Japan Nationwide Online Devotional


On September 13, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an online Nationwide Devotional in Japan. President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency presided at the meeting. Elder L. Todd Budge, First Counselor in the Asia North Area Presidency conducted. Speakers included President Oaks, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Susan, and Elder Robert C. Gay of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife Lynette. Brother Sho Andrus and Sister Hikari Harvey sang “As I Have Loved You” accompanied by Sister Reika Andrus.

 Sister Lynette Gay

The devotional began with Sister Gay sharing a recent experience. Under COVID-19 restrictions, their granddaughter, Remi, was baptized in the Gay’s backyard pool. Beforehand, Remi was intimidated. “The most important thing is that you are worthy and baptized by a worthy priesthood holder and have a worthy ordination,” Sister Gay told her granddaughter. Remi collected her courage and proceeded with the baptism. “When she came out of the water, she had a joyful, excited, beautiful look on her face. In contrast to the pandemic stopping something that is normal, it gave us an opportunity to experience something beautiful and joyful.”

After the baptism, Elder and Sister Gay taught 17 grandchildren about baptism, covenants, obedience, and to follow Jesus’ example of being kind. “The Savior was very kind to all. Even those that were discarded, reviled, ignored,” Sister Gay said. “Pres. David O. McKay said the most important secret of human life, the most critical need of the human soul, is to be kind.” She went on to explain that being kind doesn’t require sharing a language or even words. We can share the light and love of the Savior verbally, through our actions, or our countenance.

“Always remember that you are a child of God. When we are lonely, or afraid, when there’s been disruption, when you can’t meet with people that you depend upon, that you count on to keep you strong, Heavenly Father and the Savior are right by our side. Sometimes we pull away. Jesus will not force himself upon you, but He will come to you at the slightest beckoning and request. Our Heavenly Father is always there for you. Always remember to turn to the Savior.”

Sister Gay reassured: “If you are feeling lonely, remember you have a huge heavenly family looking over you, watching out for you, sending prayers and gifts of the Spirit to you at all times.”

In closing, Sister Gay said that the principles of baptism bring peace, the opportunity to repent and to invite the Savior into our lives every day to become stronger and to become like Him. “He is waiting to bless you and to fill your life with light and love.”


Elder Robert C. Gay

Elder Gay formerly served as the Area President in the Asia North Area. He fondly recalled the time, stating, “There are no kinder Saints than those we saw in Japan.” He was reminded of what a challenging geography Japan is to live in. “Not only are you suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also earthquakes, typhoons, floods. The summers are very hot. These may cause you deep concerns. But today, I want to talk about how to find peace.”

Quoting from Isaiah 40:49, he shared that, “Even if the grass withers and the flowers fall, the word of our Lord will endure forever. He gives strength to the weary and those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary and walk and not faint. ‘I the Lord your God will not forget you. I have engraved you upon the palms of my hands.’”

Elder Gay related an experience he had while serving in Japan. After a long Area Presidency meeting that was about to conclude at 3:00 in the afternoon, an impression came to his mind. It was the name of a family in Japan that he had never met. He was impressed that he needed to visit the family. He asked if anyone knew them. Elder Wada responded that he did, and that they lived several hours away. Elder Gay asked if he would arrange an appointment for a visit.

Knowing nothing about the family, other than that the Lord had prompted the visit, they sat down with them the next day. They discovered the family was struggling mightily; they had been offended. For months they felt no one was listening, no one would hear them. The previous day they had traveled to the Fukuoka temple, not to enter, but just to sit on the temple grounds. There they prayed that the Lord would send someone to help them. If no one came, they would abandon the church.

Elder Gay asked, “What time did you pray?” The father responded that it was at 3:00 p.m. the previous afternoon. Elder Gay replied, “That was exactly the time when the impression of your name came into my mind.” He added, “The Lord knows you.”

Continuing, he testified that if the Lord can hear a prayer in a location hours away given in Japanese and delivering the impression to someone who does not understand that language, the Lord can hear and answer your prayer wherever you are. “President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, ‘It isn’t as bad as sometimes you think it is. It all works out. Put your trust in God, in faith, and confidence. If we put our trust in Him, if we pray to Him and live worthy, He will hear you. He will send His messengers.’”

In conclusion, he rehearsed what the Savior said to the Nephites just prior to His coming, when the Americas were hit with great calamities. “The Lord said unto them, ‘O ye who are spared, will you not return unto me and repent of your sins and be converted that I might heal you? I am the light and life of the world. If ye give unto me the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit I will baptize you with fire and the Holy Ghost.’” Elder Gay promised that the Lord will send the Holy Ghost, which can sanctify us from our sins if we repent and teach us all things that we must do.

