“Meeting in Munich: An Experience in Love and Brotherhood,” Ensign, Nov. 1973, 71–83
It was the largest group of Latter-day Saints ever assembled on continental Europe for a conference of the Church. Some 14,000 members from many areas of Europe—Germany, Spain, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy—had gathered to hear messages from General Authorities and their own Regional Representatives and stake presidents, to hear the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir, to sing in or listen to their own fine choirs, and to participate in roadshows and folk singing and folk dancing groups, either from the center of the stage or from the audience.
It was an experiment in love and brotherhood. Saints came from varied cultures and backgrounds. They came from nations that had been enemies, that had engaged each other in deadly combat. There were great language barriers.
By train they came, by bus, by car. Those from outside the host country carefully husbanded their passports or their papers. (A few had been turned back at the border because their papers were not in order.)
Some stayed in public campgrounds; some in dormitories (such as schoolhouses); some in small guest houses and hostels that are so popular in Europe. The 700 members of the two Munich branches took care of some 700 visiting Saints in their homes.
Each one of the thousands who attended had a story. Let’s let four represent all the others:
When Heinrich and Jutta Uftring of the West German Mission learned of the conference, their greatest desire was to attend it with their children, Sven and Heike, but the doctors told them it would be impossible for Heinrich to do so. This was a great disappointment. Heinrich had carried heavy responsibilities in the Church all his life until he became very ill seven years ago.
Several times during the ensuing years the doctors said he could not continue to live, but each time he received a blessing at the hands of the priesthood and each time he made a remarkable recovery. Up until a short time before the conference, the Uftrings were very discouraged as the doctors had said that rather than thinking of making the trip to Munich, Heinrich should be preparing to say goodbye to his family. But their determination was so great and their faith so strong that they asked for another blessing and Heinrich became well enough to make the trip. In his wheelchair, with one of the children on his lap, he attended every session.
Brother Robert Albert Simond has been a member of the Church for 42 years and has worked as a gardener on the hospital grounds in Zollikofen, Switzerland, for 32 years. He is serving as first counselor in the Swiss Temple presidency. Last March he was ordained by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve as the first patriarch to the French-speaking people, and since that time has given 135 patriarchal blessings to members of the Church who came to the temple from France, Belgium, and Switzerland.
Bearing his testimony, Brother Simond said, “I know that President Lee is a prophet of God; otherwise, I could not have accepted the calling as patriarch.”
For 40 years he has never doubted the truthfulness of the gospel, has never doubted that God lives and that Jesus Christ is his Son. To be able to attend this area general conference of the Church and to see so many General Authorities and to hear their wonderful messages, Brother Simond said, was one of the greatest thrills of his life.
As a young woman Gertrud Specht attended the University of Munich from which she obtained a doctorate degree in economics. Later, while doing historical research, she became interested in genealogical work and spent a great deal of time collecting information concerning her ancestors without knowing why it was so important. She has always had a burning desire to learn. She speaks six languages and is currently, at the age of 78, enrolled in philosophy classes at the university. Because a doctorate degree is so respected in German society, she has been able to open many doors to the Church since her baptism. She was set apart as a district missionary and has helped many people gain testimonies of the gospel. She always attends their baptisms.
Sister Specht remarked that three years ago her life seemed all but over, but then came her conversion to the true church. She has been a member less than three years, having been baptized shortly before her 75th birthday. Now, she says, her life has “expanded to tremendous proportions.”
Working with the press relations, she spent countless hours preparing for the conference. When she is asked where she gets her energy and how she keeps going the way she does, she answers that she can only stay healthy when she has a pressing reason for living and that there is nothing more worthwhile than living to serve the Lord.
Because of her efforts many favorable articles concerning the Church have appeared in German newspapers. Typical of these was an article that appeared in the Munchner Merkur on Friday, August 24. The article was headed “What Joseph Smith Saw Through Prophetic Glasses,” and went into some detail about the Church, the conference, and the Tabernacle Choir, but it began with two paragraphs about Sister Specht:
“She is resolved, full of grandmotherly grace, and when she speaks of her religion, her enthusiasm is that of a young girl’s. Mrs. Doctor Gertrud Specht (‘In my youth I studied political science, then history, and now I am studying philosophical theory and logic at the university.’) is 77 years old and is public relations director of the Munich Branch of the Mormon Church.
