We happened to sit together in the car as a group of Church leaders journeyed to a district conference in Wonju, Korea. He was executive secretary in the Korea Seoul Mission presidency, and I was the Mission president’s wife.
I asked him to describe his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shrugged his shoulders, squinted his eyes, and squirmed in his seat. “I don’t have anything interesting to tell, Sister Shin,” he said. But with further prompting, Daeyoon Kim gradually shared his “uninteresting” story.
As a boy, he had been one of those little children, so common in Korea, who follow the missionaries everywhere. The elders lived near Daeyoon’s home in Chinhae, so he would pester them for conversation, treats, games, any kind of fun. They were always patient and kind, so he came to like them. After a while, he started following them to church. When he was twelve, some missionaries taught him the discussions, and he was baptized. Because of the recurring warmth and loving attitude of the elders, he continued to be active in the Church.
When Daeyoon was fourteen, it was announced that the first all-Korea Church conference would be held in Seoul, the nation’s capital. The prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, was coming from America!
Daeyoon eagerly sought permission from his nonmember parents to attend. Concerned about his making the seven-hour bus ride from Chinhae to Seoul, they were initially reluctant. But Daeyoon would be able to stay with relatives in Seoul, and his parents eventually consented to let him go.
The day of the conference came, and Daeyoon thrilled as he listened to the wonderful words of President Kimball and the other General Authorities. But since his seat was at the back of the auditorium, he could hear the Brethren better than he could see them. It was disappointing to him to be so near and yet so far. With the innocent faith of youth, he bowed his head and prayed that some day he would be able to personally meet President Kimball and other General Authorities.
The next morning he boarded the bus for the seven-hour ride back home. At one point, the bus made a service stop, and Daeyoon got off to buy an ice cream cone in the nearby cafeteria. As he walked from the bus, he noticed an American car with a bumper sticker that read Families Are Forever.
With melting ice cream dripping from the cone, he strolled through the cafeteria, hoping he might meet some American Mormons.
Suddenly, his heart leaped. His prayer of the day before was to be answered not years from now, but today! There, across the room, stood President Kimball. Full of confidence from his positive experiences with many missionaries, Daeyoon quickly strode across the cafeteria, thrust out his hand, and introduced himself in simple English. “Hi! I’m Daeyoon Kim. I’m a Mormon.”
President Kimball, who knew how to make everyone feel important, enthusiastically grasped Daeyoon’s sticky hand and invited him to sit at his table. President Kimball pulled out his handkerchief and smilingly wiped the ice cream off the boy’s face. “Are your parents Mormons?” he asked.
“No,” the boy replied with a downward glance.
“Good!” was the president’s immediate response. “You can help convert them. Where are you from, Brother Kim?”
“Chinhae, seven hours southeast of Seoul. I’ve just been to the conference to hear you speak.”
“I’m surely proud of you for your devotion in traveling such a distance!” said President Kimball. “Meet my wife and the General Authorities traveling with us.” And he formally introduced Daeyoon to the other visitors.
Within moments, the bus was ready to leave, and Daeyoon had to say good-bye. President Kimball took the youth by the hand, looked him in the eye, and said, “The Church needs you to build the kingdom in Korea, Brother Kim. Will you serve a mission? Will you help build the kingdom of God?” With fervor, Daeyoon promised he would.
Then President Kimball put his arms around the young man, hugged him close, and whispered in his ear, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!”
As the years passed, Daeyoon became absorbed in his high school and university studies, and he was sometimes tempted to stay home from church. Then “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!” would ring in his ears and in his heart. He truly wanted to be worthy of the glorious blessings of that acceptance, that honor from the president of the Church. Faithfully he attended church, even when he was under pressure not to from his parents and peers.
As a college student, Daeyoon returned home to Chinhae for a visit and met a former high school friend who used to ridicule him for not drinking. “Do you still go to church now that you are a university student?” the friend asked.
“Yes,” Daeyoon replied. “I intend to do so all my life.”
“I just can’t understand it,” the friend exclaimed. “How can you have fun when you are bound by so many restrictions? I could never live like that. I want to be free!”
At home, Brother Kim pondered the fact that as soon as they had met, his friend had asked him something about the Church. When they met for lunch the next day, Daeyoon said, “I don’t want to push you in any way, but I think you might find it fun to meet with the missionaries from my church. It will be a new experience for you.”
To Daeyoon’s delight, his schoolmate replied, “Why not? I’ve got nothing better to do right now.” So he began receiving the missionary lessons. His life-style changed with each lesson. He stopped smoking and drinking, he prayed with real intent, and he avidly read the Book of Mormon. By the fourth discussion, he was so excited that he invited his sister to join in the discussions. Before long, he, his three sisters, and his father were baptized. A year later, this schoolmate was serving in the Korea Taejon Mission, where he became an assistant to the mission president—all before Brother Kim had received his own mission call.
During this same time period, Daeyoon was also instrumental in the conversion of seven of his college friends.
As a full-time missionary, Daeyoon served as an assistant to the Korea Seoul Mission president, in addition to baptizing many converts.
Prior to his mission, Daeyoon had attended the dedication of the Korea Temple, where he met Sister Jeanhyun Baek. Before long, they were planning marriage. Daeyoon told her of his promise to President Kimball that he would serve a mission. Although Sister Baek had already served a full-time mission, she decided to accept a second mission call while Daeyoon served his mission.
Ten days after he was released from his mission, Daeyoon and Jeanhyun were married in the Seoul Korea Temple. They now have a baby daughter, Euigin. Brother Kim later served as president of the Kang Neung Korea District. Currently, he and his family live in the United States, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in animal nutrition. Daeyoon plans to obtain his doctorate degree—and then return to Korea to teach in a university.
As he testifies of his love of the Lord, he speaks of his hope that some day the Savior will embrace him as did President Kimball—and whisper in his ear, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!”