The Missing Book
It was a beautiful summer morning as my husband and I drove from our home in Frederiksberg, Denmark, to northern Germany, where my mother’s mother was born.
I got a lump in my throat when I saw the road sign that said “Ladelund.” Ever since joining the Church, I had had a burning desire to submit my grandmother’s name for temple work. Often I had received divine guidance in my genealogical research, and I was eagerly looking forward to helping my grandmother obtain the full blessings of the gospel.
In northern Germany, vital records often aren’t gathered together in a central archive, but are scattered about in various church parish houses. I had written to Ladelund to find out just where my grandmother’s records were located. Then I had telephoned the priest for an appointment to look at the books containing those records.
The priest’s secretary greeted us warmly. She went to the safe to get the book I had asked to see, then returned looking confused.
“The book you need was here yesterday,” she said, “but it is not here now.” Together we searched among the shelves of books, but we could not find it.
I was bitterly disappointed. I had done so much work. Why wasn’t Heavenly Father helping me now? I went to our car to wait for our next appointment several hours later. As I sat there, crying, the idea came to me to drive to the little town where my grandmother’s family had lived. Even though it had been more than a hundred years since the family had lived there, I wanted to see how it looked.
We arrived in the tiny town around noon. We could see no one about. As we drove past the nine or ten houses, I finally spotted an older woman washing the windows in her home.
We stopped, and I went to the door to see if she knew anything about my grandmother’s family. My heart skipped a beat as I read the nameplate on the front door: Carstensen, my grandmother’s family name!
The woman opened the door and in a beautiful Slesvig accent asked what I wanted. After I explained, she said, “Oh, so it’s Mother’s pedigree you want to see. I’ll get it.”
She left the room and returned to spread before me a pedigree showing a record of my relatives back to the 1600s. Beside the name of each married couple, with their dates of birth, marriage, and death, the pedigree listed all the children along with their place of birth and marriage. This one document gave me more information about my grandmother’s family than I could have obtained from the church records.
After I returned home to Denmark, I received a letter from the Ladelund church. The secretary enclosed the information from the missing book, explaining that it had been placed in the wrong cabinet by mistake.
Thanks to this “mistake,” I have found not just one, but more than a hundred names of my German family. The Lord had been helping me all along.
“You’re under Arrest”
On 25 July 1928, I was tracting on a street in Heilbronn, Germany. In those days, missionaries did not have to work side by side constantly, and often I would tract one side of the street while my companion tracted the other.
As I walked toward the next house, I saw a man sitting on a chair near the sidewalk. He was glaring malevolently in my direction. Many people in Germany at that time distrusted the missionaries, so I didn’t give it much thought.
As I spoke with a woman at the doorway to a nearby apartment, I heard someone coming up behind me. I turned and saw a policeman in uniform. I continued to talk, believing he had business with someone upstairs.
To my astonishment, he dropped a heavy hand on my shoulder and turned me around to face him.
“You will have to come with me,” he said quietly. “You’re under arrest.”
Astounded, I tried to keep my composure. I apologized to the woman and told her I would return later.
“Why am I being arrested?” I asked the policeman. He told me that I was accused of burglarizing an apartment and carrying off a valuable heirloom watch.
The officer explained that my accuser had found the watch missing the morning before. He contended that I had been the only person other than himself and his family to enter the building.
I remembered entering that building the day before. The first and second floors were occupied by a factory, but on the third floor was an apartment. As I had entered the building, a young man had approached me and asked where I was going and whom I wished to see. I had told him that I wanted to go upstairs and speak with the people who lived there. He had said nothing further, and I had ascended the stairs.
The door to the third-floor apartment had been left slightly open. No one had answered my knocks, so I had left and resumed tracting elsewhere.
I explained this to the officer. He was surprised to learn that he had arrested a missionary.
He then took me across the street to the man who had glared at me earlier. A teenager with the man looked ill at ease, but said “yes” when the officer asked if I was the burglar.
At the police station, I was ushered into the chief’s office. A police court, consisting of several plainclothes and uniformed policemen, was waiting for me. In a corner sat seven people who said they had witnessed my entering the building.
During the hour-long interrogation, I answered every question honestly and directly, with a prayer in my heart that the Lord would help me.
Then the seven witnesses testified against me. All stated that, except for the family, I had been the only person to go to the third-floor apartment the day before. It began to look as though I might spend several years in a German prison.
