Sacrament in the Attic
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“Sacrament in the Attic,” Ensign, Feb. 2003, 68–69

Sacrament in the Attic

My father worked with the underground resistance in Hilversum, Netherlands, during World War II. We sometimes hid and protected downed British and American flyers in our attic until my father could get them back to England.

Our family also quietly held Latter-day Saint services each Sunday in this same attic. The German occupation forces had forbidden Latter-day Saint meetings because they considered the Church to be an American institution.

I remember one particular Sunday we were hiding two pilots in the attic—one British and one American. The British pilot happened to be a member of the Church. We were about to start our services when we heard a loud knock at the front door. I looked over at my older brother with a frightened look on my face. We all sat for a short time in stunned silence. Finally, Mother said, “I’ll go see who it is.” We apprehensively let the ladder down so she could go downstairs.

Mother opened the front door, horrified to see two German soldiers standing there in full uniform. Trying to mask her fear, she said in a curt voice, “What do you want?” The soldiers replied that they were Latter-day Saints and asked if they could worship with our family. I’m sure Mother said a quick prayer. Then, feeling impressed to let them join us, she told them to leave their guns by the door. “We don’t need these when we hold meetings,” she said.

Mother led the soldiers upstairs and knocked on the wall, our signal to let down the attic ladder. I’ll never forget the terrified expressions on the pilots’ faces when they saw the German soldiers climbing into the attic, nor will I forget what happened after that.

My father asked the British flyer and one of the German soldiers to sit together at the sacrament table. One blessed the bread, and the other blessed the water, each in his own language, and we partook of the sacred emblems of the sacrament. These were simply two priesthood bearers and faithful Latter-day Saints who were in the military as required by their respective countries.

After the meeting, the German soldiers left. We never saw them again, and they never betrayed us. Shortly thereafter, we were able to get the two flyers to England through the underground.

This experience of priesthood brotherhood proved a wonderful lesson to me as a young boy. I learned then that serving our Heavenly Father is always the most important thing we do, no matter what the circumstances.

  • Gerard Van Zeben is a member of the Salt Lake Second Branch, Salt Lake Stake.