Mission to Germany
My communicative skills were developed during a mission for the LDS Church in Germany. I had to learn to speak German and explain lessons to the German people for two years.
After returning from Germany, I published a book, entitled, “Noah’s Ark” which was a cartoon book on the life of Noah.
My patriarchal blessing mentions that I would be called to the mission field as a missionary. When the call came it was most highly received. Since I had studied German as a student at BYU, I was excited now to receive the call.
Prior to departure – February 1953:
We stayed in the Wellington Hotel arriving at 8:00 a.m. Agents were waiting to assist us with our luggage. The hotel was very accommodating and friendly. In New York we had side trips to Radio City Music Hall and saw the dancers all in precision. They really knew their dances well. The Empire State Building has 102 stories and we went to the top of it. It was wonderful seeing all the sights of New York.
We boarded the USS United States Ocean Liner and the items on the ship were in good taste and beautiful. The food was great and plentiful. Elder Buckmiller had a birthday while on board and they made him a cake. It had seven layers and was called the United Nations cake. It had filling in between the layers. Our steward had pears, grapes, apples and oranges for us in our room. As for the meals, they were elegant! Strawberries and cream for breakfast and all you could eat! The ship had elevators and bell boys standing around to make things more pleasant. You don’t tip until the end of the voyage. When you realize that this is costing the church $50 a day per person. It is really amazing that you get so much for your money. It’s the life fit for a king. The ship has a swimming pool and you have to go with the flow of the ship rocking. They had a movie which we watched each night. We saw Janet Stewart, a neighborhood chum of Merlin’s called “Small Town Girl” on TV.
We had Sacrament Meeting while on board the ship. I conducted it and almost forgot the opening prayer, but we managed just fine. Bill Nash spoke well of his testimony and was pleased to go to the West German Mission, while I was assigned to the East German Mission. I amused myself on the piano to take away the loneliness I felt.
We found a lady who was interested in what we were doing. Yesterday, February 26, 1953, we arrived in Bremerhaven. We met the Mission President Glaus. We stopped at Bremen and went through the museum, which was very interesting. We then continued by train to Hannover. The two elders with me were Elder Nash and Elder Buckmiller.
Our first experience in Hannover was to go to an opera! A sister from the ward in Hannover worked at the Opera office. She gave us the tickets. We really enjoyed it very much!
The members of the Hannover ward were very gracious to us. They had the three of us scheduled to lunch every single day. Elders James Clayton, Sorensen and Hamilton. Elder Clayton was the District President. It is hard to express all the Relief Society did for us missionaries. When some of them would see us, they would exclaim, “You’re coming to our house tomorrow!” They would receive us with open arms and enthusiasm.
The next day we had the experience of going to the America House. They have an American Library with many English magazines. It was fine. When we left West Berlin to visit the East Berlin to shop we had to register at the Amerika Haus so we could return safely. We saw a fellow who said he was going to be faithful to his church even though he admitted to us it was teaching a false concept of God. I got to see a lot of sights while travelling in Germany. We saw a lot of ruins where bombs had destroyed entire apartment houses. The streets were mostly cobblestones which added to the difficultly of travelling with our bikes.
The German Saints through the Relief Society made a schedule for the noon day meal and we get to eat in all the Saint’s homes.
The wind is strong today and it is colder than in Utah. We just came back from tracting and found a man who was difficult to understand and help. His life is more complicated than most.
We’re having a Church Conference on the 22 of February. I was asked to sing a solo. It made me very happy. At the Conference I hope to see Parley Belnap a former class mate from Weber College.
March 8, 1953
We won’t be able to go to Berlin just now. The death of Stalin stopped travel for the time being. The people don’t say much about it over here. They have learned to keep their mouths shut!
March 9, 1953
Last night was very memorable. We had a sort of farewell for a couple going to Salt Lake City. When we sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” it really brought tears to our eyes, knowing that they will probably never see these folks again in this life. I sang “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked” and dedicated it to them. They have me sing about every Sunday to get them to come to church. I’m very flattered. After Church we have supper with Frau Dinse.
March 13, 1953
I learned that on the 22nd of March I will be transferred to Celle. The address is: Schustrasse 26, Celle. I’m somewhat disappointed. I get to sing in Hannover very often but in Celle there is no piano. I’m skeptical about Celle.
They say that living in Celle is more expensive. We just came back from Flensburg where we had conference. It took 8 hours by train to get to Hannover. It rained all the time going to Flensburg and it was real messy. We stayed in the YMCA rooms and it rained so much that it dripped in my face.
