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Great testimonies 6

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Immo Luschin Von Ebengreuth

The spark which ignites the spirit of conversion differs with individuals. As much as anything, that spark for Immo Luschin von Ebengreuth was eternal marriage.

A full-time translator for the Church in Frankfurt, Germany, Immo is a well-educated man who speaks five languages and has studied both medicine and law at the University of Graz, Austria, his home town. He has always been deeply religious. Blessed with a happy marriage which they had deliberately oriented toward religion, Immo and his wife could not accept that that marriage must end at death. In their thoughtful and prayerful approach they found other basic problems too which were not answered by their Roman Catholic faith. For all that, they were reluctant to seek answers outside of their religion.

The following account tells how the missionaries faith and persistence prevailed in providing the answers. "Someone had to be courageous and persistent enough…,"says Brother Immo Luschin, as his Church friends call him. "Thank God for the missionaries."

For several months prior to our wedding, my fiancé and I spent our evenings discussing every phase of our future. Among other things, we decided that we would make religion a very substantial part of our marriage. Our children, we felt, would have to be protected from the evils of the world, and this could best be done by making religion the foundation of our moral lives.

Both Helmi and I were Catholic, after the tradition of our parents and forefathers, which means, in our case, that we were  baptized when less than one month old. We attended Catholic classes in school (because we had to), and went to church (only when we were made to do so). Otherwise, we had no religious activity, no reading of the Holy Bible, and after we were graduated from school, no going to church either. But because of our commitment to each other, our religious activity increased after marriage.

On the day of our wedding, a beautiful September morning in 1947, we went to confession, partook of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and were married, first at the registrar's, according to the Austrian law, and then in the Catholic Cathedral, that is, the Herz-Jesu-Kirche at Graz, Austria, our home town. From then on we attended mass on Sundays, went to confession at least once a year, and fasted on the day preceding Christmas Day and on Good Friday. We tried to be in harmony with all the ritual injunctions of the Roman Catholic Church. As our four children came along, each was baptized within the week of its birth; later we taught them to pray to our Father in heaven and went to church with them every Sunday.

Previously, during the Second World War, I had been required to serve in the German Army. My wartime experiences were such that I could not but believe in a Divine Providence, having been spared many times and under very unusual conditions. All during these years, something within assured me that I would not die before I would become the father of a family, and I always felt that the Lord had given me that promise because of some important task which might be mine in the future.

Compared with what we saw around us, ours was a singularly happy union. Before we were married, Helmi and I had agreed that there would be no divorce in our life. Moreover, we seemed to be a little different from our friends in that we were probing and questioning as to what the purpose of life should be. Many of our friends seemed to have the attitude that life was given in order that we get out of it what we could—namely, "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Enjoyment rather than joy, self-assertion rather than righteousness, seemed to be typifying the general attitude we encountered among our associates. Problems,  they believed, should be covered rather than solved, especially if the solving implied self-restraint. The most desirable thing was not to eliminate transgression, but not to get caught at it.

After some six years of continued happiness in our married life, I said to Helmi one evening, "You know, I don't believe that we shall be separated in the hereafter, as the priest who married us said we would be. We shall be together forever." "But how could this be possible?" she asked.

"I do not know. But one thing I know for sure. If they don't have this kind of provision yet, they must invent it for our sake." More and more we felt the need to protect our four children from the all-too-liberal influences of the world. Who, or what guidance, was going to help us select the right way of life for them, as well as for ourselves? This problem was constantly on our minds. Can our religion assist us in solving it? I started to read the Bible, because I hoped to find an answer there. Occasionally, I read from the Bible to my family.

Helmi and I discussed several aspects of our religion wherein we either disagreed with the officially accepted doctrine, or were not fully satisfied. There were also some passages of scripture which aroused my concern. I felt that there was inconsistency in what was written there, or at least that I was not intelligent enough to see past the letter and reach the spirit of the doing.

Then 1960 came. In March I had reached a state of mind wherein I felt distracted and worried about almost every aspect of life, and I decided to take a step which heretofore had not occurred to me. One morning, I entered a small chapel not far from my downtown office, at an hour when I knew no one would be there. I knelt and asked the Lord for his help. I came away with a feeling of peace in my heart-but still nothing happened, so far as I could see.

Life went on as usual. We were guests at two society weddings, and later found out that in each case the wedding date had been a little late. Our thoughts were heavy, because we wanted desperately to help our children avoid this type of experience. Yet, the society in which they were developing was condoning immorality more and more.

