“Heidi Bahlinger of Freiberg,” Ensign, Mar. 1973, 69–70
Heidi Bahlinger of Freiberg
On a sunny afternoon in the spring of 1969 Heidi Bahlinger and her mother were shopping in downtown Freiberg, a city in Germany’s Black Forest. They had stopped in front of a display featuring posters of Martin Luther, Albert Schweitzer, and Joseph Smith. Under the pictures was the caption, “Which is the true religion?” The Latter-day Saint missionaries were holding a street meeting.
As a Lutheran graduate student, Heidi had been teaching religion in junior college for several years.
With such a background, it is no surprise that Heidi engaged the missionaries in a spirited discussion on the sunny streets of Freiberg. Finally, she asked them to attend her religion classes to discuss the gospel with her students, 16- to 20-year-olds who met twice a week to study various religious beliefs.
“We were Protestants,” explains Heidi, “but sometimes the Catholic priest of that college would join us, along with some of his students. We decided to meet together because it was challenging and exciting.”
The elders accepted the invitation to meet with this group, and they introduced the Church with the film Man’s Search for Happiness.
It was obvious from the start that the hour allotted for each meeting would not be enough, so the missionaries came back on other days to continue the discussions.
In her own words, Heidi relates what happened in the weeks that followed:
“The Catholic priest responded to the missionaries by pleading for his own religion. I, on the other hand, tried to present the Lutheran theology. During these first hours of discussion, I defended my beliefs by quoting Bible verses that showed the truth as far as I knew it. The missionaries also proved their statements with the Bible.
“When I realized that their answers made much sense to me and could be just as true as mine, I stopped defending and started to listen.
“Another thing that prompted me to listen more carefully to the teachings was the personal witness of the two missionaries. I could not explain what it was, but I sensed strongly great authority in what they said and, even more, in what their personalities reflected.
“I had a problem, though. I stumbled within myself each time they mentioned the Book of Mormon or their other books. I was certain that they were on the wrong track. To me there was only one book, the Bible.
“I decided I would try to forget what I had learned by avoiding the missionaries; however, I did not feel comfortable about this way out. Over and over I turned to God in my prayers, asking for guidance and light. Through these prayers, I gained courage and felt I should see the missionaries again.
“On their visit to me, they brought me a gift. I was greatly disappointed to find it was the Book of Mormon. I told them I would be very skeptical if I read it. They left, and I did not feel the need to ask them back. Both the missionaries and I knew that any further discussion would depend entirely upon my response to the Book of Mormon.
“It seemed very strange, but I picked up the book right after they left, and in my fear I knelt down and asked God to forgive me for wanting to read it.
“I began reading and continued through half the night. Why? Because my feelings changed completely. I relaxed. While I read I prayed, ‘God, help me to understand what I am reading, and show me whether or not it is thy word, thy church.’ How fast that prayer was answered! The testimony of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon started to burn within me. I knew it was the power of the Holy Spirit that surrounded me.
“How much I needed courage for the following days and weeks! It was a very dramatic way of losing almost everything that seemed important in my life up to that time. My concepts of God, of Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost were changing. Many questions concerning the understanding of myself began to take on new meaning. A reflection on my former life and beliefs had to be faced. Oh, how far reaching a conversion can be!
“I stood up and bore testimony to my parents, my relatives, and my friends. I gave up my job and all my plans for the future. These were not easy things to do; they were so much against my nature. It was surely no fun to have the people closest to me turning against me. The pain felt by many about my decision was very real.
“It came as a great relief when President Orville Gunther of the Germany South Mission suggested that I emigrate and go to Brigham Young University, that I use my savings to gain a new education and a stronger understanding of the gospel.
“I am aware that my conversion, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost were just the beginning in my journey as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet it was a very decisive step.”