Note: This group of short, inspirational accounts features Latter-day Saints whose faith, devotion, and experiences are in many ways typical of those of Church members everywhere. Through the sharing of testimonies, we can feel more profoundly the kinship we have with other Saints worldwide. We are indeed “fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God.”
Ellen Ditty of Belfast
“I didn’t get the money by running here and there for collections, because I didn’t believe in that. But I do believe that if you have it to give, you just give it.”
And give, she did. Sister Ellen Ditty made the extraordinary contribution of 250 pounds (approximately $600) to the building fund of the Cavehill Ward in Ireland. This was as much as or more than that of any other single contributor.
She began by collecting various items from members and nonmembers of the Church and then selling them for a small profit to whoever would buy.
“I would just let them have whatever they wanted at reasonable cost,” she says, “and I put all the money I got in bottles.” When she had collected 250 pounds, she donated it to the building fund.
In the following paragraphs, Ellen tells the story of her conversion to the Church over fifty years ago:
“I’ve lived in Belfast all my life and have been a member of the Church for fifty-three years. Years ago, a cousin who lived on Old Park Road was trying to get my sister to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Then there was another Latter-day Saint cousin who used to run about with us. Well, this cousin sent my sister tracts, and my sister was giving me tracts.
“Two years after Mother died, my sister accepted the gospel. My sister was a great member of the Church. She was very faithful, and she took charge of the five of us children. That was in 1910.
“What our townspeople thought of the Latter-day Saints back then was very, very bad. In fact, if you were a Mormon, people avoided you.
“In 1918 I was baptized. Elder Stephen L Richards of the Council of the Twelve was visiting for conference. He lifted me up in his arms and said to my sister, ‘This little girl will have to be administered to, because she has very bad sight.’
“I want to tell you, I had bad sight. But Elder Richards hadn’t been told anything about it. He was just inspired. So I was blessed. My sight was restored, and I am a great believer.
“Personally, I have a mind of me own. There’s nobody can force the issue on me. My sister didn’t try, for she knew she couldn’t do it. So I didn’t go to church for a few years. But I had another healing.
“I had tuberculosis. I had been ill for six years. In fact, I wasn’t allowed out until I was fourteen years old. A doctor took me to get the free treatment for tuberculosis patients. Then he told my sister to take me home and to be good to me, for, he said, ‘You’ll not have her very long.’
“One night at home I was really tired and in great pain. It was an MIA night, but I hadn’t been attending church. This was when I was eighteen years old.
“I said to my sister, ‘I’m going to MIA tonight; I’m going to get a blessing.’ She said, ‘If that’s your wish, you can go ahead.’
“Well, strange as it may seem, I got worse instead of better. So I asked for another blessing; it was still the same.
“My sister told me to do as the leper man in the Bible, who was told to go and cleanse himself seven times in the water. He went down six, but it wasn’t any good. Then he went down the seventh time, and he was all right. My sister told me that my faith was being tried to see if it was strong. Well, I was blessed again—and I was healed. I have been well from that time to this. The doctor sent for me to see why I didn’t come back for treatments. And I said, ‘I’m all right; there’s nothing wrong with me.’
“He examined me and said, ‘There’s not a sign or trace of tuberculosis in you. All you want now is to go home and get a good hardy day’s work to do.’
“And I worked for thirty-five years.
“The Savior had a purpose in sparing my life. And my testimony is so strong that I can’t lose it.”
Heidi Bahlinger of Freiberg
On a sunny afternoon in the spring of 1969 Heidi Bahlinger and her mother were shopping in downtown Freiberg, a city in Germany’s Black Forest. They had stopped in front of a display featuring posters of Martin Luther, Albert Schweitzer, and Joseph Smith. Under the pictures was the caption, “Which is the true religion?” The Latter-day Saint missionaries were holding a street meeting.
As a Lutheran graduate student, Heidi had been teaching religion in junior college for several years.
With such a background, it is no surprise that Heidi engaged the missionaries in a spirited discussion on the sunny streets of Freiberg. Finally, she asked them to attend her religion classes to discuss the gospel with her students, 16- to 20-year-olds who met twice a week to study various religious beliefs.
“We were Protestants,” explains Heidi, “but sometimes the Catholic priest of that college would join us, along with some of his students. We decided to meet together because it was challenging and exciting.”
The elders accepted the invitation to meet with this group, and they introduced the Church with the film Man’s Search for Happiness.
