Chapter Forty: The Saints during World War II

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“Chapter Forty: The Saints during World War II,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 522–34

“Chapter Forty,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 522–34

Chapter Forty

The Saints during World War II

The world was1 still recovering from the effects of the Great Depression when World War II broke out in Europe. Under Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, Germany was enlarging its boundaries. At the same time Japan was also expanding its empire into the Pacific in quest of political domination, raw materials, and new markets for her industries. Before long most of the world was engulfed in the war. Just as the Depression significantly affected the Latter-day Saints during the 1930s, World War II and its aftermath exerted a powerful impact on the Church and its members during the succeeding decade.

The Church and the Third Reich

During the 1920–30s the German missions of the Church experienced unprecedented success, particularly in the eastern provinces. When the National Socialists, or Nazis, gained control of Germany in 1933, Church members had to become increasingly circumspect. Gestapo agents frequently observed Church meetings, and most branch and mission leaders were thoroughly interrogated by the police about Mormon doctrines, beliefs, and practices, and were warned to stay out of political matters. By the mid-1930s, Latter-day Saint meetings were often canceled during Nazi rallies, and the Church was forced to drop its Scouting program because of the Hitler Youth Movement.

Gospel teachings about Israel were out of harmony with the Nazi’s anti-Jewish policies, so copies of Elder James E. Talmage’s popular doctrinal work The Articles of Faith with its references to Israel and Zion were confiscated. In one town, police ripped all hymns referring to these topics out of the hymnbooks. Uneasy and concerned because of these conditions, some Church members ceased attending Church to avoid trouble with the police. Other German Saints felt an intensified interest in emigrating from the country.

The Church was never officially banned in Germany as some other small religious groups were. In fact, the Church received favorable publicity when the Nazi government invited Mormon elders to help coach some of the German basketball teams and to assist them at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Furthermore, because the Nazis emphasized racial purity, they promoted genealogical research. Government officials, who had earlier regarded the Mormons as an unpopular sect and thus denied them access to vital records, now respected them because of their interest in genealogy.2 Nevertheless, the situation for the Church and its missionaries became much more difficult during the late 1930s.

The rise of the Nazis in Germany also affected Church activity in South America, where there were large colonies of German immigrants. In Brazil the government, fearing a subversive threat from Nazi sympathizers, banned the speaking of German in public meetings and the distribution of literature in that language. During their first decade in Brazil, Latter-day Saint missionaries had worked almost exclusively among the German-speaking minority, so most branch meetings were conducted in their language. Under pressure from the government, the local police in one area even forced the Saints to turn over their German scriptures, which were then burned in a public bonfire. In the face of such conditions during the late 1930s, missionaries shifted their emphasis to the Portuguese-speaking majority, thus laying the foundation for the great growth of later decades.

The Evacuation of Missionaries

As early as autumn 1937, Adolf Hitler vowed to expand his domain by annexing the German-speaking peoples in Austria and Western Czechoslovakia.

In March 1938, Germany succeeded in annexing Austria, and by September, Hitler accused the Czechs of persecuting the German minority in their country, and he insisted on his right to intervene. As troops massed on both sides of the German-Czech border, war seemed inevitable. As tensions grew in Europe, the General Authorities became increasingly concerned about the safety of the missionaries serving there. On 14 September 1938 the First Presidency ordered the evacuation of all missionaries from these two countries. At a meeting in Munich, Germany, Great Britain and France agreed to Hitler’s annexation of Western Czechoslovakia on the condition that he commit no further aggression. War was temporarily averted, and the First Presidency permitted the evacuated missionaries to return to their fields of labor.

The agreement at Munich, however, did not bring lasting peace. In 1939, Hitler turned his attention to Poland, demanding greater access through the Polish Corridor to German-populated East Prussia. Echoing the charges he had brought against Czechoslovakia a year earlier, Hitler now sought to justify military intervention by accusing Poland of mistreating its German minority. As tension increased, President J. Reuben Clark’s diplomatic background proved valuable to the Church. Through his contacts at the State Department, he kept Church leaders apprised of the developments in Europe on an almost hourly basis. Finally, on Thursday, 24 August 1939, the First Presidency, for the second time, ordered the evacuation of all missionaries from Germany and Czechoslovakia. They instructed Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was in Europe conducting the annual tour of missions, to take charge.

map, Europe

European missions, 1938

The evacuation of the missionaries, particularly from the West German Mission, posed great challenges and provided the setting for some remarkable examples of divine assistance.

