I Could Not Forget the Challenge
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“I Could Not Forget the Challenge,” New Era, Dec. 1979, 13

Missionary Focus:
I Could Not Forget the Challenge

Missionaries are often required to report to their mission president. In fact, mission presidents usually like to keep track of “their missionaries” throughout the rest of their lives. But it is not often that a mission president gets to report to the missionary who taught him about the gospel. That is what I would like to do.

When I joined the Church, I didn’t fully understand the deep significance of the law of tithing. However, I knew and trusted you, Elder Dan Hawkley, and I made a promise to you to pay tithing. I could tell you were anxious that I should keep that promise.

In 1964 there was only one mission in Japan, the Northern Far East Mission. A few months after you taught me, you were transferred to a place far away from my small branch. As you left by express train, these were your parting words: “Dear Brother Hotta, pay your tithing and keep the Sabbath day holy.”

I could not forget the challenge I had been given. However, to be honest, I must admit that I was anxious to buy a beautiful and glittering Japanese Bible like the one you had. I wanted it to help me remember what I had been taught, as well as to remember the elder who had helped to teach me. But it was too expensive for me to buy one.

I reasoned that if I didn’t pay my tithing, I could obtain the Bible. Satan spoke in a whisper: “Buy it. It’s your money. Don’t worry.”

But, dear elder, I couldn’t forget your challenge. I knew it had come through the power of the holy priesthood and the Holy Spirit. I didn’t buy that Bible. I paid my tithing instead. And because I overcame that challenge, I came to really understand the meaning of tithing as a covenant between the Lord and myself.

A few months later, the postman paid us a visit. He left a gift parcel for me. It was the size of a cake box. I opened the package and removed the Japanese Bible, beautiful and glittering, that you had sent me as a wonderful gift. I cried for joy at your deep love. Then I saw your note written on an inside page of the book:

“Dear Brother Hotta, hope you had a Merry Christmas. The work is really going well here in Gunma. Study hard. You can make elder real soon now. Do me a favor and try to make it to the temple in Hawaii. Isn’t the gospel wonderful? Love, Elder Dan Hawkley.”

Ever since that time, I have always paid my tithing. I have also been to the temple with my companion. And part of the reason I have been able to do so is because of the challenges and promises you made to me as a representative of the Lord.

In order to keep the Sabbath day holy, I once had to lose my job. But I know now that God lives. This is a great joy, isn’t it? Another time, shortly after my marriage, I became seriously ill. For two years my condition worsened and doctors gave no hope for my recovery. Finally, however, through a powerful priesthood blessing, my health was fully restored. Without your help and the help of other missionaries, I might never have known about the restoration of the priesthood. I don’t know how to thank you all enough for your sincere hearts and your love for me.

My wife and I began presiding over the Japan Sapporo Mission on July 2, 1979. We were set apart by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley in Salt Lake City. This is my report to you, Elder Hawkley. I want you to know that my beautiful and glittering Japanese Bible, now old and worn-out with study and reading, is one of the most precious things I own.

Illustrated by Brent Christison