Though Elder Orson Hyde briefly visited the Netherlands on his way to the Holy Land in 1841, the first missionaries to labor for converts in the Netherlands were Anne Wiegers van der Woude and Paul A. Schettler. When they arrived in the Netherlands on August 5, 1861, books and articles critical of the Church were already circulating, discouraging some Netherlanders from investigating. Others, believing that the reports were exaggerated, became intrigued.
One Sunday morning, Sieberen van Dijk, a carpenter living in Leeuwarden, was given a tract by a stranger. Captivated, van Dijk sought out the missionaries and begged them to begin teaching him that afternoon. In the evening, he gathered a group of aspiring ministers to debate what he had heard. At the end of an 11-hour discussion, van Dijk remained interested but was unsure. He studied the restored gospel for a year before he was baptized. Shortly after his baptism, the missionaries returned to Utah, leaving van Dijk to teach the gospel to his friends, neighbors, and fellow craftsmen. His efforts were met with scorn as well as discrimination at work.
He was convinced that the problem was the lack of Church publications in Dutch. Van Dijk wrote to missionaries in Switzerland, asking them to send Church materials in Dutch. Because no Dutch materials existed, the Swiss mission sent copies of the Book of Mormon and other Church materials in German. “Perhaps,” the missionaries told him, “the Lord will bestow upon you the gift to read.” Van Dijk attempted to read the materials, but “they were as sealed books to me,” he recalled.
He felt inspired that he should pray for the ability to translate the materials. He asked his wife, Fockje, who did not share his faith, to join him in prayer. After the prayer, he recalled, “I arose, opened the books and read them without difficulty, understanding every word which they contained.”
Van Dijk translated several Church works and wrote a missionary tract titled Advice to All Those Who Desire Happiness and Eternal Life. With Church materials in Dutch, missionary work began to increase more rapidly.
Fockje was baptized shortly before the family immigrated to Utah in 1869. Van Dijk returned to the Netherlands twice as a mission president and maintained an optimistic spirit in the face of opposition. “I bore testimony to the truth of this work and was threatened with imprisonment,” he wrote during the first week of his final mission. “I thought this was a good beginning.”