The First Presidency’s telegram arrived in Germany on Friday morning, 25 August. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and M. Douglas Wood, mission president, were conducting conferences in Hanover, but President Wood and his wife immediately returned to mission headquarters in Frankfurt. By Friday afternoon they had telegraphed all missionaries, directing them to leave for Holland at once. On Saturday morning, a missionary called from the border to tell them that the Netherlands had closed its borders to almost all foreigners, fearing that the influx of thousands of refugees would seriously deplete the already short food supply. Meanwhile, bulletins on German radio warned that by Sunday night all railroads would be under military control and no further guarantees could be made for civilian travel.

When the Dutch closed their border, the resulting crisis challenged the resourcefulness of President Wood and his missionaries. Knowing that they could not take German currency out of the country, almost all of the missionaries had used their excess funds to purchase cameras or other goods that they could take with them. Therefore, they did not have enough money to buy tickets to Copenhagen, Denmark, the alternate point of evacuation, leaving several groups of missionaries stranded at the Netherlands border.

In Frankfurt, President Wood gave one of his missionaries, Elder Norman George Seibold, a former football player from Idaho, a special assignment:

“I said: ‘Elder, we have 31 missionaries lost somewhere between here and the Dutch border. It will be your mission to find them and see that they get out.’ …

“After four hours on the train he arrived at Cologne, which is about half way to the Dutch border. We had told him to follow his impressions entirely as we had no idea what towns these 31 Elders would be in. Cologne was not his destination, but he felt impressed to get off the train there. It is a very large station, and was then filled with thousands of people. … This Elder stepped into this station and whistled our missionary whistle—‘Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow.’” Thereby he located eight missionaries.3

Norman George Seibold was born 18 October 1915 and is currently (1989) living in Rupert, Idaho.

In some towns Elder Seibold remained on board the train, but at others he was impressed to get off. In one small community he recalled, “I had a premonition to go outside the station and out into the town. It seemed silly to me at the time. But we had a short wait and so I went. I passed a Gasthaus, a restaurant there, and I went inside and there were two missionaries there. It was fantastic, in that they both knew me and of course they were quite happy to see me. … As surely as if someone had taken me by the hand, I was guided there.” In Copenhagen on Monday, 28 August, President Wood learned that fourteen of the thirty-one missing missionaries had entered Holland safely. That afternoon he received a telegram from Elder Seibold stating that the remaining seventeen would arrive in Denmark that evening.4

Wallace F. Toronto (1907–1968) was called to the German-Austrian Mission in 1928. In July of 1929, Elder John A. Widtsoe dedicated Czechoslovakia as a mission of the Church. He traveled there in company with six missionaries, one of whom was Wallace Toronto. Elder Toronto was then asked to labor in the new mission.

In 1936, Elder Toronto was called back to Europe as president of the Czechoslovakia Mission along with his wife, Martha. They labored there until World War II broke out. In 1946, President Toronto was asked to return to Czechoslovakia and resume duties as mission president.

While the West German missionaries struggled to reach Denmark, quite a different drama unfolded in Czechoslovakia. On 11 July four missionaries were arrested by the German Gestapo and thrown in Pankrac Prison, where political prisoners were held. For the next six weeks their mission president, Wallace Toronto, worked persistently for their release. He did not succeed until 23 August 1939, the day before the Czech Mission received the directive to evacuate. Most of the missionaries, as well as Sister Toronto and the Toronto children, left promptly for Denmark. But President Toronto remained behind to help the elders who had been in prison recover their passports and other possessions.

As Hitler’s armies massed for the invasion of Poland, communications with Czechoslovakia were cut off. Sister Toronto explained, “Seeing that I was very worried and getting more upset by the minute, President [Joseph Fielding] Smith came over to me, put his protecting arm around my shoulders and said, ‘Sister Toronto, this war will not start until Brother Toronto and his missionaries arrive in this land of Denmark.’”

In Czechoslovakia, President Toronto and his missionaries concluded their business by Thursday, 31 August. Just before leaving, however, one of the missionaries was rearrested and again thrown into prison. Quick and inspired action on the part of President Toronto enabled him to show the German authorities that it was a case of mistaken identity, and the elder was promptly released. That night the group boarded a special train sent to evacuate the British delegation; it was the last train to leave Czechoslovakia. They passed through Berlin early the next day and that afternoon boarded the last ferry to cross from Germany to Denmark.5 Germany invaded Poland that same day, the event that is generally regarded as the beginning of World War II. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith’s prophetic promise to Sister Toronto was fulfilled precisely.

