Vernon Poulter served in the Southern Far East mission in the late 1950s, laboring in Taiwan when the work there was very new. He relates an incident from the fall of 1958 that proved to have monumental consequences.
When I was made a senior companion and assigned to a new area in Taipei, my companion, Elder Daws, and I would pray to be led to persons prepared to hear the gospel, and then begin tracting at the house next door to the house where we stopped the previous day. This seemed to be a dichotomy. I felt that there had to be a better way. One day, before morning prayers, I told my companion, ‘Let’s put our prayers to the test … let’s pray specifically to be led to someone that has been prepared to hear the Gospel, then stay on the bikes until we receive the Spirit’s direction, and follow it to wherever He leads us.” Elder Daws agreed and off we went. After traveling about an hour and several miles through Taipei’s heavy traffic, when we were crossing a very busy intersection, with what seemed to be hundreds of trucks, buses and thousands of other bicycles, I had the distinct impression to turn right. But I was in the middle of traffic and Elder Daws was already on the other side. As I caught up with my companion the impression returned, but this time it was stronger, telling me to turn around and plunge back into the traffic at the intersection we had just survived.
“Is this REALLY where we should be? Was that really inspiration?”
Missionary in Taiwan
“Why didn’t you tell me when we were out there the first time,” was my companion’s only comment. We plunged back into the traffic, made a “U” turn across four lanes of traffic, back to the intersection, turned left through another eight lanes of traffic—sounds simple now, but at the time … Even now, I can close my eyes and still see that intersection, hear the sounds, smell the exhaust, feel the vulnerability out there with the trucks and buses on only a bike. And the question “is this REALLY where we should be?” “Was that really inspiration?” But we made it through safely and out the other side.
After settling down and biking with traffic for a while, the impression was back, “turn right.” In this manner we were eventually led to a narrow street, too narrow for anything bigger than bicycle traffic. One more “left turn”; we were now in an alley too narrow for even the bikes. As we were getting off our bikes to continue on foot, I saw a man watching us very intently through an open window. We were only a few feet apart. Our eyes met and I knew he was the person to whom we had been led. I spoke to him through the open window and introduced ourselves. He invited us in.
The man was Hu Wei Yi, and as Elders Poulter and Daws taught him about Joseph Smith, he accepted the principle easily and asked probing questions about prophets. Hu asked the missionaries to return the next day to teach his wife and daughter, and they did so. When they finished, Hu told his wife that the missionaries were “bearers of the truth.”
The following Sunday, the Hu family were at their local Church meetings.
Elder Poulter was soon transferred, handing over a sheet of names of investigators to missionary Jim Goodfellow. Goodfellow continued to teach Hu, who he remembered had a penchant for asking “interesting and often penetrating questions.” Hu accepted every principle he was taught and “was always interested in a thorough understanding.”
In December, Hu and his daughter, Hu Tai Li, were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It would be another forty years before Vernon Poulter learned that the man he had faithfully sought out that day in Taipei had even been baptized—much less knowing of the irreplaceable contribution he had made to the Church.
In addition to many callings within his branches and wards, Hu served as a temple sealer and patriarch and, not long after his baptism, was set apart as a translator. Chief among the works he translated was the Book of Mormon.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Poulter wrote of the moment he learned the fate of the humble man he found in that narrow alley. “The Book of Mormon, the revealed word of God in the Chinese language, the second most popular language in the world, the language of a billion and a half people, was translated by a humble man whom the Lord had picked and prepared, who was introduced to the gospel by a pair of missionaries just trying to do their work as they understood it.”