Latter-day Saints in continental Europe have a close relationship with the Lord. In answer to their prayers, their lives are filled with spiritually uplifting experiences. And, in the words of Karl Ringger, patriarch of the Swiss Stake, such experiences become testimony—and of testimony come good works.
In his sixty years as a member of the Church, Brother Ringger has often seen the Lord’s hand guiding matters of both a spiritual and a temporal nature. He tells the story of one “sorely tried brother” whose testimony changed his own life:
“The year before the beginning of World War I,” according to Brother Ringger, “this brother was taking steps to emigrate to America. He had saved 13,000 francs for that purpose. In the meantime he had received a mission call, but the war broke out and, as a German citizen, he was drafted. During one battle he was carrying a wounded soldier when they were hit by a shell. His comrade was killed, and the Latter-day Saint serviceman lost his right leg above the knee. In the hospital he continued his missionary work, preaching the gospel from his bed on Sunday mornings and attracting more listeners than the minister in the chapel.
“At the end of the war he returned to Basel, Switzerland, where he married and became editor of Der Stern, the LDS German-language magazine.
“Since he needed fulltime employment to support his family, he went to Zurich to seek work as an architect (his profession in Germany). Though he was a foreigner, a cripple, and a veteran of a defeated army, he was confident he could find work.
“The first morning he left his new home to go look for a job, he prayed: ‘My Father, I have dedicated everything to thee that I possessed—my plans, my savings, five years on a mission—and now I am an invalid. Please help me now.’
“That night he returned home without a job and with the stump of his amputated leg extremely sore. But the next morning he went job hunting again. After a few days of earnest search he found work. His joy was so great, he cried like a child.
“After some time on the job, he was asked to work on Sunday mornings. His answer was, ‘I am sorry, but on Sunday I have a different master.’ He was fired and had to look for work again.
“This man’s relationship with God was of a special nature, very personal. He always paid a full, honest tithing on the money he earned, regardless of his circumstances. And the Lord blessed him, and he was able to receive extra money as he needed it.
“I heard this man speak in a sacrament meeting, where his practical faith so impressed me that I felt he was talking directly to me. However, I didn’t have the faith he had. My earnings at the time were only one-fourth of what I needed for my family, but I decided to try his advice, so I rounded up my last franc to pay tithing. I can testify that the Lord truly blessed me. My responsibilities in the Church and my knowledge of the gospel increased, and my family was blessed manyfold. It was the example of a good brother that gave my life a new course fifty years ago.”
Because of their service and dedication to the Church, many Saints in Europe are blessed. Brother Franz Horletseder of the Linz Branch, Austria Mission, tells of the benefits he has received from serving in the Church:
“Three weeks after my baptism in 1957, I received my first calling to serve in the MIA. When a new branch presidency was called in 1969, the branch president told me he wanted me to be the branch secretary. I told him he must have picked the weakest man in the branch. Being branch secretary is an important office, and I could hardly write my own name at that time. However, I was told that it wasn’t so important what a person could do as that he was willing. Because the branch president was patient, I have learned that what he said is true.
“Later a new branch president was called, and he asked me to be the financial clerk. This was a new calling and assignment about which I knew nothing, but I learned, with the help of the Lord and the patience of my brethren. I am grateful for these assignments and the opportunities offered to me by the Church to develop in many areas, for I am sure no worldly institution would have allowed me to grow in such a manner.”
This type of experience has been duplicated many times all over Europe. As members are given responsibilities and the gift of the Spirit to guide them, their lives are changed.
Sister Evelyn Gressier, Primary president in the Lille District, France-Belgium Mission, testifies how the Holy Ghost has influenced her life and also her work in the Church:
“The Lord has blessed me greatly in giving me premonitions as to important events that are to occur in my life. One of these has to do with my association with the Primary.
“I awakened one morning feeling that something was going to happen of great importance. I had an assignment in Primary, and when I got to the meetinghouse, I found a room filled with about 30 non-Mormon children who had come to be taught the gospel. What a great opportunity this was, to teach these youngsters and to bring them to a knowledge of the truth! My greatest joys with my family come from our association with the Church and our knowledge that the gospel is true.”
The gospel has great meaning not only for long-time members of the Church, like the Gressier family, but also for those who are new converts. Luis Llanos Diaz and his wife were the first persons to join the Church in their city. Just a little over a month after they were baptized in the Mataró Branch, Spain Mission, tragedy struck.
“On February 23, 1973, we got up thanking our Father in heaven for having given us another day to live,” Brother Diaz recalls, “but unfortunately our whole family was not able to share in that blessing.
“At noon my wife and I went downtown for about an hour, and upon returning, we found our home in flames with our two children inside. Our son was rescued but our little daughter, only six months old, died in the fire.
