The Warmth of a Winter Baptism
My parents investigated the Church in Germany during World War I, even though no missionaries were allowed in the country at that time. My mother first heard about the gospel from a cousin of mine, older than I, who was disowned by her family because she had joined the Church. Father permitted mother to attend meetings, taking my brother and me with her, but he would have none of it himself. Then a fellow worker gave him a Book of Mormon and told him about the Church. Father read the book, studied the gospel, and began attending church with us.
When the branch president suggested baptism to my mother, she told him that she and the children were ready, but she wanted to wait for her husband. Father said, “I am ready, too.” But mother told him he wasn’t ready because he still smoked a pipe. Father broke his pipe into three pieces and threw it into the fire. As a jeweler and watchmaker he had been accustomed to working at a high table, smoking a long pipe that reached to the floor, so it really was a credit to him to give it up.
Since baptisms were illegal at the time, we arranged to meet some Saints at a street-car depot at night and go to the river for the baptismal ceremony. On the appointed day, I came home from school so ill I could not eat my supper. When the time came to leave, I felt worse, and mother said I should wait and be baptized later. I insisted that I wanted baptism now and would not wait any longer. We rode the street car for about an hour to get to the Chemnitz River, then walked through the park to where the baptism would take place.
By the time we got off the street car I was feeling so bad that I could not talk or walk. My father and some of the brethren took turns carrying me. When we arrived, we found a policeman on guard, but he was sitting against a tree, asleep. Barbed wire was strung across the path leading to the river, but some of the brethren held the wire apart while we crept through. We found the river frozen over, but the brethren broke the ice, and then I was asked if I still wanted to be baptized that night. It was about midnight. I nodded, for I still couldn’t talk, and I was the first of eleven people (three children and eight adults) to be baptized. It must have been the impact of the cold water, but when I was immersed, I felt as if a thick shell was being peeled off me. I was able to climb up the embankment by myself and I felt well again. Mother and some sisters helped me dry and dress. Afterward, I sat on a little folding stool to be confirmed.
Following the baptisms, we returned as we had come, along the narrow path and through the barbed wire fence, past the policeman who was still asleep. A big bright moon made the night seem almost day, and as we walked back to the street-car depot we sang hymns of praise to our Father in Heaven.
Sometime after the war was over, the missionaries returned to Germany, and one Sunday morning a new missionary from America who couldn’t speak our language came to our home for dinner. My parents spoke some English, as they had lived in Liverpool, England, for four years. In the evening we all went to sacrament meeting, and the new elder was asked to speak. I remember feeling sorry for him, knowing that he knew no German, and I wondered what he would say. He didn’t have time to copy a talk from one of the other elders who had been there awhile.
But he spoke for over an hour. He told the Saints to go to America because another world war would come which would be worse than the one we had just been through. This was a terrible thing to hear, because the suffering of the recent war was still vivid in our memories. On the way home from the meeting I asked my parents what language the missionary spoke. I knew it wasn’t German and I knew it wasn’t English, although I didn’t understand English; yet I understood every word he said. My father said I should never forget that experience for I probably would never hear anything like that again. This elder had spoken in tongues.
From that day my parents spoke of little else but plans for immigrating to America. My father went first, and about a year later he sent for my mother, my brother, and me. My mother was at first denied permission to leave Germany, as she had heart trouble, but she insisted my brother and I go; six months later she was permitted to join us.
Everything the missionary had predicted came to pass. My sister, who did not accept the gospel and who still lives in Germany, told us about the war, and events there transpired as the elder had prophesied.
Mother and I Prayed Together
As third from the oldest in a family of nine children, I learned early the great value of loving and sharing. I also learned the value of the dollar.
When I was seventeen and a junior in high school, I began working as a waitress in a well-known restaurant. I was new and unskilled, and made very little in tips at first.
One afternoon as I was getting ready for work, I noticed that my mother seemed very worried and unhappy. I took her aside where the younger children could not hear and asked her what was wrong. Softly, fighting tears, she began to tell me the problem. She was worried about getting enough food for the family for the evening meal. The small shop my father operated had failed to bring in any money for several days, the groceries in the house had diminished, and now there wasn’t enough to feed eleven hungry people. None of the children had any money saved up to lend her for supper that night. Even I had none.