In Salt Lake City the First Presidency closely monitored the mounting crisis and soon ordered the evacuation of all missionaries from Europe. Most missionaries crossed the Atlantic Ocean on cargo ships with makeshift accommodations for several hundred passengers each. Typically, these ships’ holds were filled with bunks, with only a curtain separating the men’s and women’s areas. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., regarded the successful evacuation of missionaries as truly miraculous:

“The entire group was evacuated from Europe in three months, at a time when tens of thousands of Americans were besieging the ticket offices of the great steamship companies for passage, and the Elders had no reservations. Every time a group was ready to embark there was available the necessary space, even though efforts to reserve space a few hours before had failed. …

“Truly the blessings of the Lord attended this great enterprise.”6

In 1940 more countries were drawn into the rapidly expanding war. Belgium, Holland, and France quickly fell to the Germans, and Britain prepared to fight for its life. As a result, the overseas colonies of these countries were vulnerable to attack. In September 1940 Japan signed a ten-year mutual assistance treaty with Germany and Italy and began occupying French Indochina.

These developments prompted the First Presidency to withdraw all Latter-day Saint missionaries from the South Pacific and South Africa the following month. Communications between these areas and Church headquarters in America were not cut off as they had been in Europe, and mission presidents were permitted to remain in their areas. Missionaries were not evacuated from South America, but after 1941 no new missionaries were sent to that continent, and by 1943 none remained there. By that time proselyting by the regular full-time missionaries was limited to North America and Hawaii. Even in these areas the number of missionaries was drastically reduced as more and more young men were drafted into military service.

European Saints Carry On

When the missionaries and their leaders were withdrawn, the European Saints were left on their own, often in isolated circumstances. Many of them personally witnessed destruction and death. Even outside the combat zone, preoccupation with war was demoralizing and tended to diminish interest in spiritual concerns. Another problem faced the Saints in the occupied countries and in Germany. While some felt that the wisest course was to cooperate with the Nazis, others were convinced that their patriotic duty was to resist. Helmuth Hubener, a teenage member of the Church in Hamburg, for example, dared to distribute copies of news he had picked up by shortwave radio from the British Broadcasting Corporation, presenting a view contrary to Nazi propaganda. For these actions, he was eventually beheaded in a Gestapo prison.7

Helmuth Hubener (1925–42) was a German Latter-day Saint who lost his life during Hitler’s regime.

The evacuated missionaries were encouraged to write letters of faith and hope to members where they had served, and the mission presidents were given special assignments to keep in touch through correspondence with the local leaders whom they had left in charge. Unfortunately, however, the war disrupted the mail, and even from neutral Switzerland no letters were received for two years. In these circumstances local leaders learned to depend on personal revelation for guidance.

Although there were some isolated exceptions, most European Saints’ faithful adherence to Church doctrines and procedures grew during the war. In several areas, tithes, fast offerings, and attendance at Church meetings increased. In Switzerland local member missionaries spent two evenings per week proselyting and baptized more converts than the full-time missionaries had just before the outbreak of the war. During the prewar years mission presidents had actively prepared the Saints for the isolation they were to experience. Time and again during his 1937 visit to Europe, President Heber J. Grant, with prophetic insight, urged members to assume their own responsibilities and not to lean so much on the elders from America. Max Zimmer, who headed the Swiss Mission during the war, is a good example of one of these capable leaders. He conducted effective training programs for local priesthood and auxiliary leaders and distributed Church periodicals to the Saints.

Numerous German male members, both single and married, were drafted into the armed forces of their country. This depleted the priesthood strength of the branches, which in many areas had grown quite strong during the late 1930s. Many of the brethren left wives and children behind. In the early months of the war most of the German Saints felt they were fighting a just war, but as the war lengthened and atrocities heightened, more and more members of the Church began hoping and praying for an Allied victory. On the eastern front, the suffering and killing were especially bad as the Russian army marched ruthlessly into Germany. Several Latter-day Saint soldiers returned to their families only after many years of being in the prison camps, and some never returned to their families at all.

One notable Saint who died in the war was Herbert Klopfer, who had been called as the president of the East German Mission in 1940. That same year Brother Klopfer was also called into military service and stationed in Berlin. He was thus able to conduct mission business from his military office. Three years later he was ordered to the western front. He left the mission affairs in the hands of his two counselors, who also took care of his family. He then spent a short time in Denmark, where he visited some Danish Saints. The Danes feared him at first because of his German uniform, but they came to trust him as he bore witness to them of the truthfulness of the gospel. In July 1944, Herbert Klopfer was listed as missing in action on the eastern front. Following the war, it was learned that he had died in March 1945 in a Russian hospital.