I finally purchased a ticket and went to Celle. My new companion is Richard Beck and he is about 60 years old and is from Logan. We meet in a school and the city is surrounded by swamps! My bike is still in Hannover. Elder Beck tells me things in a most discouraging way and says they haven’t had a baptism in 2 ½ years! He acts as if I’m not there and there is NO piano!! There were only 7 in attendance at any meeting. Last night I prayed so earnestly for some contentment and peace. Hannover was so good for me.
While in Hannover we had this contact I would like to tell you about. Our appointment was for 10:00 a.. We stayed until 5:30 p.m. explaining the gospel. We also helped in preparing the meal. At noon we all sat down to a delicious meal of scalloped cauliflower with cheese, hamburgers, German style fruit soup and dessert. At 4 p.m. we had cherry upside down cake with whipped cream (without any vanilla) and postum or a reasonable facsimile. Her brother is a minister of some kind and really works against her but she has a mind of her own and thinks before she jumps. I hope she jumps soon! I surely miss Hannover and all it is. Brother Clayton is such a great guy. I hope to go back to Hannover.
I asked to be left in Hannover until I learned the language a little better so I am now back in Hannover with Elder Clayton. He is really a wonderful missionary and I hope I can give the lessons as well as he does.
March 16, 1953:
We visited a lady who will be 68 and who was sick. She became very fond of missionaries and told them she would be baptized even if she died in the water! Her favorite missionary left to return home. It made her so sick she had to stay in bed for three days. These German people are really wonderful both in spirit and what they do for the missionaries.
We have been invited to every meal except breakfast since we got there. We visited a couple who had trouble stopping smoking so I took his pipe and ashtray. His wife held him down so we could. He really wouldn’t have minded but the wife was just encouraging him. It is one of my prized possessions now.
I haven’t seen Parley Belnap yet, but when we get to Berlin on the 16th of March 1953, I will see him at the Conference.
I will be really glad when I can speak German to the people better. They told me that I speak better than other missionaries. Now I go to the people’s houses and just sit. After the lesson we usually get fed. My companions, usually Elder Clayton teaches them very well and I’m not very hungry anymore.
March 23, 1953 - Hannover
I feel like telling you a little about Hannover. Hannover is a large city about the size of Salt Lake City. Most of the streets are cobblestones and riding a bicycle seems much like riding a horse. All the buildings are very old and old-fashioned. All the cars are strictly the 1930 models.
We had our Conference this week and it was very lovely. They had beautiful flowers and it was in a building called the Music Academy Lister Tower. I had the chance to sing “In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions.” It was well received. I sang “Still Wie Die Nacht” at the Concert. The people really appreciate music and I can see how hard it will be to say “good bye” to them. One sister, Sister Seipel calls me her “American son.” She’s my Deutsche mother. She’s coming to Utah.
Our mission work is progressing quite a bit. With the New Plan it really makes things move faster and quicker to the point. I have had the chance to see the first meeting with a fellow and he was baptized March 22, 1953. They had their meeting in the only swimming pool in Hannover. I know the church is true! There were 16 baptized.
Thank you, mother the money came. It is sent to Berlin and converted to German Marks. I can see that a person’s life would be very empty without the gospel. It is TRUE!
April 11, 1953
Yesterday we traveled to Goslar, a city about 55 miles away on the train and tried to cheer up Brother and Sister Albrecht. They had a child die two years ago. Our visit was very timely. Goslar is at the feet of the beautiful Harz Mountains. It really made me homesick for a few minutes for the mountains at home. We studied all the way on the train.
July 27, 1953
Today we heard that the weapons have been laid down in Korea and the possible Armistice long-awaited is almost here. How powerful is the work of the Lord! How long have we prayed for an end of the fighting! While I was there we prayed for an end of the fighting to come and now it is coming! Today I received a letter from my closest friend, Bill Nash in Munich, Germany. He was discouraged with his companion and the work of the Lord. I prayed for him and wrote him a letter to encourage him for his companion was spending too much time reading sex books.
August 8, 1953
Elder Knight and I returned from the “Zeltlager” which we participated in the last three days. We slept in tents and enjoyed the company of the youth of the District. We had one 13 year old girl in the branch which we took with us and paid for her train ticket because her parents were rather poor. It was a blessing to have her cheerful, sweet, clean being in our midst. We taught the German Saints how to play baseball and football. We ate plain food but it was satisfying and filling. We returned by train, took a bath and wrote letters.