“‘I was a good Catholic,’ Mrs. Doctor Specht said, ‘but I found myself in a crisis. I just couldn’t accept certain doctrines. Then I heard about the Mormons. They showed me what I felt, to be right, so I was baptized.’ For two years now Gertrud Specht has belonged to the ‘blessed’ folk. About 20,000 of the ‘blessed’ live in Germany (2,100 of them in Bavaria).
Sister Specht reported that her joy at being at the conference was “unbounded.”
Luigi Pittino has a little farm in the village of Tomba di Buia in county Udine in the northeastern section of Italy. His family has belonged to the Catholic Church for generations. One day in 1955 he learned that a friend in a neighboring village was ill. After his day’s work was done, he got on his bicycle and rode over to see him. While there he met and talked with a member of the Church who was meeting each Sunday for Sunday School services with Brother Pietro and Sister Delicta Snaidero. At the time they were probably the only three members of the Church in Italy. The Snaideros first learned of the Church while living in France and were later baptized on December 12, 1951.
The teachings of the Church immediately appealed to Luigi and he joined the others in their church services each Sunday, riding his bicycle the seven kilometers to the Snaidero home no matter what the weather. He was baptized in a little stream near his home by Brother Snaidero on September 16, 1956.
Brother Snaidero and the brother who introduced Luigi to the Church have both died, but Luigi and Sister Snaidero, who are both now in their eighties, still meet together faithfully each Sunday. Because they do not sing they read together a song from their hymnbook, and after one of them gives the opening prayer, they read from and discuss the scriptures or some gospel subject. After reading another hymn, the one who didn’t give the opening prayer gives the benediction. They keep careful records of their meetings and send them regularly to the mission office.
Imagine what a thrill it must have been for Brother Luigi Pittino to join in this great conference with 14,000 Church members and listen to the messages of the General Authorities.
It is difficult to comprehend the extent of preparation for the conference that had been going on for many months. Munich was chosen as the conference city not only because it is centrally located but also because facilities were available there that would accommodate the expected crowds.
For the conference meetings the Church engaged the great Olympic Hall where gymnastics and similar events were held during the 1972 Olympics. It was none too large. For some meetings almost every seat in the building, including chairs covering the entire floor, was filled.
The translation problem was a terrific challenge. How could the messages of the conference be implanted into the minds and hearts of people speaking so many languages? It was a project that taxed the best minds of the Translation Department of the Church. Many plans were considered; finally, however, it was decided that since the largest number of those who would attend the conference would understand German—perhaps 60 percent—that all the words spoken at the conference would be given in or translated into German and broadcast over the public loudspeaking system. Translations would also be made simultaneously into the other languages—Spanish, Dutch, French, Italian, and English—for transmission into cordless headsets.
The tasks of setting up translation booths, of wiring the building with the network of wires that would serve as antennas for the receiving sets, and of doing the translation itself were awesome to contemplate. And where could some 6,000 cordless receiving sets be obtained? But the job was accomplished. Receiving sets were leased from companies in several different countries, and when President Harold B. Lee stepped to the pulpit to open the session, Elder Immo Luschin, president of the Swiss Temple, stood beside him to translate his remarks into German, and by twisting a dial on his receiver, anyone else in the audience could hear the translation in his native language.
Typical of the services given by local members in many areas of responsibility were those performed by a special services subcommittee of the conference organization committee. One of their tasks was to provide lodging and make reservations for the thousands of members who came to the conference from outside Munich.
Some six months before the conference, the peaceful home of Brother and Sister Paul Gildner was transformed into the hectic headquarters for the committee. From sunrise until late into the night, day after day, the clicking of typewriters could be heard through their door. This was the place where each of thousands of admission tickets and thousands of housing reservations were applied for, made, and sent out.
