For Vicki F. Matsumori, learning the Articles of Faith as a girl was more than a Primary goal. They were her introduction to the doctrines of the Church she hoped to join, and it was a way to show her father she was sincere about being baptized.
Young Vicki Fujii had been attending Primary and Junior Sunday School in the Salt Lake Valley for several years with the permission of her then-non-LDS parents, who were familiar with Church teachings through missionaries. When her class began preparing for baptism when they were 8 years old, she realized that she, too, wanted to be baptized.
"I remember going home and saying, 'Dad, I want to get baptized.' He said, 'Do you even know what the Church teaches?' He said, 'If you memorize the Articles of Faith and if you still want to get baptized, I think that's all right.' "
Vicki Fujii learned the Articles of Faith and was baptized. Her younger sister followed — and later her mother and father.
Today, Vicki Fujii Matsumori still knows the Articles of Faith and holds a special place in her heart for the Primary organization she now serves. On April 2, during general conference, she was sustained as second counselor in the Primary general presidency.
"I have a great love for Primary," she told the Church News while sitting in her office in the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City. "This has been just an extraordinary opportunity. Something that I never dreamed would come to my life, to be able to work with great women, in support of a wonderful auxiliary and bless the children."
Her husband, Jim R. Matsumori, calls her the "renaissance woman. She is the most balanced and talented woman I've ever met," he said, speaking not only of his wife's spiritual abilities, but also of her willingness to try new things — such as fishing in Alaska.
Sister Matsumori will serve with new Primary General President Cheryl C. Lant and first counselor, Margaret S. Lifferth.
The new Primary leader laughs when she relates her introduction to the Church as a child growing up in Murray, Utah. The daughter of George Yasuyuki and Yoshie Matsumoto Fujii, she had many neighborhood friends who were members of the Church. Her parents had listened to some missionary discussions but were not seriously interested at the time. Then one day, Vicki was playing with a neighborhood boy who spoke of going to Church.
"What do you do at Church?" she asked him.
"We learn about all sorts of great things," he replied.
She asked more questions, and her friend added, "I'm going to give you a hint. We learn about someone very special. It's five letters long and begins with the letter J."
"I sat there and I thought, and I thought, and I said, 'Jello!' " referring to TV commercials she had seen.
What she didn't know was her father was listening and became concerned at the lack of religious knowledge of his oldest daughter. Because they had received missionaries, he sent his daughters to Junior Sunday School and Primary each week. He even drove her until she was old enough to walk with her little sister.
"He was just amazing," Sister Matsumori says today of her father, who died at age 81 in 2001. "I am so grateful that he had that insight and that ability to let us go."
Reflecting on those early years in the Church, Sister Matsumori said, "When we talk about the gifts of the Spirit, I think I have the gift of believing in the words of others. When they taught me a principle, I believed it was true."
That believing heart carried her through typically challenging teenage years. She remembers, in particular, a Young Women leader, Sister Fink, who went the extra mile to include Sister Matsumori during some of those challenging times. The young woman was focused on her grades and scholastic achievement for a time, and, as a result, sometimes missed Mutual activities.
Sister Fink would call Vicki and come up with ways to include her specifically, such as having her teach the other girls how to make fried rice. "I don't think anyone cared if they knew how to make fried rice, but I know that was an activity they planned just to get me there."
That influence reached the entire Matsumori family. When Vicki Matsumori was a junior in high school, her parents joined the Church. A few years later, when she was preparing to marry a childhood friend, Jim R. Matsumori, in 1973 in the Salt Lake Temple, she was sealed to her parents and sister. "It was amazing in that we had much of the sense that there were others waiting to join with us. It was an obligation to see beyond just that small group that we had right there (in the temple)."
During those early married years, Sister Matsumori taught school while her husband finished college. She then quit to stay home with their growing family, which came to include three children.
In speaking of the aspects of her life that prepared her for a general auxiliary calling, Sister Matsumori looked back on the life of their second son, Dustin. Born prematurely, he had water on the brain. Doctors told the Matsumoris that their son might be mentally disabled.
There followed years of surgeries, including one stretch of four surgeries in six weeks. One day, feeling emotionally and spiritually drained, Sister Matsumori pleaded with the Lord for help. "Are you really there?" she remembers saying that day.
She smiled when she related receiving an answer that her prayers were, indeed, heard. But it took years for further answers. Today, Dustin is a graduate of Stanford University, exercises on his bicycle and loves to draw.
"I think (Dustin's challenges) provided a tender spot in me, an empathy, a feeling for parents and an understanding of the desire that you have for your children and what you would do to help them be happy. You accept what their limitations are but even within this limitation there is opportunity for them to be happy and to feel joy and you want people to love them as much as you love them and see them for who they are."
Seeing children for who they are is a gift that will serve her well as a Primary general officer.
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