Sister Susan Gong

“Fall is coming, leaves are changing, we are grateful.” Sister Gong began her talk describing the seasonal changes. She quoted Elder Uchtdorf: “Gratitude is a key for hearing the voice of the Lord. When I am able to recognize all that the Lord has given me, I hear His voice more clearly.” Referring to President Nelson’s challenge for us to Hear Him, she added “He hears our prayers; will we hear His words to us?” Pres. Nelson urged us to refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost so that we can hear Him more clearly. “It has never been more imperative to know how the spirit speaks to you than right now. The Holy Ghost will bring thoughts to your mind in which the Father and His Son want you to hear.” When and How do you feel the whisperings of the Holy Ghost?

A couple of years ago, Sister Gong’s granddaughter, Addie, snuggled next to her waiting for stake conference to begin, listening to the organ music. She said “Grandma, I can feel the Holy Ghost. Can you?” Sister Gong then shared the feeling at Addie’s small, family baptismal service a few weeks ago, in which everyone felt the warm, comforting, loving presence of the Holy Spirit. Even Jonah, Addie’s 10-year-old rambunctious brother, felt the spirit. It filled him with love for his sister. He put his arms around his sister and told her he loved her. Sister Gong said to her grandson, “Jonah, I feel the Holy Spirit. Do you?”

Sister Gong told that as she was recently playing a harmless game on her cell phone, she distinctively felt the feeling: “You could be making better use of your time. You should be making better use of your time.” This gentle feeling was a call to repentance.

She described the scene in Helaman chapter 5, when an army of Lamanites put Nephi and Lehi in prison with the intent to kill them. They were protected by a circle of fire. After an earthquake broke the walls of the prison and the people were surrounded by a cloud of darkness, a voice called to the people. “Repent, repent and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare glad tidings.” Though it was a dramatic scene, she was most impressed with the voice. “We have in the scriptures director’s notes to tell us that the voice was a still voice of perfect mildness as if it had been a whisper and did pierce even to the very soul.”

President Nelson teaches “Heavenly Father communicates simply and quietly and with such stunning plainness that we cannot misunderstand Him.”

“Are there things the Holy Ghost is telling us to change in our lives?” Sister Gong asked. “The ability to repent and change is one of the greatest gifts the gospel gives us. When we repent, we open ourselves to greater inspiration and revelation. We come closer to our Heavenly Father.” Pres Nelson said: “I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.”

Sister Gong encouraged listeners to allow the Holy Ghost to bless their lives with direction, peace, and comfort.


Elder Gerrit W. Gong

“In a few days, the moon will be full,” Elder. Gong began, “families and individuals will celebrate moon viewing, Otsuki mi (お月見), in Japanese, or Jugoya (十五夜). I am told that moon viewing in Japan dates to the Heian period. Our Gong family loves mid-autumn moon viewing. We watch the moon rise, we read favorite poems, and we have a lantern parade with Sister Gong and the grandchildren. Sister Gong makes everyone’s favorite foods. Her family loves her moon cakes. Her secret - chocolate wafers on the outside, and vanilla ice cream on the inside. The October full moon is often called the ‘Harvest Moon’. In the spirit of harvest, a special time of gathering and gratitude, I would like to share three experiences and invitations related to harvest, the law of the harvest, and the Lord of the harvest.”


The first occurred while performing a temple sealing for a young couple. Elder Gong asked the bride to share something she learned while growing up. She replied that at an early age she worked in the family’s fruit orchard and vegetable garden. They got up early, they planted, they weeded, they watered. Their parents and grandparents taught them that the harvest in the fall depended upon the work in the spring and summer. During the session, he watched the parents and grandparents, realizing that as they worked with their children on the farm, they were not raising fruits and vegetables, they had carefully nurtured precious children.

“Please, help each child,” Elder Gong pleaded, “each youth at home and at church. Encourage them in their gospel learning, their service and activities, their personal development, the elements of the new Child and Youth Programs. As Elder and Sister Oaks taught in their Face to Face, please help each youth set meaningful personal goals on the covenant path. Please learn the name of each primary child or youth in your branch or ward. Call them by name. If you do this, they will know that the Lord knows their name.” He promised members that as they help His little ones, the Lord of the harvest will smile upon their efforts for generations to come.

The second harvest experience was thanking someone Elder Gong had never met, but who had blessed his life, Sister Melba Oakes, now 98 years old. Many years ago, she was a newly married bride in San Mateo, California. At that time, she became a good friend to a new 17-year-old convert who had moved into the ward recently. The new convert was the only member of her family to join the church. Her name was Jean Char, who later became Jean Gong, Elder Gong’s mother, who is now 94 years old.

Elder Gong called to thank Sister Oakes for helping his mother during those early years. They have helped and supported each other for 77 years. In every ward, he reminded us that there are people like Melba Oakes and Jean Gong, and asked us to help each new convert, each new move-in, or others that may need assistance. Every member needs a friend, a chance to serve, and to be nourished by the good word of God. “The descendants of these members will thank you for the coming 20, 50 or even 77 years. Of course, our greatest appreciation is extended to our Savior and His infinite atonement.”