Helmi and I began to enjoy a very close association with Reginald, a former school friend of mine, and his wife. They were the parents of three children. This friendship turned out to be not at all what we had hoped it would be, namely, the pooling of information and experiences for the purpose of mutually improving our lives. Several times our social evenings with them ended the same way as did the evenings spent with our other friends: after meaningless discussions of meaningless topics everybody was spiritually enlightened only by some high percentage spirit out of a bottle.

On July 13, Reginald died suddenly. In the small hours of morning, after having spent much time in a bar, he had run his small car head-on into a big truck. Helmi took his children into our home for several days, caring for them while waiting for things at their home to get back to normal. During this same week, two young men called on her and wanted to bring her some religious message. They were clad in dark business suits and obviously were foreigners. Helmi did not listen to them, but agreed that they could return the next week.

The following week, the two young men returned. Helmi was watering and weeding the flower beds, and they persuaded her to be seated with them at a nearby table in our garden. They asked her permission to open the discussion with prayer. They asked her about her family, introduced religious matters, and started questioning her. Helmi warded off all inquiry by telling them that they should come back on Saturday when her husband would be home. They then again offered prayer. Helmi says, "This is the thing which impressed me most, and for many years will be stamped into my mind. They included me and my children in their prayer, asking him to bless us and to look after our needs."

I scarcely paid attention when, on Saturday morning, she told me that two young men, possibly Americans, would come at 2 p.m. and try to see me. At two o'clock I was in my downstairs workshop, working on a birthday present for Helmi, when the doorbell rang.

"Good day. We are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we have a very important message  to impart to you," said one. He introduced himself as Elder Bryner and his companion as Elder Johnson.

"We want to tell you that there is a living prophet of the Lord today," he continued, "and that the full gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in our day and age by a modern prophet, Joseph Smith." His German was quite good, although his sentences sounded as though they were rehearsed and somewhat worn out by too frequent repetition. His companion remained silent except when, after some inaudible exclamation mark in his friend's statements, he would utter, "Ik uais auch dahs dahs uahr iist," (meaning, "I, too, know that this is true"), spoken with a heavy American accent. As a linguist, I was particularly aware of these external matters.

I was not interested. I did not invite them in, even though it was raining cats and dogs outside. Not even their clear, bright eyes could move me to let them come in; neither did their purposeful sincerity, which I sensed. I was a Catholic, and I intended to remain one. Suddenly a thought crossed my mind. It must be a very humiliating task to go and preach religion, having every other door slammed in their faces, as I was about to do to them. I knew that my neighbors down the street were not going to listen to them either. Very embarrassing and most humiliating, I thought. Their payment could not amount to much, the way they were dressed. And yet they did their work. What power motivated them?

"Could you come and see me on Monday, two days from today, at nine o'clock in my downtown office?" They assured me they would. They also tried to give me some literature, which I would not accept.

Later that day, when the rain had stopped, I found in our driveway a small brochure, completely soaked. Its title was "Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story." Now it came back to me: These were Mormons, the ones connected with polygamy!

On Monday their exactness in meeting our 9 a.m. appointment impressed me favorably. I led them into my private office and invited them to sit down. One of them then said a prayer, asking the Lord to let His Spirit be with us. Elder Bryner then [p.52] proceeded to embark on an apparently memorized recitation of a religious nature, using several sheets with stick figures on them to illustrate his argumentation. I waved these aside, cut short his presentation, and said to them, "Now, gentlemen, I don't want to offend you. I have read about your precious Joseph Smith and his own story. But before we go on, I should like to ask you a few questions."

"During our marriage, my wife and I have both felt that we should also be together in heaven, even though we fail to see at the moment how this is possible. What stand do you, or rather, does your church take?"

Elder Bryner reached for a book in a black leather cover, rapidly turned the pages, then read a few sentences to the effect that a marriage covenant, if entered into under the right conditions, could be sealed up for eternity. He explained to me a very convincing doctrine of his church on that matter.

I posed the next question: "If a child were born, and, without even a chance of being baptized, died, why should it be condemned to go to the kind of hell my church has devised for it? I simply cannot bring myself to believe that my Father in heaven can be as cruel and unjust as all that. What is the transgression of Adam to me? I do not believe in any original sin. I never had a chance to disapprove of anything our first progenitor might have perpetrated. By the way, do you really think God tempted Adam knowingly to bring about his fall? This would have been rather a 'Pontius Pilate' sort of behavior, wouldn't it?"

I was told that little children were redeemed from the beginning through Jesus Christ; also that Adam, in making his decision, was fully exercising his own free agency. Our discussion lasted three hours, until noon. I invited them to come again two days later, and then again, and again. There were more questions that had been vexing me.