Another young Latter-day Saint soldier, Hermann Moessner from Stuttgart, had experiences of a different sort during the war. While fighting in Western Europe, he was taken captive by the British, transported to England, and placed in a prison camp. With little else to do, Brother Moessner began sharing the gospel with fellow prisoners. Four men accepted his message and requested baptism. Elder Moessner wrote to Church headquarters in London for advice on what to do. Soon Elder Hugh B. Brown visited young Moessner in the camp and authorized him to baptize the converts. Many years later Hermann Moessner was called to serve as the president of the Stuttgart Stake in Germany.

Even German Saints who were not in the military suffered, especially in areas being bombed. Local leaders felt they were often inspired as they carried out their responsibilities amid these trying conditions. For example, Hamburg was bombed 104 times during a ten-day period in 1943. During Church meetings it was necessary to monitor the radio for information about air raids. One Sunday the branch president had not heard anything about a raid, but he felt impressed to close the meeting abruptly and immediately send his congregation to the nearest shelter, a ten-minute walk. Branch members had just reached the shelter when bombs hit the area.8

When regular meeting places were destroyed, the Saints held religious services in their homes. In one mission, however, 95 percent of the members lost their homes. Local leaders initiated a variety of self-help programs to meet this emergency. They directed their members to bring food, clothing, and household supplies to branch meeting places to be stockpiled. The Saints willingly responded, agreeing that all people should share alike in whatever was available. “Family after family brought their entire stores and shared them with their brothers and sisters who were destitute.” Everyone contributed to a fund that the Relief Society used to purchase material to patch or remake old clothing or to sew new.9 Members in Hamburg also participated “in Loeffelspende (spoon contributions), which meant they were each to bring one spoonful of sugar or flour to every meeting they attended. This small amount seemed almost ridiculous to members at first, but soon ‘this one spoon multiplied by 200 was sufficient to bake a cake for a young couple for their wedding, or to give a mother who was expecting or nursing a baby.’”10

The Church Responds to War

Japan launched an attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. When the United States responded the following day by declaring war on Japan and then on Germany, many Latter-day Saints became directly involved in the hostilities. Once again the Saints had to examine their feelings about war. They were guided by the Book of Mormon’s teachings which denounced offensive war but condoned fighting “even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary” in defense of home, country, freedom, or religion (Alma 48:14; see also 43:45–47). In their annual Christmas message, issued less than a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the First Presidency stated that only through living the gospel of Jesus Christ would enduring peace come to the world. Echoing the counsel given by President Joseph F. Smith at the outbreak of World War I, the Presidency exhorted members in the armed forces to keep “all cruelty, hate, and murder” out of their hearts even during battle.11

These same principles were incorporated in the First Presidency’s official statement read at the April 1942 general conference. This declaration was a comprehensive and authoritative review of the Church’s attitude on war and was widely distributed in pamphlet form. The Saints were told that although “hate can have no place in the souls of the righteous,” the Saints “are part of the body politic” and must loyally obey those in authority over them. The Presidency continued, “The members of the Church have always felt under obligation to come to the defense of their country when a call to arms was made.” If in the course of combat, servicemen “shall take the lives of those who fight against them, that will not make of them murderers, nor subject them to the penalty that God has prescribed for those who kill. … For it would be a cruel God that would punish His children as moral sinners for acts done by them as the innocent instrumentalities of a sovereign whom He had told them to obey and whose will they were powerless to resist. …

“… This Church is a worldwide Church. Its devoted members are in both camps,” the message affirmed. The Presidency also promised those servicemen who lived clean lives, kept the commandments, and prayed constantly that the Lord would be with them and nothing would happen to them that would not be to the honor and glory of God and to their salvation and exaltation.12 Heeding the counsel of their Church leaders, Latter-day Saints responded when called into military service.

The Saints in Uniform

Even though LDS servicemen’s groups had been organized during the Spanish-American War and Elder B. H. Roberts had served as a chaplain during World War I, the complete development of the Church’s programs for LDS servicemen did not come into existence until World War II.

In April 1941, just nine months before the United States officially entered World War II, the First Presidency announced the appointment of Hugh B. Brown to serve as servicemen’s coordinator. Having attained the rank of major in the Canadian army during World War I, he capitalized on this title in making contact with military authorities. Elder Brown traveled extensively during the war, meeting with LDS servicemen and giving them encouragement. His warm personality and deep spirituality made him particularly well suited for this assignment.