The third was an invitation to feel peace and assurance in God’s natural creations. “As prophesied, these times are full commotion. The Lord said His voice will be heard in thunder, pestilence, in waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. In these times, some call good evil, and evil good. In these uncertain times, the Lord assures us that we can be still and know that He is God.” Elder Gong quoted Alma’s testimony that “all things do witness there is a Supreme Creator.”

He reminded listeners that if they are prepared, they shall not fear. Recently, the Church has developed new home-centered, Church-supported Sabbath day worship programs to help members cope with these trying times including: Come Follow Me; united Melchizedek quorums and Relief Society forwarding the work of salvation; the Children and Youth Program; and, the prophet’s call for increased personal revelation within the Church.

“Remember the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson,” he cautioned, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ and the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.” Elder Gong stated that following this counsel was a formula for obtaining enduring joy. However, he asked everyone to just do the best they can, not running faster than they have strength.


Recently, Elder and Sister Gong drove to a place so dark and witnessed the spectacular brilliance of the Milky Way galaxy, or ‘ama no gawa’ (天の川) in Japanese, which means ‘Heaven’s river’. “At this season of full moons and harvest and gratitude, please let the heavens stir your imagination, calm and assure your heart, and remind you that from the beginning, God our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, declared all their creations good, part of the great plan of happiness and eternal joy.”

Elder Gong asked us to thrust in our sickle with our might to further the work of the Lord. If we do so, our families, new converts, returning members, young marrieds, young single and single adults, and the youth and children of the Church will all be blessed. “Promises the Lord, ‘That the work of the gathering of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places, for the time of harvest is come.”


Sister Kristen M. Oaks

Sister Oaks, a former Sendai missionary, gave her talk in Japanese. Nearly 50 years ago, she served a mission in Sendai. “Japan is like a second home to me, I love the people, the food, and the festivals. This country is special to me. Also, these shoes were made for me by Brother Sugawara while I was in Sendai. They are still special to me today.”

As a missionary, she learned of the deep love that God has for us. She found it difficult to gather the courage to learn a new language. “It was often hard to walk in the rain and snow, but when I saw my friends enter the waters of baptism, my pain was swept away.”

Through her missionary experiences, she learned that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. “We are God’s children. Our Heavenly Father loves us. When we are suffering, He weeps with us. When we are righteous, He rejoices with us. He is with us and is happy to bless us with our needs. Because He loves us, He created the Plan of Salvation and sent His Son to atone for our sins.”

Sister Oaks stressed the importance of reading the scriptures during this time of the Corona pandemic. “I promise you that as you read the scriptures you will feel the love of the Lord. You will also be able to receive personal revelation and know His will concerning you.” “As many of you know, I am Elder Oaks’ second wife and we have 29 grandchildren. There are days and nights that I have cried alone, and, in those moments, I studied the scriptures to receive comfort. When we study the Book of Mormon, we can draw closer to God. He knows our potential. He hears and answers our prayers. When we seek His guidance, He will send us the Holy Ghost. I know Jesus Christ is God’s beloved son and He is our Savior and our Redeemer.”


President Dallin H. Oaks

President Oaks expressed joy at being able to come again to Japan to meet with the saints and to hear his wife speak in Japanese. In his 36 years as a general authority, he has visited Japan 14 times. In the Oaks family, his daughter, another daughter’s husband, and his wife, Kristen, all served missions in Japan. He has a granddaughter that lives in Japan with her children. The Oaks family loves Japan.

“One of the greatest revelations that the Lord gave to Father Lehi was, ‘Men are that they might have joy.’” President Oaks stated that the source of true happiness, or enduring joy, is the Savior Jesus Christ. Finding enduring joy is the purpose of our lives and God’s creations. The Plan of Happiness explains that we find enduring joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ and through His resurrection and atonement. We obtain a fullness of joy when our spirits and bodies are reunited, and we return to the presence of our Father.

“Our first parents recognized this principle,” President Oaks continued. “While offering sacrifice to the Lord, Adam blessed the name of God and exclaimed, ‘Because of my transgression, my eyes are opened and, in this life, I will have joy.’ The source of this joy is the Savior, Jesus Christ. At the conclusion of His earthly ministry, He declared, ‘These things I have spoken to you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome all (John 16:33).’ As His witness, I testify that he has overcome the world, and the way He has marked out is the way to happiness and peace in this world and everlasting life in the world to come.”

He provided examples of true feelings of mortal joy from the scriptures, felt when something precious is recovered, from the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. On the other hand, Satan seeks to make men miserable like himself and desires to make the separation from God permanent. When men yield to Satan’s enticing, they are on the way to misery and losses, such as our first estate, virtue, integrity, and even a loss of life.