"Do the rich and the poor, in your church, have the same opportunity to reach their salvation?" I asked.

I had a very special reason for asking this question. From what I had seen all around me, I had certainly come to the conclusion that a person who had sufficient means was far more   likely to escape eternal damnation, or at least purgatory, than the other fellow with no worldly purchasing power to his credit.

"In my wife's and my opinion, it is a great sin to confess a transgression, to take penitence for it, knowing at the same time that one is very likely to commit it again and again. Should not true repentance consist of: being sorry, the restitution, the promise never to do it again, and then the asking of God's forgiveness?"

This question had been prompted by an experience I had had. About two months previously there had been a mass meeting at Graz, at which a famous Jesuit Father preached. Thinking he might be able to help me, I asked him for an interview. He agreed to meet me the next day. My problem was that, under the rule of the Catholic Church, a certain action on my part was considered a sin which I was obliged to confess, and I felt grave concern about it, but each time I confessed it to a priest I knew that I would do it again. How could I hope to extricate myself from this dilemma? This Father told me that he could not help me either, except that he was willing to grant me general absolution if I were to confess to him, which I did. But after that, I felt more doubts and qualms than ever before. Something must be wrong in this reasoning, I thought.

I had another question to put to the missionaries. "In the Bible I have read about Cain and his offering not having been respected by the Lord. From what I can find in Genesis, I cannot but conclude that God must have been partial or arbitrary in his dealings with these first sons of Adam and Eve. Could you explain to me the full story or meaning of this?" They could. Out of a book in a black leather cover.

The elders knew an answer to every question I had; and what is more, it was the right answer, the one I had been looking for all along. I felt as if I was approaching my old home town after many years of absence. At the conclusion of their second visit the elders asked me to kneel with them and offer the prayer, which I did.

They gave me a Book of Mormon, the army edition. I had asked them to let me have it in English. I read the Book of Mormon in the course of one night. At that time, I told Helmi of  my recent experiences. She was somewhat surprised. I guess I showed much enthusiasm explaining to her what I had learned. The missionaries gave me a German edition of Lowell Bennion's book, An Introduction to the Gospel. Helmi asked me to read it to her, and after each chapter we discussed it. It gave us many of the answers which we had been looking for practically all our lives.

I do not know just at what time I was converted. It would be hard to tell. But when she asked me, "Now, do you really believe all this story about an angel and golden plates and so on," I sat there for some time and tried to decide whether I did or not. Is it any harder to believe in a prophet who wears a necktie and a modern hat than a prophet with a long white beard who lived many centuries ago? I told Helmi I really believed it to be true. Perhaps I did not so much believe it as I hoped it was true, and this was my reasoning. All the answers I had received from the elders were what I knew they should be. So for the rest of the doctrine and teachings of this church, I just hoped they would be true also. Everything was so consistent, so appealing to every fiber of my being.

On the 14th of August the elders asked me to quit smoking. I had been using tobacco constantly for twenty-five years. Several times I had made an attempt to give it up, without success. They told me I could do it with the help of the Lord. On that day I smoked the last cigarette of my life.

We were used to a church tax in our homeland. They told us (and it was Helmi who in her practical way put the question to them) that nowhere was there a government tax levied to help support their church. Instead, they said, members of their church were privileged in that they had an opportunity to return to the Lord one-tenth of their income annually, or in other words, to pay their tithing. And it was Helmi who from the day of our conversion supported and strengthened me in making myself and my family eligible to receive all the blessings that come through keeping this commandment.

August 28, 1960. This day I was baptized by Elder David F. Johnson, and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Lowell L. Bryner.

Helmi was baptized two weeks later; the two older children, Astrid, 12, and Hanno, 10, after three months of instruction, were baptized in December of the same year. Gero, who was then 7 years old, and Iris, 5, were later baptized by myself when they were old enough to be baptized.

The most important day in my life, and in Helmi's life, was the 21st of August, 1961, when we were sealed for time and all eternity in the temple which is located in Switzerland. And I know that if we prove true and faithful, we will not be separated in the hereafter.

I knew this was the truth; I had known it all along. But someone had to come and show it to me by breaking down the walls which tradition and other worldly considerations had built around me. Someone had to be courageous and persistent enough to disregard my reluctance to do as the Lord wanted me to do.

Someone had to tell me. Thank God for the missionaries.

A Negro's Life Changed
Alan Cherry

The combination of circumstances under which Alan Cherry was converted must set something of a record. To be converted while in military service is not too uncommon an experience but to receive the Spirit's witness as a Negro while in a military confinement facility is surely unusual.

