Steven Kawamoto’s interest in his Japanese family ancestry stirred well before he knew anything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the extensive resources available through the Church’s Genealogical department. He had no idea at the time that either of these factors would move him in the direction to not just know about his ancestors, but help redeem them and him in the process. “My motive at the time was to find out more about my mother’s ancestors. On July 29, 2003, I received mail containing the koseki (Japanese family records) on my mother's side of the family from an independent genealogist based in Japan. However, since the documents were in Japanese, I was stymied in the translation.” A decade passed with no progress in the discovery. In 2013, an encounter with the missionaries in British Columbia brought Steven closer to uncovering both his mortal and eternal heritage.
“About two years ago, I met two sister missionaries who talked with me for a bit. Between that time and April 2014, I turned down the missionaries about three times because I wasn't ready yet. However, during the months following my visit with the sisters I learned more about Joseph Smith's vision and his testimony about that vision. So when I met Elders Lewis and Lieber in April 2014, I had a better understanding. When Elder Lewis invited me to the Church I couldn't back out.
After meeting with the missionaries before and after baptism in August 2014, I grew intrigued again about family history. In November 2014, I obtained my membership number and created my account on the Family Search website. Since baptism for the dead requires a temple recommend, I obtained the temple recommend from my Bishop in December 2014.
When the baptism for the dead ceremony is performed, the deceased person in the spirit world is given the choice to accept or reject the baptism. This ceremony is also known as proxy baptism. I performed my first proxy baptism in January 2015, I stood as a proxy for thirteen deceased ancestors of other Church members, not my own. This experience inspired me to get my koseki translated to aid in the future task of proxy baptisms for my own ancestors.
I heard that a Japanese woman, Sister Joy Araki of the Surrey 3rd Ward had recently returned from serving a mission in the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah and that she had trained in the translation of the koseki. I asked for her help through the family history specialist, Sister Sally Haysom, also of the Surrey 3rd Ward. In February 2015, I made contact with Sister Araki. She continued to work with me from March to May 2015.
First, she translated the koseki, writing out family group records for each of my ancestors. Then I entered each name into the Family Search website using my account. After adding the first 56 names of my ancestors, which consist mainly of my mother's ancestors, my father, and his parents my paternal grandparents, Sister Araki advised me on how to print out the temple cards. That led to the proxy baptism of 53 of the 56 of my ancestors by the younger members of the young women and Aaronic Priesthood in my Delta Ward under Brother Jonas Prasad's guidance. In June 2015, I personally completed the baptism of my father, his father and my mother's father. Currently, I look forward to performing future endowments and sealings related to my ancestors as a part of my proxy duties. It is a relief to know that my documented ancestors have been offered the opportunity to accept baptism in the spirit world for later entry into the Kingdom of God.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says in part ‘…Let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall no wise lose your reward, saith the Lord…’ (Doctrine and Covenants 127:4) - which means as long as you keep on trying diligently and patiently, you shall earn your reward. As a personal example of perseverance, I had received lessons at home with the elders before my baptism. Rather than stop this practice, I requested the lessons continue after my baptism so that both the elders and I could learn from each other about the various Gospel principles and the Plan of Salvation.”
It is the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation that compels Steven and his fellow members of the Church to seek out their dead and to perform the saving ordinances required for their salvation. It is no small task, particularly if you are the first member baptized in your family. But, there is always someone who can assist you if you are willing to begin the process, perhaps even angels.