Area Authority Seventy in Switzerland
The first clear spiritual experience Elder Franz R. Gaag remembers occurred when he was a young boy in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1962. After praying for years that they might find the Lord’s true Church, Franz’s parents were approached by two missionaries and eagerly heard the discussions. When nine-year-old Franz chose to be baptized, “it was impressed upon me that my decision to enter into sacred covenants with the Lord was guided by the Spirit,” remembers Elder Gaag.
After the family’s baptism, he says, “I decided that Heavenly Father, who provides me with the richest blessings, would hold first place in my life. I determined to accept any calling I received through His servants.”
Elder Gaag served as president of the first non-English seminary class in Europe, full-time missionary to Austria, Young Men president, bishop, stake president, and now Area Authority Seventy. “Through service, I have been blessed to learn,” he says.
Elder Gaag has worked in advertising, public relations, and marketing. His hobbies include gardening, landscaping, and caring for a pair of parrots. But “my true hobby and endless source of joy and challenge is my family,” says Elder Gaag. “Every moment I have I enjoy spending with my wife and children.”
The Influence of One
Iris Love Bryen came to Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, as a schoolteacher in 1942. As the sole Latter-day Saint in the town, located 500 miles (800 km) north of Sydney, she paid tithing and corresponded with Church officers, which meant that, as she says, “Lismore began to show up on Church records.” In this way she became crucial to the establishment of the Lismore Branch. In 1958 missionaries were sent to the area, and the branch grew until today it has some 250 members.
Born in 1909 in London, England, Iris was a baby when her family moved to Australia in 1910. The family had joined the Church in England in 1908. En route to Australia, their ship docked at Port Said, Egypt, where a frightening thing happened. An Egyptian planter wanted to adopt a white baby girl and offered a large sum of money for one. Eager to obtain the prize money, a kidnapper snatched Iris from her family while they were visiting a crowded bazaar in the city. Iris’s mother and others gave chase. A group of men who saw what happened blocked the way of the only exit gate, and Iris’s mother grabbed her from the arms of the thief.
Sometime after the family’s arrival in Australia, Iris’s father became a branch president, and they held meetings in their home.
Years later, after Iris became an elementary schoolteacher in Lismore, she met Earl Bryen. Though not a member of the Church, he was honest, hardworking, and gentle. They were married in 1944 and over time became the parents of three children.
Even though Iris and her family lived in an area where Church facilities were not available for a time, Iris always had a strong testimony of the gospel and constantly read the scriptures and studied Church books. By her faith, example, and instruction in principles of the gospel, the children have remained active in the Church. After a lifetime of faithfulness, Iris received her temple endowment in 1986, shortly after the dedication of the Sydney Australia Temple.
For 15 years after the missionaries arrived, the Lismore Branch was a dependent group belonging to other Church branches. In 1973 it was made an independent branch, and eight years later the Lismore members had their own meetinghouse. The branch is an admirable tribute to its once lone member, Iris Bryen, who over the years has kept a branch history.
At 91, Iris attends church regularly and pursues historical research.—, Southgate Ward, Bloomington Utah Stake