It all began with Alan's growing realization that there is more to life than the pattern of drink, drugs and illicit sex into which he and his Air Force associates had fallen. Casting off this way of life, he began an earnest search for truth through prayer and Bible study.

LDS readers will be both intrigued by the story of how he was nudged in the right direction and inspired by his testimony of the gospel. Of particular note is his faith-promoting, positive approach to the subject of priesthood.

Alan's changed life is reflected in his goals for personal growth and Church service. He finds measurable fulfillment of such goals not only in the usual day-to-day activities but also as a student at Brigham Young University, as part of a BYU show touring the Orient, and as a member of "The Free Agency" group which entertains and inspires the youth of the Church.

A New York negro, I was in the Air Force stationed in Texas. I weighed 235 pounds, and at my short stature I was "chock-full" to say the least. I decided to try an experiment just to prove that I had the necessary willpower to lose weight without the help of special diets.

Successfully going from 235 to 136 pounds in nine months gave me a lot of energy and self-confidence, so much so that I decided to channel my new-found willpower towards solving other personal problems. For some time, I had been pondering over the meaning of life. There were conclusions which I felt I must reach about national riots, the Vietnam war, and other decisions and principles which I'd been considering. I made up my mind not to be a follow-the-crowd type after becoming aware of the degraded level of morality on the base and in town. I had seen some bold-faced acts committed in a very open manner. Now was the time to begin the permanent separation of truth and falsehood in my own mind—I would become a seeker of truth.

During the next few months I read and meditated whenever I could, and by October of 1965, being somewhat frustrated with trying to grasp philosophical principles, I decided to take a brief rest and go home for a while.

I took leave and returned home to New York City, where I found a friend who had become an Orthodox Moslem. She told me about her religion. I listened and I honestly thought about it, but I could not accept what she told me. It did not seem to be the entire truth. My premise was that unless a religion or a philosophy had all the truth—no errors—there was certainly no reason for me to waste my time on something that would lead me only to a portion of the truth. So I figured that if man could somehow get into contact with all of the truth in its vibrancy, he then could attach himself to it and grow and develop, thus escaping falsehood altogether. It's easy to see that many of the world's people aren't evil, but they are just unfortunate in that they have not discovered the truth. I spent only a short time at home, returning to Texas the following week, still determined to "search."

On October 19, 1967, I was called to my first sergeant's office to discuss a minor disciplinary matter. I took the occasion to tell him that I was engrossed in a personal quest for truth and would seek to leave the Air Force if it impeded my development. Because it appeared then that this quest would take all of my time, I foresaw the possibility of future conflict with the Air Force. I told him I realized that I had made a four-year service commitment,  but that at the time I made that commitment I had had no idea that this situation would arise. His suggestion was to wait two years—the approximate time remaining on my enlistment—and not consider interrupting my enlistment in this way.

I said in return, "Well, I don't know if I can wait two years. How do I know I can ever get this energy again or get the unity within to go out and seek truth with real determination to find it?" I didn't mean to take the position that I was telling him what the terms of my military enlistment would be; I was simply suggesting there should be some way the Air Force could assist me. I really didn't expect the Air Force to adjust to me, so I was considering leaving it. This could be facilitated if there were some procedures that could lead to a compromise. Therefore, all I was doing was just alerting the sergeant to a possible situation that might arise in the future.

On November 19, 1967, I met him again concerning the same disciplinary matter, and I advised him again of my intentions. His attitude had not changed; he was still angered by my words. By mid-December his views were the same, but I had changed considerably. I had stopped drinking, I had given up smoking cigarettes and marijuana and drinking "cough syrup," and I had become chaste. I did almost nothing but read and think.

I met with my first sergeant again about December 12, 1967, formally to ask for a discharge. He told me the only way I could do this was with the base psychiatrist's recommendation. He then called to schedule an appointment for me with the base psychiatrist, and he told me the appointment was set for early January. I didn't want to wait that long, but I agreed since, according to the first sergeant, that was the earliest opening.

I tried studying the philosophers between our meeting and early January. Admittedly I didn't give them years, just minutes, but none could tell me by their works where truth was. So following any of them seemed a waste of time, because I was interested only in the one who possessed absolute truth. The only name that came to my thoughts at this time whom I hadn't tried was Jesus Christ. So I bought a Bible, realizing I hadn't given him a chance. I had judged the Bible by the people I knew to be Christians and rejected  it because of their conduct and their own confusion concerning Christian scripture. I read the New Testament first, wanting to see if I could pick up its spirit; and if I could, then I would be willing to follow Christ's teachings for the rest of my life.

