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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf walks with BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson and gives a thumbs-up to graduates at the 2009 spring commencement at the Marriott Center.

An invitation to church

"Some days after World War II, my grandmother was standing in line for food when an elderly single sister with no family of her own invited her to sacrament meeting in Zwickau, East Germany. My grandmother and my parents accepted the invitation. They went to church, felt the Spirit, were uplifted by the kindness of the members and were edified by the hymns of the Restoration. My grandmother, my parents and my three siblings were all baptized. I had to wait two years because I was only 6. How grateful I am for a spiritually sensitive grandmother, teachable parents and a wise, white-haired, elderly single sister who had the sweet boldness to reach out and follow the Savior's example by inviting us to 'come and see.'

"Her name was Sister Ewig, which translates in English to 'Sister Eternal.' I will be eternally grateful for her love and example."

General conference, October 2004

The power of hope

"Toward the end of World War II, my father was drafted into the German army and sent to the western front, leaving my mother alone to care for our family. Though I was only 3 years old, I can still remember this time of fear and hunger. We lived in Czechoslovakia, and with every passing day, the war came nearer and the danger grew greater.

"Finally, during the cold winter of 1944, my mother decided to flee to Germany, where her parents were living. She bundled us up and somehow managed to get us on one of the last refugee trains heading west. Traveling during that time was dangerous. Everywhere we went, the sound of explosions, the stressed faces and ever-present hunger reminded us that we were in a war zone.

"Along the way the train stopped occasionally to get supplies. One night during one of these stops, my mother hurried out of the train to search for some food for her four children. When she returned, to her great horror, the train and her children were gone!

"She was weighed down with worry; desperate prayers filled her heart. She frantically searched the large and dark train station, urgently crisscrossing the numerous tracks while hoping against hope that the train had not already departed.

"Perhaps I will never know all that went through my mother's heart and mind on that black night as she searched through a grim railroad station for her lost children. That she was terrified, I have no doubt. I am certain it crossed her mind that if she did not find this train, she might never see her children again. I know with certainty: her faith overcame her fear and her hope overcame her despair. She was not a woman who would sit and bemoan tragedy. She moved. She put her faith and hope into action.

"And so she ran from track to track and from train to train until she finally found our train. It had been moved to a remote area of the station. There, at last, she found her children again.

"… If I could go back in time and sit by her side, I would ask her how she managed to go on in the face of her fears. I would ask about faith and hope and how she overcame despair."

General conference, October 2008

Living prophets

"George Albert Smith was the president then (when my family joined the church). I was only a young child, and we had lost all material belongings twice within only seven years. We were refugees with an uncertain future. However, during those same seven years, we gained more than any amount of money could ever buy. We found a supernal refuge, a place of defense from despair — the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and his church, led by a true and living prophet.

"During this time of my childhood I played in bombed-out houses and grew up with the ever-present consequences of a lost war and the awareness that my own country had inflicted terrible pain on many nations during the horrific World War II.

"The good news that Jesus Christ has made the perfect Atonement for mankind, redeeming all from the grave and rewarding each individual according to his or her works, was the healing power which brought hope and peace back into my life."

General conference, October 2002

Gaining a testimony

"In my growing-up years in Germany, I attended church in many different locations and circumstances — in humble back rooms, in impressive villas and in very functional modern chapels. All of these buildings had one important factor in common: the Spirit of God was present; the love of the Savior could be felt as we assembled as a branch or ward family.

"The Zwickau chapel had an old air-driven organ. Every Sunday a young man was assigned to push up and down the sturdy lever operating the bellows to make the organ work. Even before I was an Aaronic priesthood bearer, I sometimes had the great privilege to assist in this important task.

"While the congregation sang our beloved hymns of the Restoration, I pumped with all my strength so the organ would not run out of wind. The eyes of the organist unmistakably indicated whether I was doing fine or needed to increase my efforts quickly.

"I always felt honored by the importance of this duty and the trust that the organist had placed in me. It was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to have a responsibility and to be part of this great work.

"There was an additional benefit that came from this assignment: the bellows operator sat in a seat that offered a great view of a stained-glass window that beautified the front part of the chapel. The stained glass portrayed the First Vision, with Joseph Smith kneeling in the Sacred Grove, looking up toward heaven and into a pillar of light.

"During the hymns of the congregation and even during talks and testimonies given by our members, I often looked at this depiction of a most sacred moment in world history. In my mind's eye I saw Joseph receiving knowledge, witness, and divine instructions as he became a blessed instrument in the hand of our Heavenly Father.

"I felt a special spirit while looking at the beautiful scene in this window picture of a believing young boy in a sacred grove who made a courageous decision to earnestly pray to our Heavenly Father, who listened and responded lovingly to him.

"Here I was, a young boy in post–World War II Germany, living in a city in ruins, thousands of miles away from Palmyra in North America and more than a hundred years after the event actually took place. By the universal power of the Holy Ghost, I felt in my heart and in my mind that it was true, that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and heard their voices.

"The Spirit of God comforted my soul at this young age with an assurance of the reality of this sacred moment that resulted in the beginning of a worldwide movement destined to 'roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth' (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2). I believed Joseph Smith's testimony of that glorious experience in the Sacred Grove then, and I know it now. God has spoken to mankind again!"

General conference, April 2005

'We are all pioneers'

"As the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is now being embraced around the world, we are all pioneers in our own sphere and circumstance. It was in the turmoil of post–World War II Germany when my family first learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

General conference, October 2002