Some local Saints spent much of their time in the Gildner home during this period. But when the work was piling up, Brother Gildner would take time off work to help get things caught up. He had to call on many local members and missionaries to interpret the messages that came in Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, and English.
The daily activities in the Gildner home included sorting through huge stacks of mail, contacting hotels and boarding houses, matching lodgings available with requests, typing up the necessary answers to all the members who had registered, packaging the tickets and other information, addressing the packages, and hurrying them down to the post office before it closed at midnight.
Brother Gildner, an executive in a large firm, was baptized just as World War II was ending. He has served in all levels of Church work. He is currently first counselor in the Germany South Mission presidency.
Very soon after Brother Harald Staiger, now president of the Munich District, was contacted by missionaries some years ago, he had what he describes as a feeling of undeniable knowledge and conviction that the Church was true. That next time he met the missionaries, he told them he was ready to be baptized, but they explained that he should learn more about the Church. He said he had a testimony and wanted to know why he couldn’t be baptized immediately. The elders asked, “Will you live according to the Word of Wisdom?” He answered, “Yes, but tell me what it is.” They briefly explained the Word of Wisdom and asked the next question, “Will you pay a full tithing?” He answered without hesitation, “Yes, but please tell me what it is.” Such was his response to all of the questions asked by the elders.
One of his conference assignments was to find enough places in the homes of the Saints in Munich for hundreds of members to stay. The ready responses of the Munich Saints to the requests were very gratifying and most of the active members of the Church in the area opened their homes to fellow Church members.
All three members of the First Presidency were in attendance, as were ten other General Authorities. President Lee conducted all the general sessions. Elder Eldred G. Smith, Patriarch to the Church, and Elders Joseph Anderson and Theodore Burton, Assistants to the Council of the Twelve, gave their talks in German. President Spencer W. Kimball of the Council of the Twelve greeted the people in Spanish. Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve and Elder John Vandenberg, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, bore their testimonies or gave greetings in Dutch, and Bishop H. Burke Peterson of the Presiding Bishopric bore his testimony in German. The others, President N. Eldon Tanner and President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve, and President S. Dilworth Young of the First Council of the Seventy, gave their entire talks in English. Regional Representatives and stake presidents who participated spoke in either German or French.
Music for the general sessions was provided by a 420-voice choir from Germany and Holland, a choir of about the same size from the southern regions including Austria and France, a women’s choir, a men’s choir, and a combined choir of more than 800 voices. The Tabernacle Choir presented their regular Sunday morning broadcast and sang during the Sunday session.
What preparations were required so the choirs could sing? The experiences of the choir members who came from Vienna, Austria, are a good example.
Several months before the conference the Saints in the two small branches in Vienna were overjoyed when they learned they had been invited to sing in the South Choir. But as they saw the selected songs, they felt very humble and really considered it impossible to ever learn them. In spite of their doubts, they went to work learning the simpler songs first and thereby prepared themselves for the more difficult ones. And then the day arrived when a number of brothers and sisters went all the way from Germany to Vienna to help with their practice.
It happened that on the same day of the practice a celebration was planned at the construction site of the new Vienna First Branch chapel to commemorate the laying of the roof. Although the choir members had looked forward for months to this long-awaited day with excitement and joy, they made the choice to spend the day in rehearsals rather than attend the event. Rehearsals were also held every Sunday as well as one additional day during the week. If the weekday practice happened to fall on a holiday, rehearsals were held anyway—with increased enthusiasm.
A combined practice was then arranged for all choir members throughout Austria. Nearly all the members attended this rehearsal under difficult conditions. Many hundreds of miles were traveled and brethren from Germany again came to help. One practice lasted an entire Saturday, and on that day the Mission President Neil S. Schaerrer and his wife came to give their love, strength, and support. Concerning this, Brother Friedrich Bogner of the Vienna Second Branch said: “We not only learned to sing but also we became more united and developed more love for one another. The gospel made us happy as we sang it to music. Our testimonies were strengthened greatly through the many opportunities that we had to meet together. It was a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for the conference in Munich.”