After reading a portion of Matthew, I was convinced that it was true. Every time I would read a verse that was potent, it would just leap out at me, while the parables all seemed to vibrate within me with new meaning. I tried to absorb so much that I couldn't go beyond a few verses without stopping to marvel at its truth. All these years, I thought, I have been fooling around doubting and not understanding. I decided to follow Jesus Christ and his teachings by dedicating myself to his cause, whether he manifested himself to me or not. Moreover, I was determined to seek truth until I had become one with it. I wanted to avoid becoming a sunshine saint in the spiritual sense. I wanted to prove my sincerity and show my level of commitment to Jesus Christ no matter what the consequence.

Needing assistance from my first sergeant, my squadron section leader and the base psychiatrist, but receiving from them what appeared at the time to be indifference, I decided to stop work and put all my time in my new cause. I knew also that I might be transferred, and the possibility of a transfer to a new base bothered me when I considered how a new squadron section leader might react to my situation. I didn't relish the idea of starting all over again with new personnel. I was even more prompted to make my stand by stopping work when I considered this prospect. Perhaps my judgment was bad, but with the limited understanding I had at the time, this seemed the only course.

On January 19, 1968, the inevitable happened. I was apprehended and placed in the base confinement facility when I disobeyed a lieutenant's order to go to work. I had spent about three to four weeks in confinement when I found out that if I hadn't disobeyed that order, I probably would have received an administrative discharge. Although I was inwardly unhappy when I disobeyed the order to go to work, I did have confidence that I had the courage to follow through to conclusion in a crisis situation. This knowledge had come to me in the weight-losing episode.  Moreover, I had submitted a request for a discharge while I was in confinement and I expected to be free soon to resume my quest. So even if the world would consider this a mark against me and they were right in so doing, at least I knew I was honest in making that mistake. Although depressed that February, I reasoned that if I could function within some truth-seeking organization I would be ten times more effective than in the Air Force. Of course if everyone felt this way, the United States would be in a very serious position. At that time I did not appreciate that all young men have the responsibility to serve in the armed forces regardless of the inconvenience or their personal desires.

Worried because of my ability to make mistakes, I thought participation in an organization would make my truth-seeking efforts more exact. But what organization was there? There was Catholicism and there was Protestantism, but neither satisfied me. I couldn't really cite any definite objections, but I also could not feel right about them.

One day about mid-February, while I was still in the confinement facility, I noticed in the library for the first time a pamphlet entitled, "Which Church is Right?" I looked at it and saw the author's name, "Mark E. Petersen." I had heard of religious writers being called Doctor, Reverend, Bishop, and a number of other titles, and I was skeptical of this man's authority on the subject of truth because he had no title. But deciding that I wasn't being fair to him, I gave in and read the pamphlet. I was very pleased with the text; it didn't tear down other religions, but just simply explained what Mormonism had to offer. But when I had finished it, it just sort of ended. It explained what Mormonism was founded upon, but not "Where do I go from here?" and "Whom do I contact?" However, I noticed that the pamphlet said something about Joseph Smith's testimony—that Mormonism was based upon it. So I again turned to the bookshelf and saw there another pamphlet, "Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story." I picked it up and read it. That's when it all happened—the true awakening.

As I read the testimony, I felt as if I had a forest fire within me. Up until then I had thought: "Well, I'm a fool. I have made a mistake." I was getting weak as every day progressed, because I  was not only just trying to seek truth, I was trying to be totally objective about it, realizing that if I was wrong I would be my worst enemy and first critic. And I wanted to completely make an honest confession. I didn't want to slip, dodge, or hide.

Now, as I read Joseph Smith's story I saw that he was misunderstood also, and I thought that it's funny how people just won't believe what you say when you seem to be in an obscure position, different, "peculiar." Well, when I had read Joseph Smith's story, I thought: "It's good; I like it. But unless God puts his stamp on it I can't really accept it, because then I won't know whether I've accepted something that has that grain of error or whether it's all true." So I turned the pamphlet over—and there were the words from Moroni 10:4.

It was just like a gulp in my throat. Boy! I thought, it says it right here—just ask God. And this is what I had wanted, because if I had had to ask another man about the truthfulness of the gospel, whether it was truly of God or of man, I would have been inclined to question the doctrine here and there because I would have had no assurance that it was the true religion. So I decided to pray about it; I decided to ask God whether Joseph Smith's testimony was true. I knew I should have read the Book of Mormon first, but I didn't have a copy, and I just couldn't wait.