“We are so thankful to our neighbors and the firemen for all their help, but it is still very hard to write these words. The tears and pain are still deeply felt, as we lost a part of our lives. But there were always members of the Church there to help us through every trying moment. They came from the branches in five nearby cities to help clean up our home, supplying us with clothes and helping economically, too.
“I held my head high as I walked to the cemetery because I knew where my daughter was. The local leaders of the Church had arranged a beautiful service, and the members were there in large numbers. The messages at the funeral were comforting assurances of our Father’s plan of life, and the nonmembers there got a better view of the real purpose of life.”
Finding a marriage partner who is also a member of the Church is not easy for most young European Saints. It becomes a matter of fervent prayer. The prayer of Alois Jaburek of the Vienna Branch, Austria Mission, was answered in this way:
“I had finished a mission and was drafted. My patriarchal blessing spoke about finding the right companion. I prayed about this and received assurance that I would meet her at a youth conference to be held in Hamburg, Germany, in four weeks. But it was senseless to think about getting a military leave for a whole week, especially during basic training. When I inquired, I was told that I could file a request but that no one who had ever done this had ever received leave. But I made the request anyway. And I prayed a lot. I tried to keep all the commandments to the best of my ability and to fulfill all my assignments as best I could.
“The night before the other branch members were to leave for the conference, I still didn’t have my permission. I asked the Lord again for his blessing. Then, at 11 P.M., an officer called me into his room and told me permission had just been granted; I could leave at six o’clock the next morning.
“At the conference, every young sister I met, I asked the Lord if she was to be my wife. But I did not receive a special feeling about any of them.
“Finally the last day of the conference had come. I was frustrated. A trip to Helgeland was planned for that day, and everyone seemed to be in high spirits but me. That afternoon, however, as a young girl was talking to me, I silently asked the Lord if she should be my wife. Almost immediately I received a special feeling about her. After we had become better acquainted, we both decided to fast. Three months later she moved to Vienna. And we were then able to go to the house of the Lord to be sealed for time and all eternity.”
Another young man who was entering military service had an unusual experience. In order to gain the spiritual strength he would need to leave his home, he decided to go mountain climbing with his father. They had done it before, especially when they needed time alone, time to think, to talk, and to be spiritually renewed.
“In returning from the mountaintop,” he writes, “we got a late start. We weren’t worried, though, because we knew the way down wasn’t particularly dangerous. We started to run in order to reach the valley sooner, and we whistled and were happy.”
Suddenly they realized the passage they were following wasn’t leading them to their valley. They found themselves in a basin surrounded by cliffs, with water running over the rocks. They were totally lost.
“Then we humbled ourselves and knelt down to pray,” he recalls. “After the prayer we had tears in our eyes and also the assurance that we had communicated with the Lord. Father got up and walked toward some rocks. Suddenly I heard him cry out, as he stumbled.
“I rushed to his side, thinking, ‘No, that can’t be the answer to our prayers.’ Then I heard his voice, calm and sure: ‘Yes, I fell, but guess where? Onto a wooden bridge.’
“There was indeed a wooden bridge that couldn’t have been found even in daylight because it was covered with leaves. The bridge led us directly out of the basin.
“Then we came to a small valley where we followed a stream. But again we were trapped, for the valley narrowed and there was only room for the stream. Again we prayed, and as we prayed we were impressed to go through the water.
“We passed through without difficulty, and after a few hundred yards the valley opened up. We were in a large pasture not far from our home, and we were safe.
“My father tried a few weeks later to find our route again, but he couldn’t. I know that the Lord did indeed lead us home.”
Regardless of the problem that may be involved, the Lord is concerned about each individual and, in time of need, he answers prayers. Anna Perongini of the Florence Branch, Italy South Mission, developed a close relationship with the Lord before her baptism. The following incident she relates had great significance in the period of her conversion:
“I had borrowed a bicycle from a friend for transportation to work. Having left it unlocked one day, I returned to find it gone. I was tormented at the thought of having to buy another bicycle, considering the meager income of my family. In a moment of calm, I decided to pray and ask in faith that the gravity of the problem be relieved. The following day, while getting off a bus near my work, I glanced down the street and saw the bicycle, a bit worn but in good condition.”
These are but a few examples of the types of experiences members of the Church are having throughout Europe, experiences that, in the face of opposition, are fortifying their testimonies and helping them build up the kingdom of God.
Brother Ringger, whose life was changed fifty years ago by another member’s testimony, looks back over his and his wife’s life in the Church and says: “Our life was hard, full of surprises and trials marked by failures, when we hesitated to keep all the commandments. But blessings are numerous when we accept the teachings of the gospel and repent.”