The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:55 am

The Mormons in Nazi Germany: History and Memory
A Dissertation by David Conley Nelson
December 2012
© 2012 David Conley Nelson



Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Approved by:
Chair of Committee, Arnold P. Krammer
Committee Members, Chester S. L. Dunning
Walter D. Kamphoefner
Peter J. Hugill
D. Michael Quinn
Head of Department David Vaught


o The Mormon Sonderweg: A Nineteenth Century Prelude to LDS History in Nazi Germany
o Striving for Respectability
o History: The Pre-War Nazi Years
o Beacons Illuminate the Rocks and Shoals of Mormon Memory
o Methodology: Memory Beacons and Collective Memory
o A Review of the Literature and the Origin of Other Sources
o American Frontier Mysticism and the Roots of Early Mormonism
o A Distinctly American Church Relies Extensively on Foreign Converts
o Trouble on the American Frontier Portends Difficulty in the Mission Field
o The First German Missionary Efforts: A Template for Success
o German Mormonism in the Era of Unification: A Semblance of Permanence
o Skilled Leaders Bring Stability to Missionary Efforts
o Mormon Polygamy: The Elephant in the German Parlor
o Polygamy Dies but Its Legacy Lives On
o Nineteenth Century Immigration: Land for Life, Exaltation for Eternity
o Nineteenth Century Immigration in Perspective
o Mormons in the Weimar Republic
o Disciplined, Knowledgeable Mission Presidents Lead the Way
o Missionary and Member Discipline
o Miracles and Miraculous Faith
o German Mormon Emigration During the Weimar Republic
o Church-State and Ecclesiastical Relations during the Weimar Republic
o Consular Officials Befriend the Mormons
o In the Weimar World; Not of the Weimar World
o Early Efforts Toward Accommodation Buy Time for Later Ingratiation
o Genealogy: Promoting a Common Worldview on Earth and in the Afterlife
o Mormons Practice Basketball Diplomacy in Hitler’s Reich
o Boy Scouting: The Mormons’ Only Unconditional Surrender to the Nazis
o The Führer’s Chosen People? The Mormons’ Hitler Myth
o J. Reuben Clark: Mormon Ambassador Plenipotentiary and his Entourage
o Beacons of Memory: The Pre-War Evacuation of American Missionaries
o Battlefield Beacons: Courageous and Faithful Mormon Wehrmacht Soldiers
o Women, Children, the Elderly, and Evacuees: The Wartime Home Front
o Wolfsgrün: A Beacon of German-Mormon Self-Help
o The Brightest Memory Beacon: Ezra Taft Benson and American War Relief
o Priorities: Mining Genealogical Records Amid Starvation
o Resumption of American Ecclesiastical Authority
o Erich Krause: An Unwelcomed Mormon Memory Beacon
o Helmuth Hübener: The Evolution of a Young Revolutionary
o Helmuth Hübener: The Quixotic Anti-Goebbels
o Helmuth Hübener: Poet, Satirist, and Revolutionary
o The Downfall of the Helmuth Hübener Group
o Interrogation, Trial, Conviction, and Execution
o Beacons of Memory: The Last Mormon Diaspora
o Beacons of Memory: The Brightening but Filtered Light of Memory
o Beacons of Memory: Hübener in the Context of Other Resisters


• 1 German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1853-1885
• 2 German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1886-1918
• 3 Comparison of German-Born Residents in Utah and the United States, 1850-1910
• 4 German-Speaking LDS Immigration to the U.S. During the Weimar Republic
• 5 Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict during the Weimar Republic
• 6 Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict Contained in Official LDS Church Historical Records for the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939
• 7 Mission Presidents During the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939 – Profession and Prior Missionary Service
• 8 German-Speaking Emigration During the Pre-War Nazi Years, 1933-1939
• 9 Helmuth Hübener’s Anti-Nazi Handbills. A Synopsis of Twenty-Nine Leaflets Seized by the Gestapo
• 10 German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States in the Post-World War II Era
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:56 am


This dissertation studies a small American religious group that survived unscathed during the Third Reich. Some fifteen thousand members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, lived under National Socialism. Unlike persecuted Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other small American-based sects that suffered severe restrictions, the Mormons worshiped freely under Hitler’s regime. They survived by stressing congruence between church doctrine and Nazi dogma. Mormons emphasized their interest in genealogical research and sports, sent their husbands into the Wehrmacht and their sons into the Hitler Youth, and prayed for a Nazi victory in wartime. Mormon leaders purged all Jewish references from hymnals, lesson plans and liturgical practices, and shunned their few Jewish converts. They resurrected a doctrinal edict that required deference to civil authority, which the Mormons had not always obeyed. Some Mormons imagined fanciful connections with Nazism, to the point that a few believed Hitler admired their church, copied its welfare program, and organized the Nazi party along Mormon lines.

This dissertation builds upon Christine Elizabeth King’s theory of a common Weltanschauung between Mormons and Nazis, and Steven Carter’s description of the Mormons’ “accommodation” with National Socialism. Instead of a passive approach, however, the Mormons pursued aggressive and shameless “ingratiation” with the Nazi state.

This work also examines memory. Mormons later tried to forget their pandering to the Nazis, especially when large numbers of Germans immigrated to Utah in the post-war period. When the story of a martyred Mormon resister, Helmuth Hübener, emerged in the 1970s, church officials interfered with the research of scholars at Brigham Young University. They feared that Hübener’s example would incite Mormon youth to rebel against dictators abroad, hurt the church’s relations with communist East Germany, and would offend recent German Mormon immigrants in Utah. A few Mormons shunned and harassed Hübener’s surviving coconspirators. In recent years, Hübener— excommunicated for rebellion against the Nazis but later restored to full church membership—has been rehabilitated as a recognized hero of Mormonism. A new collective memory has been forged, one of wartime courage and suffering, while the inconvenient past is being conveniently discarded.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

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To the children of my first family: Wendy, Berkley, Bradley, Jeffery, Amy, Michael and Angie. May faith never stifle your intellect, and may you find the courage and compassion to round religion's sharp corners.

To the children of my second family: Brittany, Kyle and Megan. May you find the same comfort and sense of belonging in your faith as have your predecessors, while avoiding those sharp corners.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

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This dissertation began with a question posed two decades ago by my adopted son Jeff, then a thirteen-year-old junior high school student taking his first world history class. He learned that prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps wore triangular symbols on their armbands. The color corresponded to their reason for confinement. Common criminals wore green triangles, political prisoners red, the “work shy” black, homosexuals pink, Jehovah’s Witnesses purple, and the Jews a yellow Star of David -- which could be seen as one yellow triangle atop another. Jeff’s adolescent logic sought to forge a link between this new knowledge and what he had been taught in Sunday school. A descendant of the Mormon pioneers, he learned the orthodox interpretation of his denomination’s history: his nineteenth century coreligionists trekked west to escape American persecution and their missionaries had often been mistreated in foreign lands. Certainly, he thought, Mormons must have suffered the same fate in Nazi Germany.

One evening, as our typically large Latter-day Saint family gathered around the kitchen table, Jeff asked: “Dad, what color triangles did the Mormons wear in the concentration camps?” That question became my impetus for a research paper several years later, subsequently an award-winning presentation at the Mormon History Association’s annual conference, and ultimately my shift of emphasis from French to German history.

My dissertation advisor took up where Jeff’s inspiration left off. Arnold P. Krammer understands concentration camp insignia in a way unmatched by many academics. Most members of his large, extended Hungarian Jewish family perished after they boarded boxcars for Auschwitz in 1944. When he cracks a shoebox lid and places carefully hand-stitched Stars of David into the palms of his students, the classroom becomes eerily quiet. Meant as badges of shame by the Nazis, those fragile, sixty-five-year-old yellow patches today constitute memorials of pride, crafted by a physically doomed yet spiritually resilient people who refused to allow fear of their impending fate to degrade their detailed workmanship. My mentor asks that his students draw insight and fuel their work ethic from the example of those who meticulously stitched and unashamedly wore such emblems.

My deepest gratitude extends to Jeff, who got this project rolling with puerile curiosity, and to Professor Krammer, whose mature guidance helped my graduate education bridge twin chasms imposed by my airline career and my midlife divorce and remarriage. Without many others named subsequently, this work would have emerged in a different form. Without these two, it would not exist.

Other members of Texas A&M University’s faculty taught me the entry-level skills of the historical profession. Masters and doctoral committee members Chester Dunning, Walter Kamphoefner, Peter Hugill, H. W. Brands, Lora Wildenthal, Harold Livesay, James Rosenheim, and Richard Golsan figure prominently among those. Two previous chairs, Cynthia Bouton of my M.A. committee and Sarah Fishman, who guided my undergraduate thesis at the University of Houston, deserve special gratitude. Professor Fishman’s Houston colleague, Robert Zaretsky, inspired me to become a historian.

D. Michael Quinn, who journeyed from California to Texas for my examinations and stood ready to help by email during the interim, served as my Mormon history specialist, a billet that could not be filled in College Station. One of the best living scholars of Mormonism, Professor Quinn could be described as the Job of the historical profession. He has suffered prodigiously for the sin of writing Mormon history according to his primary sources, rather than in conformance with the faith-promoting paradigm necessary for survival among coreligionists in that field. The previously named scholars are my role models. Mike is my hero.

German teachers at Texas A&M and the Goethe Institute in Munich struggled to help an older student undergoing a midlife language crisis--who had entered graduate school with a freshly minted B.A. in French, thinking that would be his primary research language. Norbert Feltes, a native German speaker from Luxembourg who married into my wife’s family, helped fill the gap. He shared budget accommodations with me while we mined the German language documents in the LDS church archives.

The European Union Center of Excellence awarded a research fellowship that paid my hostel and campground bills in Salt Lake City, as well as many hamburger meals. The Department of History at Texas A&M demonstrated faith in an older, nontraditional scholar when it bestowed a generous research grant. I thank Johan Lembke of the EUCE and Walter Buenger of the history department for this valuable funding. I’m equally grateful to the late Robert Calvert, a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights era and an inspiration to legions of graduate students since then, for admitting a man in his forties to a graduate history program normally reserved for younger scholars.

I could not have persevered in this project without the loving support of my wife Ruth, my beautiful but precocious ten-year-old Megan, and the world’s two greatest stepchildren, Kyle and Brittany Ray. My second family adopted my dreams as theirs and unselfishly endured my weeklong sojourns that cut into planned home time between airline trips. “Daddy is doing research,” entered precious little Megan’s vernacular at too young an age, especially when her father would finish working a trip from Paris and then board a flight to Salt Lake--with intervening time for not much more than a kiss.

My parents blessed me with a modicum of intelligence and copious doses of instruction in the art of discernment. My mother reared me to avoid prejudice despite my racist Louisiana roots in the 1950s. She also emphasized the difference between believing in God and adhering to the dictates of religion. My father, who has been searching for accommodation between spirituality and intellect throughout his long life, simply admonished me--on the eve of my decade-long sojourn into Mormonism--not to allow “the church,” any church, to do my thinking for me.

To answer Jeff’s query after all of these years, most Mormons in Nazi Germany had little to do with the concentration camps. They avoided persecution by skillfully collaborating to a measured degree that ensured their survival but did not subject them to postwar retribution. In doing so, they emerged as the most successful foreign-based “new religion” during the Third Reich and inspired faithful historians who emphasized their heroism and suffering, while masking the less admiring aspects of their behavior. Thank you, Jeff, for inspiring me to write this story in a different way.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

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AAU Amateur Athletic Union
AOC American Olympic Committee
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
BDM Bund Deutscher Mädel
BSA Boy Scouts of America
BYU Brigham Young University
D&C Doctrine and Covenants
EG-MH East German Mission Manuscript Histories
FRG Federal Republic of Germany
G-A MH German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories
GDR German Democratic Republic
Gestapo Geheime Staatspolizei
HJ Hitler Youth
IOC International Olympic Committee
KJV King James Version of the Bible
KPD German Communist Party
LDS Latter-day Saints
MIA Mutual Improvement Association
NSDAP National Socialist German Workers Party
NS-Frauenschaft National Socialist Women’s League
NSV Nationalsozialistich Volkswohlfahrt
PEF Perpetual Emigration Fund
RLDS Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
SPD German Social Democratic Party
QR Quarterly Reports (used with mission abbreviation)
SA Sturmabteilung
SD Sicherheitsdienst
SS Schutzstaffel
S&GM MH Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories
S-G MH Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories
USOC United States Olympic Committee
WG-MH West German Mission Manuscript Histories
YMMIA Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association
YWMIA Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:58 am


On the evening of November 10, 1938, while Germans were sweeping the broken glass and dousing the smoldering embers of Kristallnacht, a nondescript sedan crossed the Swiss border. A young Jewish couple from Hanover crouched in the back seat, thankful for deliverance from the nationwide pogrom that destroyed their small business and sent thousands of fellow Jews to concentration camps. The leader of a local Mormon congregation had driven more than four hundred kilometers that night, risking his life to save his friends from a mob of brown-shirted Nazi storm troopers.1

During Hitler's twelve-year Reich, Max Reschke not only rescued the Jewish couple from Hanover but also shielded a Russian prisoner of war, employed a Polish worker who had fled the German army’s invasion of his country, and resisted the Hitler Youth's persistent efforts to take over his church-sponsored Boy Scout troop. He sheltered a prominent local Jewish banker and sent his children to care for the banker’s wife in the Hanover ghetto. For protecting this Jewish man, he suffered arrest and temporary concentration camp imprisonment. As a factory foreman he opposed the Nazi Labor Front's attempts to organize his workers, which also resulted in trouble with the Nazi authorities.

Despite courageous resistance that sometimes bordered on the foolhardy, Reschke's acts remain unheralded today,
acknowledged within his family circle but mostly unknown to fellow Mormons or to the Jews, Poles, or Russians he heroically saved. His name does not appear in Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s Yad Vashem list of those non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Nazis. He receives scant mention in the apologetic history, written by both faithful Mormon scholars and amateur historians, who instead tread lightly regarding the cooperation of their coreligionists with the government of Nazi Germany.

Reschke diverged from his church's practice of placating Adolf Hitler’s regime. In doing so he violated not only a coordinated survival strategy mapped by his ecclesiastical leaders but also transgressed against an important religious tenet. The Twelfth Article of Faith and parts of the 134th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants function as Mormonism's equivalent of the biblical admonition to "render unto Caesar," a charge to cooperate with civil government however onerous it may be. Isolated cases of Mormon rebellion against the Third Reich met with fear, disapproval, or outright hostility from congregants who saw such nonconformity as not only endangering a vulnerable sect that the Nazis could have easily squashed, but also as a violation of God’s will.

Max Reschke’s heroics lead this narrative not because he typified Mormons in Nazi Germany but instead because he differed so much from them.2 Unlike this rebellious Hanover branch president, many Mormon officials strove to fit into the Third Reich by emphasizing points of congruence between their church and Hitler’s regime.3 These were not spontaneous or localized efforts, but instead reflected a centralized strategy mandated by senior ecclesiastical leaders—the American Mormon mission presidents who acted under guidance from church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Their attempts proved successful. The Nazis banned no Mormon congregations from worship and persecuted few individual members. When a German Mormon or an American missionary ran afoul of the government, it was because of an individual transgression that would have imperiled any ordinary German during the Nazi regime.
German Latter-day Saints and their American ecclesiastical leaders learned how to live under periodic state surveillance but succeeded in surviving this scrutiny. Other scholars have called this tactic “accommodation.”

However, in the process of proving that Mormonism posed no threat to the German state, especially in the pre-war period from 1933 to 1939, LDS Church leaders exceeded the effort necessary for survival. The historical record reveals numerous efforts to ingratiate the LDS Church with the Nazi State, from stressing common interest in genealogical research to professing admiration for Hitler’s carefully cultivated image as a non-smoking, non-drinking devotee of healthy living. One American mission president, Roy Welker, in his writings and pulpit pronouncements, openly professed his belief that Hitler showed favoritism to his sect. When his wife Elizabeth wrote the Nazi women’s leader to express her concerns over alleged sexual lasciviousness in Party youth camps, Gertrude Scholtz-Klink responded by inviting her to ride in Hitler’s limousine on the way to Nazi youth rallies. Another more sophisticated American mission leader, Alfred C. Rees, so successfully courted the regime’s favor that he was allowed to publish an article in the official Nazi daily newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter. The article stressed points of congruence between Utah Mormon and German Nazi society.

