BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL — Just before the end of World War II, a Japanese teenager lost his father when a bomb from an American submarine hit his father’s fishing boat as it neared a harbor in Japan.
Just two years later, that teen closed the door on missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, telling them, “I don’t like you Americans. You killed my father.”
The missionaries didn’t give up though, and the Japanese teen converted to the LDS Church, eventually becoming a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi, now an emeritus member of the quorum, told his touching story at a meeting of the Centerville chapter of the Son’s of the Utah Pioneers.
Kikuchi and his wife Toshiko were honored with the Modern Pioneer Award for coming to the United States to live. He also received a Certificate of Appreciation for his talk.
Kikuchi told his story from a third-person point of view, revealing the teenager was himself only at the end of the story.
“This family was Buddhist, very strong Buddhist,” Kikuchi told more than 100 people attending the meeting held at the Wight House.
“The father was a fisherman, with about 50 people working for him when war broke out,” Kikuchi said.
Days before the war ended, the man came home, “horribly sick,” Kickuchi said. He found no food in his home or the homes of his workers, so he and several others went out fishing in his two boats.
“They caught a lot,” Kikuchi said, but as they were heading back to the harbor, both boats were destroyed by the submarine.
His mother sold everything to compensate the families who lost loved ones in that attack, leaving his family poor, Kikuchi said.
Kikuchi couldn’t afford to go to high school, “So the boy got a little, tiny job, to go to night school,” he said.
The boy became sick from the long hours of work and school and the doctors could not diagnose the problem.
He was hospitalized and while there, Kikuchi prayed.
“He was not a Christian, but was sincere in praying ‘God, Spirit, if you are there, please save me,’” Kikuchi said. He then slept and woke up fresh.
Three days after he left the hospital, LDS missionaries called. They knocked on the door and said, “We came from America and we have a message,” Kikuchi said.
The boy was mad at America and vented his anger before shutting the door on them.
The missionaries didn’t give up though, and one told the boy they were sent by his Heavenly Father, who knew of his sorrow.
“I almost froze,” Kikuchi said. “I told them I’ll give you 10 minutes,”
The missionaries, “taught the most beautiful, sacred story of Joseph Smith and how he had seen his Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
“That boy changed his mind,” Kikuchi said.
The missionaries returned, and by the 13th day he was ready to be baptized. However, there was a hitch. At 15 and a half, he was too young to be baptized without his mother’s permission.
At the time, he was living with his grandmother to be closer to work and school, so he called his mother, Kikuchi said. His mother hung up on him.
His mother eventually gave her permission.
“Finding a wise mother, she made him (Kikuchi) promise that if he was baptized, he wouldn’t quit right in the middle. ‘You are committing,’” she told him.
“The Gospel changed my heart, my nation,” Kikuchi said.