President Boyd K. Packer and other Mormon soldiers spread the gospel in post-war Japan

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 7 2010 9:00 a.m. MST

Thanks to prayers and coordination with LDS Chaplain Richard Nelson, the Satos were baptized on July 7, 1946, in a preserved swimming pool at the destroyed Kansai University. Richards baptized Sato and Lt. Packer baptized Sato's wife, Chiyo.

"He was one of the most impressive men I've ever known," President Packer said recently of Sato. "He was a slow speaker and very wise."

At the time of the baptism, Lt. Packer remembers noting that Sato's language skills would make him a valuable asset to the church in Japan. That insight proved to be true as Sato later retranslated the standard works and other church materials, served as a mission translator and translator for visiting General Authorities and translated the temple ceremonies.

Not only did Sato greatly influence the growth of the LDS Church in Japan, which included the reopening of Japan for missionaries in 1948, he forever changed the way the LDS soldiers viewed the Japanese people.

In a letter from the book, "The Other Side of the Rising Sun," by Komae Mori, Army soldier and lead teacher of the Sato family, Ray Hanks, wrote of his feelings.

"Such men like Mr. Sato has shown me that the average Japanese is a peace-loving individual who loves life as we do, and wants to live it the best he knows how," Hanks wrote in December 1945. He passed away in 1981. "As for me, I have no enmity toward them. Their warlords are the guilty ones and not the masses."

As a young boy, President Packer said he grew up knowing many Japanese people who lived near Brigham City, and thus came to the war with no animosity or hatred, despite the negative comments and images swirling around him.

"People are people," President Packer told the Deseret News. "They speak different languages, are different races, but people are people. We're all God's children."

And because of that understanding, leaving the Satos at the end of his service was a poignant moment, as President Packer describes in one of his biographies written by Lucile Tate.

"We had learned to love them, and they us, officers of a conquering army," he said. "We were taught a remarkable lesson among the Japanese people. After all our training and instructions to demean them, to subdue them, we found that they were a good people and as individuals they were worthy of the gospel. They were seeking light, and even in their terrible circumstances they had many virtues that we might emulate."

When Richards arrived home, he often talked about his experiences with others.

"I was so filled … with new growth, new understanding … and love for the Japanese people that I knew, that you bet I shared it," he said.

In fact, Richards and his family stayed in touch with the Satos, and after Chiyo passed away and Tatsui moved to Utah, he lived in the Richards' basement for six months before he remarried and bought a home.

Tatsui was just as busy in Utah as he had been in Japan; remarrying Tomiko Hiranishi, teaching for a time at BYU, serving as a sealer in the Salt Lake Temple, in the branch presidency of the Dai Ichi Branch in Japan and as a temple missionary in the Tokyo Japan Temple. He was also heavily involved in genealogy.

Sato passed away June 15, 1996, but Richards still thinks of him often, and how he believes Sato was prepared to help the church make such monumental strides in Japan.

As he praises Sato, Richards is quick to deflect any praise as a teacher or missionary, stating that he was just in the right place at the right time.

"I'm just grateful the Lord blessed me with the opportunity," he said.

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere