What My Son Taught Me after His Death

Contributed By Yong-In S. Shin, Church News contributor

  • 6 September 2017

Yong-In S. Shin with his son, Samuel.  Photo courtesy of Yong-In S. Shin.

Article Highlights

  • There are no gray areas in keeping the commandments and following the prophet.
  • Samuel faithfully studied the scriptures throughout his life.
  • Samuel served others without fanfare.

“For him, right is right, and wrong is wrong no matter the circumstance.” —Yong-In S. Shin, Samuel’s father

My son, Samuel, passed away last year in a rock climbing accident at the age of 28. After his passing, my family had to go through all his personal things, and I realized that he was a great teacher I should learn from. This is a young man who asked a question to his mom at age 4, “Who is the father of Heavenly Father?”

He was awarded with the Heritage Scholarship from Brigham Young University and graduated with a master’s degree in the neuroscience program. He served his mission in the California Arcadia Mission (Spanish speaking). At the time of his death, he was a neuroscience researcher at Oregon Health and Science University and served as an elders quorum president in his young single adult ward.

He left profound lessons behind that have greatly impacted me.

Samuel taught that there are no gray areas in keeping the commandments and following the living prophets, especially in our role as teachers (see Mosiah 23:14). For him, right is right, and wrong is wrong no matter the circumstance. Someone once approached him with a question on a very sensitive issue with a Church policy at the time. He stood firmly in support of the Church policy. Samuel was also a good listener, and when he spoke, people listened and realized how thoughtful and intelligent he was.

He was generous with his time and served others. We found that Samuel had a set of tools to fix things around the house, and I wondered why he needed it. One old widow in his neighborhood, a good family friend, told us he used to pop in without notice and fix lights and other things around her house. He demonstrated Christlike service without fanfare.

As my family reviewed Samuel’s research papers and presentations in the professional conferences of his field, I was surprised at how many there were. In his master’s dissertation, he referenced 13 different publications and presentations of his own work. We found out that his master’s dissertation led to a $2.1 million research grant. We were aware of his intelligence, but my family had no idea since he was so modest and humble about his achievements.

After his passing, we found out more instances of his infectious sense of humor and joy for life. Samuel would do fun and silly antics around the office that helped create a strong sense of teamwork among his fellow researchers. When I saw some pictures sent to us from his coworkers, they were funny, and even hilarious in some cases. My family could have a good laugh in the midst of our grief.

Samuel was faithful in studying the scriptures throughout his life. He read through the Book of Mormon starting from the age of five and finished before his baptism at eight. After his passing, I reviewed his scriptures in his bedroom, and it was evident that he studied them faithfully, which allowed him to teach the doctrine by the Spirit. In his scripture case, there was a yellow tithing receipt, a copy of his sacrament talk, and some notes for his elders quorum activities. In his bedroom, one frame hung on the wall: “The Living Christ: A Testimony of the Apostles.” His favorite scripture was “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (3 Nephi 5:13).

Samuel was a very considerate person. He was consistent in calling on birthdays and special days for each family member and in helping his nephews and nieces. When my wife and I were serving our mission in Korea, he still managed to call us on our birthdays and other special days. We noticed that on some days he stayed up late so that he could call us due to the 15- to 16-hour time difference between the United States and Korea.

As I think about Samuel and his righteous life, I realize that he taught me about keeping the commandments, being charitable for the needy, being modest and humble, finding fun and joy in daily life, being considerate to others, loving those you teach, and being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. His life demonstrates one Korean proverb, “Tigers leave their skins behind after death, but people leave their names behind.” Three families named their newborn children after him. He surely left his honorable name and reputation to all around him.

I am humbled by what a great teacher he was even to his own father. He taught me to follow the attributes of Christ (see Preach My Gospel, chapter 6) and to strive to teach like Him. He also taught me an important principle, “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8; Moroni 7:46), through his quiet manner. I look forward to the time when I can express my gratitude to him in person for being such a profound teacher to me!