Assured by their church leaders that there was no conflict in being a good Mormon and a good citizen of the Nazi State, German Mormons dutifully followed the admonition to render unto Hitler the same obedience that their scriptures mandated for Caesar. Unlike another American religious denomination that resisted, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons willingly served in the Nazi Labor Corps and the German military. Other Latter-day Saints enthusiastically donned the brown shirts of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA). A few Mormon storm troopers bashed heads in the streets and vandalized Jewish businesses. Others joined for more benign reasons, such as the Hamburg congregants who enjoyed singing in the local SA choir. As teetotalers, these Mormons could not imbibe with their brown-shirted compatriots. That did not stop them from bellowing Nazi beer hall anthems, such as the “Horst Wessel Song,” on Saturday nights—followed by reverent renditions of “Do What is Right” in Sunday morning church services. Other Mormons sought and obtained membership in Hitler’s elite group of personal guards, the black-shirted Schutzstaffel (SS), an organization that expanded to the forefront of the Holocaust. One Hamburg member, infamous among his fellow congregants for having killed one of Hitler’s political opponents in a street fight, enlisted in the Totenkopfverbände, the Death’s Head SS brigades that ran the extermination camps. Another Mormon worked at Auschwitz as an “expert mechanic” who “installed specialized machinery,” a euphemism for the tools of mass killing, gas chambers and crematoria.

The Mormons’ penchant for uniformed service to the Nazi state was not restricted to adults. Youth, who were once proud to wear their colorful scout uniforms adorned with LDS troop patches, obediently if somewhat reluctantly traded campaign hats and neckerchiefs for Hitler Youth regalia. Once enrolled in the Hitler Youth, Mormon youngsters embraced the Nazis as enthusiastically as other German children. Often, German Mormon children looked for inspiration in another “uniformed” group, the white-shirted missionaries, Americans and Germans alike. The same American mission president who wrote the pro-Nazi newspaper article was known to render the stiff-armed Hitler salute. Some young missionaries followed his example, not necessarily out of genuine sympathy with the regime, but instead as assurance to the Nazis that Mormonism was no subversive foreign philosophy. Other missionaries refused to perform the Hitler salute, which occasionally caused them difficulty with the Nazis they encountered.

The divided opinion within the missionary corps reveals an awareness of the political ramifications of such a display. It argues against the position that these spiritually minded young Americans lacked awareness of political reality. One young American missionary, Alfred Schoenhals, suffered imprisonment in a local jail for three weeks after postal censors read his politically astute but intemperate anti-Nazi remarks in a letter he sent home to Utah. Communication from mission presidents to the church hierarchy in the United States reveals a sophisticated understanding of what was transpiring in Nazi Germany. The Mormons strove to continue their congregational worship and missionary efforts in one of the world’s most oppressive regimes with renewed vigor each time they were challenged.

On the path from accommodation to ingratiation, Mormons crossed an unfortunate line regarding Nazi anti-Semitism. Ecclesiastical leaders purged German-language hymnals of references to Zion and Israel that had existed since Mormon Church music had been translated into German during the nineteenth century. They sanitized all church publications of words and phrases that the Nazis found repugnant. When a lesson manual appeared that contained a Jewish reference, one of the mission presidents directed that the offending page be cut out and the adjoining pages pasted together. Aware that the Nazis recognized no rite of religious conversion for Jews, German Mormons refused to baptize prospective Jewish members. In one case, a congregation reluctantly said goodbye to a convert from Judaism who, in the years before Hitler came to power, had considered himself fully assimilated and acculturated into his new faith. Regret did not extend to the congregational leader, also a member of the Nazi Party, who erected a sign outside of the meetinghouse: “Jews Not Allowed Here!” The same branch president once tried to mount a picture of Adolf Hitler in a congregational chapel, in the spot that had previously displayed pictures of Jesus Christ and Mormon founder Joseph Smith. He interrupted services whenever Hitler gave a speech on the radio and locked the church doors to prevent congregants from leaving. During choir rehearsals, he sent children around the room to spy on the adults, to report whether they were singing the Horst Wessel Song with the same enthusiasm as they did the church music.

The most egregious act of betrayal occurred on the eve of the Second World War, when the second in command of the LDS Church, a former diplomat and undersecretary of state, J. Reuben Clark, ignored the pleas of a handful of German Mormons—converts from Judaism—for help in escaping the Nazis. Clark, who left a long paper trail of anti-Semitic sentiments, had a boilerplate response to such pleas for help. He asked on behalf of his church to be “excused” from taking action on such requests.

When the Mormons’ American leadership and its missionaries evacuated Europe one week before Hitler’s tanks rolled into Poland, the emphasis shifted from ingratiating the church with the Nazi regime to surviving the war. German Mormons hunkered down but still cooperated with the state to the same extent as their fellow citizens. They sent their husbands and sons into military service, prayed in church for a German victory, served in neighborhood civil defense positions, and rendered whatever mutual assistance they could to survive Allied bombing raids. When meetinghouses crumbled and burned under aerial bombardment, small congregations consolidated in the surviving buildings. Mormon women, ineligible for the top leadership positions, provided the cohesion that sustained organized worship. Mothers assigned their teenaged sons to duties normally reserved for older male priesthood authorities and then insured that those tasks were accomplished with the customary efficiency. Some women went so far as to perform church liturgical ordinances, such as consecrating the sacrament, that were reserved for male priesthood holders.

When the Allies proved victorious, German Mormons welcomed their American spiritual cousins back with open arms. Survival remained paramount but in the midst of a challenging post-war recovery, efforts to expand the church resumed. Members embraced former missionaries who appeared at Sunday services wearing the uniform of the conquering power, as if no conflict had ever occurred. The Salt Lake City church leadership mobilized American and Canadian Mormons to provide a massive relief campaign that sent food and clothing to Germany in quantities that dwarfed LDS-sponsored relief efforts elsewhere on the continent. Ezra Taft Benson, a member of the Mormons’ ruling “Counsel of the Twelve,” who would later become Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture and subsequently the Mormon church president, visited Germany in 1946 and rallied the vanquished and bombed-out Latter-day Saints. The American ecclesiastical leadership quickly reestablished centralized control of German church units, an important first step toward resuming the missionary effort, rebuilding church structure, and reestablishing American authority.

The Mormon Sonderweg: A Nineteenth Century Prelude to LDS History in Nazi Germany

In order to understand the roots of the Mormons’ drive to accommodate and ingratiate themselves with the Nazi state, it is necessary to explore the origins of LDS Church in early-nineteenth-century America. Chapter Two begins with Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, an intelligent albeit informally educated young man with a vivid imagination and a magnetic personality. Having declared himself a prophet of God, he pronounced several “revelations” regarding the German language and the people who spoke it—including his speculation that the Germans were particularly qualified to attain the Mormon status of godhood. Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, saw nothing divine in the Germans, only hard workers who, as migrants, helped build the American Zion in the Mormon Culture Region.4 This chapter describes the Mormons’ “Long Nineteenth Century” in Germany, a period from the dispatch of the first missionary in 1851 until the beginning of the First World War. It also recounts the events on the American home front that influenced the life of the German congregations and the migration of members to the United States.

The nascent German branches of the LDS Church and their American missionaries encountered considerable opposition from the German state governments and mainline Christian priests and ministers. The Mormon practice of polygamy was the most significant provocation. Mormons never practiced “plural marriage” in Germany. However, officials of the various German states argued that if Latter-day Saints could not obey the law in their own country, they were not likely to be law-abiding abroad. The emigration of young, military draft-age young men also concerned civil authorities. Ministers and priests naturally took offense at any attempt to convert their congregants. But for religious authorities, the more alarming concern was sensational stories of Mormon polygamous harems in the Utah desert, and fanciful rumors of German women held against their will by lascivious Mormon elders.

The constant conflict between the Mormon missionaries and their German hosts during the nineteenth century illuminates an important point when one examines how the Mormons later behaved during the Third Reich. Before the First World War, Latter-day Saints ignored the Twelfth Article of Faith in their dealings with German governmental authorities. When mayors or magistrates expelled a missionary, the mission president would transfer him to another district outside the jurisdiction of that official. When a city’s censor would not approve a Mormon religious tract’s printing, the missionaries would find a printer in a different city and then distribute the banned publication under the nose of the original censor. The Mormon Church had so much difficulty with the German government that it set up its first permanent mission headquarters across the border in German-speaking Switzerland, in the border town of Basel. In that era, the Mormons justified defying civil government in deference to “higher authority.” God’s law trumped civil law. The Twelfth Article of Faith was scarcely mentioned; compliance was even rarer.

The Mormons learned other important lessons from their nineteenth century experience that they successfully applied during the Third Reich. The first missionaries to Germany struggled to learn the language, while their mission presidents suffered from scant cultural knowledge of the country. Furthermore, missionary preparation was inconsistent. There was no formal training program, nor did young men undergo medical screening in anticipation of long days trekking on foot. A formal system of financial support had not yet been worked out; missionaries often depended on the good graces of German congregants to provide food and shelter. As the years passed, the Mormons began sending mission presidents to Germany who understood the language and culture. These leaders were German émigrés who received spiritual seasoning in the Mormon Culture Region, who then agreed to return to their native lands to direct the proselytizing efforts. Formal training and financial support regimens would have to wait until the first decades of the twentieth century.

The second chapter also describes the nineteenth-century immigration process, when Mormon agents in Liverpool, England, acting at behest of the Perpetual Emigration Fund, would help German-speaking émigrés obtain loans for their journey to the American Zion. After the Fund dissolved as a result of anti-polygamy legislation in the United States that seized the church’s assets, extended family members in America often financed the migration of German converts.

Striving for Respectability

The First World War and the Weimar Republic served as a bridge to legitimacy for the Mormons in Germany. Members of a small, unwanted American religious sect known primarily for its scandalous practice of polygamy assumed the responsibilities of citizenship in both war and the nascent democracy that followed. Some fifty-five German Mormons died on the battlefield for the Fatherland during the war, allowing the Latter-day Saints a legitimate claim of patriotism during both the fledgling republic and the Nazi dictatorship that followed. During the Weimar Republic, Mormons enjoyed the benefits of the German constitutional democracy that allowed them to challenge expulsion decrees and seek civil redress for harassment by hostile clerics. The third chapter of this study tells the story of how the Mormons transitioned to respectability, and how they gained the skills necessary to survive and prosper in Nazi Germany when other small, American-based religious sects suffered persecution.

The uptick in German emigration to the American Zion also provided an impetus to develop the core of native Germans who eventually steered the LDS Church through the Second World War. An average of 343 German Latter-day Saints per year migrated during the most economically prosperous period of the Weimar Republic. These were often the most spiritually attuned, hardworking congregational leaders. While their departure may have caused a temporary setback in the effort to Germanize the branch and district leadership, the long-term benefit manifested itself when the American mission presidents redoubled efforts to train their replacements. By the time Hitler rose to power early in 1933, German citizens once again led most German ecclesiastical units at the branch (parish) and district (diocesan) level.

The rapid pace of emigration from 1923 to 1929 illustrates another important point. Not only did Mormons render varying degrees of obedience to civil authority during their history in Germany, but regarding emigration they selectively obeyed the edicts of their church leaders. By 1921, the LDS Church had reversed its historic appeal for foreign converts to immigrate to the American Zion. Nevertheless, the prosperity of the 1920s provided the means for German Mormons to release their pent-up desires to relocate to the United States, where they could enjoy majority status in Utah’s theocratic society and receive the spiritual blessings available in the Holy Temple. Nonconformance was limited to this one particular exception. In all other cases, the American Mormon leadership insisted on rigid adherence to church edicts.

The third chapter also contains examples of disciplinary measures instituted against both American missionaries and German members, ranging from quelling a congregational revolt to the expulsion of missionaries who developed romantic relationships with young German women. Along with these instances of corrective discipline, the American church leadership instituted training programs for newly arrived missionaries in Germany, formalized the system of financial support for these young emissaries of the gospel, ...

Our organizations are kept up, more or less, by free will donations. Considerable amounts of money come in and from America every year and are spent in Germany by the missionaries of this Church, which money is spent for their traveling, board and living expenses. Not a cent is received by these missionaries from the mission, but they're supported by themselves or by their parents in America.

-- Letter to State Secret Service Police Office, dated Sept. 8, 1933, by Oliver H. Budge, President of the German-Austrian Mission

... and perfected a routine by which the American mission presidents would tour their jurisdictions on a regular basis in order to supervise ecclesiastical activities. During the Weimar period, church leaders developed a working relationship with American consular officials in Germany. These diplomats rendered valuable assistance in solving disputes between missionaries and government officials and proved increasingly valuable during the pre-war Nazi period, when the heavy hand of the state was unrestrained by constitutional limits.

Missionaries and congregants did not obey solely because they feared adverse consequences. The third chapter also documents the the spiritual side of their motivation, a compilation of manifestations that confirmed—in their minds—that the arduous, Spartan missionary lifestyle met with divine approval. Miraculous healings, godly interventions in the face of danger, and mystical promptings provided the confirmation that these true believers needed to sustain their faith and endure conflict with German civil and religious authorities.

History: The Pre-War Nazi Years

This study divides its approach between history and memory. Because of the Mormons’ ignoble history during the Third Reich, a collective memory has arisen that mitigates the shame of accommodation and ingratiation with a ruthless Nazi state. First, it is necessary to establish the facts. The fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters relate the sophisticated methods that the Mormons used in order to survive relatively unscathed from a tyrannical regime that imperiled so many others. The fourth chapter opens with a meeting between a Mormon mission president and a Gestapo officer who visited the stately mission headquarters in central Berlin. The mission president accommodated the secret policeman’s requests for information, and later complied with a government edict to cease distribution of two religious tracts—to the point that the mission recalled outstanding copies. The mission president then wrote a follow-up letter, introducing the Mormons as good citizens of Germany.

Chapter Four then recounts a series of steps taken by the Mormons to prove their loyalty to the Nazi state; in reality, they overstepped. Enthusiasm for genealogical research, the provision of a coaching staff for the German Olympic basketball team’s initial practice sessions, and the prudent amalgamation of Mormon Boy Scout troops into the Hitler Youth are described in detail. Then, this dissertation examines the Mormon’s own adaption of Ian Kershaw’s “Hitler Myth,” in which German Latter-day Saints and their American leaders imagined a connection between Mormonism and Hitlerism. By the mid-1930s, the LDS Church had exceeded the requirements of accommodation necessary for survival in Hitler’s Germany. The process of ingratiation, an attempt to court favor with the Nazis, was well underway.

Chapter Five deals with a different type of myth. In the aftermath of the Mormons’ accommodation with the Nazis, a belief arose in later decades that the Mormons had indeed been persecuted. That was was not the case. The Gestapo watched the Mormons no more than it did any other foreign-based organization. The secret police retaliated no more against occasional Mormon indiscretions than it would have punished misbehavior by secular Germans. The Mormons had their share of skirmishes with the government of the Third Reich but most conflicts were settled amicably. There was no climate of fear, at least no more than ordinary citizens of the Third Reich felt. This chapter documents some 112 interactions between the Mormons and the government, or with other churches, during the pre-war Nazi period between 1933 and 1939. A few incidents led to arrest, but most victims were released from custody the same day, having proved their innocence to a civil magistrate. Three German Mormons served short sentences in concentration camps for non-religiously related transgressions that would have imperiled any citizen of Nazi Germany.

Chapter Six explains why the Mormons were able to avoid persecution in Germany. It profiles skilled mission presidents and their supervisors from Salt Lake City who conducted an unrelenting campaign directed not only at saving the Mormons from Nazis’ wrath, but also to court favor with Hitler’s Party. It is the heart of this work’s thesis. The Latter-day Saints, believers in biblical millennialism—the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth prior to the Apocalypse—actively strove to advance their church’s position in Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. The key players in this effort were the seven mission presidents who served during the pre-war Nazi period. Each spoke German fluently, the consequence of having served previous missions in Germany when they were young men. Each was successful in his private life and all but one were college graduates.

Chapter Six also describes the activities of the church hierarchy to promote Mormonism in Nazi Germany. Twice during the pre-war Nazi period, high-level Mormon prelates addressed large crowds of church members at rented assembly halls. On each occasion, they spoke in front of large swastika flags. Both times those stark visual images appeared as photographs printed in the church-owned Deseret News. Being associated with Nazi symbolism was no shame to Heber J. Grant, the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator who spoke in Frankfurt, nor his European Mission President, Joseph Merrill, who spoke in Berlin. This chapter chronicles the long parade of Mormon officials and other influential Utahns who visited Germany during the pre-war period. Whether on private or church business, each did his part to let the government of Nazi Germany know that powerful Americans backed a small foreign religious denomination.

The most prominent of these visitors was J. Reuben Clark, the second-in-command of the LDS church, who visited Berlin twice during the late pre-war Nazi period. Clark went to the German capital city with a dual agenda. The former diplomat headed the quasi-public Foreign Bondholders’ Protective Council, an advocate for small, private American investors with imperiled holdings abroad during the Great Depression. When he was not meeting with the Nazi Finance Minister and Reichsbank Chairman, Hjalmar Schacht, he addressed groups of assembled missionaries or Mormon congregational meetings. While in Berlin in 1937 and 1938, Clark refereed disputes between mission presidents and perfected a plan to evacuate the missionaries in the event of war.