It was obvious from the start that the hour allotted for each meeting would not be enough, so the missionaries came back on other days to continue the discussions.
In her own words, Heidi relates what happened in the weeks that followed:
“The Catholic priest responded to the missionaries by pleading for his own religion. I, on the other hand, tried to present the Lutheran theology. During these first hours of discussion, I defended my beliefs by quoting Bible verses that showed the truth as far as I knew it. The missionaries also proved their statements with the Bible.
“When I realized that their answers made much sense to me and could be just as true as mine, I stopped defending and started to listen.
“Another thing that prompted me to listen more carefully to the teachings was the personal witness of the two missionaries. I could not explain what it was, but I sensed strongly great authority in what they said and, even more, in what their personalities reflected.
“I had a problem, though. I stumbled within myself each time they mentioned the Book of Mormon or their other books. I was certain that they were on the wrong track. To me there was only one book, the Bible.
“I decided I would try to forget what I had learned by avoiding the missionaries; however, I did not feel comfortable about this way out. Over and over I turned to God in my prayers, asking for guidance and light. Through these prayers, I gained courage and felt I should see the missionaries again.
“On their visit to me, they brought me a gift. I was greatly disappointed to find it was the Book of Mormon. I told them I would be very skeptical if I read it. They left, and I did not feel the need to ask them back. Both the missionaries and I knew that any further discussion would depend entirely upon my response to the Book of Mormon.
“It seemed very strange, but I picked up the book right after they left, and in my fear I knelt down and asked God to forgive me for wanting to read it.
“I began reading and continued through half the night. Why? Because my feelings changed completely. I relaxed. While I read I prayed, ‘God, help me to understand what I am reading, and show me whether or not it is thy word, thy church.’ How fast that prayer was answered! The testimony of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon started to burn within me. I knew it was the power of the Holy Spirit that surrounded me.
“How much I needed courage for the following days and weeks! It was a very dramatic way of losing almost everything that seemed important in my life up to that time. My concepts of God, of Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost were changing. Many questions concerning the understanding of myself began to take on new meaning. A reflection on my former life and beliefs had to be faced. Oh, how far reaching a conversion can be!
“I stood up and bore testimony to my parents, my relatives, and my friends. I gave up my job and all my plans for the future. These were not easy things to do; they were so much against my nature. It was surely no fun to have the people closest to me turning against me. The pain felt by many about my decision was very real.
“It came as a great relief when President Orville Gunther of the Germany South Mission suggested that I emigrate and go to Brigham Young University, that I use my savings to gain a new education and a stronger understanding of the gospel.
“I am aware that my conversion, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost were just the beginning in my journey as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet it was a very decisive step.”
Doris Fripp of South Africa
The war years, especially 1942–44, were bleak, ugly years in England. Like so many others, I was a young wife with a little child, and my husband was away at war. I think of those years as “the years the locusts have eaten.” The turbulent tide of war was all around us, bringing danger, fear, anxiety, despondency, loneliness, shortages, and on top of all of this, temptations.
During this time I lived with my husband’s grandmother. I loved this religious old lady with Victorian outlook. She needed me, but I feel that I needed her even more. I found great comfort in those dark days in a habit Gran had of reading the Bible aloud to me each evening. During a certain period of despondency and darkness of spirit, one evening she read from the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Philippians:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philip. 4:8.)
The words struck a chord in my heart. They were like a burst of sunshine from behind the dark clouds. I asked her to repeat these words, which she did, and together we discussed them for a long time. Together we remembered all the lovely things we could still enjoy—the trees and the flowers, the robin who would come to our door for crumbs, my lovely little daughter sleeping peacefully, the bravery of good men, the beautiful, inspired words of the scriptures. As we talked, the dark, ugly things that had threatened to overwhelm us faded into the background.
After that, Gran often read this passage of scripture to me. Whenever I felt dark clouds hanging over me, I searched it out myself and found comfort.
The war ended, and I was reunited with my husband. In time, Gran passed peacefully away. Through the following years I often turned to those same words of Paul, not only when I was downhearted, but also when I was delighted with life.
In time, we moved to South Africa. After living there five years we were privileged to find the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We accepted it with joy. And can you imagine my personal joy when I first came upon the thirteenth Article of Faith, now a part of the Pearl of Great Price:
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
These words have become part of my very life, my eternal life. I thank God that Paul was inspired to write them, that Joseph Smith was inspired to express them, that Gran was inspired to read them, and that the Lord has used them to bless and guide me during so much of my life.