Then, of course, came the conference, and they joined their voices with several hundred of those of their brothers and sisters from other countries in providing music for three of the sessions.
The songs by the congregation were unbelievable. Try to imagine some 14,000 people singing a Church hymn in seven different languages. It was a thrilling experience!
In opening the conference President Harold B. Lee said, “My beloved brothers and sisters: It gives me genuine delight to stand before a congregation of Latter-day Saints in this city of Munich, in the heart of the great country of Germany, where there is assembled an unusual congregation made up of members of the Church from more than eight countries in the European area, besides the English-speaking members of the Church who have come here from the headquarters of the Church. In this congregation there are those who speak at least six different languages including the German, the Italian, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the English. Although we are of different nationalities, I am reminded of the remarks of the apostle Paul as he wrote to the Galatians in his day when he said:
“‘For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
“‘For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
“‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
“‘And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ (Gal. 3:26–29.)
“As I paraphrase that statement and apply it to this congregation, I might say, using a part of the apostle Paul’s language: ‘We are neither English nor German, nor French, nor Dutch, nor Spanish, nor Italian, but we are all one as baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also we are Abraham’s seed as the apostle Paul declared and therefore heirs according to the promise.’ All of us as children of God have been baptized by those who have been authorized to preach the gospel and to administer in the ordinances thereof.”
President Lee then explained the reasons why area conferences are held:
“We have planned to go out to many of the far reaches of the Church because of the great worldwide increase of Church membership that has grown in 143 years. From 1840 to 1973, we have gone from that mere handful of members who were organized on April 6, 1830, to over 3,000,000 members who live in 78 countries throughout the world, speaking 17 different languages.
“One of our purposes in coming to these various areas is that many more of our people can assemble than could come to the semiannual conferences held in Salt Lake City. Our first desire is to evidence to our members everywhere, even in the most remote areas from the headquarters of the Church, that they are not forgotten and that the General Authorities of the Church have your interests at heart and that they are working for your interests no matter where you are, just as they are doing for members who are nearer to the headquarters of the Church.
“Another reason we have come is to feel the spirit of our members everywhere, to become acquainted with the conditions under which you live, to meet the local leaders of the Church, and to communicate with them in such a way that they may feel the unity of the purpose for which they have been called to preside in the stakes, missions, and branches of the Church.
“And finally we have come together in a more intimate way to strengthen the members of the Church to stand true to the covenants that they made in the waters of baptism at the time they came in as converts to the Church. The nature of this covenant was explained by the ancient prophet, who before the baptism of some new converts, spoke these words that have great meaning:
“‘Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?’ (Mosiah 18:10.)
“Now if these words are understood, you will know that we have come to urge our members everywhere to be true to that covenant, to stand as true witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places wherever you may be, even until death, in order that others seeing your good works may be brought to glorify their Father in heaven, which means that others will be brought to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto their salvation.”
President Lee then spoke of the great contributions that the peoples of the countries involved in the conference have made and are making to the building up of the kingdom of God.
“The great majority of the Latter-day Saints in America today can trace their ancestry back to the European countries from which their ancestors have come.
“I have already spoken of the covenant God made with our patriarchal father Abraham when the Lord spoke unto him and said:
“‘And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ (Gen. 17:7.)
“That covenant God made with Abraham and his posterity was that these promised blessings were contingent upon the fact that Abraham’s great posterity would be true and faithful in keeping God’s commandments.
“I need only to remind all of you in this congregation that you are indeed Abraham’s seed. These blessings are yours and your posterity after you, provided you keep the commandments of God.”
