Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Korean Pioneer

One of the first members of the LDS Church in Korea was Kim Ho Jik. He was an educator who wished to help his nation improve nutrition and overall health. He knew that scientists in the United States would give him a great deal of insight into that subject, and so he sought the chance to pursue a doctorate from an American school.

He also had a deep love for Christ and his teachings. Unfortunately, he had not found a church he felt completely comfortable with and hoped he might find the "true church" while pursuing his degree. He visited several, still unsatisfied, but then he began to notice another student, Oliver Wayman, who shared his office. They had become friends, but had never discussed religion. Still, not long before he was to return to Korea, Kim Ho Jik commented, “I have never seen you smoke or drink. I have never heard you use vulgar language or profane the name of God. You work harder and longer hours than any of the others, but I have never seen you here on Sunday. You are different in so many ways. I wonder if you would tell me why you live as you do?”

Oliver Wayman, as it turned out, was a Latter-day Saint. He gave him a copy of The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage, which Kim Ho Jik read within a week. He loved it and wanted more. Brother Wayman then gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon, which he also read and accepted it to be the word of God. He did not immediately decide to join the LDS Church, but he continued to study the gospel.

Ironically, it was the Word of Wisdom that finally touched his heart completely. He had come to America to find a way to help his people fight malnutrition, and the prescription was right there in the famous doctrine given in revelation to Joseph Smith in the 1800's. Very soon after, he was baptized as the first official Korean member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now there are many stakes in Korea, but as Brother Wayman told Brother Kim, he was sent to be a messenger to his people. If he had chosen not to listen, the Lord would have raised another in his place, but such was never necessary. His story inspired me the very first time I heard it. So many pioneers faced great obstacles to their membership, yet they knew the gospel message when they first heard it. I am thankful for their examples to me.

-- Robert

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