Beacons Illuminate the Rocks and Shoals of Mormon Memory

When Mormon missionaries began evacuating Europe during the week prior to the beginning of the Second World War, the detailed accounting of their activities— fastidiously recorded in personal journals and mission historical records—ceased. What remains is memory, which can be a tricky concept. It is more difficult to manipulate information recorded on paper, protected by principled archivists, and available to other watchful scholars. It is much easier to modulate memory. As time passes, recollections can change to fit contemporary desires. The truth finds itself especially imperiled when historical memory becomes engaged with religious belief, especially when one’s heavenly salvation or earthly livelihood depends on conforming to church-promoted groupthink. Chapters Seven through Eleven of this study depend to a much lesser extent on the objective statistics found in historical repositories or the subjective accounts written in contemporary diaries. Instead, they rely on memory beacons, those historical actors whose recollection can be modulated, either brightened or dimmed, to fit present-day convenience.

The history of German Mormons during the Second World War is told through the memories of those who survived after the American missionaries evacuated. Native Germans placed in charge of branches and districts performed splendidly in response to the challenges of war. Chapter Seven recounts the story of congregants who lost their loved ones and their residences to Allied bombing campaigns, and their coreligionists who cared for them. Mormons also tended a flood of refugees who evacuated the German-speaking territories to the east, ahead of the advancing Red Army. It also recounts faith-promoting stories that have appeared in books written by LDS authors that describe the heroism of Mormon soldiers who patriotically fought for the Fatherland, but who endeavored to kill as few of the enemy as possible. In the Mormons’ collective memory of the Second World War, all church members were victims and none were perpetrators. That is the convenient reality of recounting history by memory, rather than through objective analysis of records destroyed by firebombs dropped from the sky.

Two nearly extinguished memory beacons appear in the eighth chapter. Max Reschke, the Hanover factory supervisor who rescued the Jewish couple on Kristallnacht and who performed several other courageous acts to save others, is a genuine Mormon hero. He remains mostly unknown outside of his circle of relatives and acquaintances because of a deliberate decision made by his family. Reschke’s memory beacon has been dialed down to its faintest radiance because his personal conduct, when serving as a branch president, did not meet the standard of Mormon moral worthiness. His serial matrimonial infidelity embarrassed his family members as much as his heroism inspired them. In the eyes of his son, who told the story selectively, the father’s contradictions could not be blended harmoniously into a publicly told narrative.

Chapter Seven also profiles another memory beacon whose illumination had been darkened until an author, researching a totally different subject, uncovered the story of a Mormon who sadistically tortured and murdered in a Berlin jail during the pre-war Nazi years. Erich Krause commanded Berlin’s Pape Street Prison, termed a “wild” concentration camp. There brown-shirted SA thugs punished Hitler’s political opponents. Communists and Social Democrats were the main targets of this Mormon’s sadism in the mid-1930s. During the war years, Krause sent postcards home to his Mormon family from Poland, where Krause served as a military policeman in the same cities where the Einsatzgruppen liquidated the ghettos and loaded Jews on boxcars destined for the extermination camps. After the war, when Krause faced charges for crimes against humanity, a Mormon mission president funded his pretrial bail from church funds and wrote letters to the court attesting to Krause’s good character.

The darkest period [of] Mormon history during the Nazi years occurred when the church turned its back on a few, unnamed memory beacons whose lives it considered not worth saving. During the years 1938 and 1939, western governments faced intense pressure to accept the immigration of Jews from Nazi Germany. Some thirty-six thousand Jews left Germany in 1938 and seventy-nine thousand followed in 1939. Chapter Nine begins with the story of an Austrian Mormon who wrote the LDS First Presidency in late November 1938; he begging for help in fleeing to the United States. Egon Weiss was a Jew-turned-Mormon. Because of his religious conversion, he was ostensibly ineligible for financial assistance sponsored by Jewish organizations, some of which helped more than four thousand Austrian Jews emigrate before the Second World War began. His plea to the Mormon hierarchy fell on deaf ears.

The most prominent memory beacon in this narrative was an intelligent, idealistic, faithful young Mormon youth named Helmuth Hübener. He was sixteen years old when he began listening to the wartime broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Convinced that Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine did not render truthful accounts of German wartime losses, he used his congregation’s typewriter to produce anti-Hitler tracts that he and three friends—two who of whom were Latter-day Saints—scattered around Hamburg. Hübener was convinced, as early as 1942, that Germany was losing the war. He wanted to incite a popular rebellion against the Nazis. Betrayed by a colleague at work whom he tried to recruit to translate the seditious handbills into French, for distribution at a POW camp, Helmuth was tried by a Nazi tribunal and guillotined. Before his execution at age seventeen, his LDS congregational leader—the same one who erected the anti-Jewish sign outside of his meetinghouse— excommunicated Hübener from the Mormon Church.

Chapter Ten tells the story of Helmuth Hübener’s courageous but quixotic campaign against a tyrannical state, and his abandonment at his darkest hour by his religion. Chapter Eleven recounts the heavy hand of Mormon officialdom on the dimmer switch of Hübener’s memory beacon, alternately darkening and brightening Hübener’s memorialization to meet the church’s contemporary requirements— diplomatic relations with the communist East German Government, and domestic relations back home where German immigrants were embarrassed by their collaboration with Nazi state.

Methodology: Memory Beacons and Collective Memory

When scholars write about collective memory, they usually cite terminology pioneered by two twentieth century French historians, Pierre Nora and Henry Rousso. Nora, elected to the French Academy in 2001, coined the term lieu de mémoire, taken from the title of his work that examined how the French people and their leaders choose to remember the most famous events and sites in their country’s history.5 The 1993 edition of the French dictionary, Le Grand Robert, defines lieu de mémoire as:

Any significant entity, whether material or non-material in nature which by dint of human will or the work of time has become a symbolic element in the memorial heritage of any community.6

Historical memory does not always conform to factual reality. The Bastille serves as an important symbol of the French Revolution and the name of that country’s national holiday. Yet, when revolutionaries stormed the ancient fortress and jail on July 14, 1789, they freed a handful of unimportant prisoners and confiscated a cache of weapons and gunpowder, the seizure of which was hardly significant in the transformation of France from a monarchy to a republic.

Rousso, a historian who writes about France during the Second World War, derived the term “vectors of memory” to describe the forces that influence how various societies remember their past.7 For example, when successive postwar French presidents, Pierre Mendez-France and Charles de Gaulle, sought a way to unify their country after the devastation of war and occupation, they promoted the myth that “every Frenchman was a resister.” As Columbia University historian Robert B. Paxton demonstrated, most ordinary wartime Frenchmen became resisters when they heard the sounds of advancing Allied tanks.8 Paxton used the term “collaborationist” to describe the officials of the Vichy government, but labeled ordinary citizens of the republic as “attentistes.” That word, derived from the French verb attendre, described the wartime French public’s preference to wait and see who won the war.

The standard vocabulary of collective memory is inadequate to describe the memory of the Mormon Church and its adherents in Nazi Germany. There are no well-known symbols that deserve to be designated as lieux de mémoires. Even Helmuth Hübener is relatively unknown in comparison to more famous anti-Nazi resisters, such as Claus von Stauffenberg or the young students of the White Rose Group. Although Thomas S. Monson’s actions in temporarily suppressing the Helmuth Hübener story are significant, they were not intended to change the meaning of the young man’s resistance. Thus, Monson’s actions were not vectors of memory. Monson merely wanted to keep the subject quiet to facilitate the church’s diplomacy with the GDR government—and to sooth the hurt feelings of old Nazis living in Utah. Ordinary German Mormons during the Third Reich were not attentistes; most threw their unqualified support behind Hitler’s government.

Instead, this work borrows a term from a military historian, Douglas C. Peifer, who has written about collective memory on both sides of the Iron Curtain in post-World War II Germany. Peifer used the term “memory beacons” to describe how particular historical actors can be emphasized and later deemphasized—or instead totally disregarded—as a society finds the need to modulate its historical memory.9 This tool is particularly useful in describing how Mormons deal with the fact that their church courted favor with the Nazis.

Alfred C. Rees, the Hitler-saluting mission president, spoke at an LDS General Conference, published spiritual articles, and received much favorable newspaper publicity in his time. He was well known during his lifetime as a successful businessman and a devoted Mormon in his native Salt Lake City. Now, because it is embarrassing to admit that a mission president wrote an article for the official Nazi daily newspaper that extolled the commonality between Nazism and Mormonism, his memory beacon has been extinguished. Max Reschke, who should be lauded as a genuine hero of Mormonism for his courage in saving Jews and others from the Nazis, never received the acclaim he deserved. The pain he inflicted on his family because of the way he conducted his personal life transcended his heroism—in the view of those who refused to tell his story. Erich Krause, the wild concentration camp commandant who murdered and tortured, is another beacon whose memory bulb was kept intentionally dark—and was only accidentally illuminated by a distant relative who researched a book.

Hübener is the most interesting memory beacon of Mormonism in Nazi Germany because of the way his dimmer switch has been rotated from the full dark to an extremely bright setting. At one period during the 1970s, one contingent of Mormons, authors and playwrights, wanted to tell his story to the world while another group, German immigrants, wanted to shroud his memory. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, he is a memory beacon equipped with a powerful filter. These days, books and videos tell the faithful of his courageous resistance against Hitler without mentioning the collaboration of his coreligionists.

A Review of the Literature and the Origin of Other Sources

The behavior of the Mormons in Nazi Germany has become a third-rail issue. Scholars with connections to the LDS Church, by faith or by employment at a church-sponsored university, usually avoid the subject entirely or they explore peripheral issues. At church-owned Brigham Young University, master’s theses have been written on the LDS Church in Imperial Germany,10 World War I and the Weimar Republic,11 and the German Democratic Republic.12 Scholars have been able to avoid discussing the LDS Church’s complicity with the Nazis by either focusing narrowly on a specific event, or by researching a much longer period of German history that includes the Third Reich. One wrote his master’s thesis on the period of a few days that preceded the outbreak of the Second World War, when Mormon missionaries encountered difficulty in evacuating the West German Mission.13 Conversely, a well-known book based on a BYU dissertation covers a one-hundred-year period of LDS Church history in Germany.14 Only a few pages deal with the Nazi period.

One scholar whose religious affiliation happens to be LDS wrote the only previous doctoral dissertation that focuses entirely on Mormon history during the Third Reich. However, Steven Carter undertook his project while a graduate student at the University of Arkansas.15 He teaches at Henderson State University. Both are state-supported institutions outside of the Mormon Culture Region, where he would have been subject to much less religious pressure. Carter used the term “accommodation” to describe how the Mormons avoided persecution in Nazi Germany. In this study, I adopt Carter’s terminology but describe how the Mormons went beyond the need to survive, and instead strove to court favor with Hitler’s regime. I use the word “ingratiation.”

One non-Mormon scholar, Christine Elizabeth King
, examined the behavior of the Latter-day Saints during the Third Reich as part of a comprehensive study of smaller denominations that religious scholars called “new religions.” She published several articles and one book on the subject.16 She devoted one chapter of that monograph to the Mormons. She concluded that the Mormons and the Nazis shared the same Weltanschauung, a common worldview, which has drawn one-sentence rebuttals by Carter and BYU’s Douglas Tobler. They disagree, but do not dwell on such a sensitive topic.

Others who write from a background in Mormonism have published acclaimed works that focus on other subjects but touch on the Third Reich. D. Michael Quinn, in researching his biographies of J. Reuben Clark and in his profile of the Mormon hierarchy, has mined valuable archival information that has proven invaluable in this study.17 Quinn’s personal papers at Yale University contain the results of his fastidious research in the LDS Church’s Historical Department during the “Camelot Period,” a ten-year (1972-82) interlude of openness when Church Historian Leonard Arrington lifted almost all restrictions on access to sensitive archival material.18 That material, plus Clark’s papers at the BYU library, provided insight into the attitudes of the Salt Lake City Mormon leadership’s behavior during the Hitler years. A scholar based at Weber State University, Gene A. Sessions, wrote a monograph about Clark’s service as the unpaid chairman of the Foreign Bondholders Protective Council during the 1920s and 1930s.19 That, plus Clark’s status as a former ambassador and undersecretary of state, provided the Mormons’ second-in-command with unmatched prestige and access to Nazi officials when he visited Berlin twice late in the pre-war Nazi years. Sessions focused on Germany’s status as an American creditor, rather than the political or religious ramifications faced by the German Mormon Church.

In any discussion of the Helmuth Hübener resistance group, the complicity of the LDS Church with the Nazi government is the uncomfortable underlying reality. Historian Douglas Tobler and German linguist Alan Keele suggested that idea with the title of their 1980 article in Sunstone Magazine, a journal for Mormon intellectuals. By leading with the phrase: “The Führer’s New Clothes,” the two BYU professors were signifying a parallel between Mormons and the proverbial naked emperor. Although the article introduced a hero whose bravery most Latter-day Saints would embrace, the faithful had never been told their church had snuggled up to government that Hübener opposed.20 In reality, Hübener was rebelling against the Nazis in his congregation as much as he was protesting against Hitler. The article introduced that subject gently. It broke a five-year moratorium on publication of Hübener scholarship, instituted by Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve and enforced by Dallin Oaks, BYU’s president during the late 1970s. Tobler and Keele felt free to publish when Oaks left the university. The full story of the two professors’ difficulties with the church hierarchy unwinds in Chapter 11.

Despite interference from LDS leaders, Tobler and Keele discovered a compelling story. Their contributions extend beyond the narrow focus on Hübener. Tobler, as an employee of the church’s historical department and later as a faculty member at BYU, conducted almost two dozen oral history interviews regarding Mormons in the Third Reich, about half of which are available in the church’s historical archives. Both academics combed the state and municipal archives in Hamburg for material on the Hübener story. They tracked down German Mormons who lived through the war then tried to leave their past behind when they immigrated to Utah. One afternoon, Tobler and Keele appeared uninvited at the doorstep of Arthur Zander, the Hamburg branch president who had erected the sign prohibiting Jewish converts at his meeting house, and who later excommunicated Hübener. Zander’s wife welcomed the two scholars, saying in reference to her husband: “He needs to talk to someone!” But Zander refused an interview and many of his secrets died with him in 1989. Tobler and Keele have contributed tremendously to this dissertation, both by their original research and their willingness to allow me to interview them. Keele, now retired from the BYU faculty, responds promptly to my email requests for information.

Like most historical research, the primary source documents have played the greatest role in this project. During the first forty years of the twentieth century, the assistant director of the LDS Church Historical Department, Andrew Jenson, compiled the manuscript histories of the various Mormon missions. He traveled the globe, laboriously making handwritten copies of letters from missionaries to their mission presidents, mission memoranda, and church statistical reports—all of which he filed by date for the use of future scholars who would find his archive invaluable. Although he was not professionally trained as an academic historian, Jenson fastidiously copied testimonies of miracles as well as the transcripts of church courts that excommunicated missionaries—all with dispassionate objectivity. This study has depended greatly on the manuscript histories of the LDS missions before and during the Nazi epoch. Jenson’s work has been augmented, in the decades that followed, by a small staff of professionally trained oral historians from the LDS Church historical department, who regularly interview ordinary Latter-day Saints who made church history.

Another cache of historical information comes from the rich trove of private literature written by family patriarchs, who bequeathed photocopied narratives to subsequent generations and donated diaries and memorabilia to public and church archives. Mormons are prodigious journal keepers, scrap bookers, and amateur historians who characteristically write with a keen consciousness of how their accounts will affect the faith of their peers and their posterity. Some of these amateur scholars write books of their own. Some are privately published accounts, meant only for family members, that somehow end up in the public domain. Some take the form of well-written and illustrated books published by small commercial presses that cater to Mormon readers in search of faith-promoting testimonies. All have contributed to this study.

From time to time, relatives of the historical actors that appear in these pages have agreed to my request to interview them. The most interesting experience occurred during one week in February 2006, when the children of two important but previously hidden Mormon memory beacons shined some light on their extraordinary parents. I visited Horst Reschke at his home in Riverton, Utah, to learn about his father Max, the man who rescued Jews, a Pole, and a Russian during the war. Two days later in Kearns, Utah, I interviewed Ingred Hersman, the daughter of Erich Krause, who ran the wild concentration camp in Berlin and later was a military policeman in Poland when the SS Einsatzgruppen liquidated the ghettoes.

Both spoke honestly but with some reservation about their parents. The son of the hero soft peddled his father’s heroism and refused my offer to nominate Max Reschke for Yad Vaschem’s Rightous Among the Nations, a legion of honor for gentiles who saved Jews from the Holocaust. Perhaps the painful memory of his father’s marital indiscretions, which hurt his mother and for which his father was excommunicated, played a part in Horst’s reluctance. Perhaps Horst was also a modest man who did not wish to call attention to his family. Although he did not say it, perhaps his father’s violation of the Twelfth Article of Faith was another factor. The daughter of the perpetrator vividly described her shock at learning about her father’s hidden past only six years previously, when the publication of a book authored by a distant relative sent tremors through her family and modest circle of close German émigré friends. The man she had known while growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was a devoted church elder and a paragon of the community. She remembered a gentle parent who had been reluctant to punish her for ordinary childhood transgressions, and who once had been overcome by emotion when she asked permission, as a schoolgirl, to take a field trip to clean up a concentration camp.

