Elder Koichi Aoyagi, Japanese emeritus General Authority, dies at age 76

After a life of faithful service, Elder Koichi Aoyagi, who served as a General Authority Seventy from 2009 to 2015, died Monday, July 5, in Chiba-ken, Japan. He was 76.

Koichi Aoyagi was born on March 24, 1945, to Mitsuo Yagasaki and Sueno Aoyagi. He was introduced to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as a 17-year-old high school student after accepting an invitation for free English classes offered by the missionaries.

Although he did not consider himself as particularly spiritual, he was impressed by the young American missionaries. “I had never known anyone so positive, so cheerful, so optimistic,” Elder Aoyagi recalled in an interview after being called to the Seventy. “I wanted to be just like them.”

With the permission of his parents, he was baptized in 1962. Not long after, he served as a Church building/construction missionary for two years. After working three jobs to save money, he served a full-time proselytizing mission in the Northern Far East Mission.

“My mission was marvelous,” he said in a Church News interview. “I had so many great experiences. I learned that all things can be accomplished with the Lord. I returned home with the strong belief that if I had the companionship of the Lord, there was nothing I could not do.”

After his mission he became reacquainted with a young woman from his first Church branch in Matsumoto, Japan, Shiroko Momose. The future Sister Aoyagi was impressed with the earnest returned missionary. He was true and sincere and devoted. Accepting his invitation to marry, she said in a Church News interview, was an easy decision.

The two were married in 1970 and sealed later that year in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the parents of four children and have many grandchildren.

Elder and Sister Aoyagi witnessed the growth of the Church in Japan, offering their testimonies and abilities as they served in many capacities. Through the years, Elder Aoyagi served as a branch, stake and mission president; bishop; temple sealer; and Area Seventy.

After earning a license from the Japan Real Estate Academy, he worked as a real estate and construction manager in the Church’s Asia North Area office in Tokyo. He has also worked as a sales chief and sales manager for two companies in Japan.

In an October 2015 general conference address, Elder Aoyagi recalled clinging to a railing in the Tokyo Shinagawa train station as a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and destroying whole communities.

“The trials of this earth — including illness and death — are a part of the plan of salvation and are inevitable experiences,” he said.

“Hold on thy way,” as the Lord commanded Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 122:9), “is a key choice during times of trial,” Elder Aoyagi said . 

He encouraged individuals to “hold on thy way” and put God first, regardless of their trials. “Love God. Have faith in Christ, and entrust yourself to Him in all things. … I sincerely testify that God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, live and that God’s promises to those who ‘hold on [their] way’ and love Him will be fulfilled even in the midst of trials.”