In making a strong plea to the members to follow the current leaders of the Church, President Lee said:
“I well remember a meeting that I attended, along with some fellow missionaries, at the Carthage Jail where Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, lost their lives and their blood was shed as a witness of their great mission on the earth, when the mission president enumerated the various incidents leading up to the martyrdom and then made this statement: ‘When the Prophet Joseph Smith died, many died spiritually with him.’ So, he said, likewise with each of his successors as changes in administrations came, they died spiritually because they continued to pay their allegiance to their deceased leader rather than to look to his successor upon whom had descended the mantle of the special gift of prophecy, as the endowment of the Holy Ghost to the new leader. This is well illustrated in the specious claims of some splinter groups today. There are cultists who call themselves by various names and make spurious claims as to a chain of authority. Some of them have worked among you in these countries and have tried to lead you astray.
“To protect our members from any such who may come among you professing to have authority, there is one scripture that I could wish that you would always remember. In the first year after the organization of the Church, the Lord said this:
“‘Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.’” (D&C 42:11.)
“All you need to remember if one comes making such claims is that you ask him, ‘Have you been ordained by someone who has authority in the Church?’ If the answer is no, then you may know by that same token that they are false and that they are not truly authorized of the Lord.”
Then President Lee bore the following testimony:
“Now, my dear brothers and sisters, as one whom you have sustained in the high position as the President of the Church, I declare unto you in all soberness and sincerity, with all the humility of my soul, that I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the kingdom of God on earth. The priesthood of God is here and has been handed down since the restoration of the Church through messengers who were sent to restore that authority that the ordinances of salvation might be administered to all the faithful of the earth. The priesthood of God holds the keys of salvation; it is our responsibility to discharge our obligation to the Lord in carrying the message of the gospel to all our neighbors and friends in every way we can to assist in the spread of the gospel so that the time may come when the prophecies of ancient days might be realized, when truth will cover the earth as waters cover the mighty deep. So I bear my witness as to these things and leave my blessing with you this day as we now go into the proceedings of this great conference, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
All the talks given by the brethren were filled with inspiration, and a great amount of doctrine was beautifully expounded. The attentive and eager congregation hung on every word. Only brief references can be made here to some of the talks.
President Marion G. Romney recalled a time 14 years ago when he was in Munich. He stated that on the evening of Tuesday, October 6, 1959, a meeting was held for members of the Munich and Nuremberg districts. During his remarks on that occasion he said, “I see in my mind stakes in what is now the new South German Mission. There will be stakes in Munich, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg, and in other cities of Germany. Thousands of people in this land will join the Church, and Zion will arise and shine here. This great work we are engaged in is the work of God, and it will prosper. The Church will be flourishing in this land when the institutions of the world are crumbling. I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to have faith and hope in the future and to conform your lives to the principles of the gospel. This is the beginning of better days for the Church in this land. The work will go forward, there will be beautiful meetinghouses built here. Large congregations will assemble. We shall have conferences where there will be thousands in attendance. I am told that there are three hundred and twenty people here tonight. We must have the facilities in this city to accommodate thousands instead of hundreds.
“The Lord established his church through Joseph Smith the Prophet for the purpose of gathering out of the world all who would hear his voice. We have not yet reached them all. The Lord will hasten his work in these latter days. The time is drawing nigh when the Lord will come in his glory to put an end to wickedness and inaugurate the millennial era of peace.
“The time is here, my brothers and sisters, when we must forsake the things of the world, when we must, with a new dedication, with a devotion heretofore not realized, come out of the world, and give our full efforts and energies to the building of the kingdom of God. Don’t be afraid to put on the whole armor of Christ. Don’t be afraid to do everything the gospel requires. We are working in the cause of God. We need not be frightened that we cannot do it. We can do everything the Lord asks us to do. If we will do our best, if we will go as far as we can on our own strength, the Lord will supply that which we cannot do ourselves. He will preserve us, and he will bring us through as he brought the Israelites through the Red Sea, if we will put our trust in him.
“His purposes will be accomplished. He has the full power to accomplish them. As Moroni said, ‘… the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled.’” (Morm. 8:22.)
President Romney’s words spoken in 1959 were prophetic. Most of them have already come to pass. The remainder of his talk was devoted to emphasizing the obligation of Church members to establish and maintain true Latter-day Saint homes.
