Františka Vesela was born in 1881, the youngest of 10 children in a family living in a small village in southern Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). She “was blessed with a religious mother who had the disposition of an angel”—an influence that was a wellspring of strength for Františka throughout her life.1
After her mother died, 18-year-old Františka moved to Vienna, Austria, to live with her older sister. There she married Frantisek Brodil in 1904, and they were blessed with two daughters, Františka (Frances) and Jana (Jane).
In 1913 she learned of the restored gospel and was baptized in the Danube River, the ordinance being performed late one stormy night in order to avoid religious persecution. “My heart swelled with a feeling of satisfaction, and at my confirmation I felt myself filled with a new power,” she later said. Her husband, “always friendly toward the Church,” never did become a member.
Františka’s newfound joy in the restored gospel was dampened by the outbreak of World War I. During the war, she and a handful of Viennese sisters held Bible study classes, keeping “the gospel light burning there while all the local brothers were at war and the missionaries were called home.”2
At war’s end, Františka’s husband lost his job when all native Czechs in Austrian government positions were replaced. In 1919 he moved his family to Prague (in newly formed Czechoslovakia). He died shortly thereafter.
Life was difficult for the widow and her two young daughters. Left alone in a strange city with only what little money Františka’s brother could send, they barely avoided starvation. Their spiritual hunger was just as intense, as two years passed without any contact from the Church.
Then, in 1921, two elders from the Vienna Branch visited them in response to Františka’s letters to the German-Austrian Mission. They baptized her two daughters, the first members baptized in Czechoslovakia.
Despite Františka’s diligent efforts and prayers, years passed without the return of Latter-day Saint missionaries. Despite such isolation, so thoroughly did the gospel permeate the Brodil home that Františka’s daughter Frances insisted she was raised in the Church.
After a decade of praying for missionaries to reenter the land, Františka felt impressed to write to the First Presidency of the Church. (This was prior to present-day policies, which encourage members to contact local leaders.) “An unseen power seemed to be pushing me to do it,” she said. “It was my last try in this matter. I thought the Lord would surely do the rest.”3
To Františka’s great joy, her letter to President Heber J. Grant got immediate results. On 24 July 1929, in the presence of the Brodils, Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated Czechoslovakia for the preaching of the gospel and opened the Czechoslovak Mission, with Arthur Gaeth as president.
Of that glorious event, Františka said, “Few people can realize the joy we experienced; we had been praying years for this day … We thank the Lord from the bottom of our hearts.”
In her last years, Františka “mothered” the missionaries, helped translate missionary tracts, led Sunday School classes until the missionaries could speak Czech, and served as the first Relief Society president in her native land.
Františka Brodilová passed away in 1931. In eulogizing her, President Gaeth wrote that “Sister Brodilová’s Christlike spirit will linger … She was a mother, counselor and an example to us.”
President Gaeth’s words proved to be prophetic. Františka’s motherly influence continued long after her death. President Gaeth was released as mission president in 1936 and was succeeded by Wallace Toronto. President Toronto served for 32 years—longer than any other mission president in Church history—through the difficult years of World War II and well into the 40 years Czechoslovakia was under communist control and the Church was forced underground. Most of that time, President Toronto could succor the Czech Saints only from afar.
When President Toronto died in 1968, William South and his wife were asked to help sustain the faith of the Czech members. President South’s wife was Jane Brodil South—Františka’s daughter. When President South’s health began to fail in 1977, Calvin McOmber and his wife, Frances Brodil McOmber—Františka’s other daughter—were asked to assume the same responsibility. They continued in this post until 1980, when President McOmber died.4
It took another decade before the Church received official recognition in Czechoslovakia again. But the faith and endurance so well exemplified by Františka Brodilová sustained the Saints and continues as a legacy for generations to come.