It was a cloudy day at the end of the summer of 1994. My friend Iveta and I were going to the older part of our city of Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic. At age 16, the two of us had spent a lot of our vacation from school trying to find members of the Church who had been converted before World War II. During the Communist rule in our small country of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech and Slovak republics), many of the Church members had died. The information on survivors was sometimes very hard to get, and we hadn’t found very many people. We tried to pursue every possible lead.
Finally the day came when we had checked all the names on our list but one. We hoped that we would find someone at the remaining address who could lead us to more information and more names. But when we told the woman who answered the door that we were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked about her mother, she dashed our hopes by replying, “There is nothing I can say. It’s too far in the past.” Both Iveta and I walked away from the closed door frustrated, wondering if our efforts had been for nothing.
As we started for home, Iveta remarked, “I believe that other people who participated in the Church or who had friends who were members are still alive. Maybe we could ask some senior citizens if they remember anything about the Church before the war.” I wasn’t sure that her suggestion would help, but I agreed to try. We began to ask every older person we met if they knew anything about the Church. Not surprisingly, none of them did.
Finally we decided to ask one more person before going home. That next person, a woman who looked about 65, answered our question with, “Yes, I used to know a lot of Mormons. They were very good people. Unfortunately, they are all dead now.” But before we said good-bye she told us about her very old aunt who, she said, would definitely like to talk to us.
The next day when we rang the bell, a middle-aged woman opened the door and let us in. The person we were looking for, her grandmother, entered the room. She was so happy to see us—she was a Church member! She told us lots of stories about the Church before the war. Then she showed us an old picture of the Salt Lake Temple.
“I’m 93 years old,” she said. “For almost 50 years, I have been waiting for the missionaries to come back to our country again. I knew they would come before I died. Once, I thought they were at my door, but I quickly realized they were not from our church. I didn’t feel the same spirit from them that I had felt with our missionaries 50 years ago. I sent them away.”
Her words gave me reason to think about my own life. Would I be able to distinguish the Spirit so easily after 50 years without contact with the Lord’s church? My heart was full of respect for this wonderful woman—and gratitude to Heavenly Father for leading us to her.
She was able to attend church with us. As she partook of the sacrament for the first time in all those years, her eyes were full of tears. On our most recent visit, I took her some copies of the Liahona, the Church magazine in Czech, and we talked for a while.
“After the Church members weren’t allowed to meet any more, the police came to our house very often and took all the gospel books and materials we had,” she said. “But I was able to preserve one book. I have been reading it all these years, and it has helped me and preserved me. It tells how the world should be. I hope it will be like that one day.”
Then she took a book from her table and showed it to me. It was the Czech translation, published in 1938, of The Articles of Faith by Elder James E. Talmage, who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1911 through 1933. I was amazed. I had never read the book, but I had a strong testimony of the good it had done in this woman’s life.
Doing missionary work in my spare time that summer taught me many great lessons. As a 16-year-old boy, I learned the meaning of the word patience. I now understand that the Lord will never forsake those who believe in him.