“To Be a Woman in the Church,” Ensign, Aug. 1973, 36
“Before I knew the Church, I was very worried for the future of our children in this troubled world. Now that I have the gospel I am not so worried, for I know that they are growing healthy in spirit.”
This statement, from Sister Maria Evolani of the Italy North Mission, expresses the feelings of many thousands of Latter-day Saint women who have embraced the gospel in Europe. The Ensign asked several of these women to share their testimonies of what the gospel has meant in their homes. Their responses reflect desires of women everywhere—desires for love, understanding, kindness, consideration, spirituality, righteousness in their homes. Each testifies to the great blessings that have come into her life and the lives of her family members as they have accepted the gospel and applied its principles in their relationships with each other and with those around them.
Sister Paulette Kahne of the Huy Branch, France-Belgium Mission, writes, “How many mothers fear for the future—for ingratitude or rudeness on the part of their children, juvenile delinquency, immorality? But with the priceless help of the gospel lessons taught in the Church as well as in our home, I trust our children will stay the same considerate, thoughtful beings they are.
“So many families sink into deep despair when adversity looks in the door,” she adds. “What comfort it is for us to kneel hand-in-hand, my husband and I, and pray to our Heavenly Father! How united we feel then! Through the serenity in our home, I have a relaxed mind and can live in peace with my neighbors and my brothers and sisters in the Church.”
Several women testify to the strength they feel from being able to share priesthood blessings with their husbands.
Sister Mirielle Leuzinger of the Winterthur Ward, Swiss Stake, recalls that just before the birth of their last child, her husband gave her a blessing: “It made me very happy, to be able to relax when I went to the hospital and to know that the Lord would be with me.”
“I am abundantly blessed in being the wife of a priesthood holder,” states Sister S. Trevisan, of the Perpignan Branch, France-Switzerland Mission. “I am learning to appreciate him and love him for what he is—the head of the household. I do not contest this right, and it is good that way. Isn’t he, after all, the priesthood holder? And isn’t it because of the priesthood that we are so abundantly blessed? We have succeeded in living in almost perfect harmony lately. The gospel helps us immensely in understanding our role as parents of our five children, to raise them in kindness, graciousness, love, and tenderness.”
Sister Ruth Ida Adler of the Darmstadt Branch, Germany West Mission, expresses the feelings of many: “There is no greater joy and no greater satisfaction in marriage than a full life at the side of a man who loves to serve the Lord. Neither the family life nor the professional success will suffer because of it. On the contrary, we have always been blessed richly.”
Even through trial and great adversity, Latter-day Saint women in Europe have been grateful for the hand of the Lord guiding them. Sister Elsa Duckwitz of the Celle Branch, Germany North Mission, was reared as a Latter-day Saint. During World War II she lost her home and had to flee with her two small sons. They lived for three and a half years in different camps, and in one of them her youngest son died in her arms. “With my other son I had to live in a very small room with people full of hate and lust,” she says. “The only thing to which I could hold was prayer to a living God, which gave me strength to keep on going.
“After those difficult years, light came into my life, and we were again able to attend church. I had to walk from 16 to 20 kilometers [approximately 10 to 12 1/2 miles], but we were happy to be home again. Our family was again intact. The Lord gave us a small daughter, and we were able to go to the house of the Lord to be sealed for all eternity.
“I have been tested sorely,” she concludes, “but I know it is for my best.”
The family home evening program is cited by many for bringing greater unity and understanding into their families.
“Even though our oldest child is only six, we have noticed a difference in the behavior of all our children since we have been holding regular family home evenings every Monday,” says Sister Remde Malloy of the Trier Branch, Germany West Mission, the mother of five small children. “It’s wonderful to know that they are retaining many of the teachings we are giving them.”
Sister Remde relates one dramatic experience that has taught her children a lesson. “My oldest girl fell from the top of a slide. I took her home after I was sure no bones were broken, and we knelt down in prayer to thank our Heavenly Father that she wasn’t seriously hurt. Now our children often say when they are hurt, ‘Let’s pray.’
“It is so good for them to see that on Monday night Daddy comes home early for family home evening. He is the head of our home, and my love and respect for him grow as I see him teaching our children the gospel and having personal prayer with each child. I’ve had a taste of what heaven is like.”
Another mother, Sister Ursula Bolognesi, of Lugano, Switzerland, tells of a special experience her family has had: “In order to make our family home evening more meaningful, for the past year we have been keeping a diary. We make drawings and write the topics of our discussions, who conducted the lessons, and who offered the prayers. This diary will be a wonderful memory for the future. Even now the children read it during the week.”
A happy homemaker in the Italy South Mission, Sister Maria Nappi, tells how unselfish members of her family have become since the gospel came into their home:
“Before we joined the Church my husband liked to go hunting on the weekends. He also liked to play cards. He rarely if ever visited his parents, and he usually came home quite late at night. The change since we joined the Church is a big one. There’s love in the home now. We’re together almost every evening. It’s beautiful to see the cooperation in our home now. Our daughter, Antonieta, has been helping our son, Roberto, with his lessons. She also helps me prepare my Relief Society homemaking lessons.
“Before I joined the Church I never left the house except for shopping, and I never would have thought of speaking before a group of people. Now I’ve been to Sicily and Taranto for the Primary conference, and the whole family went to the Swiss Temple to be sealed. We understand our children better now, and my husband is concerned about their welfare and education. Even Roberto says we’re not as severe or as sharp. I guess you could say there is a sweetness now.”
Increased understanding and communication with family members is mentioned by many converts as a byproduct of their acceptance of gospel principles.
An Austrian mother, Sister Helga Gappmaier of the Linz Branch, Austria Mission, tells how the spirit of the gospel helped her family solve some of their problems: “Often we wonder what might have become of our family without our membership in the Church. We have six children, and although I have always loved each one, I was often unhappy and discouraged. Our eldest daughter especially felt how impatient I was. I was very strict with her, often unjustly so, and she became an introvert. Sometimes when she was asleep I would stand at her bedside and cry. I tried to change, but there was always a gap between us.
“Then the missionaries came, and they told us that the gospel helps a family to understand each other better. I really listened to them. I had a desire to learn more. My husband also wanted our children to be happy. After we were baptized and learned about the purpose of life, we were all sealed in the Swiss Temple. This broke the ice between my eldest daughter and me. We could talk. She came to me with her problems, and I really tried to understand her. The teachings of the auxiliaries and priesthood quorums and our family home evenings have helped us to be a happy family.”
Sister Louisa Cascales Pavon of the Madrid I Branch, Spain Mission, summarizes how many, many women in Europe—and indeed, all over the world—feel about the Church: “To be a woman in the Church is something very important. Since we were baptized, our lives have changed completely. We now have a spiritual haven where we always are learning something new, where there truly is unity and love among all our brothers and sisters. We love and are loved in return, and this gives us the security we need.”