I served briefly with a native Japanese missionary – 26 years old and always (I mean always) smiling. He woke up smiling; he walked and rode his bike with vigor – full speed and smiling; he smiled while he ate; he feel asleep with a smile etched on his face. You’ve heard of “The Never Ending Story”? His was the never-ending smile. When I first heard his story, I couldn’t understand why.
He was the 14th or 16th generation (I forget) oldest son of the local Buddhist priestly line – his father ?s only son – the only heir to a long heritage of spiritual leadership of their town. The aspirations of hundreds of years rested on his shoulders. After he met the missionaries, gained a testimony, then joined the Church, his father publicly and ceremonially acknowledged his dishonorable death, he was expelled from school and fired from his job, and he had to reconstruct an entirely new life from scratch. He worked and saved for multiple years in order to pay for his own mission, then lived on 2/3 of the recommended minimum cost – because that’s all he had been able to save and he was reaching the maximum age for missionary service.
I once heard someone ask him, given what had happened to him, how he could be so happy all of the time. His response: I have found the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How could I not be happy? ? He said he wanted to be a savior for someone else the way his missionaries had been saviors for him.
My mission ended in October, so I gave him my winter coat and boots (he had no boots of his own on the northern, bitter cold island of Hokkaido) a couple of months before I left. I found out a few days before returning home that he had given the coat and boots to an investigator who needed them more ?. That was over 20 years ago, but I will never forget him – never.
**NOTE**: Please, everyone, realize that I am NOT saying that everyone should be as happy as Elder Joh all the time. I understand depression and stress and having kids . . . and I would NEVER want to make it seem like anyone should feel guilty about not smiling all the time. I shared this experience here simply to talk about the overall issue of recognizing the amazing gift of the Gospel – that sometimes gets lost in the crap of our daily lives.