Friend to Friend


Elder Hans B. Ringger

Zurich, Switzerland, is Elder Hans Benjamin Ringger’s hometown. He explained that “in Switzerland there are no ‘Swiss people.’ That is, rather than thinking of themselves as being from the whole nation, they think of themselves as being from a particular area of it, such as the city of Zurich or Bern. And just as Joseph returned to his ‘own city’ of Bethlehem to pay his taxes, each Swiss must return to the place of his origin to conduct certain official business. All the information necessary to do genealogy for my family is contained in records kept in Zurich. This system is a great help and convenience for us.”

Elder Ringger, whose grandmother joined the Church in Switzerland in 1896, is one of eight surviving children in his family. Two brothers and two sisters emigrated to Utah, and he, a brother, and two sisters remained in Switzerland.

“My father was strict but had a big heart,” Elder Ringger said. “He was a great teacher and a wonderful example. Whenever we left for a holiday on Monday, we always came home by Saturday so that we could do our Church assignments.

“My mother was kind and selfless and never complained about her circumstances. She was always there to teach us and to care for everything. I honor my mother and keep a picture of her in my office.”

As a young boy, Elder Ringger loved the beautiful mountains, hills, lakes, and forests of Switzerland. “I was always in the forest,” he recalled. “Even today, I can show you every path in the forest around Zurich. I also liked to swim and went swimming in the lake every day in the summer.

“I was baptized in a Badeanstand, or bathhouse. Each district in the city had an official bathhouse. I remember well the one where I was baptized and the strong, happy feeling that I experienced on that occasion.

“Before World War II we had priesthood holders as our Primary teachers. The first Primary teacher that I had was my branch president. We had one hour of instruction, and activities afterward. I learned to make and paint little wooden houses and figures.

“There were always missionaries around as I grew up. Before World War II, the missionaries came to our home each Tuesday for lunch. The best friends I had in my youth were missionaries. One of them was Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, now of the Quorum of the Twelve.

“I grew up in the city, but each summer I stayed with a farmer in our branch for two or three weeks, and I learned to enjoy farming. One day while we were working in a field and the cows needed to be brought up the hill to pasture, the farmer said, ‘I’ll take the wagon down to get the cows.’ I asked, ‘Can I do that?’ He replied, ‘Do you think that you can do it?’ I was small for my age, but I was happy that he thought that I could do the job.”

“Hans, Mein sohn, was machst du da?”

“Vater, Ich studiere.”

“Hans, Mein Sohn, das kannst du nicht.”

“Vater, Ich probiere.”

“Hans, my son, what are you doing?”

“Father, I’m studying.”

“Hans, my son, that you cannot.”

“Father, I am trying.”

“That was one of the first readings that I learned in school. Because it included my first name, Hans, it was very meaningful to me then, and it still is. I’m still trying today.”

The message that Elder Ringger would like to give children around the world is this: “First, trust your parents and follow their instructions. Second, know that there are answers for all the questions that you have in your life. Third, follow the Spirit; you’re never really lost when you do. Try to stay close to the Lord by praying and fasting.

“Finally, try to live the gospel. Heavenly Father wants us to succeed. I give you my testimony that He will bless you as you strive to live the teachings of the gospel. It is a joy to be part of His work.”

[photo] Elder Ringger at age fourteen