“Finding Aunt Ida’s Church,” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 62–64
Elisabeth Charlotte Echelmeyer was little more than a girl when she married Willi Schmaal, a German soldier, on 17 November 1944. Tragically, he would be sent to one of World War II’s battlefronts, where in a few short months he would die in one of that conflict’s countless campaigns.
For seven years Elisabeth thought of her young husband but with no hope that she ever would see him again. Then, one fateful morning, she awoke wondering if what she had experienced during the night was truly just a dream.
“I found myself in a beautiful garden with exquisite trees and flowers,” she said. “I was barely able to comprehend anything so lovely on this earth. Before me I saw a large and luminous antique gate. When it opened, I saw my husband in his soldier’s uniform, looking as he did when I last saw him.
“In life he had never looked so wonderful as he did at that moment. When he saw me, he opened his arms wide and smiled with joy to welcome me. I tried to go to him, but then I woke up.”
As a result of this dream, Elisabeth determined for herself that there is life after death. This thought brought her great happiness but created questions in her mind. Her one solace was to read the Bible, but still something seemed to be missing.
One Sunday morning Elisabeth saw Ida Korth, her husband’s aunt, on the street and asked her where she was going.
“To church,” was the reply.
Elisabeth suddenly remembered something her husband had once told her. “If I should be killed and not return from the war,” he had said, “get together with Aunt Ida, because she belongs to a special church.”
Sister Korth, a faithful Latter-day Saint and member of the Schwerin Branch in Berlin, invited Elisabeth Schmaal to accompany her to the day’s meetings.
“During the first meeting,” Elisabeth said, “I heard Sister Edith Lemke speak about baptisms for the dead. I had never heard of such a thing before and was made happy and joyful to know of the eternity the Lord has prepared for his faithful children. My dream and the things I learned that day about the gospel of Jesus Christ, as the Latter-day Saints taught it, prepared me for baptism. I became a member of the Church on 19 September 1952.”
In 1994, during their temple week, Elisabeth invited fellow branch members to come to her home, recalls Ursula Schwarz, a member of the Schwerin Branch. The visitors were surprised to find that Elisabeth had decorated her table as if for a celebration. She explained the importance of the occasion. That day in the Freiberg Germany Temple she had participated in the sealings of many of her deceased ancestors, some of whom she had known quite well. Her joy in being able to do so was evident.
“I felt a particularly strong spirit today,” she said, “not just because I was doing the Lord’s work but because today is my 50th wedding anniversary.”
As she looked from one guest to another, she said, “Fifty years ago, when I got married in the midst of that terrible war, I wore a pretty blue dress. Today, on my golden wedding anniversary, I am grateful that I could wear my beautiful white temple dress. I’m grateful that I am sealed to my husband.
“Today I am the golden bride,” she said. “My husband is the golden bridegroom. I hope you’ll excuse him for not being here. He’s on a mission in the spirit world. And part of his mission was to lead me to Aunt Ida and her special church.”