Elder Joseph Anderson, speaking in German, recalled experiences of his mission 60 years ago. When first arriving in Frankfurt, he did not know a single word of German. He became frustrated and depressed, as the language seemed totally impossible to him.
Slowly, and with sincere and fervent prayer, he began to learn one sentence at a time while tracting. Then he began to memorize entire talks. Members and investigators invited him into their homes and tried to help him learn the language.
“Strange as it may seem, I think I made more friends and investigators during this time when I did not know the language than I did after I could speak the language well,” he recalls.
Finally he was able to master the German language. He related, “I feel that I was given the gift of tongues, so to speak, in that it came to me not suddenly, as sometimes happens, but it came to me after sincere and fervent prayer and determined effort and work. … Heavenly Father answered my prayers, and my testimony was greatly strengthened. I mention these things to emphasize that the Lord does hear and answer our prayers and give us the strength that we need when we do our part.”
His words must have brought fond memories to many members of the Church who have seen countless missionaries have the same experiences.
In addressing the European Saints, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I have seen many beautiful sights in Europe, but I think I have never seen a more beautiful picture, a more inspiring sight, than this congregation of Latter-day Saints gathered from many nations of Europe. Your faces radiate the spirit of the gospel. In your presence one feels the strength of personal testimony. You feel the warmth of one another’s faith, the strength of one another’s companionship.
“But it was not always so. Most of you are converts to the Church who pass through the difficult struggle of conversion. You have known loneliness and heartache. When you leave this afternoon and return to your homes, to your employment, to the small branches from which many of you come, to the association of those who do not see as you see and do not think as you think and who are prone to ridicule, you may feel again that loneliness.
“But as members of the Church, you have come as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid. To those about you, you are different, just as the true gospel is different from the philosophies of the world. And whether you like it or not, each of you is set apart. You are partakers of the truth and with that comes a responsibility.
He continued, “When in this dispensation the Lord declared this to be ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30), we were immediately put in a position of loneliness, the loneliness from which we cannot shrink and which we must face up to with boldness and courage and ability. Every true convert has passed through it. Every true member of this church who lives and breathes the spirit of the gospel as he associates with others knows something of that feeling. But once having a testimony, a man has to live it; a man has to live with his conscience. A man has to live with God.
“It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness.”
Elder Hinckley then spoke of the loneliness of Jesus, of the reformers, of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and others who have stood for the truth.
“It is not easy, for instance, to be virtuous when all about you there are those who scoff at virtue. It is not easy to be honest when all about you there are those who would place profit above principle.
“It is not easy to be temperate when all about you there are those who would scoff at sobriety.
“It is not easy to be industrious when all about you there are those who do not believe in the value of work. It is not easy to be a man or woman of integrity when about you there are those who forsake principle for expediency.
“It is not easy to speak in testimony of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who would mock him and belittle and demean him.
“I should like to say that there is loneliness, but a man of your kind has to live with his conscience. A man has to live with his convictions. A man has to live with his testimony. Unless he does so, he will be miserable, dreadfully miserable. And while there may be thorns, while there may be disappointments, while there may be trouble and travail, heartache and heartbreak and desperate loneliness, there will be peace and comfort and strength.”
President N. Eldon Tanner recalled early experiences in Europe and said, “When I was presiding over the West German Mission, I was often asked the question: ‘Why do you come and why do you send your missionaries here to teach your American religion to this Christian nation? Why, we were Christians before there was a United States of America. Why don’t you go to the non-Christian people—nonbelievers?’ Regarding the Book of Mormon they said: ‘We have and accept the Bible, and we do not need or believe there is additional scripture revealed from God today.’”
Then he answered the questions by saying: “In all kindness we remind such questioners that the very Bible they accept does not contain many writings mentioned therein, which were once regarded as authentic, and which would have given additional information and understanding of the truths of the gospel. Also, the Bible contains prophecies that foretell of an apostasy and of a restoration that of necessity must follow in order to fulfill God’s purposes. We could point out many things in the Bible that are not clear or have not been understood even by students of the scriptures and by those who are ministers and teachers of the Old and New Testaments.”