At this point I made my big error. Somehow I misinterpreted Moroni 10:4 and assumed that an angel would come and visit me and give me a knowledge of the truth of this pamphlet and then the truth of the gospel. I supposed that manifestations could happen on a clear day and people who would observe might mistake them for just another daily occurrence or even not be aware of it when really something rare and marvelous had happened. But I knew that if an angel brighter than the noon-day sun should come in that confinement cell, it would cause considerable commotion. I did wonder if this was the correct approach, but I figured, Well, I'll go ahead anyway; so I determined to go ahead and ask for an angel!

That night, when I was alone, I sat down on the floor of my cell and folded my arms. I was out of sight so that the sergeant on guard duty could not see me. As I bowed my head, I began to  think of my past. I started to cry. I'd cried before, but these were new, very humble tears. There were tears for all my sins I had committed, all my weaknesses, the times I had taken the Lord's name in vain, mocked Christ, cracked jokes and made ugly expressions about God and Christ.

I began to pray. I told my Heavenly Father in tears that I was now trying my best to be pure, to obey the commandments, and I admitted that it was really a strain on me to do it. I admitted that I was worth nothing in comparison with Christ, and after all I had done I was not worthy to meet them face to face. Yet I knew that by grace I was permitted to ask for a testimony. I asked Heavenly Father to let me know if Joseph Smith's testimony was true.

I prayed with my eyes closed, and as the words came out of my mouth in a fumbling manner and the tears streamed down my face, I became definitely aware that I was not alone. I felt as if my head was pointed down to my left and I couldn't raise it; I wanted to look, but I didn't feel worthy enough. But I believe I was seeing spiritually—that feeling so intense that it's almost like seeing. I had this feeling intensely within that my soul was being turned around and examined for its relative worth. The feeling, though pleasurable, grew so intense that I was shocked and startled.

I stopped praying. I opened my eyes and shook myself to gain my composure. At that very instant I could no longer feel the presence nor feel the sensation with me.

It wasn't long after that night that I realized the confusion I felt as a result of this experience was a conflict between what I had made up my mind beforehand was going to happen and being able to understand what really did happen. For so long I had dwelt on the scriptures from John where Christ states that those who keep his commandments and love him will be loved of the Father, and in conclusion states, "I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." My anticipations were based entirely upon this scripture and were greatly reinforced by Joseph Smith's experience. However, not being aware of the nature of the spirit, I had made up my mind to receive an experience directly through my physical senses, more specifically through sight and sound. Had  I been more spiritually prepared, had my mind been more spiritually oriented, I would have been able to understand the nature of the experience much better.

After that night I began to pray every day that God might somehow permit me to have a clarification of that first experience. I wanted something that related to me specifically, that I knew was true, that I could believe in. It wasn't long until this prayer was answered in a manner least expected.

I still didn't have a Book of Mormon. On February 22, 1968, I met my first Mormon, who was brought into confinement for drunk and disorderly conduct. Right away I realized that not only was he the answer to my prayers, but that there is no magic potion given a Mormon that makes him a better person. Previously I had thought that possibly when you take upon yourself the new and right and unique relationship with God, you get a power that lifts you ten steps above everyone else, and progression from then on is unceasing. Now I realized that this thing about working out your salvation is literal. You have to "cut the mustard" day after day, and growth is an achievement, not a gift. So when I saw that Mormon, I gained more compassion; I gained more love and understanding. That young Mormon did some beautiful things for me. He had me write to his aunt, and she wrote to the Texas Mission president, who in turn sent out the missionaries. He also brought me a copy of the Reader's Digest about a week after our first meeting, and showed me the article about the Church in the February, 1967 issue. It said that all male members can have the priesthood at twelve years of age—except Negroes, who can't have it at all.

From the start I realized that this doctrine was true, and I accepted it. I thought: "Well, I know that the things that have happened in the past four or five months—the manifestation, the Mormon friend, and the events leading up to them—came to me from Heavenly Father; for each, the testimony came through the Spirit and not through my own mind. I can feel it with my heart more than I can reason it out with my mind. So, if God has spoken to me, who am I to challenge his word just because it may appear as error to other men? I know that most men exist on this earth  by the improper use of pride, power, prominence, and position. These things mean as much to them as does the word of God—sometimes more. So they would probably reject this doctrine of priesthood restriction because of their inability to understand it by mental reasoning." I also thought that a black man's first reaction usually would be to deny the possibility that this doctrine is true because it seems to take a prejudicial stand against him and to deny him something he should have.

But I knew that I had stepped away from the world and sought God, and that he had spoken to me through the Spirit. So how could I dare come back and say to him: "This doctrine is wrong. I won't join your church because I can't have a particular position to which I aspire." Somehow it didn't seem that this attitude would be consistent with the doctrine Christ taught—that he who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven should be the servant of all. If the greatest man, the Lord himself, would stoop down and wash his disciples' feet and show through serving what true greatness was—the power of love—then I did not need position or prominence or pride in order to serve.