August 15, 1953
Today we travelled to a city on the northern border of Germany to a funeral of a sister of Flensburg. I sang “In My Father’s House are Many Mansions” in the choir loft to the accompanist of a very fine organ. The service was very serene. At eh conclusion, the pallbearers came in black dress with black “night caps” and were let out of the room by a man also in formal wear – tuxedo suit and top hat and who led the way to the final resting spot for the deceased. The closest of kin waited in line to approach the grave individually to drop their small bouquet of flowers onto the casket which had been lowered with everyone present. Part of the side of the grave had caved-in. This depressed me very much. Then each person stood looking in the grave threw 3 shovelfuls of dirt onto the casket right after each other. It seemed to me very heartbreaking but symbolic. The graves had recently been used and were in exact line with each other. It was strictly business-like, very little sympathy.
August 16, 1953
Tonight we had 12 contacts present at our Sacrament Meeting! It made a total of 39 present. The largest it has ever been since I’ve been here. It seems as if our presence has really paid off. We had a musical number on the violin, organ and voice doing “Calvary.” I sang the vocal part. After the meeting many were impressed and said they would come again.
August 20, 1953
We returned tonight at 11:30 p.m. after giving 3 cottage meetings. After supper one at 7, one at 8 and one at 9 p.m. They were all fine as far as the spirit goes. I hope they understood all I tried to teach them. Sometimes I have to kick Elder Knight under the table when he starts to get drowsy. He learns fast but I wish he could be more of a help with the cottage meetings. I get a little tired of my own methods and would like other’s ideas.
August 30, 1953
We had our Sunday School as usual this morning and we had four of my friends from Kiel: 2 young ladies and Brother and Sister Budkgart who call themselves my German Parents. It was indeed a pleasure to have their support in our small branch. The two ladies had dinner with us after I sang about a dozen songs at a home of a friend of Mrs. Jessen. After we came back to find Elders Heineken and Meservy at our apartment. They both spoke at Sacrament Meeting. A girl of 14 said she would give a talk, but didn’t come so I had to express myself. My Second Counselor said I did rather well. We returned to our apartment and ate after Elders Heineken and Meservy left by train for Scholesvig.
September 1, 1953
Today Elders Hill, Schreyer, Knight and I spoke at a school concerning America. I sang 6 songs, which were very well received. The young girls were very excited about the young Americans. We left tracts there and told them why we were in Germany. We sang together with Elder Schreyer and his ukulele and in the singing of “Old MacDonald had a Fart.” The children ate it up and I hope that it was beneficial to the Lord’s work.
September 22, 1953
This morning Frau Jessen came into our room and said she was planning to rent a piano for our room. She is such a love-lacking(?) person. Since we have bene paying a lot of attention to her, we have been getting better acquainted and became very fond of her. She said she didn’t know how long I was going to be there and she wanted to make it as happy as possible. She put her arms around me and said she would like to meet my mother and tell her what a fine son I was. It was all very impressive.
September 25, 1953
We went tracting today and as soon as we mentioned we were Mormons, she wanted to buy a Book of Mormon. We didn’t give any lessons yet! We had a rather nice week with a few lessons in English! It was really great giving lessons in English to a high school group. We had been invited the second time and we handed out about 30 tracts!
September 27, 1953
Tonight after Sacrament meeting I had a musical in our apartment. We had the Jessen family present a neighbor of Frau Jessen and her daughter and about 17 people came. I sang about 10 songs. Fraulein David also played 10 piano solos. I had the table covered with tracts of which Fraulein David and her mother took generously at the slight suggestion of our dear Frau Jessen. It was a very successful evening.
October 2, 1953
This morning by appoint we went with Frau Jessen to a nutrition expert. He read my palm and said I had a good life-line, looked into my eyes and said I was healthy but I didn’t go the bathroom often enough! He asked me how many times that I ate and I said three, so he said that I should go to the bathroom three times also. I could scarcely keep from laughing. He gave me a certificate for nutrition. (that was 59 years ago)
We came home and learned that we might be able to get a bigger building to meet in. We go to the official tomorrow. We pray that this might be the case. We might be able to rent it instead of the run-down building we now use.
October 4, 1953
Today was fast meeting and I had the direction of the meeting. Brother Rathmann said it was a very nice meeting.
During the day we called a contact to come to a meeting. They showed up. We had a swell meeting. Elder Meservy from Schleswig was here visiting. He and I both spoke. After returning home I sang “Come Back to Sorrento” for Frau David and her daughter. After it was finished she said, “She could take me in arms!” It was quite funny!
October 6, 1953
Today I delivered the letter I wrote to the officials of the city in regards to the building we intend to rent. It is ideal for our branch. I prayed three times before I delivered the letter. Elder Knight gives me no hope to expect such things and is hard to imagine that he really has faith. In spite of his attitude, we progress in our work.