The Best Place to Be

By Ann Laemmlen

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    For Ryosho Nakamura, the word sacrifice does not mean hardship. Rather, he feels extreme joy at what he has received spiritually because of the temporal things he has given up.

    Brother Nakamura was one of the foremost heart surgeons in Japan until he retired to serve a mission at the Tokyo Temple. “I had ten years left before I needed to retire,” he says. “But my wife and I wanted to serve in the temple.”

    The decision to retire was not an easy one. Brother Nakamura had always wanted to be a heart surgeon. However, he believes the Lord was guiding him to the Church for a purpose.

    In 1956, after graduating from Kumamoto University Medical College, he visited Tokyo Women’s Medical College and saw heart surgery being performed.

    He was so impressed by it that he decided to become a heart surgeon. It took five years of intensive training. During that time, he visited New York City for research purposes. Before he left Tokyo, one of Brother Nakamura’s friends told him that on his way back to Japan, he should travel across the United States to see Salt Lake City, Utah, and the beautiful Mormon temple.

    Although Brother Nakamura was unable to visit Salt Lake City, his friend’s words were influential in changing his life.

    “I remembered his reference to Salt Lake City and the Mormons when, in April 1971, two young men came to my home in Kumamoto and said, ‘We are Mormons.’ I was interested in hearing what they had to say; although, as a doctor, I had always thought that I didn’t need religion. I felt there was no need to ask help from Buddha or from God.”

    “Our first impressions of the missionaries were good. They were only twenty years old, but they had such a kindly, respectful attitude, and they presented some thought-provoking concepts,” says Brother Nakamura. “I was thinking that perhaps my son and daughter could become like the elders if we listened to what they had to say.”

    The missionaries made return visits to the Nakamura home and the entire family listened to the lessons. “Whenever the missionaries asked a question, one of my two children would correctly respond,” remembers Brother Nakamura.

    “My wife and I wondered why the children’s responses to the missionaries’ questions were in harmony with the truth, while our answers were rather vague and lacking in comprehension. It made us feel humble. We were moved by the fact that our children could recognize truth.”

    The Nakamuras were especially impressed with the emphasis on families. “Families should be the most important part of the home life,” says Brother Nakamura. “It was my hope that by listening to the missionary lessons, our family would become much happier.”

    In July 1971, the Nakamuras were baptized, and in September of the same year, Brother Nakamura performed his first heart surgery. “I felt as if the Lord took away my fears and apprehensions,” he says. “I think if the heart surgeon has faith in the Savior, the special power of God helping may be felt.”

    As Brother Nakamura gained experience in the Church, the idea of being sealed in the temple and of serving the Lord in that sacred building grew in his heart. Then, in 1973 (about seven years before the Tokyo Temple was dedicated), the Nakamura family had the opportunity to travel to California to be sealed in the Los Angeles Temple.

    While traveling to the temple, they almost missed some airline flights and even wondered whether their airplane would arrive safely. But their prayers for a safe journey were answered. Brother Nakamura says he realizes now how important that trip was. “My main goal after that was to spend time in the temple, especially serving with my wife.”

    The Nakamuras decided to accept a mission call to temple service. They knew it would mean a complete change in their lives, but to them, it was worth it.

    Before their mission call, says Brother Nakamura, he was very busy in his profession and in the Church. He was enjoying his activities as the head of the hospital where he worked, and as the principal of a school of nursing where he was also an instructor. During this time he also served both as a counselor in the mission presidency and as a district president. He received many telephone calls—day and night—from patients who needed his help, which he freely gave.

    “In the temple there are no midnight telephone calls,” he says. “The most wonderful thing is that the temple is the house of the Lord. It is peaceful everywhere. Now everything in my daily life is spiritually based. All of the ordinance work in the temple is to serve God.”

    “It is a great privilege to act for our dead brothers and sisters,” he says. “As the Lord told us, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’” (Matt. 25:40).

    “When I was working in the hospital and involved in my Church duties, I was gone so many days and nights that my wife got lonely,” says Brother Nakamura. “Now we are working together all the time in a holy place. We are very happy.”

    At the conclusion of his mission, says Brother Nakamura, he wants to return to his profession, but not in a government hospital as he was before. Instead, he says, he would like to be a doctor for senior citizens.

    “Temple work is also missionary work. It means we serve God,” says Brother Nakamura. “It is the best place to serve, the best place to work, the best place to spend your life.”

    Photography by Tokio Onogi

    The Nakamuras decided to accept a mission call to temple service. They knew it would mean a complete change in their lives, but to them, it was worth it.

    The Nakamura family enjoys being together. Brother and Sister Nakamura, at right, with their daughter Masami Shichijo, her husband, Noriaki Shichijo, and the Nakamura grandchild, Airi Shichijo. (Absent from the photograph is the Nakamuras’ son, Atsushi.) Below: Dr. Nakamura dressed for surgery.