Both children, faithful members of the Mormon Church, opened their trove of memories to power up and illuminate previously dimmed memory beacons—even if doing so was painful to an extent. A historian could not have asked for better sources.



1 On Nov. 9, 1938, bands of Nazi thugs set synagogues in Germany and Austria ablaze, destroyed Jewish-owned businesses, killed at least one hundred Jews and rounded up thousands of others for internment. Ostensibly motivated spontaneously by  the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a Jewish youth, the pogrom had actually been planned well in advance by SD chief Reinhard Heydrich, approved by Adolf Hitler, and triggered by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Recent scholarship  on the origins of Kristallnacht includes the release in 1992 of a previously missing  section of Goebbels’s diary. See Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, 1933-39 (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 267-80.
2 In this study, the word “Mormon” refers to the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the denomination founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., in western New York in 1830. Except for one brief mention, this study does not account for the actions of the Missouri-based Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now named the Community of Christ, nor does it examine various other breakaway sects that consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture. The Salt Lake City Mormons numbered more than fifteen thousand in Germany and more than six hundred thousand worldwide in 1940. The other Mormon sects were much smaller in number.
3 A branch president presides as lay leader of a small Mormon congregation of insufficient numerical strength, or which is not part of the standard ecclesiastical structure, to allow its designation as a ward (parish). Branches in Nazi Germany fell under jurisdiction of a district, whose president, either a German member or American missionary, reported to an American mission president. In areas where church members enjoy significant numerical strength, wards are governed by bishops who report to a stake (diocese) president. 
4 The term “Mormon Culture Region” emanates from the work of geographer Don Meinig, who in 1965 delimited the area affected by the settlement and subsequent expansive influence of Brigham Young’s Mormon pioneers, who migrated to the Great Basin of the intermountain west in 1847. The Mormon culture region includes the entirety of Utah and parts of Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and  Wyoming. See D. W. Meinig, “The Mormon Culture Region: Strategies and Patterns in  the Geography of the American West, 1847-1964” Annals of the Association of  American Geographers 55-2 (June 1965): 191-220.
5 See Pierre Nora, Rethinking France = Les Lieux de Mémoires, trans. Mary Trouille, 4 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
6 Nancy Wood, Vectors of Memory (New York: Berg, 1999), 15.
7 See Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944, trans. Arthur Goldhammer. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).
8 See Robert B. Paxton, Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order (New York: Knopf, 1972).
9 Douglas Peifer, “Commemoration of Mutiny, Rebellion, and Resistance in Postwar Germany: Public Memory, History, and the Formation of ‘Memory Beacons,’” The Journal of Military History 65-4 (Oct. 2001): 1015n10.
10 Michael Mitchelle, "The Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany: Making a Place for an Unwanted American Religion in a Changing German Society" (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1994).
11 Jeffery L. Anderson, “Mormons and Germany, 1914-1933: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its Relationship with the German Governments from World War I to the Rise of Hitler” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1991).
12 Bruce W. Hall, “Gemeindegeschichte als Vergleichende Geschichte: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in East Germany, 1945-1989” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1989).
13 David F. Boone, “The Worldwide Evacuation of Latter-day Saint Missionaries at the Outbreak of World War II” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981).
14 Gilbert W. Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany Between 1840 and 1970 (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1970).
15 Steven Carter, “The Mormons and the Third Reich, 1933-1946” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arkansas, 2003).
16 Christine Elizabeth King, The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-conformity (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1982); Christine Elizabeth King, “Strategies for Survival: An Examination of the History of Five Christian Sects in  Germany, 1933-45,” Journal of Contemporary History 14 (1979), 211-34; Christine  Elizabeth King, “Some Lesser-Known Victims of Totalitarian Persecution,” Patterns of  Prejudice 16-2 (1982): 15-26; Christine Elizabeth King, “New Religious Movements: A  Perspective for Understanding Society,” Studies in Religion and Society, vol. 3, ed.  Eileen Barker (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1982), 125-139.
17 D. Michael Quinn, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2002); D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1983); D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Salt Lake City, Signature, 1997).
18 Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998); For additional information on the “Camelot Period,” see Davis Bitton, “Ten Years in Camelot: A Personal Memoir.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16-3 (Autumn 1993): 13.
19 Gene A. Sessions, Prophesying Upon the Bones: J. Reuben Clark and the Foreign Debt Crisis, 1933-1939 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992).
20 Alan F. Keele and Doublas F. Tobler, “The Führer’s New Clothes: Helmuth  Hübener and the Mormons in the Third Reich,” Sunstone (Nov.-Dec. 1980): 20-29.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 am

Part 1 of 3


Joseph Smith had fewer than ten weeks to live when he preached his most significant sermon as the organizer of what would become the largest and most influential religious organization founded on American soil. Speaking on April 7, 1844 at the funeral of a friend, Smith outlined the doctrinal issues that separated Mormonism from mainstream Christianity. Elements of the “King Follett Discourse” had been introduced into LDS theology during the fourteen years that followed the church’s founding, but never before had Smith expressed them all in one sermon. The importance of Smith’s address extends beyond a public summation of the LDS Church’s more controversial tenets: the nature of God, how the world was created, and mankind’s relationship to God in the afterlife. Less prominent passages of the King Follett Discourse suggest reasons why Smith considered the German-language versions of the Bible and the recruitment of German-speakers to become Mormon converts to be so important to the future of his fledgling religion.

Smith delivered the funerary address on a Sunday afternoon in a tree-lined amphitheater on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Mormonism’s founder described his faith’s idea of the deity, which differed from traditional Christianity’s Trinitarian concept. God the Father, whom Smith referred to using the Old Testament name of Elohim, was not a spirit but instead a corporal entity— blessed with a perfect, everlasting body of flesh and bones. His son, Jesus Christ, also possessed a physical body, while the Holy Spirit was the only member of the Mormon godhead that did not manifest a physical presence.

The creation story told in English translations of the Book of Genesis revealed only part of the truth, Smith maintained, for God had not formed the entire universe from nothing, nor did he do it alone. Rather, when Elohim created the earth, he did so as a member of a council of gods, each of whom had ascended to divinity after a probationary period as men who lived in worlds similar to earth. As Elohim had once been a man who became a god, all men who inhabit the earth had the potential to achieve godhood in their own right and to preside as Supreme Being over worlds of their own. In contemporary times, Smith preached, that path wound through the church he had established.1

Part of Smith’s rationale for challenging the biblical creation narrative could have developed during the Mormon prophet’s informal language study. Smith questioned God the Father’s singular personage when he learned that the Hebrew word Elohim was plural. According to Richard N. Ostling, a Time magazine religion correspondent, president of the Religion Newswriters Association, and the author of an acclaimed book on the LDS Church, “Traditional scholars treat that usage as the royal ‘we’ or an intensifier of God’s magnitude, not plurality in number.”2 Rather than adopt the conventional interpretation of “we” that Ostling cited, Smith used this grammatical obscurity to justify Mormonism’s polytheistic dogma.

Smith also studied German, probably under the tutelage of the church’s first Jewish convert, Alexander Neibaur, a former rabbinical student from Ehrenbreitstein who converted in Germany and migrated to America in 1838. Neibaur, a dentist, had capped Smith’s tooth, broken several years earlier when Smith had been beaten, tarred, and feathered by a mob in Ohio. In a section of the “King Follett Discourse” that most scholars ignore, Smith maintained that the German version of the Bible, as adopted by members of the Evangelical Church, is “the most nearly correct translation, and corresponds to the revelations which God has given me for the past fourteen years.”3 In remarks made to a smaller group a few days later, Smith expounded on his belief that the German Bible provided scriptural justification for his sect’s deviations from orthodox Christianity: “The old German translators are the most nearly correct, and the most honest of any of the translators.”

Then, enlarging the scope of his remarks from German-language scripture to the German people themselves, Smith pronounced what may have been his rationale for directing an intensive nineteenth-century conversion effort in the territory of the German states prior to unification: “The Germans are an exalted people!”4

Exaltation, in Mormon theology, refers to achieving the highest degree of God’s favor in a stratified heavenly afterlife. An adherent whose earthly faith and good works earns post-mortal residence in the Celestial Kingdom would also qualify to progress to godhood as Elohim had done.5 Joseph Smith proclaimed the German potential for exaltation, but no record has been discovered that documents Smith’s evaluation of the prospects for godhood among the other particular nationalities and linguistic groups that his church targeted for conversion. The importance that Mormons placed on missionary work among Germans, either because of Smith’s belief in their potential for divinity or because they subsequently became hardworking settlers on the American frontier, drove the missionary effort in Germany. The more missionaries they sent to the German states, the more converts those efforts produced, and thus, the German influence on Mormonism intensified.

From the beginning of missionary work in the mid-nineteenth century until 1950, more German speakers joined the Latter-day Saints, than any linguistic group other than English speakers. Residents of German-speaking lands made up the third most populous group of immigrants to the American Zion, after residents of the British Isles and Scandinavia.6

Successor Mormon prophets have reemphasized the importance of catering to the spiritual needs of the large German ethnic minority that populated the Mormon Culture Region, as well as to German Mormons living abroad. Joseph F. Smith, a member of the church’s three-member ruling council who would later ascend to the office of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, visited the Swiss-German Mission in 1875. He did this in the midst of German persecution of Mormon missionaries in states that ranged from Schleswig-Holstein in the north to Bavaria in the south, and from the Rhineland in the west to East Prussia. As part of a visit to Great Britain and continental Europe in 1937, Heber J. Grant, the last polygamous church president, visited both German-speaking Switzerland and Nazi Germany during a period in which Hitler’s government threatened the existence of other small, American-based new religious groups in Germany.7 In 1973, Harold B. Lee, the eleventh church president, spoke to an assemblage of East German Mormons who had been granted special dispensation to attend a conference in Munich during the height of the Cold War. He urged them to remain loyal to both their civil government and their religious tenets, and to return to their homes behind the Iron Curtain.8 Thomas S. Monson, who became the Mormon Prophet in February of 2008, began his adult church service as the bishop (lay minister) of a metropolitan Salt Lake City ward (congregation) made up almost entirely of the descendants of German immigrants. During the Cold War period, he served as Mormonism’s visiting emissary to East Germany, where he catered to the needs of German Latter-day Saints who struggled with the challenges of practicing an American religion in a communist state. He eventually negotiated an agreement to build a Mormon Temple in Freiberg, Saxony, the first such structure erected behind the Iron Curtain, as well as an agreement for a reciprocal exchange of Mormon missionaries between East and West Germany—some four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.9

In order to understand why the Mormons took an accommodationist stance toward the government of the Third Reich, one must start at the beginning, at the religion’s founding on the American frontier. Although the effort to win converts far away on German soil proved to be difficult, missionaries continued to follow Smith’s admonition to cultivate an “exalted” strain of Germanic adherents. After Smith’s death, the Mormons, with their pragmatic worldview, embraced Germans as hardworking potential converts whose temperaments fit well with the church’s authoritarian leadership style. At the same time, the Mormons embraced Germany itself as a European base for establishing Mormon congregations in Europe. But as Joseph Smith made clear in his last public pronouncement before being killed by a jailhouse mob two months later God’s prophet on earth viewed Germans as a breeding stock for deity.

American Frontier Mysticism and the Roots of Early Mormonism

On the American frontier in the early nineteenth century, during a period religious historians call the Second Great Awakening, pioneers found restorationist Christianity an appealing concept. The Millerites, Seventh-day Adventists, and Shakers, in addition to the Mormons, represent movements of that era that claimed to correct erroneous beliefs and practices promulgated by the mainline Protestant churches of the day. As a fourteen-year-old boy in 1820, Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in answer to his prayerful pleading for guidance as to which church he should join. They told him to affiliate with no established religion, as all were wrong. In a subsequent visit several years later, Smith said the Angel Moroni delivered a set of golden metal plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon.

Smith had the background to establish what has become the most successful religious denomination conceived entirely on American soil. Because of his upbringing in western New York’s “burned over district,” he had the advantage of knowing the burning theological questions of the day. Settlers in western New York speculated about the native Indians’ origins, the fortifications they constructed, and their characteristic burial mounds. As Smith’s most widely read biographer, Fawn McKay Brodie, points out, some of the most prominent clerics of early America—William Penn, Cotton Mather, Roger Williams, and Jonathan Edwards—preached that the natives they encountered were the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel. When Smith was growing up, his literate, albeit informally educated adult mentors maintained private lending networks that allowed books to circulate for hundreds of miles. One of those books, View of the Hebrews, published in two editions in 1823 and 1825, became popular during Smith’s late adolescence. Author Ethan Smith, unrelated to Joseph, argued that the American Indians were Jews, and that the gospel of Christ had been preached in ancient America. He further contended that the Western Hemisphere had been populated by early inhabitants who undertook long sea voyages for religious reasons, and that these Semitic migrants had divided themselves into warring tribes, some that were highly civilized and others that were less so. All of these claims are central themes of the Book of Mormon.10

Joseph Smith later professed to have conferred in 1829 with John the Baptist, who ordained him to the lesser Aaronic Priesthood, and shortly thereafter, with the New Testament apostles Peter, James, and John, who ordained him to the senior Melchizedek Priesthood. In later writings, Smith described meetings with Moses, Elias, and Elijah to restore various religious rites and ordinances.

A Distinctly American Church Relies Extensively on Foreign Converts

Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830 in upstate New York.11 He bestowed upon himself the spiritual title of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as well as the temporal position of Church President. Of the “forty or fifty” who attended the organizational meeting, six became charter members.12 Later,when Smith sent his brother Samuel from town to town selling copies of the Book of Mormon, the younger sibling preached the doctrine of a new faith: His brother Joseph, the “American Prophet,” would restore the doctrinal beliefs and priesthood authority that the early Christian church enjoyed before it became corrupted under the influence of the Roman emperor Constantine.13

By the autumn of 1830, the first year of the church’s existence, four full-time missionaries proselytized among the American Indians, whom Smith believed to be the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. In that same year, the first Mormon missionaries to teach outside of the Untied States began recruiting converts in Canada.14 According to Columbian University historian Richard L. Bushman, these missionaries “went without training or indoctrination. . . . No education was required.” Their fresh converts quickly became the newest missionaries. Bushman quotes an early Mormon elder, Eber D. Howe, who described the quality of these first emissaries of the faith: “Nearly all of their male converts, however ignorant and worthless, were forthwith transformed into ‘Elders,’ and sent forth to proclaim, with all their wild enthusiasm, the wonders and mysteries of Mormonism.” 15

Through determined efforts by these crudely polished converts turned missionaries, several hundred new members joined by the end of the church’s first year. Domestic missionary efforts continued unabated, and by the end of the church’s fifth year in 1835, membership had grown, astonishingly, to 8,835.16 During this period, preliminary preparations for overseas missionary work commenced with the conversion of immigrants from Europe, whom Smith and his lieutenants hoped would provide a foundation of expertise to send missionaries worldwide. In 1837, Joseph Smith dispatched Heber C. Kimball to open a mission to the British Isles. By the end of 1841, nine of the serving members of the Quorum of the Twelve, whom the Mormons considered to be the modern-day equivalent of the Twelve Apostles, had relocated to Great Britain for the purpose of recruiting new members who would move to the United States.17 As the year 1842 concluded, some 5,500 British subjects had become Mormons, and by 1857 more than fifteen thousand Britons had converted.18 Most subsequently sailed the Atlantic, bound for the new American Zion.19 By the end of the 1850s, Smith and his successor, Brigham Young, had sent missionaries to Austria, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Hawaii, India, Italy, Jamaica, Malta, Palestine, Scandinavia, South Africa, the islands of the South Pacific, and Switzerland.20 Each dispatched the majority of its converts to Zion, which by 1847 had relocated from the green banks of the Mississippi River in Nauvoo, Illinois, to the barren northernmost outpost of Mexican territory in the North American Intermountain West. Young, Smith’s successor as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, explained: “We thought we would get as far as we could from the face of man; we wanted to get to a strange land, like Abraham, that we might be where we should not be continually wrong with somebody or another.”21

Trouble on the American Frontier Portends Difficulty in the Mission Field

Because of their unconventional religious beliefs, a tendency to dominate a local economy with collectivist trade practices, and the inflammatory practice of polygamy, the Mormons frequently found themselves at odds with neighbors on the American frontier. Sometimes this resulted in violence directed toward the Latter-day Saints, whose numbers continued to grow by domestic conversions and immigration. Hostility, punctuated by violent acts, caused the Mormons to move their seat of power several times in Joseph Smith’s lifetime—from upstate New York to Kirtland, Ohio, onward to various towns in Missouri, and then to Illinois.