He then referred to and explained many of the scriptures from the Bible to support his thesis. After encouraging the people to search the scriptures and familiarize themselves with the Doctrine and Covenants, he bore the following testimony: “I bear witness to you this day that I know as I know I live that these things of which I have spoken are true; that God does actually live; that Jesus Christ is his Son who came and died and was resurrected that we might enjoy immortality and eternal life; that the gospel has been restored in these the latter days through Joseph Smith, a prophet of God; that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, with the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church; and that God speaks today through his mouthpiece and prophet, President Harold B. Lee, who directs the work of the Church of Jesus Christ here upon the earth.”
Speaking on obedience, Elder Marvin J. Ashton advised the people:
“Let us this day commit ourselves to follow our prophet and president, Harold B. Lee. Obey his admonitions. He is most appropriately sustained by your obedience to his leadership and God’s laws. I bear you my witness that President Harold B. Lee is a prophet of God raised up in these latter days to lead this people in his ways. Follow his teachings and example. Obey his counsel. Share his love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the head of this church and President Lee is his mouthpiece in our time. …”
Elder LeGrand Richards stated that “Angels are nothing more than prophets who have lived upon the earth and died and have returned again with messages from God.” Then after telling of the angels that visited the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said: “How could anybody listen to such statements as these and not want to know whether they are true or not. If true, they are the most wonderful thing in all this world, and we bear witness to all the world in great solemnity that they are true, and we invite all men everywhere to share these beautiful truths with us.”
After delivering a powerful sermon on continuous revelation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this advice: “And so as your leaders, we implore the members of the Church to follow without hesitation the Prophet of the Lord who stands today a spiritual giant with a great capacity to receive the revelations of the Lord and to give inspired leadership to the people. To fully sustain President Harold B. Lee and to follow directions from him and his associates and to live fully the commandments is the way to peace and happiness and joy to finally obtain eternal life.”
Elder Thomas S. Monson spoke on the quest for peace. “World peace,” he declared, “though a lofty goal, is but an outgrowth of the personal peace each individual earnestly seeks to attain. I speak not of peace promoted by man, but peace as promised of God. I speak of peace in our homes, peace in our hearts, even peace in our lives. Peace after the way of man is perishable. Peace after the manner of God will prevail.
“You ask: ‘What is the way to obtain such a universal blessing? Are there prerequisites to acquire such a gift?’ My prompt reply would be, ‘Yes, there is a way—there are prerequisites. To obtain God’s blessings, one must do God’s bidding.’”
He then spoke of three essentials of the peace we seek. “First, peace through obedience. Second, peace through service. Third, peace through love.” He concluded with the following thoughts: “Peace after the way of man is not the peace of which we speak nor which we seek. Peace after the manner of God is the peace we desire, even a peace of conscience. Let us remember the words of the Master as he spoke to his beloved disciples and promised them peace: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ (John 14:27.)
“As this conference draws to its close, may all of us covenant anew to follow the Prince of Peace, to avoid contention—that destroyer of home and heart—to obey, to serve, to love, that we might be the recipients of his precious promise: ‘… he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’” (D&C 59:23.)
One had to be greatly impressed with the quality of the local leadership from the various European areas. The talks given by stake presidents and Regional Representatives of the Twelve from Europe were impressive indeed. When one realizes that some of these men have been in the Church just a few years and already hold such important leadership positions, he begins to see what the gospel will really do in the lives of people.
In his closing remarks President Lee referred to the youth activities held on Friday evening prior to the general sessions. Folk songs were sung by groups representing the South German Mission, the Hamburg Region, the Stuttgart Stake, and the Italian-speaking area. Folk dances were presented by young people from the Holland Stake and the Dusseldorf and Swiss regions. Roadshows were presented by the Berlin Stake, West German Region, and Servicemen’s Stake—Europe. Young people from France presented both folk dances and songs.