The police chief asked me if I had anything to say in my defense. I prayed fervently for assistance, then began speaking, hesitantly at first, in my broken German. I told those in the room why I was in Germany and explained my mission. Suddenly I began to preach the gospel. A strange feeling came over me. I gradually lost control of my tongue, my arms, and my facial muscles.
The Holy Spirit had come to my rescue. I began to speak the language fluently, with confidence and power. When I concluded my testimony forty-five minutes later, I nearly slumped to the floor in exhaustion. There was complete silence in the room for at least a full minute.
Then the police chief said simply, “This man didn’t take the watch.”
He asked me many questions about myself and the Church. The hostility in the room had vanished. Then he turned to a detective and said, “Go with this young man to his room and search his belongings. If you don’t find the watch—and I’m sure you won’t—let him go. End this foolishness.”
As I walked back to my lodgings with the detective, I answered many questions he asked me. By the time we reached my room I had briefly explained the missionary program, the Book of Mormon, and our concept of the Lord.
The detective found two watches in my desk drawer. One was my old, broken watch, and the other was a cheap watch belonging to my companion. As the detective left, he assured me that I should contact him if I ever needed help during my stay in Heilbronn.
I breathed a prayerful sigh of thankfulness. The power of the Holy Ghost had been demonstrated in a miraculous fashion. I would never forget this day.
My eyes searched the chapel for the people whose names had just been read by the bishop as he welcomed a new family into the ward. I resolved to introduce myself and get acquainted right after sacrament meeting.
Sister Shaw’s parting testimony at an earlier sacrament meeting was the reason.
“This is my last Sunday here,” she had said. “Before I leave I feel impressed to share an experience with you.”
Sandy Shaw had lived in our ward during the past year while her husband attended school. I’m not sure when I first noticed her, but she seemed to have a special friendship with Neva Gillman, the Spiritual Living teacher in our ward.
I thought about Sister Shaw’s story.
“I felt loved and secure in my home ward,” she had said. “I had lived there all my life. When my husband and I moved here, I was terrified to attend a strange ward and put off going for several weeks. But soon I felt a great void in my life and vowed to attend the next meeting.
“I entered the church with great trepidation. As people headed for their classes, I hoped someone would introduce himself or herself and show me the way to go. I knew I should say something to someone, but my tongue wouldn’t work. People walked by, chatting with their friends. Some even smiled at me. It wasn’t long until the doors were closed and the halls were empty. Crying in despair, I turned and left.
“That night I turned to the one person I knew I could count on: Father in Heaven. ‘Dear Father,’ I pleaded. ‘I have always been active, but I’m afraid to go to a strange ward. I can’t do it alone.’
“The next morning I opened my door to a nervous stranger who said, ‘Hi. My name is Neva Gillman. I really don’t know why I’m here, but I had the strongest impression to come by and ask if you would like to come to Relief Society with me.’
“Smiling through my tears, I invited her in.”
Sister Shaw’s testimony had made me take a good look at myself. How many times had I seen new people come to church, and, because I didn’t know what to say, walked by them or smiled and said only “hi”?
I Felt Their Prayers
So often I had been on the “giving” end of prayers, asking Heavenly Father to bestow his blessings on my loved ones. After I said “amen” I would meditate briefly, then hop up and carry on with my day. I never considered how my prayers might affect others’ lives until I happened to be on the “receiving” end of many prayers.
I was pregnant with my third child, and was attempting to follow my doctor’s orders to take it easy. My husband was out of town, leaving me totally in charge of our two small children, when I suddenly became ill with a serious infection that endangered the life of my unborn child. Frightened, I called a neighbor and asked him to give me a blessing. He and the elders quorum president soon arrived, and as they administered to me, I felt the sweet presence of the Spirit. However, a visit to my doctor that afternoon caused me to worry again. I contemplated the possibility of losing the baby, and spent the rest of the day in tears.
But that night, my fears were replaced by the same comforting feeling I had experienced during the blessing, and I became aware of the concern felt by family members and friends who cared for me and wanted to see me and the baby healthy. I knew they were praying for me and that their prayers were being answered. I felt their love surround me and give me courage. This sweet feeling stayed with me until I finally regained my health.
Often, through the remainder of the pregnancy, people told me that they had prayed for me when I had been ill. I always replied, “Yes, I know you did.” And as I later held my healthy, newborn daughter, I reflected on the miracles that can come from prayer.