After traveling 13 hours to church, convert says to not take church attendance for granted

Written by: 
Noah Shoaf
Yao Liao reading her scriptures.


Yao Liao, a freshman and undecided major from China, explained how she experienced God’s blessings despite having obstacles. Liao is from Guigang, Guangxi, China and when she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 15, there was not a congregation in her city.

Liao shared, “When I first started going to church, my city didn’t have any priesthood holders, so I would travel overnight by bus for 13 hours [one way] to have the sacrament.”

Liao said she traveled more than 26 hours from Guigang to the Guangdong province twice a month to meet with other members of the church and partake of the sacrament. She said the journey wasn’t always easy.

“It was hard for me, because every time I took the bus I felt dizzy and sick. I couldn’t sleep for the whole night on the bus, but when I got to church, all the bad feelings left.”

Due to the sacrifice Liao made by going to church, she described how sacred she feels church attendance is.

“We need to treat church buildings like a treasure. We have beautiful chapels here, and many brothers and sisters. We need to recognize how church meetinghouses are a blessing from God.”

Liao was introduced to the Church by her mother’s friends. She said when she heard about the gospel, she felt happy and loved.                  

Those feelings led Liao to travel with her family to Hong Kong. There she was taught all the missionary lessons in a day and then the next day she was baptized.

“I didn’t even read the Book of Mormon before I was baptized. I didn’t really understand the Book of Mormon. I just felt it was the right decision, so I joined the Church.”

Now Liao said she reads the Book of Mormon every day. The book led her to serve a Chinese-speaking mission in Sydney, Australia.

Liao also said because of the Church, she decided to come to BYU–Hawaii. “When I was 15, I went to an LDS Youth Conference in China. I heard people talk about BYUH, so I made the goal to come here. I wanted to meet many people from different countries.”

At the youth conference, Liao met Josie Luo, a sophomore from China majoring in TESOL. Like Liao, Luo had to make sacrifices to go to church. She was baptized at the age of 9 and also had to travel many hours to go to church because there was not a church in her city for a long time.

Luo said, “I met Yao when she had been a member for only two months. We had a Youth Conference in China for all the members, and she came to travel with our group. She traveled [alone] for 30 hours to go to that Youth Conference. When I first saw her, my Seminary teacher told me [Yao] was a new convert and needed a friend, so I became her friend.”

Because of Luo’s Seminary team encouraging her to talk to Liao, they instantly became friends.

The only time the two could see each other was at the Youth Conferences each year. Youth Conference often required lots of travel for the participants, according to Liao, with locations in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and even Hong Kong. Luo said she looked forward to the conferences and their friendship kept growing because they both had the same goals.  

“We had the same goal to serve the church. We would see each other at every Youth Conference and say we will both go on a mission, we will both come to BYUH, and we will both have a temple marriage.”

Luo said she was surprised Liao found the gospel. She said it shows how Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us knows our potential.

In Laie, Liao said she is blessed to be close to the temple and church meetinghouses. She explained how she appreciates what Laie offers because of the sacrifices she made in China. “It was a big sacrifice, but I think it is a blessing as well. Imagine if the chapel was right next to my house, I might not even go there.”

After BYUH, Liao said, “I will go back to China because I miss my small church group of 13 members.” Now her city has priesthood holders, so she can partake of the sacrament without traveling.  Liao said she believes China, one day, will open and allow missionaries. In the meantime, she suggests members in China set a good example. “Even though we cannot preach the gospel to others, we can still be good examples to others. We can love others and share the love of Jesus Christ.”

Brent Esplin, a senior missionary and Religion teacher at BYUH, heard about Liao’s story because she is a student in his Book of Mormon class. Esplin learned of Laio’s story when she wrote for an assignment about riding a bus for 13 hours one way to get to sacrament meeting. Because of the remarkable faith of Liao, Esplin said he wants to share her story with his family back home in Utah.

Esplin explained, “How could the Lord find one person in a population of billions. There are no missionaries there. No one was looking for her. Most people who investigate the church take months or years to join, but she was willing to make the sacrifice after one day of lessons.”

He said Liao’s story proves the Lord knows us personally and God answers people’s prayers no matter where they are.


Date Published: 
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, December 6, 2018