At this point we were both weeping. Lovingly I pressed her head on my shoulder, trying to comfort her. Then came a reassuring urge to pray. It was our only recourse. “Mom,” I said, “let’s have prayer together. Heavenly Father will help us.” Smiling, she said “okay.”
We knelt together and each offered a prayer. The Spirit was overwhelming, and when we finished we put our arms around each other. We knew something would happen.
Later that day, after I had gone to work, mother called me, her voice cracking from emotion. It seems that someone had come into the shop only minutes before closing time and made a purchase; then someone else had come in and paid his bill early! She had enough money for supper. Fighting the lump in my throat, I replied that I too had made more money than usual—close to $14 in tips in only two and a half hours. Usually I went home after five or six hours of work with less money than that.
After hanging up the phone, I found a quiet corner and humbly thanked my Father in Heaven for his goodness and for sustaining my faith and that of my mother.
When the doctor confirmed that our six-year-old daughter was diabetic, we were heartbroken. Because the tendency for diabetes is inherited from both parents, we felt responsible for passing this ailment to our innocent Carolyn. Added to our feelings of guilt was the burden of giving Carolyn insulin injections, controlling her diet, and dealing with emotional distress.
One day I heard someone quote scripture to indicate that if a person is afflicted and not subsequently healed, it could be because he or his loved ones lack faith. I was overcome with depression. Carolyn had been administered to several times and had been in the earnest prayers of many people. Whose faith was lacking? How could I develop more faith? Would God punish this precious daughter because I lacked the required faith?
Finally, one fast day as I sought solace and answers from Heavenly Father, an answer came that I will never forget.
Among the members of our ward is an exceptionally fine, strong family with two boys and two girls. Both sons are afflicted with an inherited degenerative muscular disease that has gradually weakened and crippled them. When the Jewkes family moved into our ward, the oldest son, Lee, at first walked haltingly and with difficulty, then used a cane. After his mission he required a wheelchair. His brother also is now in a wheelchair. Always cheerful and friendly, Lee continually radiates spirituality and gratitude for the blessings of life.
After the sacrament that fast day, the time for testimony bearing began and Lee asked for the microphone. He recalled the time when, as a student at Brigham Young University, he and his returned-missionary roommates decided he had suffered long enough. They concluded that among them and their priesthood leader they possessed enough faith for him to be healed. As they fasted together, Lee felt such a strong spirit and faith among them that he knew he could be made well.
The anointing was completed and hands were laid on his head as the blessing began. The young men in that priesthood circle knew the Lord’s spirit was with them, yet the elder giving the blessing could not promise Lee that he would be cured.
He felt discouraged and puzzled. They were all faithful servants of the Lord. They had all fasted and prayed sincerely and with faith. Why then was he not healed?
In an effort to overcome his depression, Lee returned to his studies. He picked up a pencil and began to write …
He looked at the word unbelievingly. He had never seen or heard it, and it almost seemed as if someone else had guided his hand. Curious, he looked for the meaning in his pocket dictionary, but it was not there; feeling foolish, he tossed the paper in the wastebasket. But as he tried to study, a compelling feeling he could not dismiss finally urged him to look again in an unabridged dictionary. To his astonishment, he found it. The word meant “endure, continue to bear, great, important.” It was the answer to his faith and supplication. A feeling of peace flooded over him.
The word melted into my heart: endure—endure—endure. As Lee closed his testimony that day, the tears streamed down my face. My soul was lifted with a divine reassurance.
Upon returning home, I opened the Doctrine and Covenants and read these verses:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121:7–8.)
Carolyn’s condition will always be a challenge, but in adjusting to her malady she has developed a maturity and spirituality beyond her years. She is twenty now, and was married in the Salt Lake Temple two years ago.
I am grateful for the testimony Lee shared with us that day long ago. It has helped me realize that the precious gift of faith is required not only for healing, when it is God’s will, but also for a challenge just as important: enduring.