Elder Takashi Wada shares his conversion story to the Church after growing up Buddhist

After meeting the missionaries at age 15, Takashi Wada followed a path of faith that led to his education at Brigham Young University, a career in Church employment, service as a mission president and now General Authority.

After embarking on a professional career that included prominent positions for multinational corporations in the United States and Japan, Takashi Wada had a decision to make.

He and his wife, Naomi Ueno Wada, were comfortable and happy. Their sons were doing well in school. Still they knew the Lord had other plans for their family.

In 2005, the couple felt directed to walk away from his successful career in Japan and accept an offer to work for the Church. The move would require “a big change” of life style.

“It took a lot of courage,” recalled Elder Wada, sustained March 31 as a new General Authority Seventy. “We were very comfortable with our life circumstance at that time.”

The couple fasted and prayed but were still not sure what to do. Then Elder Wada’s father, a Buddhist who had seen the good influence of the Church on his son, encouraged Takashi to consider the position.

So the Wada’s adjusted their life style to become self-reliant and live within the means of what the Church employment provided.

“We were so content,” said Sister Wada. “Heavenly Father wanted to push us outside of our comfort zone.”

Of the job offer that came from Church leaders in Salt Lake City, Sister Wada said the decision came down to one thing. “If Brethren call, why should we not go?”

In the following years, Elder Wada served as the director for temporal affairs for the Church in the North America West, North America Northwest, and Asia North Areas. From 2013 to 2016, he served as president of the Japan Tokyo South Mission.

Now he accepts another call from the Lord, to serve as a General Authority Seventy.

Elder Wada was born in Nagano, Japan, on Feb. 5, 1965, to Kenzo and Kazuko Wada. At age 15, he met an American missionary asking for directions to the local postal office.

Takashi had been warned by his father to avoid Mormons, who had been visiting with people on the streets of Nagano, just three minutes from their home. But Takashi was impressed with the American elder’s Japanese.

A few days later, another LDS missionary stopped Takashi. This missionary had not been in Japan long. Unlike the first missionary, this elder did not speak with fluency. In broken Japanese, he tried to share the story of Joseph Smith.

Takashi said he did not understand everything, “but I felt that I should listen.”

The missionaries taught Takashi the discussions and the steps to prayer. They took him to the LDS meetinghouse — one of the only western buildings in the area — and showed him a movie about the First Vision. He attended Church meetings and was touched by the testimonies of local members. The local latter-day Saints befriended him.

Soon the missionaries asked Takashi to pray. He was hesitant to pray in the way they taught him and instead approached the prayer with insincerity. He was instantly ashamed and vowed that the next time he was asked to pray would be different. A testimony began to grow within him.

Feeling constrained by the expectations of his Buddhist family, however, Takashi kept telling the missionaries, “I can’t join the Church, but I would like to learn more.”

Two years later, before Takashi left to study in the United States at age 17, his parents consented, and he was baptized.

He completed high school while living with a Latter-day Saint family in Utah and received a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics in 1990 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1996 from Brigham Young University.

He served a mission in the Utah Salt Lake City North Mission and married Naomi Ueno on June 18, 1994, in the Tokyo Japan Temple. The couple has two sons.

Looking back at his conversion today, he realizes there were many who helped him. Sister Wada, who joined the Church in 1982 at age 17, also had many help her during her early years as a Latter-day Saint.

Sister Wada met the missionaries at her high school, where they were giving a lesson on American culture. She learned of free English classes and immediately began attending them.

“I felt very good about the atmosphere and wanted to stay there as long as possible,” she said of her first English lesson with the missionaries. “I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to still feel the warm feeling I felt.”

Sister Wada, who was raised Shinto, met with the missionaries for eight months before her father became ill and was hospitalized. For the first time “I exercised my faith.” She was baptized one year after first stepping into a Latter-day Saint building.

“We are grateful for missionaries and members who were always there for us,” said Sister Wada. “We are grateful for our parents’ unconditional love and understanding to allow us to follow the Savior. Since getting baptized, we both feel the Church raised us.”

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