The latter move occurred after a series of violent actions that began with a gun battle between a Mormon contingent and a unit of the Missouri state militia at Crooked River, Missouri on October 24, 1938. Several men on each side died.22 That led Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs to issue Executive Order No. 44, which Mormon historians have termed an “extermination order.” It threatened Latter-day Saints with death if they did not leave Missouri.23 Several days later, on October 30, 1838, soldiers from the Missouri militia massacred seventeen Mormons at Haun’s Mill.24 Four years later, after Boggs had left office, an unknown assailant fired buckshot into the ex-governor’s head, an attack he survived. Speculation named Mormon gunslinger Porter Rockwell as the culprit but guilt was never established.25 By that time, the Mormon diaspora from Missouri had filled the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, which eventually ranked second in Illinois population, eclipsed only by Chicago.

The Mormons did not always respond to violence by turning the other cheek. Nauvoo’s city charter allowed the establishment of a militia. At one time in the city’s early history, the Nauvoo Legion consisted of at least three thousand members, making it the second-largest armed force in North America. The United States Army had only 8,500 soldiers at that time. The State of Illinois provided 250 firearms and three artillery pieces, and local contributions supplemented their armaments.26

Joseph Smith was not a humble man. As commanding general of the Nauvoo Legion, Smith wore a blue uniform decorated with gold accouterments and brandished a sword. Civic affairs in Nauvoo often found Smith in uniform, speaking at a podium mounted on a street lined with silk flags, drawing his sword to emphasize bombastic rhetoric, and enjoying salutes of cannon fire. In January 1844, he declared himself a candidate for president of the United States on a platform that combined abolitionism and populism, which advocated purchasing the freedom of slaves and releasing prisoners from jail. Smith sent “ambassadors” from Nauvoo who sought diplomatic accreditation in the capitals of England, France, Russia, and the Republic of Texas. He petitioned Congress for authority to raise an army of one hundred thousand, which he would used to conquer the remainder of the American west for the United States. In April of 1844, the “Council of Fifty,” a civil organization formed to give legitimacy to his theocratic governing style, proclaimed Smith “King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth.”27

After Joseph Smith died at the hands of a vigilante jailhouse mob in 1844, Brigham Young emerged victorious in a power struggle for succession. Smith had been imprisoned because he had been charged with ordering the destruction of a printing press belonging to a dissident newspaper in Nauvoo. Young, the new Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, ordered the Latter-day Saints westward to Mexican territory in 1847, where he hoped to give this budding theocracy the opportunity to grow without the neighborly opposition the Mormons had encountered since the church’s founding in 1830. Life under absentee Mexican authority lasted only one year, as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded the Utah territory to the United States in 1848. American authority over the Mormons eventually reestablished itself in the form of territorial governors. However, the relative isolation gave Young and his Saints the respite they needed before conflict with the federal government intensified in the next decade.

The First German Missionary Efforts: A Template for Later Success

James Howard, a recent English convert to Mormonism, took a job in a Hamburg foundry in September of 1840. He tried missionary work among the Germans as an avocation but soon became discouraged. “I am too weak a creature to do anything with them,” Howard wrote to Joseph Smith before he returned home, admitting defeat as the first Mormon who tried preaching in the territory that later became unified Germany.28 Some nine months later, Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, stopped in Frankfurt on his way to Jerusalem, where he planned to “dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews.” As biblical millennialists, Mormons believe in an interpretation of the New Testament Book of Revelation that requires the return of the Jews to their historical homeland. That would serve as a prerequisite to the establishment of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth prophesized to occur prior to the Apocalypse.29 While Hyde waited for his visa to visit the Holy Land, he claimed to have attained a remarkable mastery of the German language in the astonishingly short period of five days, which he used upon his return from Jerusalem to author the first German-language LDS religious tract. When he presented Ein Ruf Aus Der Wueste, A Cry in the Wilderness, to a printer in Regensburg, the city’s censor rejected it as “likely to cause excitement and unrest among the people.” [30]

These first two ambassadors of Mormonism in the German-speaking world illustrate several key aspects of the Mormon experience that recurred with regularity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Primary and secondary sources that document early LDS history in German-speaking lands abound with miraculous tales: healings of the sick, fervent prayers that seem to provoke divine intervention with recalcitrant authorities, and the “gift of tongues”—described in Mormon theology as God-given ability to master foreign languages rapidly for missionary purposes. Apostle Hyde’s claim of almost miraculous short-term German language mastery seems to have provoked skepticism, even by author Gilbert Scharffs, who is otherwise known for his faith-promoting historical accounts and apologetic argumentation.31 “Elder Hyde must have made amazing progress in learning German,” Scharffs declares, “because those with whom he stayed found it hard to believe he had neither spoken nor studied the language prior to his arrival in Frankfurt.”32

Hyde’s experience with the censors also marks the first of many recorded clashes between Mormon missionaries and civil or religious authorities in the German states. The historical record recounts many techniques employed to surmount opposition of this sort, such as the reassignment of expelled missionaries to different locations, where expulsions from other German kingdoms were not recognized. Also, Mormon missionaries appealed to parallel or higher authority to overcome official proscription. In the case of the banned pamphlet, Hyde simply took his rejected text to Frankfurt and found both a printer and a censor who approved the material.

Throughout Mormon history, the initial lack of success in missionary work usually provoked intensified corrective efforts directed by higher authority and entrusted to emissaries with a greater degree of ecclesiastical authority and interpersonal skill. Joseph Smith dispatched Apostle Hyde to Palestine shortly after receiving an apologetic letter from Howard, the British foundry worker in Hamburg, whose mission had failed. He did so with the understanding that Hyde would also proselyte in the Mediterranean region and Eastern Europe. Hyde had been one of the few members of the Council of the Twelve who had remained in the United States when most of his fellow Apostles participated in the intensive effort during the1840s to convert and attract Englishspeaking converts from the British Isles. It was the first large-scale overseas effort to produce a significant number of converts, who were then expected to join their fellow Latter-day Saints in the Untied States. Smith’s willingness to dispatch abroad one of his remaining assistants demonstrates the importance the early Mormons placed on recruiting members from overseas.

Determination, willingness to learn from and not repeat previous mistakes, and a fervent belief in the divine purpose of their missionary labors—rather than miracles— enabled Latter-day Saints to achieve a foothold in missionary work in Germany. A more realistic example that shows how English-speaking Mormons overcame formidable language difficulties comes from the memoirs of Oliver Budge. Facing his own linguistic crisis when he arrived in Berlin 1896, Budge’s solution involved determined study:

In my spare time I took my dictionary and went into the nearby parks. Noticing a person, usually an elderly one from whom I might get some help, I would walk over and take a seat by him. Then I would say in German, ‘How do you do? I am from America, and I speak very little German’. . . . I found by listening and talking, principally listening, that I was making progress. In a comparatively short time, I was surprised, as were the Elders, at the rapidity with which I was learning the language.33

As Mormonism became increasingly controversial in the United States, its reputation followed its missionaries overseas, resulting in increased difficulties with civil and religious authorities. The practice of polygamy and the deteriorating relationship between the church and the U.S. government, especially during the 1857-58 Utah War, became a reason for German officials to oppose Mormon missionary work. Although the existence of Mormon polygamy had been rumored since Joseph Smith took his first “plural wife” in 1833, it became public knowledge in 1842 with the publication of a scandalous expose written by John Bennett, who was promptly excommunicated. Another ten years transpired before the LDS Church issued its first public statement on the practice, Orson Pratt’s August 29, 1852 address in Salt Lake City that defended both the spiritual attributes and legality of plural marriage.34

As its missionaries and new converts suffered civil harassment in the German states and elsewhere in Europe, the church hierarchy dispatched more missionary and supervisory personnel to overcome the opposition. This, in turn, created more opportunities for conflict with local clergy and government officials. As Mormon missionaries converted more Germans, and as the new converts emigrated, German Protestant ministers and Catholic priests increased their pressure on officials of local government to clamp down on the activities of these conspicuous representatives of a strange, foreign religion. This cycle repeated itself for the duration of the Mormons’ “long nineteenth century” in Germany, and was interrupted only when the First World War forced the withdrawal of American missionaries from German soil.

On April 3, 1852, the first designated Mormon mission president for the German states arrived in Hamburg. Daniel Carn, an immigrant from Germany who converted to Mormonism in the United States, had been the first leader of the initial German-speaking ecclesiastical unit in Nauvoo, Illinois. He quickly established a congregation of twelve Hamburg converts and just as quickly got into trouble with the law. On eight separate occasions, he appeared before the police and officials of the Hamburg Senate. Eventually, after refusing to leave Hamburg, Carn went to jail. His temporary imprisonment prompted another defensive measure the Mormons employed repeatedly to meet official opposition from the mid-nineteenth century through the Nazi years: He sought and received the intervention of American diplomatic officials. After U.S. Consul Samuel Bromberg obtained Carn’s release on the condition that the Mormon mission president leave Hamburg, Carn fled to the city’s suburb of Altoona, which at the time was under Danish governance. Based there, he continued to preach and win converts, and occasionally visited stealthily the congregants and the missionaries sent to replace him in Hamburg.35 Carn’s relocation to another base of operations set the precedent for the subsequent re-dispatch of expelled missionaries from one jurisdiction to another, undertaken with frequent success during the period prior to German unification in 1871 and with mixed results thereafter.

An incident involving the family of Carn’s first convert to Mormonism in Hamburg illustrates the faith needed to believe in miracles and the consequences of abandoning that faith by fomenting internal dissent. Some five months after his arrival in Hamburg, Carn visited the wife of his first baptized convert, Christian Binder. Binder’s spouse suffered from mental illness. “[She was] in the madhouse for a long time . . . possessed by an evil spirit for fourteen years,” Carn wrote. “He brought her home and I baptized her three weeks ago, and [now] she is as well as ever.”

Binder, the convert, shortly thereafter moved to America as the leader of a group of seventeen, the first assemblage of Germans who emigrated after accepting Mormon baptism. However, only three reached Salt Lake City. After the transatlantic passage to New Orleans and a rail trip to St. Louis, Binder, his miraculously healed wife, and a dozen others declined to make the overland trek to Zion. For reasons that records do not reveal, Binder subsequently wrote “a scathing letter” to relatives in Hamburg, which provoked a rebellion by fifteen recently baptized converts, some of whom then allied with police in their anti-Mormon enforcement efforts. Carn’s successors in Hamburg promptly excommunicated the fifteen dissidents.

Excommunication for rebellion, or even for failure to maintain full church activity, proved to be a common occurrence in the early days of the Mormon Church in Germany. For example, a subsequent visit to Hamburg by the European Mission President, Franklin D. Richards, noted the baptism of eighteen converts and the excommunication of eighteen others by one ecclesiastical unit in 1854.36

The first thirty years of Mormon history in the German states unfolded as the story of relentless proselyting by missionaries who endured against clerical and governmental opposition, the emigration of their converts from Germany to the American Zion, and the reaction of authorities who subsequently harassed, jailed, and expelled the missionaries. Young Mormon missionaries who arrived to take their place convinced common, uneducated townspeople and countryside peasants to change their religious beliefs, leave extended family behind, and seek a life of hardship in a strange land half a world away, where they would have to adopt a strange language. John Beck emigrated, converted to Mormonism while in the United States, and then returned to Germany as a missionary—only to be jailed three times in his hometown of Stuttgart. Another missionary, Ernst Mueller, went to jail eleven times in three months. In Hamburg, a successor mission president, George Reiser, received a two-week prison sentence for “being dangerous to our government,” but called upon a familiar ally, American consul Bromberg, who negotiated his release in exchange for Reiser’s expeditious departure from the country.

Survival also plays a key role in this story. Reiser once avoided an angry contingent of hostile former converts who sought to confront him at a railroad station. He evaded the mob by taking an alternate exit from the train platform. 37 In later decades, missionaries would receive regular disbursements of money from relatives in America, but in the early days, they relied on the goodwill of their German converts for support. In Karlsruhe, an entire congregation of Germans abandoned their faith seemingly overnight, and suddenly refused to feed or house the missionaries. 38 Despite tales of harrowing escapes from the police and mobs of apostate members turned foes, no Mormon missionary in Germany during its first fifty years of proselyting lost his life in the line of duty—a circumstance that only gave rise to more faith-promoting stories of miraculous preservation from the Lord’s enemies.

German Mormonism During the Era of Unification: A Semblance of Permanence

Although the first official Latter-day Saint mission in the German-speaking lands came into existence with the arrival of Mission President Daniel Carn in 1852, the reality of German opposition to Mormon proselyting dictated the necessity of establishing a headquarters operation in another country. The need for a safe refuge abroad became apparent the year after Carn’s arrival. In 1853 a failed Mormon attempt to obtain an audience with King Friedrich Wilhelm IV disturbed the Prussian state authorities to the extent that they issued a formal decree, a Runderlass, that denied legal status to the LDS Church.39 It became the basis for the periodic ejection of Mormon missionaries from Prussia for the next half-century. The events leading to that expulsion order represented an important lesson that the Mormons learned well, which they used to their advantage in dealing with German governments in subsequent periods, including the Third Reich. In essence, the LDS Mission leadership learned to avoid “overplaying its hand,” and to seek resolution of their problems on the lowest possible local governmental level, avoiding undue and possibly negative attention from powerful state authorities. Based on the 1853 experience, Mormon leaders learned to ponder which local governmental decisions should be appealed to higher authority, and which appeals presented more danger of attracting unwelcomed attention from powerful officials.

In the church-wide General Conference of January 1853, Brigham Young, who had come to power as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator after Joseph Smith’s assassination, announced the dispatch of two emissaries—Orson Spencer and Jacob Houtz—to Berlin with instructions to seek an audience with the Prussian monarch. Young had been informed that Friedrich Wilhelm IV had expressed, through a diplomatic legate, some interest in Mormonism. Young hoped to facilitate the emigration of Germans and establish a cordial relationship with their government. The mission of the two Mormons caused a stir in the German press, which in turn, apparently agitated officials of the Evangelical Church. Evidently, the Prussian government had learned of their plans early, as news of the emissaries’ trip—such as their arrival in St. Louis from Salt Lake City—appeared in German newspapers. Prussian secret police exercised an effective spy network, which presumably included German expatriates in the Untied States. Six days after their arrival in Berlin, having been unsuccessful in gaining an audience with Friedrich Wilhelm IV, Orson and Houtz were hauled before a police court, questioned, and expelled from the kingdom.40

Three months later, on April 26, 1853, the Prussian interior ministry issued the aforementioned Runderlass, a circular stating official government policy, that denied the Mormons legal status in Prussia and that, in effect, became a standing expulsion order that authorities used to harass, detain, and deport the church’s missionaries.41 This occurred less than one year after Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt had publically admitted, at a church general conference, the existence of the doctrine of plural marriage. The decree found the Mormons objectionable on the grounds that they encouraged immigration to the USA, not specifically because of young women who would enter into polygamous marriages, but instead what the authors perceived as politically motivated Mormon recruitment of German citizens. As Michael Mitchell, in a master’s thesis written at Brigham Young University, says:

The language of the decree focused not on doctrines and practices, but on a perception of the Prussian government that church leaders in Utah desired political independence from the federal government. If missionaries could attract a large enough immigrant population to qualify as a state, Utah would be subject to its own local laws rather than federal decrees hostile to the Mormon way of life.42

The decree was based on Paragraph 114 of the Prussian Criminal Code, which punished military deserters and discouraged emigration of workers with critical skills. Throughout the nineteenth century, Mormons clashed with German authorities over emigration, not only because of the emotional issue of German women becoming polygamous concubines, but also because of Mormon emigration’s effect on draft-eligible men. As Mitchelle demonstrates, American diplomats in Germany often had to intercede on behalf of native Germans, Mormons and non-Mormons, who had become naturalized American citizens. When these German expatriates returned to their native land to visit relatives, some become embroiled in the issue of whether they had fulfilled their German military obligations.43

In 1861, the Mormons established the Swiss-Italian-German Mission, which in reality was a mission to the Swiss with limited outreach to Germans and Italians. Brigham Young University church history and doctrine professor Bruce A. Van Orden explains:

In the German states, persecution had become so intense that most members had gathered to Zion and missionary work there was close to nonexistent . . . . A rotation system kept missionary efforts there alive. When one missionary was persecuted or banished, he left for Switzerland and another arrived to replace him.44

When Mission President Joseph S. Horne arrived in Basel in the mid-1860s, he toured Mormon congregations in the Swiss cantons, but according to mission records, “did not risk going into Germany.”45 Only five American missionaries were at work in the German states at the time, and the most recent attempt to send a missionary to Germany had failed when the young man ran out of funds. In 1867, only 464 members resided in the entire mission that included Switzerland, and the largest German branch, at Karlsruhe, had only nineteen members.46

The use of Switzerland as a base for dispatching missionaries into hostile German territory represented an important and long-lasting step that Mormons undertook in order to continue their missionary work on German soil. Mormons also clashed with Swiss authorities during the 1840s and 50s, but in 1864, a decree of the Federal Council of Switzerland granted Mormons rights equal to those enjoyed by other churches with regard to holding church services and the baptism of converts.47 From 1861 until 1898, and again from 1904 to 1925, LDS missionaries in Germany reported to a mission president who took shelter in the relatively safe cities of Geneva and Basel.48 From 1925 until 1937, when missionaries in the eastern part of Germany reported to a mission president in Dresden and then Berlin, Basel also served as Mormon missionary headquarters for western Germany as well as the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. During the First World War, when the church pulled its foreign missionaries out of Germany, the Swiss mission office kept in touch with German members as best it could by mail and through interviews with occasional travelers. During the last years of the Weimar Republic and the first years of the Third Reich, the Berlin mission office of the East German Mission operated under the watchful eye of the German government, but missionaries who proselytized in the western half of Germany always knew a safe haven existed across the border in Switzerland. At the outbreak of the Second World War, when Mormon missionaries again evacuated—this time not only from Germany but the rest of continental Europe—European Mission President Thomas E. McKay oversaw the shutdown of missionary affairs from his Swiss base for months before leaving for the United States in the summer of 1940.