During World War II, Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975) served as the servicemen’s coordinator for the entire Church. He was an officer in the Canadian armed forces, a lawyer, an educator, an orator, and an ecclesiastical leader.

Elder Brown was called to be a General Authority in 1953. He served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and as a member of the First Presidency of the Church.

A Church Servicemen’s Committee was organized in October 1942, with Elder Harold B. Lee, a new member of the Twelve, as chairman. The committee worked with United States military officials to secure the appointments of Latter-day Saint chaplains. This was a formidable challenge. Army and navy officials were reluctant to appoint chaplains who did not meet the usual requirements of being professional clergymen. Nevertheless, the Army Chief of Chaplains favorably remembered how a local Mormon bishop had cared for the spiritual well-being of the servicemen in his area. As a result, military officials gradually approved the appointment of LDS chaplains, and by the end of World War II, forty-six had served or were serving as such.13

To supplement the work of these chaplains, the Servicemen’s Committee appointed approximately one thousand “group leaders.” Once set apart, these men officiated anywhere their services might be needed. Each received a certificate identifying him as “an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that he is as an authorized Group Leader of the Mutual Improvement Association of said Church to serve among his fellow Latter-day Saint members in the armed services. He is empowered, after first obtaining permission of the proper military officials, to conduct study classes and other worshipping assemblies.”14

The Church sponsored several other measures to benefit members in the service. Homes were opened in Salt Lake City and California where servicemen could stay in a wholesome environment while traveling to and from assignments. “Budget cards” became passports to wholesome Church-sponsored social and recreational activities for servicemen away from home. Members entering military service were given pocket-sized copies of the Book of Mormon and a Church publication titled Principles of the Gospel. They also received a miniature version of the Church News, which carried messages of inspiration, reports of servicemen’s activities, and other important announcements.

Many of the Latter-day Saint servicemen set outstanding examples of faith and devotion. Military officials were frequently astonished at the initiative and ability of the Mormon soldiers to conduct their own worship services without the need of professional clergymen. On the island of Saipan, L. Tom Perry (later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and other LDS marines had no place to meet, so they set to work building a chapel. Latter-day Saint German soldiers during the occupation of Norway shared their rations with needy members in that land. Similarly, American soldiers helped their fellow Saints in Germany to rebuild as the war drew to a close. Always eager to share the gospel, Church members took advantage of opportunities even under wartime conditions. Elder Ezra Taft Benson lamented the drop in the number of full-time missionaries, but was convinced that Latter-day Saint servicemen were responsible for “more total missionary work today than we have ever done in the history of the Church. …

“… One of [the servicemen] said, ‘Brother Benson, it is just like being on another mission. Conditions are different, but we have opportunities to preach the gospel, and we are taking advantage of it.’”15

Numerous servicemen were influenced by the worthy examples of their Mormon buddies. The life of nineteen-year-old Neal A. Maxwell, who served in the armed forces in Okinawa, was a sermon to his fellow servicemen. One friend in particular remembered the example Neal set in a foxhole in Okinawa. Neal A. Maxwell later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. While in a German prison camp, one Dutch member shared the gospel with fellow prisoner of war Jay Paul Jongkees. His interested friend joined the Church and later became the first stake president in their native country.

Latter-day Saint servicemen were also responsible for introducing the gospel into new areas of the world. For example, they provided the Church’s first contact with the Philippine Islands.16

By the war’s end, the number of Latter-day Saints in military service approached one hundred thousand. This was about one out of every ten Church members. While some appeared to be miraculously protected, the lives of all were not spared. Elder Harold B. Lee sought to comfort those who lost a loved one in the war. He said, “It is my conviction that the present devastating scourge of war in which hundreds of thousands are being slain, many of whom are no more responsible for the causes of the war than are our own boys, is making necessary an increase of missionary activity in the spirit world and that many of our boys who bear the Holy Priesthood and are worthy to do so will be called to that missionary service after they have departed this life.”17

Impact on the Church in North America

While the Saints in North America did not suffer as their European counterparts did, the war had a substantial impact on Church members and programs there also. As World War II began, shipyards, aircraft plants, and other defense industries created many new jobs on the U.S. west coast. These economic opportunities drew many families from the intermountain area to the Pacific coast. The establishment of defense industries in Utah and surrounding areas, however, later led many Saints to return.

