His Only Family Photograph

  • 9 January 2015

The importance of our own family photographs can be seen in this story of a brother who did not have one until a former missionary found one among his old mission pictures. 

Article Highlights

  • Brother Edwin Q. Cannon felt inspired to keep his old mission photos. With the help of the Spirit, he and President Monson were able to reunite a family photo—his only one—with Brother Dieter Berndt.

“I am the little boy pictured in these slides, and my sister is the little girl. The man and woman are our dear parents. Until today I have had no photograph of our childhood in Stettin or of my father.” —Brother Dieter Berndt

While on assignment for the Church, President Thomas S. Monson traveled to Germany on numerous occasions. One of then-Elder Monson’s most tender experiences in Germany was with Dieter Berndt, who served as a stake president in Berlin.

It began with Edwin Q. “Ted” Cannon, who had served in Germany as a missionary before the war. One day Ted carried to Elder Monson’s office some slides that he had found among his missionary pictures. He told Elder Monson that he had been home 40 years and was just getting around to cataloging the slides. Among them were some Ted could not specifically identify. Every time he had planned to discard them, he had been impressed to keep them, although he was at a loss as to why.

They were photographs he had taken when he served in Stettin, Germany, and pictured a family—a mother, father, and two small children. He remembered that their surname was Berndt and that there was a Berndt serving as a regional representative in Germany. He wondered if this Brother Berndt might be able to identify the Berndts in the photograph.

Elder Monson indicated that he was leaving shortly for Berlin and would be seeing Dieter Berndt. He agreed to show him the slides.

Wrote President Monson later: “The Lord didn’t even let me get to Berlin before his purposes were accomplished. I was in Zurich, Switzerland, boarding the flight to Berlin, when who should also board the plane but Dieter Berndt. He sat next to me and I told him I had some old slides of people named Berndt from Stettin. I handed them to him and asked if he could identify those shown in the photographs.

“As he looked at them carefully, he began to weep. He said, ‘Our family lived in Stettin during the war. My father was killed when an Allied bomb struck the plant where he worked. Not long afterward, the Russians invaded Poland and the area of Stettin. My mother took my sister and me and fled from the advancing enemy. Everything had to be left behind, including any photographs we had. Brother Monson, I am the little boy pictured in these slides and my sister is the little girl. The man and woman are our dear parents. Until today I have had no photograph of our childhood in Stettin or of my father.”

The two wept together and Dieter carefully placed the slides in his briefcase. At the next general conference in Salt Lake City, he had occasion to visit Brother Cannon and thank him for following the inspiration to keep the slides for 40 years.

—Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson, p. 298