In contrast, our Heavenly Father has taught us to avoid such losses. He wants us to return to Him and has provided a way for us to return. Joy is eternal, but in this life, we seek mortal happiness. “The Prophet Joseph Smith described happiness as the object and design of our existence,” President Oaks stated. “Revelation tells us that the things of the earth were made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart. D&C 59:18). How do we seek this happiness and joy? King Benjamin asked his people to consider the blessed and happy estate of those who keep the commandments of God. ‘For behold, they are blessed in things both temporal and spiritual, and if they hold out to the end, they are received into heaven to dwell with Him in a never-ending state of happiness.’” Echoing comments by earlier speakers, he stated that simple things, like flowers, sunsets, and the moon can bring happiness. Other things, such as physical exercise, completing worthy goals, or a difficult task can bring joy. “Despite all we can do, we cannot have a fulness of joy through our own efforts or through happiness in this world (see D&C 101:36). Only in Christ can our joy be full. His mercy restores every loss, dries every tear, and erases every pain. His gift of eternal joy transcends all suffering. This is why the angel proclaimed at His birth: ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’ (Luke 2:10).

We are able to have a fulness of joy only when our spirit and body are inseparably connected in the glorious resurrection of celestial glory (see D&C 93;33; 76:50-70). That joy, of course, comes only through the mercy of the Holy Messiah, whose resurrection broke the bands of death and whose Atonement makes it possible for us to be cleansed of our sins and come back into the presence of God and receive the fulness of the Father.”

He stated, “the apostle Paul taught that the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, and peace. This peace can come to all, the prominent and obscure, the rich and poor, because God is not a respecter of persons. In contrast, those who yield to the enticing of Satan may enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, but it will never lead to true happiness or eternal joy. The influence of Satan brings a spirit of confusion, contention, darkness, disorder, anger, hate, and misery.” President Oaks asked all to remember that “Wickedness never was happiness and that sin leads to misery. Young people do not seek happiness in the glittering but shallow things of the world. There is no happiness in alcohol or drugs, only enslavement. There is no happiness in violence, only pain and sorrow. There is no happiness in sexual relations and physical familiarity outside the bonds of marriage. There is no lasting happiness in what we possess.” He cautioned the youth to hold fast to their standards and to use the pamphlet, ‘For the Strength of the Youth.’

For those that have suffered disappointment in life, President Oaks said that the millennium is the time for completing all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness. That includes family relationships and other sweet experiences we do not have in this life. “Keep the commandments, and trust in the Lord.”

Speaking to young adults, married and single, he asked them to remember the commandment of the Lord to marry and have children, and cautioning them not to postpone these important responsibilities until after they have completed school or become established in a career, adding that it will benefit the Asia North Area, and the entire Church if the youth here will keep the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Unmarried members should strive to the ideal of living in a Celestial family, and while some will not achieve that in this life, they should keep the commandments, and all will be blessed.

For the youth and young adults, President Oaks declared “there has never been a greater opportunity for you to serve. Your knowledge of technology is unique. Now is the time to minimize your time with video games, internet surfing, and messaging. Do family history, connect with people in the ward, offer to help others with their technology and other needs. It is only when our focus is on those outside ourselves that we begin to see holy things clearly.”

To the senior citizens, he clearly stated, “no one has permission to retire from the Lord’s work. Your responsibilities to serve have not ended with your release or retirement or the death of your spouse.” They should seek out opportunities to serve. He asked priesthood leaders to remember the elderly and the youth when making assignments.

“I now speak briefly of the family and the Church in God’s plan. Relying on clear scriptural direction, living prophets have declared that “the family is ordained of God. It is the most important unit in time and in eternity. Families are central to God’s plan, which provides a way for family relationships to extend beyond the grave.”

President Oaks repeated that the atonement was history’s most significant event, far beyond any others. “It illuminates and gives purpose to every other event in world history. Our Bible dictionary defines the gospel as the “good news,” and then adds that this “good news” is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect Atonement.” The Savior is the lamb without blemish and is the only one who could atone for the sins of the world. If we endure to the end, we will find enduring joy.

“I believe we all understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ assures all mortals a literal resurrection—immortality. We also understand that in Gethsemane and on the cross Jesus Christ suffered for all of the sins committed by all mortals who repent of them. But it is also true that the Father’s plan and the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, give us even more. Our Savior also experienced all of the “pains and afflictions and temptations” we suffer in mortality (Alma 7:11).” The scriptures tell us that He “descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things” (D&C 88:6). He did this “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

In conclusion, President Oaks bore his testimony that “the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith means trust. Trust in the effect of His Atonement. Trust in the blessings promised to those who keep the commandments. And trust that all things will come to the faithful, in time or in eternity.”

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