Friend to Friend

Elder Sam K. Shimabukuro

I was born in the village of Waipahu, Hawaii. My father worked on the pineapple plantation there. My parents were from Okinawa, Japan, and I was brought up in a Buddhist environment. But even though I had never gone to a Christian church, I was always drawn to Christmas. I thought it was a wonderful season, and Christmas drew me to Christianity.

When I was still very young, my family moved to Honolulu. I lost both my parents at a young age. My mother died when I was eighteen months old. Later, when I was in my teens, my father died.

My first contact with the Church came when I was fifteen years old and living with my older brother. One Sunday evening I was listening to my portable radio when I heard the beautiful strains of a choir singing the chorus from Tannhäuser, by Richard Wagner. It was a song I had learned in my junior high school choir, but the quality of this performance was vastly different. I wondered what choir could be singing it. When I heard that it was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the word Mormon stuck in my head. I later learned that the announcer for that radio broadcast was Elder Richard L. Evans of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

During the summer, I did odd jobs to earn money. That summer I was working as a service station attendant. A man who worked there was a member of the Church, and he invited me to attend MIA (Mutual). At first I hesitated, but he persisted, and I finally gave in. The warmth and friendliness of the members and missionaries impressed me, but again the music influenced me most. Their hymns sounded different from any I had ever heard.

When I first started reading the Book of Mormon, it seemed strange to me. The only name in the book that was familiar to me was the name of one of Nephi’s brothers—Sam! That was my name! But there was a force that drew me to the Book of Mormon. I felt that if I were to become a member of the Church, my life would become much more meaningful.

When I told my older brother that I would like to be baptized, he said, “That would be fine. But if you become a member, you must be a lifetime member. You must commit yourself and be loyal.” I was baptized when I was sixteen.

After high school, I was in the military, and I had the opportunity to have an interview with Elder Harold B. Lee, who was then an Apostle and who later became President of the Church. It was a very precious time for me. For an hour he counseled me to go on a mission, to go to the house of the Lord, and to sustain the leaders of the Church. This same advice applies to every member of the Church.

I never forgot Elder Lee’s advice. I came to Salt Lake City, Utah, on furlough and went to the Salt Lake Temple. After I left the military and went to college, I saved money for a mission. During my mission, I was able to open the Okinawa area, where my father was from, for missionary work. Later, serving as president of the Tokyo Temple, I had the wonderful blessing of seeing many of the Japanese Saints receive their temple endowments. Seeing the joy in the faces of those being sealed was a great blessing.

Boys and girls, prepare yourselves to go to the house of the Lord. Going to the temple will be the greatest thing you can accomplish in your mortal life. In the temple, you can feel the Lord’s presence and know that he is there. You can kneel at the altar and make sacred covenants. The Lord will always keep his part of these covenants. When you keep your part of them, you will receive the greatest gifts, eternal life and exaltation.

You can begin now to prepare yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically by keeping the commandments, by being clean in mind and body, and by being faithful and loyal to our Heavenly Father. If you will do these things, you will be led toward the sacred covenants of the temple. Then you will have peace and be happy, no matter what trials and tribulations you meet.

You can also learn to search your family history so that your ancestors can have the same temple blessings. We will meet them some day and know them as our relatives. All the people of the world will some day have the same privilege. The Lord has many wonderful blessings awaiting us if we just take advantage of them.

[photos] Above left: Elder Shimabukuro and Sister Haruko Asato in a missionary discussion, July 1956. Above: With wife, Amy, and daughter, Phyllis, about 1962.

[photos] Above left: Sam, at age 16, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Above: With Elder William Simmons at a baptismal service, 1957. Left: At age 29, with Elder LeRoy Anderson, in Okinawa.