Skilled Leaders Bring Stability to Missionary Efforts

As the nineteenth century progressed, LDS leaders became aware of the need to send culturally and linguistically skilled emissaries to the foreign mission field throughout the world. Although front-line proselytizing missionaries would still arrive in foreign lands with inadequate knowledge of the local language and customs, a small group of linguistically and culturally skilled mission leaders began to emerge.49 Early mission presidents had arrived in Germany with no knowledge of the language, or if they were native-born Americans whose childhood tongue was German, they had no experience living in the land of their ancestors. As Mormonism aged sufficiently to allow European converts to mature in their newfound faith by joining the main body of Latter-day Saints in America, a corps of native German speakers with the desired European cultural knowledge became available to return as leaders in the mission field. Karl Maeser, the most revered German mission president of the nineteenth century, and his brother-in-law, Edward Schoenfeldt, typified these.

Because of his education, Maeser was an unusual convert to early Mormonism. As Brigham Young University history professor Douglas Tobler has documented, most nineteenth century Germans were literate but enjoyed limited formal schooling.50 Maeser, by contrast, was a well-educated intellectual who eventually rose to the position of president of Brigham Young Academy, the forerunner to Brigham Young University. Born in 1828 in Saxony, he became an accomplished linguist and musician. His parents provided years of private tutoring, plus an impressive formal education for the time— two years at the Krenz Schule in Dresden before he graduated with distinction from the Friederich Stadt normal school. He became proficient in Latin, French, and Italian, played the piano and organ, and conducted choral groups and orchestras. As a young man, he taught school and offered private tutoring.51

An early missionary tract stimulated Maeser’s interest in Mormonism. It contained grammatical errors and a style of writing that betrayed the author as someone whose native language was not German. Maeser’s intellectual curiosity about the pamphlet led to correspondence with Mormon missionaries in Copenhagen and Geneva, and the eventual dispatch of a missionary to meet Maeser. Because Mormons were banned from Saxony at the time, William Budge traveled surreptitiously, posing as an English instructor, and confirmed Maeser’s identity by matching his half of an irregularly cut card with the other half that had been mailed to Maeser. Budge did his best to teach Maeser the principles of Mormonism, as well as could any Englishman who spoke no German. Despite difficulties in communicating with his tutor, Maeser embraced the new faith. In order to avoid the attention of authorities, consented to be baptized in the Elbe River at midnight on October 11, 1854.

Maeser quickly assumed an unusual position for a newly converted member, that of Dresden branch president, but because of persecution of Mormons in his native state, he eventually agreed to emigrate along with his family in 1856. Learning English quickly, he served as a missionary in the British mission prior to sailing for Philadelphia in 1857. Because he had no money for overland passage to Utah, he accepted a calling to proselytize in the American Southern States Mission and earned his living by giving music lessons. While demonstrating a piano in a Virginia music store, he was approached by John Tyler, a former president of the United States, who hired Maeser to teach piano lessons to his daughters. Eventually, Maeser moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where he became a private tutor to Brigham Young’s children. 52

Ten years after he immigrated to the United States, and after attaining sufficient expertise with his adopted religion, Maeser answered Young’s call to become president of the Swiss-Italian-German Mission. When Maeser and Octave Ursenbach, who had also been converted in Germany prior to emigrating, arrived in Geneva in September of 1867, they found the mission’s affairs in a deplorable state. Membership in all of Switzerland and Germany had fallen from 700 at the onset of the mission at the beginning of the decade to only 464 upon the new mission president’s arrival. An average of 35 baptisms occurred each year, with an equal number of emigrations and excommunications. Only five American missionaries were at work, and they mostly preached on the Swiss side of the border.

Maeser’s understanding of the German-speaking culture led him to pursue available avenues of success and eschew strategies undertaken in previous decades that led to confrontations with government officials and rival clerics. He arranged speaking engagements in Switzerland and Germany, not proselytizing per se, but instead offered lectures as an educational experience. These attracted the curious without threatening the religious status quo.53 Twentieth century Mormon missionaries would follow his lead by giving presentations on the geological wonders of the State of Utah, and the health benefits of the Mormon Word of Wisdom, which prescribes abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and dangerous drugs. Of course, missionaries in Maeser’s day and thereafter always stood by to provide follow-up religious instruction if attendees asked. In January 1869, he started the monthly Mormon religious publication, Der Stern (The Star), printed without the censor’s constraints in Switzerland. The mission office in Basel distributed Der Stern by mail where the postal inspectors would allow, and by hand when necessary. The name closely paralleled its English-language cousin, The Millennial Star, which began publication in London in 1840, and from which Der Stern editors translated many articles into German.54 Der Stern published continuously from 1869 until it ceased publication at the beginning of the Second World War.55

Maeser dropped the reference to Italy from the mission’s title and renamed it the Swiss-German Mission. That name remained from 1868 until 1897, the longest continuity of a German-speaking Mormon mission since the first missionary arrived in 1840. Maeser reported the founding of congregations in Bavaria and Württemberg at a time that Mormonism was shrinking or nonexistent in the rest of Germany. Records show some six hundred conversions, mostly German-speaking Swiss, during the two and one-half years of Maeser’s mission. When he returned to the United States in 1871, he did so as the leader of a party of some 85 emigrants, and when he arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, he became the branch president of a German-speaking congregation that enrolled many of his converts. Maeser left the mission in the hands of his brother-inlaw, Edward Schoenfeldt, who, like Maeser, had been converted in Germany, migrated to the American Zion, and returned to preside over mission efforts with the cultural understanding that only a native German could provide.

The Mormon hierarchy had always provided its missionaries in the field with the most capable leadership available, but by the 1870s, some forty years after the church’s founding, the pool of linguistically and culturally aware mission presidents with spiritual seasoning in the American Zion had increased to a level adequate to staff its overseas missions. Conflict with civil and religious authorities in Germany and elsewhere abroad would continue through the first decades of the next century, but this new brand of missionary leader had the knowledge and experience to choose his battles with discretion.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 am

Part 2 of 3

Mormon Polygamy: The Elephant in the German Parlor

Legend recounts that when Karl Maeser left on his mission to Germany in1867, he gave his wife Anna his last fifty-cent piece and that when she met him upon his return to Utah in 1870, she gave it back to him.56 Five years later in 1875, Maeser “rewarded” his wife’s loyalty and frugality by giving her a “sister wife.” Like so many Mormon elders of the time, he married a polygamous bride, Emilie Damke, a fellow German immigrant twenty-three years younger than Anna. No publically available record reveals his first wife’s reaction, but this marriage marked an important dichotomy. A culturally aware, well-educated German used his native skills to help the Mormons prosper in the mission field, but he surrendered one facet of his German identity: he adopted the Mormon practice of taking more than one wife.

For Mormons attempting to gain traction as a legitimate religious organization in Germany, no facet of their faith inspired more fear, loathing, and determined opposition as the doctrine of polygamy. Leaders of Germany’s two mainline Christian denominations, Catholicism and Lutheranism, civil authorities from parliamentarians to policemen on the street, and opinion leaders such as journalists and professors had no need to investigate or to invent reasons to fear the Mormons. If the fact that one man could marry more than one woman were not sufficiently inflammatory, Mormonism’s many detractors could choose among a plethora of rumor, innuendo, and sensationalistic fiction being promulgated in the popular press, over conversations at the beer hall, or in Sunday sermons.57

The pace of official resistance to Mormon missionary work in Germany can be measured by two indices. First, as significant events that transpired in America regarding the Mormons appeared in the European press, missionaries and German converts who remained on their native soil felt the hot breath of official reaction. Second, as determined missionaries led by increasingly skilled mission presidents began to find success in their efforts to win converts, distraught family members and alarmed clerics fomented opposition that often led to government sanction or even vigilante violence.

When President James Buchanan sent Colonel Albert Sidney Johnson and a contingent of army troops to the Salt Lake Valley in 1858 to facilitate the installation of territorial governor Alfred Cumming, the purpose was to insure a smooth transition from the theocratic outgoing governor, the Mormon prophet Brigham Young. Articles in the German press of the time, however, said the troops were being sent to rescue German immigrants who were being held hostage. When German newspapers reported the driving of the “golden spike” at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, marking completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, some editors speculated that Americans were building a railroad in order dispatch troops to combat the Mormons.58 Agitation over Mormon polygamy, especially rumors of its practice being forced upon unwilling young women, played a role in popular fiction of that era that eventually found its way into German translation. As historian James B. Allen said:

Throughout the nineteenth century the Church and its members were presented to the public in popular magazines and novels that stressed the sensational. Many readers gained their only conception of Mormonism from articles condemning polygamy or criticizing the leaders as autocrats and denouncing the church as un-American.59

The second half of Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes detective novel, A Study in Scarlet, takes place in the Utah territory and spins the fictional account of a young woman unwillingly taken into a polygamous marriage and her efforts to escape her husband and the Mormon secret police, the Danites.

In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, but its enforcement proved impossible in Utah courts composed of faithful Mormons.60 The executive branch showed no enthusiasm for instigating another internal American conflict during the Civil War. As Brigham Young University historian James B. Allen points out, Abraham Lincoln told a visiting Mormon: “You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will leave me alone, I’ll leave him alone.”61 Lincoln’s unwillingness to enforce the new anti-polygamy law did not diminish the intensity with which German authorities harassed Mormon missionaries. While the congressional bill was being debated, two missionaries near Durlach in Baden-Württemberg spent five days in jail for distributing unauthorized religious material. Authorities in Karlsruhe prohibited members from holding church meetings in their own homes and forbade their contact with missionaries. Another missionary in southern Germany went to jail three times during 1862. In Adorf, a village in southwest Saxony, Elder Ernst F. Mueller scheduled a lecture, only to learn that some of his audience had arrived with the intention of killing him. Author Gilbert Scharffs tells the story of a German mother so upset by the conversion of her son to Mormonism that she submitted a bottle of consecrated oil, used in religious healing ceremonies, to a chemist for analysis to determine if her boy had been drugged. 62

In 1872, Mormon polygamy again made headlines in the United States and abroad when federal prosecutors, under the auspices of the Morrill Act, obtained an indictment against Brigham Young for adultery, but the Supreme Court quashed Young’s and others’ indictments on a technical point of law. Two years later, the federal Poland Act weakened the Mormons’ ability to defend themselves against polygamy charges by removing jurisdiction from the local probate courts and awarding it to the federal judicial system.63 In 1882, Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which added unlawful cohabitation to the proscription against polygamous marriage, and prescribed a $500 fine and five-year jail term for either marrying a new polygamous wife or living with an existing one. New voting regulations disenfranchised some twelve thousand Utahns. In Germany, where accounts of these measures appeared in the newspapers, the Mormons experienced increased legal scrutiny and some mob violence. In Bavaria, a Mormon missionary was conducting a church service in a private residence when a group of some thirty men surrounded the house, broke open the door, dragged him out, and beat him. Bavarian authorities expelled two other missionaries at approximately the same time. Another missionary in Kiel languished in solitary confinement for three weeks on a nebulous charge of “baptizing” before his acquittal at trial.64

The 1880s proved to be a watershed decade for Mormon polygamy. This was the “underground period” in the American Zion, when otherwise lawful Mormon men either suffered imprisonment for polygamous cohabitation or moved away with their families to escape the wrath of federal judges appointed to enforce the recently enacted laws. Even the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator John Taylor—who ascended to the church presidency after Brigham Young’s death in 1877—moved from place to place to avoid apprehension by federal agents. He ruled the Latter-day Saint theocracy by postal dispatch.

The Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 dissolved the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints as a corporate entity and seized most church property. It federalized the judgeships in probate court, legalized a wife’s testimony against her husband, abolished women’s suffrage in the Utah territory, and dissolved both voting districts and local control of schools. 65 It also seized the Church’s assets and shut down the Perpetual Emigration Fund that loaned money to those desiring transoceanic passage and provided start-up funds once the immigrant arrived in Zion.66 At one point during this decade, more than thirteen thousand Mormons were imprisoned in the Utah territory for the crime of plural marriage.

German officials took notice and used the Mormons’ difficulties with their own government as an excuse to consider the church an undesirable organization. When a missionary named Francis D. Lyman went on trial for advocating polygamous marriage, the German prosecutor said: “The United States government is legislating against you; why shouldn’t we?” A missionary in Nuremberg reported that police detectives kept him under surveillance, and when he later appeared before the police commissioner for Bavaria, he learned that the police intelligence branch had documented his day-to-day activities since his arrival in the country. According to reports submitted by the mission office to headquarters in Salt Lake City, German newspapers during this period reported many incidents of exploitation of émigrés who had settled in Utah, which church officials countered by submitting hundreds of affidavits from expatriates attesting to their proper treatment in America. 67

Throughout their history in Germany, Mormon missionaries seemed to be of two minds with regard to their relationship with the Twelfth Article of Faith, a tenet of their religion that mandated loyalty to civil government and obedience to the law of the land. Whenever a mission leader found himself confronted by local civil authorities, he proclaimed his willingness to obey civil authority as part of his defense. That occurred in the days of the first mission president, Daniel Carn, in the early 1850s, through the turn of the 20th century, when Hugh J. Cannon told Berlin police of “the church’s belief in subjugation to local police and noted that the well-being of the Imperial Government was the object of their daily prayers.”68

Nevertheless, whenever a chance occurred to achieve success in a “higher calling,” adherence to statute law and the dictates of civil authorities became secondary. In 1875, European Mission president Joseph F. Smith, a member of Council of the Twelve who would later ascend to the office of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, visited the Swiss-German mission’s headquarters in Basel. Informed that missionary work in the Prussian state of unified Germany still suffered from the Runderlass decree of 1853 and the resulting banishments of missionaries, he chose to reference instead an 1850 decree of the Prussian parliament that declared religious liberty in that state. He proclaimed:

Hereafter, the Elders will not stop to ask permission of the Authorities of Germany to preach the Gospel there but they will go and do it the Lord helping them and opening the way. The law gives them the legal right, and if denied by the bigotry of priests or rulers, contrary to the law, they will claim it at the hand of God, for it is HIS WORK.69

The missionaries, although harassed officially in Prussia and on an ad hoc basis in the other German states, took Smith’s words to heart. They made fourteen new German converts in 1875, while none in Prussia had been recorded for the previous five years. However, official sanctions followed as a consequence of their success. When clergymen in Mannheim-Ludwigshafen appealed to civil authorities, the captain of the local police district appeared at a Sunday meeting and ordered the missionaries to submit all of their books and tracts for official examination. Across the country in Berlin, police broke up Sunday services, detained the missionaries, and eventually ordered them out of the city under threat of a four-week jail sentence. In the Schleswig-Holstein city of Kiel, elder Ludwig Suhrke served thirty-eight days in prison after being arrested for a third time, and after having previously been banished twice. The authorities apparently thought the contagion of Mormonism posed a threat sufficient to warrant dispatching several dozen policemen to surround the house where he was staying.70

Over the next twenty years, despite a spate of official opposition, Germany overtook Switzerland as the home of the majority of German-speaking Mormons. During one three-month period in 1876, while a steady stream of bad publicity from America appeared in German periodicals, missionaries in the Mannheim-Ludwigshafen region reported thirty-one baptisms. The press took notice. “The Mormons are thriving and preaching polygamy,” stated an article in the Ludwigshafen Tageblatt.”71 The next year, 1877, saw Mormons baptize forty-seven out of its 243 German-speaking converts within the borders of a unified Germany, and in the following year, that number grew to fifty-five. Authorities in Bavaria shut down all Mormon meetings in 1879, but across the country in the Rhineland, the congregation in Ludwigshafen grew to ninety-seven members. By the end of 1880, German members composed one-third of the membership of the Swiss-German mission.