I knew what would come; I knew people wouldn't be able to understand. But I knew, too, that I had my ability as a child of God to be creative, to use my unlimited, untapped power. If I had asked someone when I was heavy, "Do you believe I can lose a hundred pounds in seven months?" he probably would have said, "I doubt it." When I did accomplish the feat, many people were flabbergasted. So I thought, if I can channel into my living of the gospel the same willpower and dedication I applied to losing weight, I can make not having the priesthood be a beautiful thing. In living that way I can help some priesthood holders to realize that it's the Spirit of the Lord energizing the priesthood that makes it really function in the superlative way. It was clear, too, that if I could have spiritual impressions, if I could have good ideas, if I could have the spirit of the Lord, then I could work out my salvation whether I held the priesthood or not. The parable of the talents clearly illustrates that whatever talent you do have, you are expected to develop it and bring it into use for the benefit of all mankind. It didn't matter to me essentially who led or who followed, just that the job which had to be done was done.

So, I was determined to capture the big idea, the image of what the gospel is all about, and spread the good news and share it with everyone with whom I come in contact by using my creativity to do it. I decided to leave the service and to devote my life to tapping that creativity.

The Apostle Paul had impressed me greatly with his missionary work as I had read the scriptures. In turn I decided that this would really be how to enjoy the gospel in the spiritual sense—go out and in some way sow missionary seeds, find some medium of expression which would convert people. So at no time was I worried or concerned about not being able to rise through the echelons of the priesthood, for though I didn't have that power, I had my hands full with this new task of just trying to share what I had learned through the Spirit, through that feeling which is as intense sometimes as visual seeing. I had received a testimony of the truth, a knowledge of it, and it had changed my life, made every day beautiful, made my horizons greater than I had ever dreamed possible.

After receiving a rejection of my discharge request, I was court martialed on March 1, 1968.

I received a letter from the missionaries about April 13th, and I met them about the 18th and had a preliminary discussion with them. I had my first lesson about the 25th of April. On April 26th I was surprised when I was released from confinement because my bad conduct discharge had been disapproved by higher authority. I knew that this, too, was a subtle work of the hand of God, simply because it was very unlikely that officers in a higher court would really give so much attention to such an "open and shut case" involving an obscure person like myself. That day I gave much thanks to Heavenly Father, for though things had been very bleak, I could see that it was the Lord's hand that saved me.

I received the remaining five missionary lessons in the next ten days, and I was baptized on May 9, 1968, at the Abilene Branch. On May 24th I received my discharge from the service and decided to return home to New York City primarily for three reasons: to go about the task of making some definite contribution to the Church, to share the gospel with my family, and to try to do something to bring this truth to all black people.
Life's Questions Answered
F. Enzio Busche

With Hitler's vaunted Third Reich tumbling in battered ruins in 1945, Germany called on boys to fill gaps in her beleaguered army. One of these was fourteen-year-old Enzio Busche.

In a U. S. prisoner-of-war camp, young Enzio experienced the desolate feeling that home and all that had seemed certain was now gone forever. Yearnings to find himself took hold. Ten years later a personal miracle drew from him the commitment of dedication to understand and serve the God who had healed him.

His intensified search for truth and the way to serve was rewarded by LDS missionaries being led to his door. Brother Busche has honored the commitment he made in his youth by diligent activity in God's kingdom, where he now serves as regional representative to the Twelve for Germany.

I was born in pre-war Germany, the son of a businessman who built up a large printing concern through his careful diligence. Being born at that time and place meant experiencing childhood under the Hitler regime, a strict political order which directed and controlled all phases of life. I saw all sides of World War II and especially in the last year, I experienced the fate of those whose health and life were constantly in danger. I saw my home completely destroyed, and experienced the chaos of beaten and starving postwar Germany.

The last few months of the war I spent as a German soldier, although I was only fourteen years old. Later, in an American prisoner-of-war camp, I first realized that the home I had known and the future that had once seemed so certain were gone, and that I had to begin a new life. A deep, indescribable yearning [p.101] took hold of me. Like most people at that time, I longed to find myself. Who am I? Is this all there is to life? What is to become of me? I searched for God and for reasons for all that I had seen and experienced. But regrettably, everyday life and the need of bare necessities absorbed nearly my full attention. A year later, when I finally went back to school, after all the death and chaos, it seemed an absurd and trivial act to study Latin vocables as though nothing had happened.

