, and have often taken on church leadership under the greatest of challenges.
Proof that God Cares
Let me illustrate with a personal and treasured experience. For many years my assignments took me into that part of Germany which was behind what was called the Iron Curtain. Under Communist control, those who lived in that area of Germany had lost nearly all of their freedoms. Activities of youth were restricted; all actions were monitored.
Shortly after I assumed my responsibilities for that area, I attended a most uplifting conference held in that part of Germany. Following the inspirational songs and the spoken word, I felt the impression to meet briefly outside of the old building with the precious teenage youth. They were relatively few in number but listened to every word I spoke. They had hungered for the word and encouragement of an Apostle of the Lord.
Prior to attending the conference, before leaving the United States, I felt the prompting to buy three cartons of chewing gum. I purchased three flavors: Doublemint, Spearmint, and Juicy Fruit. Now, as the gathering of the youth was concluded, I distributed carefully to each youth two sticks of gum-something they had never before tasted. They received the gift with joy.
The years went by. I returned to Dresden-the site of our earlier conference. Now we had chapels; now the people had freedom. They had a temple. Germany was no longer separated by political boundaries but had become one nation. The youth were now adults with children of their own.
Following a large and inspirational conference, a mother and her daughter sought me out to speak to me. The daughter, who was about your age and who spoke some English, said to me, “President Monson, do you remember long ago holding a brief gathering of youth following a district conference, where you gave to each boy and each girl two sticks of chewing gum?”
She continued, “My mother was one to whom you gave that gift. She told me that she rationed in little pieces one stick of gum. She mentioned how sweet to the taste it was and so precious to her.” Then, under the approving smile of her dear mother, she handed to me a small box. As I opened the lid of the box, there I beheld the other stick of gum, still with its wrapper after nearly 20 years. And then she said, “My mother and I want you to have this,” she said.
The mother then spoke to me: “Before you came to our conference so many years ago, I had prayed to my Heavenly Father to know that He indeed cared about me. I saved that gift so that I might remember and teach my daughter that Heavenly Father does hear our prayers.”
Thomas S. Monson, “Pathways to Perfection,” Ensign, May 2002, 99
My Brother’s Keeper
Many months earlier, in the spring of 1947, the members within the Netherlands Mission were asked to begin a welfare project of their own, now that they had received much needed welfare supplies from the members in America. The proposal was welcomed with enthusiasm. The priesthood went to work, and within a short time every quorum had found a suitable piece of land for the project. The recommended crop: potatoes. At the various branches of the Church there was singing, speaking, and praying, at the end of which the potatoes were entrusted to the soil. Soon there came news of good prospects for the harvest, and cautious estimates were made as to how large the yield would be.
During the time the potatoes were growing, Walter Stover, president of the East German Mission, visited the Netherlands Mission in Holland. During his visit, with tears in his eyes, he told of the hunger of the Church members in Germany. They were in worse condition than the Saints in the Netherlands. Supplies had not yet reached the Saints in Germany as quickly as they had the Saints in Holland.
When Cornelius Zappey, the Netherlands Mission president, heard the condition of the German Saints, he couldn’t help but have compassion toward them, knowing how they had suffered. The thought came; the action followed: “Let’s give our potatoes to the members of the Church in Germany.” I’m sure he worried, for the German armies and the Dutch armies had been in conflict with each other. The Dutch had been starving. Would they respond? A Dutch widow who had received a sack of the potatoes heard that the bulk of the potatoes was to be given to the members in Germany, and she stepped forward and said, “My potatoes must be with them.” And this hungry widow returned her sack of potatoes.
What are the words of the Lord pertaining to such an act? “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. … She of her want did cast in all that she had.” 7
Thomas S. Monson, “My Brother’s Keeper,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 43
No Sacrifice Too Great
Brother Johann Denndorfer had been converted to the Church in Germany, and following World War II, he found himself virtually a prisoner in his own land-the land of Hungary in the city of Debrecen. How he wanted to visit the temple! How he desired to receive his spiritual blessings! Request after request to journey to the temple in Switzerland had been denied, and he almost despaired. Then his home teacher visited. Brother Walter Krause went from the northeastern portion of Germany all the way to Hungary. He had said to his home teaching companion, “Would you like to go home teaching with me this week?”
And away they went to visit Brother Denndorfer. He had not had home teachers since before the war. Now, when he saw the servants of the Lord, he was overwhelmed. He did not shake hands with them; rather, he went to his bedroom and took from a secret hiding place his tithing that he had saved from the day he became a member of the Church and returned to Hungary. He presented the tithing to his home teachers and said: “Now I am current with the Lord. Now I feel worthy to shake the hands of servants of the Lord!”
Brother Krause asked him about his desire to attend the temple in Switzerland. Brother Denndorfer said: “It’s no use. I have tried and tried. The government has even confiscated my Church books, my greatest treasure.”
Brother Krause, a patriarch, provided Brother Denndorfer with a patriarchal blessing. At the conclusion of the blessing, he said to Brother Denndorfer, “Approach the government again about going to Switzerland.” And Brother Denndorfer submitted the request once again to the authorities. This time approval came, and with joy Brother Denndorfer went to the Swiss Temple and stayed a month. He received his own endowment, his deceased wife was sealed to him, and he was able to accomplish the work for hundreds of his ancestors. He returned to his home renewed in body and in spirit.
Thomas S. Monson, “Duty Calls,” Ensign, May 1996, 43