In 1882, the same year that the American Congress passed legislation that criminalized, after the fact, existing polygamous marriages, the Nuremberg branch reached a membership total of 218, which surpassed Switzerland’s Bern as the largest German-speaking congregation in Europe. Some 466 of the 1,091 members registered with the Swiss-German mission lived in Germany that year. At the same time, local police in Hamburg and Bremen refused to allow traveling Mormon elders to spend the night in either city.72

Despite official harassment and mob vigilantism that resulted from reports of Mormon polygamy abroad and successful conversion efforts in Germany, progress continued incrementally each year. By 1893, more than fifty percent of the membership that fell under the jurisdiction of the Swiss-German mission president resided in Germany. Five of the seven German speaking ecclesiastical units, called “conferences” during that period, were based on the German side of the border.73 This occurred despite periodic government shutdowns of church meetings, which happened in Berlin in the 1890s, and banishments of missionaries from Bavaria in 1894. The latter happened after a local newspaper complained that “Mormon baptisms were polluting the water of a canal” that ran through the King of Bavaria’s property.74

Despite a persistent rhythm of success followed by disappointment, of conversions followed by excommunications and apostasies, of the organization of church units followed by their banishment, German-speaking Latter-day Saints were on the verge of a growth spurt that would see them become, through emigration, the third-largest linguistic group to populate the Mormon Culture Region.75

Polygamy Dies but Its Legacy Lives On

Early in the year 1890, a United States congressman from Illinois and another from Iowa introduced proposed legislation that, although not enacted, served to break the back of polygamy and change the face of Mormonism worldwide. The Cullom- Strubble Bill, if it were not for the intervention of Secretary of State James G. Blaine, would have revoked the right to vote for every Mormon—single, monogamist, or polygamist—in the Utah territory. Up to this point, the Mormon hierarchy had stubbornly refused to modify the religious doctrine of polygamy—despite the fact that thirteen hundred of its elders were incarcerated in territorial penitentiaries, thousands more had scattered with their families to Mormon colonies from Canada to Mexico, Utah courts and school systems had been federalized, and the church’s property was in receivership. The prospect of Mormons effectively losing their rights as American citizens motivated the fourth Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Wilford Woodruff, to call a meeting of the Council of the Twelve on September 24, 1890.76 That afternoon a teletype operator in Salt Lake City sent a dispatch to the Associated Press in Chicago: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its intention to comply with the law of the land. There would be no more polygamous marriages.77

Observers in the United States and abroad met the announcement with skepticism. Gradually, however, sensational stories about Mormons disappeared from the newspapers and the public consciousness, giving the missionary effort new life. But clergy and constables were slow to forget. As missionaries began to walk the streets of Germany freely, they made more converts but their proselyting success garnered increased attention. That fueled a backlash from pulpits and police stations. As life at home became harder for new German converts, they were more prone to emigrate, which attracted even more scrutiny. An increasing number of missionaries arriving in the country drew even more attention. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, some six thousand missionaries left the safety of the Mormon Culture Region to preach the gospel all over the world. By 1901, eighty were recruiting converts in Germany. They were a conspicuous lot. As Brigham Young University historian Thomas G. Alexander notes, “Church rules did not allow missionaries to wear suits and ties; they were expected to don a Prince Albert coat and top hat . . . which singled out the missionaries for persecution and constituted a sizable financial burden.”78

For Mormons and their missionary efforts, the turn of the twentieth century marked both remarkable success and intensified repercussions characterized by vigilante violence and official harassment. Germany did not stand alone in its enmity; opposition prevailed elsewhere, both domestically and internationally. In the United States, the Southern States Mission, which oversaw LDS missionary efforts in the southeastern region of the United States, produced the most converts and fell victim to the greatest backlash. More than eleven hundred American southerners joined the LDS Church in the year 1899, just one year after the Alcorn Democrat of Corinth, Mississippi, called for lynching of missionaries, and the governor of Mississippi proposed banning LDS preaching. Opponents kidnapped two missionaries and dynamited a chapel in Georgia, stoned and shot at missionaries in Tennessee, and burned a church building in North Carolina. In Great Britain, the site of the Mormons’ greatest missionary success, a thirty-member bloc of Conservative Party members of parliament proposed anti- Mormon legislation, while elsewhere in the country mobs tarred and feathered missionaries and ransacked meeting houses.79

Nevertheless, the outlook for missionary work in German-speaking countries of Europe appeared so favorable at the turn of the century that Mormon officials decided to split the Swiss-German Mission into separate contingents for each country. For six and one-half years, the newly designated German Mission produced a record number of baptisms: 2,246. By 1904, German membership reached an all-time high, 2,863, and this number did not include those members who had emigrated. For the short-lived German Mission, an average of ninety-five missionaries proselytized each year, with maximum number of 137 in 1902.80 However, as a consequence of the mission’s success, opposition from clerics and constables increased. Six elders had recently been expelled from Hamburg in 1901, the mission headquarters city, when missionaries William Owen and Charles Morris were jailed and subsequently chained together as they were driven out of town. Seeking a friendlier venue, Mission President Hugh J. Cannon transferred the mission headquarters to Berlin in 1902, but that did not prove to be a fortuitous move. Within months, Prussian authorities expelled some twenty elders. Officials told the missionaries: “You are Mormons; the pastors have demanded your banishment.”81

Success did not always help the Mormon missionary effort; more often than not, it drew unwelcomed attention. Such was the case when, encouraged by increasing numbers of baptisms, Mormon mission presidents and their missionaries tested German tolerance by holding a European conference in Berlin on January 5, 1902. The convergence of so many American Mormons on the Prussian state capital, although vastly successful from a spiritual standpoint, alarmed officials of the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religion. Local pastors also met in conference and planned to respond by appealing to civil authorities to restrict Mormon proselyting. 82

Two months later, when a Prussian judge banished two Mormon missionaries from his jurisdiction, the Mormons pursued legal and diplomatic channels, involving not only the local American consul general, but also the highest echelons of the American State Department. Apostle Reed Smoot, who would soon play a controversial role in the next Mormon scandal to draw worldwide attention, approached Secretary of State John Hay. He asked Hay to instruct U. S. Ambassador Charlemaign Tower, Jr. to intercede on behalf of the mission. Another influential Mormon, Apostle John Henry Smith, obtained an audience with President Theodore Roosevelt, who promised that lawabiding missionaries would receive all of the diplomatic protection the American government could muster.83 The American embassy, working through the German Foreign Ministry, intervened. It requested that the Prussian state government adopt a uniform policy regarding the treatment of Mormon missionaries.

The strategy backfired. As in 1853 when Brigham Young sent emissaries to see the Prussian King, the Mormon leadership had overplayed its hand. Late in 1902, the Prussian Minister of the Interior released a memorandum entitled Ausweisung der Mormonen, Banishment of Mormons. Old reasons, such as encouragement of emigration, played a part in his decision. He also cited the input of the Minister of Religion, who argued that despite the 1890 Manifesto, “polygamy had not been eradicated in Mormon theology, and therefore the missionaries had no business in Prussia.”84 It probably did not help that Cannon, the mission president, had taken a bride in a polygamous union after the Mormon Prophet had issued the Manifesto but before he arrived in Germany.85 Prussian police intelligence was skilled enough to trace and record numerous comings and goings of American missionaries, often from the time they left their homes in Utah. Undoubtedly they knew about Cannon’s subsequent marriage. The Interior Minister declared that the 1853 expulsion order, the Runderlass, was still in effect.86

LDS officials appointed a German priesthood leader to take charge of the Berlin church affairs while Cannon, the American mission president, retreated to the safety of Switzerland. Missionaries were allowed to return to Berlin in 1905, but by 1907 the expulsions had resumed. In 1909 Smoot, by this time an influential United States Senator, again intervened with Secretary of State Philander Knox. The American consul in Hanover conferred with the German government to determine the reasons for continued harassment. Officials told him missionaries were guilty of “encouraging emigration” and “disorderly conduct.”

Another explanation for renewed persecution undoubtedly resulted from reemergence of the missionaries’ old nemesis: hysteria emanating from polygamy’s return as an issue in the popular press, and the fear that converted German women were being forced into plural marriages by lecherous Mormon elders hiding their harems behind the parapet of the American Intermountain West. The tumultuous controversy arose again in 1903 when Utah’s legislature appointed Reed Smoot to fill one of the state’s two seats in the United States Senate.87 Smoot was a member of the LDS Church’s Council of the Twelve, an Apostle in Mormon parlance. Although he was a monogamist, the appointment of a Mormon who held such a high ecclesiastical rank provoked a firestorm among Protestant Easterners who, as part of America’s emerging Progressive movement, campaigned assiduously against what they considered the twentieth century’s twin pillars of barbarism: alcoholic drink and residual Mormon polygamy. The Woodward Manifesto of 1890 merely forbade subsequent polygamous marriage ceremonies. Most Mormon elders continued to live with their multiple wives and father children by them. In fact, the first Prophet, Seer, and Revelator who had never taken a plural wife was George Albert Smith, who became church president in 1945.

The sensational subject of Mormon polygamy once again returned to the front pages of the world’s newspapers when the United States Senate challenged Smoot’s right to serve. Senators argued that the appointment of such a high-ranking official of the LDS Church indicated that Utahns had not sufficiently eschewed theocracy nor embraced secular democracy. Fueling their opposition were persistent rumors that church officials continued to perform secret plural marriage ceremonies.88 For three years, from 1904 to 1907, the Senate held a series of hearings on Smoot’s fitness to represent Utah. Senators dredged up and regurgitated old history that became fodder for journalistic sensationalism in the United States and abroad: Brigham Young’s multiple wives, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Danites (a fraternal organization that allegedly once served as a theocratic secret police), and the Mormon endowment ceremony’s temple oath to avenge the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Mormon general authorities did not help Smoot’s cause. Three members of the Quorum of the Twelve (John W. Taylor, Matthias F. Cowley, and Marringer W. Merrill) ignored subpoenas to testify.89 Taylor fled to Canada to avoid appearing in Washington. Joseph F. Smith, the church’s president, testified for six days. He confirmed that he continued to live with five wives and had fathered eleven children, at least one with each wife, since polygamy had ostensibly ended in 1890.90 The ranking Apostle, Francis M. Lyman, admitted not only to continued polygamous cohabitation but also to having no desire to desist from the practice. Heber J. Grant, who had recently visited Germany as a general authority to investigate reports of harassment against missionaries and congregants, told an assembly at the University of Utah, “Yes, I have two wives, and the only reason I don’t have another one is that the government won’t let me.”91 His remarks had been picked up by a reporter and were widely reported around the country at the time that Joseph F. Smith testified. Because of the intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt, the Senate eventually seated Smoot, but only after a majority vote to reject his nomination failed to meet the two-third’s requirement to expel a senator.92

In 1904 in response to the Smoot controversy, the reigning prophet, Joseph F. Smith, issued a Second Manifesto that threatened excommunication for any Mormon who subsequently took a polygamous partner and for any church elder who officiated at the ceremony. This became the basis for aggressive anti-polygamy enforcement in Utah and elsewhere in the Mormon Culture Region, to include both civil sanctions and spiritual excommunication, which the Mormon hierarchy pursued for the remainder of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, any hopes that Mormons in the mission field may have had to quell the furor over polygamy after 1890 died when the Smoot hearings aired the controversy’s scurrilous legacy once again. The hearings in Washington lasted until 1907 and the reverberations abroad affected Mormon missionary work for many years afterward.

Until missionary activity was suspended at the beginning of the First World War, the Mormons and German civil authorities continued to engage in the same cyclical struggle. Missionaries preached the gospel, made converts, and dispatched emigrants to America. In doing so, they attracted the attention and the wrath of religious and civil authorities. The police and courts then arrested and imprisoned the offending missionaries, who shortly thereafter obtained their release, often with consular help contingent on a promise to leave the city or the district. The expelled missionaries soon found themselves reassigned to other parts of Germany, their vacancies filled by fresh faces—newly arrived from America or recently expelled from other parts of the nation. Then, after a period of relative quiet ensued in which the antagonistic German preachers and their allies in the justice system seemed to lose interest, the replacement missionaries would begin making converts and dispatching them overseas.

This process seemed to repeat itself endlessly, but with each cycle, the Mormons gained strength incrementally. While some converts left for the American Zion, others stayed and built a permanent church membership in their own land. During the short life of the independent German Mission, total church membership among German citizens rose from 1,018 in its first year in 1898 to 2,863 in its final year of 1904.93 After 1904, in response to the banning of missionaries from Prussia, the church once again consolidated its operations safely across the border in Basel, Switzerland.

The Mormons gained strength because they fought a single-minded, full-time, unitary struggle to spread what they considered to be the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Opponents in the pulpits and the police stations had other, far more wide-ranging concerns. Furthermore, Germany’s federal structure provided for powerful state governments with expansive police powers within their own boundaries, but without a centralized federal law enforcement structure that had the authority to apply edicts nationwide.

Thus, this struggle continued throughout Mormonism’s “long nineteenth century” in Germany, which began with James Howard’s unsuccessful preaching to his fellow foundry employees in Hamburg in 1840 and did not end until authorities in Salt Lake City cabled instructions to repatriate all American missionaries at the beginning of the First World War. In 1910, just four years before the war began, a few incidents illustrated the progress Mormons had made during the history of their missionary work in Germany—offset by the frustration they experienced at continued official harassment. In April of that year, the new Swiss-German Mission president, Thomas E. McKay, embarked upon a two-month tour of Mormon congregations. Conditions had improved enough that the American ambassador in Berlin, David Jayne Hill, felt comfortable in furnishing the newly arrived mission president with an embassy car for the trip. In the interest of improving relations with civil authorities, McKay visited police stations in Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig.94 Later that month, the president of the Danish-Norwegian Mormon mission, traveling as a tourist, enjoyed unrestricted passage and a visit without incident when he attended the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria.95 By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, a Mormon official traveling in Germany who advocated neither polygamy nor emigration could be assured of passage without concern.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:03 am

Part 3 of 3

Nineteenth Century Immigration: Land for Life, Exaltation for Eternity

The LDS concept of Celestial Marriage, in which matrimonial bonds do not expire upon the death of one of the partners but instead endure for eternity, has been one of the most distinctive theological facets of Mormonism since the days of Joseph Smith.96 For happily married couples, the possibility of continuing familial relationships in the afterlife, even the possibly of having additional children in heaven, served as a powerful recruiting tool for potential converts. It also acted as a convincing inducement for immigration to the United States during the nineteenth century, an admonition to work hard and prosper upon their arrival, and a powerful control mechanism by which bishops and stake presidents governed their congregants.

Prior to the Manifesto of 1890 that abolished polygamy, faithful Mormons had to be involved in Celestial Marriage, as it was then defined, in order to enter the highest degree of a stratified heaven. Thusly wed for eternity, they would be eligible for godhood in their own right, a concept Mormons call “exaltation.” According to Latterday Saint scripture:

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power and the angels are subject unto them. 97

In order to achieve heavenly exaltation prior to the Manifesto of 1890, a man had to be willing to embark upon a polygamous marriage; a woman desiring the same exalted state in the afterlife had to be willing to tolerate “sister wives.”98 Since Mormons practiced polygamy only in the American Zion, a nineteenth century German convert faced a spiritual mandate to emigrate. Permission to take additional wives, and to have those marriages solemnized by proper ecclesiastic authority, also depended upon an individual male priesthood holder’s wealth and his worthiness. One of the requisites was the financial ability to support multiple spouses and the children those would produce, which was an inducement to work hard and become financially successful. Another requirement for obtaining permission to marry Celestially was his propensity to live his life according to the tenets of the church, including obedience to priesthood leaders.

After the abolition of polygamy, the concept of Celestial Marriage took a new meaning.99 To become exalted, a monogamous couple had to marry in the Holy Temple in a ceremony that would proclaim them wed “for time and all eternity.”100 Although Mormons were free to marry in civil ceremonies performed outside of the temple, and bishops were authorized to officiate at those weddings, such “time only” marriages would end upon the death of one of the partners—according to church doctrine. Mormons, however otherwise worthy, whose matrimonial experience did not include temple marriage for eternity would be consigned to the secondary status of “ministering angels,” heavenly residents whose sole job would be to serve those who had been more righteous in their early existence, i.e., those who had married in the temple and had thus inherited the privilege of progressing to godhood.101

Because Mormons did not practice polygamy in Europe, the opportunity to participate in Celestial Marriage during the nineteenth century required immigration to the United States. However, Mormon converts who emigrated did not do so solely in order to become polygamists. Many left Europe for other reasons: to follow friends or relatives who had become Mormons before them, to trade their persecuted religious minority status for membership in the regional majority once they reached the Mormon Culture Region, or to take advantage of what they saw in America—a promised land of economic opportunity. The chance to obtain irrigated farmland in the American west must have been attractive to many Germans, who had no hope of becoming landholders in their native country.

