people who lived in this area were very skeptical about religion. But knowing this, our mission president told us, “There are a thousand people in Kumamoto who have been prepared by the Lord. Please find them.”
One rainy day we decided to try to find Noboru Yamagata, a less-active member we had never met. Approaching his house, we noticed a sign that read, “No religious solicitation”—a common warning in Japanese culture. But heeding the promptings of the Spirit, we knocked on the door.
Brother Yamagata’s mother answered the door and informed us that her son was out of town. She went on to say that she would be friendly to anyone who had ties to him, as is traditional for Japanese families, and she consequently invited us in. But despite her surface hospitality, her face wore a threatening expression.
As we sat down, she warned, “I don’t want to hear anything about religion.” She then began to talk about herself and expressed how strongly she felt about certain values in her life.
To our surprise she talked about faith, love, and the Beatitudes, and we took the chance to tell her that these principles were also important to us. We recounted the glorious vision that resulted from Joseph Smith’s faith, and we described the importance of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration of the gospel.
It was interesting to observe the change that took place in Mrs. Yamagata as she listened to our message. Tears ran down her cheeks as we testified of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. She replied, “Joseph Smith was a lucky man.”
When we said good-bye at last, her face shined and her eyes sparkled with happiness. She said, “Thank you for coming today. My son must have led you to me.” We shook hands, and she jokingly said, “I won’t be washing my hand today!”
As we walked home we realized that this woman was one of the people our mission president had described as being ready to receive the gospel. Clearly, the Spirit had prepared her heart for our message, and we knew she was the first of a thousand souls we needed to find.