These war-stimulated population shifts created several challenges for the Church. Single Mormon youth were among those employed in the defense industry. Hence, by the end of the war an increasing number of young people were living away from the stabilizing influence of their home and family.18 The General Authorities encouraged Church leaders in the areas where these young men and women were going to take a special interest in them. The coming of new industries to predominantly Mormon areas also resulted in a sudden influx of non-LDS residents into certain Utah communities. While some of the longtime residents of these communities were concerned about the introduction of such a large “outside element,” Church leaders encouraged the Saints to fellowship the newcomers and to share the gospel with them whenever possible. This created a fertile field for the stake missions that had been established in the 1930s.

Wartime conditions affected programs sponsored by the Church in still other ways. In January 1942, just a month after the United States entered World War II, the First Presidency announced that all stake leadership meetings would be suspended immediately for the duration of the war. This cutback in leadership instruction came at the very time when Church activities had to become more effective than ever before to reach the growing numbers of members cut free from the guiding and sustaining influence of the family. The First Presidency stressed, “This action places increased responsibility upon the ward and branch auxiliary organizations to see that their work not only does not suffer, but is increased in intensity, improved in quality, and in general made more effective.” Auxiliary general boards kept in touch with local workers and gave direction by mail, and the home was stressed more as the key to preserving the faith among the youth.19

The First Presidency also limited attendance at general conferences to specifically invited priesthood leaders. The Tabernacle was closed to the public since the weekly Tabernacle Choir programs were broadcast without live audiences. Observances of the Relief Society’s 1942 centennial had to be postponed, and the annual Hill Cumorah pageant was canceled for the duration of the war.

On 27 April 1942, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the need for increased taxes, wage and price controls, gasoline rationing, and rationing of other strategic materials. Latter-day Saint leaders had already taken steps to adapt Church programs.

Elder Harold B. Lee was convinced that the timing of the Church’s precautions was the result of revelation. Referring to the Church’s January 1942 restrictions on auxiliary meetings and travel, he declared: “When you remember that all this happened from eight months to nearly a year before the tire and gas rationing took place, you may well understand if you will only take thought that here again was the voice of the Lord to this people, trying to prepare them for the conservation program that within a year was forced upon them. No one at that time could surely foresee that the countries that had been producing certain essential commodities were to be overrun and we thereby be forced into a shortage.”

Furthermore, Elder Lee was convinced that Church leaders had been inspired when, beginning in 1937, they counseled the Saints to produce and store a year’s supply of food. He believed that this helped prepare Church members for rationing and scarcity and anticipated the government’s emphasis on victory gardens.20

Because of the war effort “Church activities were hampered in yet other ways. As building supplies were diverted to military use, construction of meetinghouses and even of the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple came to a halt. Perhaps no Church activity felt the impact of the war more than did the missionary program. In 1942 the Church agreed not to call young men of draft age on missions. Hence the number of missionaries serving plummeted. While 1,257 new full-time missionaries had been called in 1941, only 261 were called two years later. Before the war, five-sixths of all missionaries were young men holding the offices of elder or seventy; by 1945, most new missionaries were women or high priests. Members living in mission fields again assumed more responsibilities, just as they had done when the number of missionaries dropped during the Great Depression a decade earlier. Throughout North America these Saints accepted calls as local part-time missionaries and assumed greater roles in district or branch organizations.

“The Church sponsored special wartime programs and in other ways encouraged its members to patriotically support the war effort. The first Sunday in 1942 was designated as a special day of fasting and prayer. As they had done during World War I, the General Authorities again commended the Saints for their generous contributions to the Red Cross and other charitable funds. Women in the Relief Society put together first aid kits for home use and prepared bandages and other supplies for the Red Cross. During the winter of 1942–43 the Church’s twelve- and thirteen-year-old Beehive girls donated 228,000 hours, collecting scrap metal, fats, and other needed materials, making scrapbooks or baking cookies for soldiers, and tending children for mothers working in defense industries. A special ‘Honor Bee’ award was offered for such service. Then in 1943, Mutual Improvement Association youth in the United States and Canada raised more than three million dollars to purchase fifty-five badly needed rescue boats to save the lives of downed airmen.”21

While Latter-day Saints, at home and in military service and on both sides of the conflict, labored patriotically to support the cause of their respective nations, all longed for a return to peace. Even though some activities advanced during the war, the major effort of the conflict hindered the Church’s work. Only with the longed-for cessation of hostilities in 1945 could the Church resume its progress.