You’re under Arrest
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“You’re under Arrest,” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 67–68

“You’re under Arrest”

On 25 July 1928, I was tracting on a street in Heilbronn, Germany. In those days, missionaries did not have to work side by side constantly, and often I would tract one side of the street while my companion tracted the other.

As I walked toward the next house, I saw a man sitting on a chair near the sidewalk. He was glaring malevolently in my direction. Many people in Germany at that time distrusted the missionaries, so I didn’t give it much thought.

As I spoke with a woman at the doorway to a nearby apartment, I heard someone coming up behind me. I turned and saw a policeman in uniform. I continued to talk, believing he had business with someone upstairs.

To my astonishment, he dropped a heavy hand on my shoulder and turned me around to face him.

“You will have to come with me,” he said quietly. “You’re under arrest.”

Astounded, I tried to keep my composure. I apologized to the woman and told her I would return later.

“Why am I being arrested?” I asked the policeman. He told me that I was accused of burglarizing an apartment and carrying off a valuable heirloom watch.

The officer explained that my accuser had found the watch missing the morning before. He contended that I had been the only person other than himself and his family to enter the building.

I remembered entering that building the day before. The first and second floors were occupied by a factory, but on the third floor was an apartment. As I had entered the building, a young man had approached me and asked where I was going and whom I wished to see. I had told him that I wanted to go upstairs and speak with the people who lived there. He had said nothing further, and I had ascended the stairs.

The door to the third-floor apartment had been left slightly open. No one had answered my knocks, so I had left and resumed tracting elsewhere.

I explained this to the officer. He was surprised to learn that he had arrested a missionary.

He then took me across the street to the man who had glared at me earlier. A teenager with the man looked ill at ease, but said “yes” when the officer asked if I was the burglar.

At the police station, I was ushered into the chief’s office. A police court, consisting of several plainclothes and uniformed policemen, was waiting for me. In a corner sat seven people who said they had witnessed my entering the building.

During the hour-long interrogation, I answered every question honestly and directly, with a prayer in my heart that the Lord would help me.

Then the seven witnesses testified against me. All stated that, except for the family, I had been the only person to go to the third-floor apartment the day before. It began to look as though I might spend several years in a German prison.

The police chief asked me if I had anything to say in my defense. I prayed fervently for assistance, then began speaking, hesitantly at first, in my broken German. I told those in the room why I was in Germany and explained my mission. Suddenly I began to preach the gospel. A strange feeling came over me. I gradually lost control of my tongue, my arms, and my facial muscles.

The Holy Spirit had come to my rescue. I began to speak the language fluently, with confidence and power. When I concluded my testimony forty-five minutes later, I nearly slumped to the floor in exhaustion. There was complete silence in the room for at least a full minute.

Then the police chief said simply, “This man didn’t take the watch.”

He asked me many questions about myself and the Church. The hostility in the room had vanished. Then he turned to a detective and said, “Go with this young man to his room and search his belongings. If you don’t find the watch—and I’m sure you won’t—let him go. End this foolishness.”

As I walked back to my lodgings with the detective, I answered many questions he asked me. By the time we reached my room I had briefly explained the missionary program, the Book of Mormon, and our concept of the Lord.

The detective found two watches in my desk drawer. One was my old, broken watch, and the other was a cheap watch belonging to my companion. As the detective left, he assured me that I should contact him if I ever needed help during my stay in Heilbronn.

I breathed a prayerful sigh of thankfulness. The power of the Holy Ghost had been demonstrated in a miraculous fashion. I would never forget this day.

  • The author is deceased.