“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Jan. 1996, 6
I was a small boy in Korea during World War II, when the Japanese army occupied my country and times were hard. I didn’t understand many of the things that were happening, such as why we were forced to speak Japanese in public, instead of Korean. We couldn’t use our Korean names in public, either—we were given Japanese names. The Japanese occupied all the nice areas in the country, and they had better homes, better food, and better clothing. But I was too young to understand why.
The Japanese forced us to work, even us very young children. And we had to give them everything we had that was made out of metal—bowls, chopsticks, spoons, all our everyday kinds of things—because they were used to make war equipment.
In spite of all this, I had two wonderful Japanese friends, Shige Chang and Yuriko. I didn’t know why they were there—their parents were involved with the war somehow—but it didn’t matter. We had fun playing together, and they shared with me the goodies that only Japanese children could get. We simply loved each other.
When World War II ended, my Japanese friends left the country and I never saw them again. It was difficult in Korea after the war, because the Japanese had taken almost everything. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Japan after that, not even to speak the Japanese language I had learned.
Since then, however, I have come to understand that people are the same all over the world. As a General Authority, I have lived and worked in Japan, and whenever I visited stake conferences there and saw gray-haired people who looked about my age, I thought longingly of my Yuriko and Shige Chang. Where are they? I wondered. To me, all the people at the conferences there represented Yuriko and Shige Chang. I told the Japanese Saints that maybe one day I’d be blessed to meet my two friends again and to share the gospel with them.
Five years after that war ended, the Korean War broke out. Our family had to leave our home in Seoul and move to the countryside. Things were hard for my parents—can you imagine trying to raise a family during a war? People were not properly fed because of the war conditions, and my mother became very sick from an unknown disease. Sometimes when the pain came, she would just be helpless. In my mind I can still hear her screaming because of the pain, and I still feel how awful it was not knowing how to help her.
One day an herb doctor told me that if I got a certain kind of herb for my mom, it would cure her. Another man told me where I could find this plant. So, because of the love I had for my mom, and my sympathy for her pain, I set out early one morning, without telling anybody, in search of this plant. My bicycle was very small and beat-up, with tires that didn’t fit; the road I had to travel was about twenty kilometers (over twelve miles) long. It included two steep hills, a creek, and a mountain. I had only the name of the plant and the general area in my mind.
To me the trip lasted almost forever—up and down, up and down on a dirt road. I found the general area, and when I explained to a man what I was looking for, he told me I needed to go to the home of one of the leaders in the community, who grew the plant in his garden for decoration.
It took me many more hours to get there, but finally I found the place and the plant, and I explained to the owner the purpose of my trip. He said, “Yes, it is true, that plant cures that kind of pain.” Even though I didn’t have any money, he gave the plant to me. I was so happy that I cried! I thanked him and very carefully tied the plant onto my little bicycle. I bowed many times to him for his kindness.
I started back home, down the mountain and across the little creek. About halfway up the first hill, my bike got two flat tires. I wasn’t a Christian then, and I didn’t know about the gospel, but I knew that there was a God who was the creator of all things. I said my own kind of prayer, as I had hundreds of times that day, and I know Heavenly Father heard me. He loves all His children, no matter what religion they are or what they believe. He answers our prayers if we are sincere and honest and say them with a righteous desire.
Heavenly Father answered my prayer that day, and I was able to make it home. When I arrived, exhausted and hungry, it was night; the trip had taken me the whole day. My parents had been terribly worried, even angry, especially because there was a war going on and it was dangerous. I quickly explained what I had done, and I showed them the plant. Then my dad cried, my mom cried, and I cried again. My mom was cured. She lived until 1991, the year I was called as a General Authority.
I don’t believe that it was only the plant that cured my mother. I believe it was mostly a blessing from Heavenly Father. That experience helped teach me the principle of prayer. It is my testimony that if we love God and do according to His teachings, nothing will be impossible if it is according to His will.
Young people, love your parents. If you don’t love your parents, it will be difficult to love God, because parents are right there providing everything for you, and you can see them. The beginning of faith in God is love for your parents. I’m grateful for my parents, who raised their children the best they could and who taught us the right values—values that later helped us accept the true gospel of Jesus Christ.