Life went on. Questions went unanswered. I tried like most people to avoid thinking deeply, for there were many uncomfortable and apparently unanswerable questions.

In 1955, I was hit hard by an incurable liver ailment. Nothing was said to me about my not recovering, but I felt that the time had come which I knew must eventually come to everyone. Yet I was only in my early twenties, and I hoped against fate. My father stood by my bedside, believing I would die in a matter of days.

The unanswered questions of my life and the resulting uncertainty were filling my soul with panic and fear. My soul was weighed down by feelings of guilt and responsibility. It seemed as if there were no way out. As I felt the end nearing, something from within me said, "If you pray now, you will regain your health." I was able to say a prayer, perhaps the greatest that a person in that situation can pray: "Thy will be done."

In the instant that I spoke that prayer, I felt a strength outside myself change me and fill me with certainty that I would be well. A shining, positive joy took hold of me, and I promised myself that I would never forget or deny that experience or the knowledge that I had gained from it. I committed myself to seek a conscious life of dedication to understanding and serving the God or power that had healed and changed me.

My sudden improvement was considered a miracle by the doctors, but my father insisted that they perform an exploratory operation. Everyone was amazed when the surgeon found a new liver like a baby's, with nothing wrong, without scars from my ailment. For months afterward, I could eat only baby food because of my new liver.

Soon I could read, and while convalescing I read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation, interrupting my study only to eat and sleep. This gave me the certainty that we are children of a Heavenly Father, who purposely sent us to earth for our own good. I understood the law of free agency—that we may decide either to become like our Father and remain his children eternally, or to be overcome by other powers to our own distress and damnation. I realized that it was Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, who had shown me the way in my time of need.

After regaining my health, I had but one goal—to discover whether or not the Church of Christ was on the earth, and if so, to find it. I knew that there were hundreds of churches and that it would be hopeless to attempt to investigate them all individually.

I began by attending, for the first time with full conscious intent, the Protestant church to which my family belonged. I went to the pastor and told him of my experience and of my new willingness to help. He could not hide his great surprise. His first reaction was to suggest that I visit a psychiatrist. This was a real shock, and I had the feeling that this man had little in common with the servants of God described in the scriptures. I forgave him, visited church functions, and did all that a lay member of that church can do. I tried to lead an honest life, and prayed daily with my wife. I promised myself that I would sooner die than forget the great experience I had and what I had learned.

A couple of weeks later, the pastor came and apologized and asked that I help with a project to visit all members and leave a message with them for him. Glad for the opportunity, I felt I was finally in a position to prove my conviction through action. I soon saw that my message was not making a great impression and that I could not answer many of the questions which were asked about the church that I represented. At my suggestion, all "visiting members" met with the pastor to discuss the Protestant faith. I was disappointed and discouraged to realize after this meeting how few of us really had a testimony of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, even though it was preached every Sunday.

At this time, my wife and I decided to kneel and ask God to show us whether or not there were authorized servants of his Son's Church on the earth, and to lead us to them.
A short time later, two young missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood on our doorstep and gave us their message. All that they said seemed strange, unbelievable, almost absurd. But the appearance, attitude, and personality of those young men so impressed me that I invited them to return often.

But in the meantime, since the position of my own church was unclear to me, I went to my church leaders to arrange a discussion between the two groups. A few days later, we of my former church met with four elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, two of whom could not yet understand my native tongue. For me as a critical observer, the hour was an outstanding experience. I saw that the specialist invited by our pastor was unable to speak without anger and hatred. Twice during the evening he became so irritated by the quiet, clear, loving patience of the missionaries that he fully lost his self-control and could add no more to the conversation than outrage.

I made my decision: now was the time for me to earnestly and persistently investigate the message and the power which came from these strangers. If it were the power of God, I would not deny it.

The following weeks were filled with study and prayer. I discovered, to my great joy, the development of the same certainty which came with the prayer at my time of sickness. I knew that God was in control, and that I was progressing in the right direction.

About one-and-a-half years after first meeting with the missionaries, my wife and I were baptized. Our life has changed completely. We are joyful and thankful for every day that we live. Our one wish is to help share this light and knowledge with all people on earth, that their souls may be full of peace, certainty, justice, and truth, and that the catastrophic results of ungodly actions may come to an end.

Our hearts are full of thankfulness for all those who, through their diligence, sacrifice, and testimony, helped bring us the answers to all of life's major questions. We know, with all certainty, that God is our Heavenly Father, that Jesus Christ is his Son, and that his Church in all its power and glory has been restored.

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 May 2010 19:18  

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