Even though the audience was predominantly German, we listened and watched in vain for the slightest sign of indication of favoritism. There was none. The applause for the dancers from Holland, the trio from France, or small group from Italy was equally as enthusiastic, if not more so, than for the large groups from the German stakes and missions. The audience was appreciative and enthusiastic, often joining in rhythmic clapping, as the songs or dances were being presented. Performers could not have wanted more participation on the part of an audience than they received that night. It was another great demonstration of love and gospel principles in action.
Of this President Lee said, “We are sure that bringing together these young people at this first attempt was a beginning that will bear fruit for the future. Many of these young people saw for the first time how many youth there are in the European area. Before this many of these have been in small branches where there are just a handful of young people. Now suddenly their vision has been enlarged. Their pride in performance will be improved.”
President Lee concluded the conference with what he called a “fatherly kind of a talk.” Encouraging the people to learn to speak English, he said, “Some of our brethren speak in German and in Dutch and in Spanish, but there are many of us who speak only English. I am sure you understand that inasmuch as we have 17 different languages in which we are preaching the gospel today, we can’t be expected to learn all 17. Think how helpful it would be if every one now speaking your own native tongue would learn to speak English. I would like to challenge you to do that. Then you would be able to talk with us more clearly and we could understand you better than we have done today.”
President Lee observed that political strife between these countries has sometimes ended in war. Then he added, “But we have witnessed that when you become members of the Church of Jesus Christ the war spirit ends in you. We are all one in the Church and kingdom of God.”
He further said, “If this conference has done nothing more than to demonstrate our love and concern for the welfare of all our Saints here in these countries, it will certainly have been worthwhile. The Church and kingdom of God is a universal church and not confined to one nation, or to one people. Our constant endeavors are to give to all Saints of the Most High wherever they live every opportunity to develop in the earth and to gain rewards of your faithfulness.
“Now as we return to our homes from this conference, let me ask you a question: What are you members of the Church going to do about all that which you have seen and heard? The all-important thing is not that we remember all that has been said, but the important thing is how you have been made to feel by what has been said and done here. We hope we can begin to see the strengthening of the bonds of fellowship and love in each branch of the Church and in the stakes and missions where you live, and that you will resolve to have a new sense of responsibility in furthering the work of the Lord. Strengthen your family ties and be mindful of your children. Be sure that the home is made the strong place to which children can come—to come for the anchor they need in this day of trouble and turmoil. Then love will abound and your joy will be increased.”
He then recalled several intimate experiences that he had had since becoming a General Authority and closed with this testimony:
“I know that Jesus is the Savior of the world. I received this special witness at the time I was called to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. …”
The combined choir sang the inspiring “Hosannah Anthem,” joined by the congregation in the arousing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire.”
Perhaps nowhere were the effects of the conference more evident than in the faces of the people. Looking into the audience during the talks or during the singing of the choirs, one was moved to tears with the expressions of genuine love, happiness, and even ecstasy that shone from their countenances. Again, what a great demonstration of the power of the gospel in action!
Nationalities were erased, cultural differences were forgotten, past enmities ceased to exist. As President Lee had said there were no Germans, no Spaniards, no Dutch, no Austrians, no Italians, no Swiss, Belgians, or Americans. They were all brothers and sisters, citizens in the Church and kingdom of God. Everyone was totally caught up in the pure love of Christ. Would that the spirit and feeling of those moments could be retained as long as earthly life lasts, for one could not expect in this world to be closer to heaven.
The final song was sung, the benediction was offered, the conference was officially ended, but the people could not leave. Spontaneously they joined with the choir in singing, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” as President Lee stood smiling and waving. When he left the building to get into his car to return to the hotel, he was all but overrun, mostly by the young people who desired one more look, one more word, one more smile, one more picture, one more wave and a possible handshake.
They knew they may never see their prophet again. Once more they burst forth into song and nearly everyone was crying, singing, and waving as the car pulled away.
The experiment in love and brotherhood was complete. Blessings from the meeting in Munich will flow from the Alps to the Pyrenees, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean for years to come.