German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1853-1885102 Shipping List Records of the Perpetual Emigration Fund

Year / Passengers / Year / Passengers / Year / Passengers

1853 / 19 / 1864 / 106 / 1875 / 57
1854 / 54 / 1865 / 17 / 1876 / 108
1855 / 29 / 1866 / 44 / 1877 / 130
1856 / 20 / 1867 / 2 / 1878 / 175
1857 / 51 / 1868 / 43 / 1879 / 112
1858 / None* / 1869 / 69 / 1880 / 118
1859 / 55 / 1870 / 86 / 1881 / 121
1860 / 158 / 1871 / 78 / 1882 / 192
1861 / 89 / /1872 / 80 / 1883 / 291
1862 / 110 / 1873 / 149 / 1884 / 185
1863 / 54 / 1874 / 155 / 1885 / 185

*The Perpetual Emigration Fund sponsored no immigration during the 1858 Utah War.

Table 1: German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1853-1885

However, one’s marital status affected the allocation of Utah property. In September 1848 when Brigham Young distributed the first real estate in Salt Lake City, he promised land grants based upon the “Law of Stewardship,” which he defined as access “equal according to circumstances, wants, and needs.” According to Leonard Arrington, a Utah State University economist who later became the official LDS Church Historian, those stewardship criteria prescribed no land for a single man, one lot for a monogamist, and “one lot for each family” of a polygamist.103

The first records of German immigration to the Mormon Culture Region (Table 1) take the form of passengers shipping lists from the port of Liverpool, England in 1853, where Mormon agents working under the auspices of the Perpetual Emigration Fund (PEF) dispatched some 19 German converts to the American Zion.104 Mormon PEF agents contracted passage on transatlantic voyages for German converts, as well as for many Latter-day Saints who were emigrating from other countries.105

Brigham Young had proposed the PEF from the pulpit in 1839, some eight years before he ascended to the presidency of the LDS church upon the assassination of Joseph Smith. The Fund accepted donations and loans from faithful Latter-day Saints to pay for the transoceanic and the subsequent transcontinental passage of new converts from abroad. The beneficiaries were expected to repay their loans, and then if able, contribute new funds for the passage of subsequent immigrants. From its inception some nine years after the founding of the LDS Church until the federal government seized the Fund’s assets as a provision of the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy law in 1887, the PEF financed the passage of some 85,000 immigrants to Utah and surrounding territories in the Mormon Culture region.106 Some 3,599 German-speaking Mormon converts found their way across the Atlantic between the time that Daniel Carn became the first Mormon mission president in 1852 and the church announced the abandonment of the doctrine of polygamy in 1890.108

German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1886-1918 [107]
Mission reports published in Der Stern or filed with the LDS Church Historian’s Office

Year / Immigrants Year / Immigrants / Year / Immigrants

1886 / 95 / 1896 / 60 / 1906 / 283
1887 / 50 / 1897 / 48 / 1907 / no record
1888 / 44 / 1898 / 72 / 1908 / no record
1889 / 101 / 1899 / 120 / 1909 / no record
1890 / 167 / 1900 / 113 / 1910 / no record
1891 / 91 / 1901 / 206 / 1911 / 120
1892 / 99 / 1902 / 169 / 1912 / 121
1893 / 113 / 1903 / 269 / 1913 / 202
1894 / 56 / 1904 / 212 / 1914 / 101
1895 / 40 / 1905 / 278 / 1915-1918 / no record*

Table 2: German-Speaking Mormon Immigration to the United States, 1886-1918

When polygamy ended in 1890, Mormons began to reap a “peace dividend” from the end of several decades of conflict with the federal government. Despite the Panic of 1893, as Table 2 shows, Utah families found that they could afford to assume the monetary burden of supporting German relatives who wished to relocate to the United States. The advent of statehood in 1896 undoubtedly served as a spur to both the business climate in Utah and the optimism of its citizens. From the beginning of the twentieth century until 1906, more than 250 German speakers immigrated to the Mormon Culture Region each year, having financed the trip by themselves or with the help of American relatives.109

Nineteenth Century German Immigration in Perspective

In 1847 when Joseph Smith pronounced Germans to be worthy of godhood, he most likely envisioned a special place for his exalted nationality in the American Zion. After his death, a more pragmatic Brigham Young sought to populate the Mormons’ theocratic kingdom with the greatest number of hardworking, spiritually devoted followers who could be converted with the least expense to the Church or resistance from their home country.110 For that reason, the English-speaking residents of Great Britain, who posed no language problem to the American missionaries, contributed approximately fifty thousand immigrants to the Mormon Culture Region by the turn of the twentieth century.111 A significant percentage of British immigrants to the United States, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, adhered to dissenter confessions—rather than to Anglicanism. That may have played a secondary role in Great Britain’s status as the leading source of Mormon emigrants. British converts were accustomed to membership in minority denominations.

Comparison of German-Born Residents in Utah and the United States, 1850-1910
U.S. Bureau of the Census Decennial Census Data

Census [112] / British [113] Utah - USA / Scandinavians [114] Utah - USA / Germans [115] Utah - USA

1850 / 1,519 / 1,340,812 / 35 / 18,075 / 50/60 / 578,225
1860 / 9,540 / 2,197,277 / 2,179 / 72,612 / 107/236 / 1,301,136
1870 / 20,772 / 2,580,556 / 7,360 / 241,685/ 358/871 / 1,690,533
1880 / 26,579 / 2,772,169 / 12,775 / 350,262 / 885/1,947 / 1,966,742
1890 / Much of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. Available summations appear unreliable.
1900 / 25,679 / 2,788,304 / 18,285 / 1,064,296 / 2,360/4,074 / 2,666,990
1910 / 24,663 / 2,572,123 / 17,831 / 1,250,662 / 3,963/7,524 / 2,501,181

Table 3: A Comparison of German-Born Residents in Utah and the United States, 1850-1910

Scandinavian immigrants comprised the second leading linguistic group of Mormon converts. Some thirty thousand arrived in the American Zion during the nineteenth century.116 Their conversion may have posed linguistic problems not encountered by English-speaking missionaries in the British Isles. However, as University of Utah professor William Mulder demonstrates, nowhere in Scandinavia did Mormons encounter the frequency or the intensity of opposition they met in the German states. Protestant pastors in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden manifested opposition to conversion of their flock by Mormon missionaries, but the Scandinavian clergy never forged the alliance with police and civil government officials that occurred in the Germanstates.117 A population of more than 7,500 migrants from German-speaking countries resided in Utah prior to the First World War, and undoubtedly more lived in the surrounding states of the Mormon Culture Region. That gave German speakers a strong third-place ranking among immigrants upon whom the LDS Church could rely to build its American kingdom. See Table 3. In addition to Karl Maeser, who became the first president of Brigham Young Academy, other notable nineteenth century German immigrants to Utah included architects K. A. Kletting and Karl Neuhausen, and mining magnate John Beck. Kletting designed the Utah state capitol building. Neuhausen designed the Thomas Kearns Mansion in Salt Lake City, the current governor’s mansion. He also designed Salt Lake City’s Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of the Madeline. Beck is considered the father of Utah’s mining industry. Although faithful Mormons are supposed to eschew alcoholic drink, the LDS health code did not prevent two German-born, nineteenth-century Utah immigrants, Henry Wagener and Albert Fischer, from establishing the brewing industry in Salt Lake City. Ostensibly, they did so to “serve the needs of [non-Mormon] railroad workers and miners,” but probably also to quench the thirst of German Mormon immigrants for whom teetotalism had not yet become a way of life.118

As the data in Figures 1, 2, and 3 illustrate, the pace of German-speaking immigration to the Mormon Culture Region lagged demonstrably behind the British and Scandinavian rates during the first generation of migration to the Mormon Culture Region. Additionally, data computed by University of Pennsylvania scholar E. P. Hutchison demonstrates that Germans in Utah were underrepresented in comparison to their countrymen who immigrated to other American states. By contrast, every other Protestant nation in Northern Europe enjoyed an overrepresentation in the proportion of its emigrants who migrated to Utah.119 However, thanks to the more culturally enlightened and linguistically inclined mission leaders the LDS Church began to dispatch to its German-speaking missions in the 1870s, the Mormons’ German-speaking missions became more productive, allowing the proportion of German immigrants compared to other nationalities in Utah to improve.



1 B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century I (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1930), 6:302-317.
2 Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, 1st ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), 11. 
3 Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1938), 349.
4 Roberts, History of the Church, 6:316; Smith, Teachings of the Prophet, 364.
5 Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), s.v. “Exaltation.”
6 Douglas D. Alder, “The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah 1850-1950” (master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1959), iii.
7 Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Marc Alain Bohn, “A Long-Awaited Visit: President Heber J. Grant in Switzerland and Germany, 1937,” BYU Studies 42-3/4 (2003): 5-20.
8 “Official Report of the First Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain Area General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Munich: 1974), 111.
9 Bruce A. Van Orden, Building Zion: The Latter-day Saints in Europe (Salt  Lake City: Deseret, 1996), 16, 200-201.
10 Fawn McKay Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, 2nd ed. (New York: Vintage, 1995); H. B. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, Brigham D. Madsen, ed., (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985). Brodie argued in 1945, in the book that resulted in her excommunication, that Joseph Smith used View of the Hebrews as a template for the Book of Mormon. Her view received additional credence with the publication in 1985, by University of Utah researcher Brigham Madsen, of Mormon General Authority B. H. Roberts’ early 1920s investigative report that found eighteen distinct points of congruence between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews. Roberts was no critic of Mormonism, but instead a staunch defender of his faith. The troubling nature of his findings led him to withhold his early-twentieth century report from many peers in the Mormon hierarchy.
11 Richard L. Bushman and Jed Woodworth, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 1st ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 109. Official histories of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints place the foundational meeting in Fayette, New York. Columbia University historian Richard Bushman, in his recent biography of Joseph Smith, discusses a historical controversy resulting from an 1842 letter from Joseph Smith to a Chicago journalist that placed the organizational meeting in Manchester, New York.
12 Ibid., 195.
13 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Missions.”
14 Ibid., 916.
15 Bushman, Rough Rolling Stone, 153.
16 “Church Statistics,” Deseret News Church Almanac, 1999-2000 (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1999), 550.
17 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Missions of the Twelve to the British Isles.”
18 James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976), 281.
19 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Zion.” Mormons refer to Zion as “a group of God’s followers or a place where such a group lives.” Throughout the nineteenth century, the “gathering to Zion” meant relocation of converts to live with the main body of followers, rather than the establishment of local congregations.
20 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Missions.” Several of these missions lasted only as long as the terms of service of the establishing missionaries and subsequently closed when those missionaries went home. At the end of 1859, the LDS Church maintained nine permanent missions in the United States and abroad.
21 John A. Widtsoe, ed., Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1954), 476.
22 Alexander L. Baugh, “A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri” (Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1996), 99-112.
23 Lilburn Boggs, Governor of Missouri, “Executive Order No. 44,” 27 Oct. 1838, ... /16-02.gif

24 Alexander L. Baugh, “Joseph Young’s Affidavit of the Massacre at Haun’s Mill,” BYU Studies 38-1 (1999), 188-202.

25 Monte B. McLaws, “The Attempted Assassination of Missouri’s Ex-Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs,” Missouri Historical Review 60-1 (Oct. 1965): 50-62.

26 Ostling, Mormon America, 7.
27 Ibid., 7, 11.
28 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 1.
29 Ostling, Mormon America, 92-93, 287-287.
30 German Mission Manuscript History, Aug.1842, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
31 Scharffs, who spent a career as an instructor and director in the LDS Church’s religious education program for high school and college students, is the author of The Truth About The God Makers (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers, 1986), an apologetic rebuttal of evangelical Christian Ed Decker’s sensational and factually inaccurate anti- Mormon film, The God Makers (Jeremiah Films, 1982).
32 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 2.
33 Oliver H. Budge, My Story (Logan, Utah: privately published, n.d), 32.
34 Allen, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 278.
35 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 9-11.
36 Ibid., 14-15.
37 Ibid., 14.
38 Ibid., 15, 23-24.
39 Jeffery L. Anderson, “Mormons and Germany, 1914-1933: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its Relationship with the German Governments from World War I to the Rise of Hitler” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1991), 10-11.
40 Ibid.
41 See text in Appendix A.
42 Michael Mitchelle, "The Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany: Making a Place for an Unwanted American Religion in a Changing German Society" (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1994), 40.
43 Ibid., 104-106, 125.
44 Van Orden, Building Zion, 104-106.
45 Ibid., 24.
46 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 37-39
47 Van Orden, Building Zion, 104-105.
48 The German-speaking mission headquartered in Switzerland moved to Basel in the late 1870s, a city located on the Swiss side of the border juncture of France, Germany, and Switzerland. Geneva, a French-speaking city, fell under the administration of the Paris mission.
49 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 213-214.
50 Douglas F. Tobler, “Education, Moral Values, and Democracy: Lessons from the German Experience,” BYU Studies 28-2 (1988): 52.
51 Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, A Book of Mormons (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1982), 178.
52 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 18-19.
53 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 27.
54 Van Orden, Building Zion, 37, 95. Church missionaries in France also published a short-lived French version, Etoile du Deseret, in 1851-1852.
55 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 26-27.
56 Van Wagoner and Walker, A Book of Mormons, 180-181.
57 Anderson, "Mormons and Germany,” 9n10. Anderson, in his study of Mormons during the Weimar Period, searched extensively for a nineteenth century German statute that expressly outlawed polygamy. He found none. Said Anderson, “Apparently lawmakers saw little need for such laws since regulations regarding moral behavior could generally be cited against the practice.”
58 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 24-25.
59 Allen, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 445.
60 The law prescribed punishment for anyone convicted of polygamy, revoked incorporation of the LDS Church, and limited its real estate holdings to $50,000.
61 Allen, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 313.
62 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 23-24.
63 Ostling, Mormon America, 70.
64 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 24-25.
65 Allen and Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 396-406.
66 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Perpetual Emigrating Fund”
67 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 37-39.
68 Mitchelle, “Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 129.
69 Millennial Star, 37:394 in Mitchelle, “Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 81. (emphasis in original.)
70 Schraffs, Mormonism in Germany, 34-36.
71 Ibid., 30.
72 Ibid., 35.
73 Ibid., 41-43.
74 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 36.
75 Alder, “The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah 1850-1950,” iii.
76 John Taylor, the church president who succeeded Brigham Young and who fought to maintain polygamy as a sacred ordinance while in hiding from federal authorities, had died in 1887.
77 Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1989), 139-43.
78 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 217.
79 Ibid., 224, 230-231.
80 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 51, table 3.
81 Ibid., 49
82 Mitchelle, "The Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 112-13.
83 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 227-228.
84 Mitchelle, “The Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany”, 133.
85 Ibid., 120.
86 Ibid., 134.

87 Utah won statehood in 1896, six years after the LDS Church pledged to bless  no more plural marriages, and only after the state’s constitutional convention adopted a  plank that specifically barred subsequent polygamous unions. Utah is the only state in  the union to outlaw polygamy by constitutional provision; others do so by statute. The  Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which mandated direct  election of senators, did not become effective until 1911. Before then, state legislatures  chose United States senators.
88 D. Michael Quinn, “LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890- 1904,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18-1 (Spring 1985): 9-105.
89 Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 175-76.
90 Ibid., 169.
91 Milton R. Merrill, Reed Smoot: Apostle in Politics (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1990), 42.
92 For the latest scholarship on the Smoot hearings, see Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
93 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 51.
94 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 4 Apr 1910. Archives,  Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City,  Utah.
95 Ibid., 27 Aug. 1910.
96 Eternal marriage’s spiritual justification is contained in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of four volumes of LDS scripture. Published on July 12, 1843, Section 132’s introductory paragraph advises, “the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known to the Prophet since 1831.” The Prophet, Joseph Smith, had taken his first “plural wife,” Fanny Alger, in 1833, three years after he founded the LDS Church.
97 Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:1.
98 Mormon polygamy was always polygynous, never polyandrous; husbands took multiple wives but women were never allowed multiple husbands.
99 Ostling, Mormon America, 86.
100 Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:20.
101 Joseph Fielding Smith. Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, ed. Bruce R. McConkie. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1955), 44, 60.
102 Alder. “The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” appx. F. *The PEF sponsored no immigration during the 1858 Utah War.
103 Leonard J. Arrington. Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, 2nd Ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1968), 51.
104 Alder, “The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” appx. F.
105 Although some German-speaking Mormons undoubtedly emigrated from other European ports, the numbers manifested in the Liverpool Shipping List maintained by the PEF approximately coincide with the number of German speakers found in U. S. Census records for the territory and state of Utah.
106 Gustive O. Larson, “The Story of the Perpetual Emigration Fund,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 18-2 (Sep. 1931): 184-194.
107 Alder, “The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” appx. F. *German immigration halted during the First World War.
108 Alder, The German-Speaking Immigration to Utah, 1850-1950, appx. F, 119- 121.
109 Ibid., 121-122.
110 To illustrate the difference between Joseph Smith’s idealism and Brigham Young’s pragmatism, consider that Smith contributed 136 “revelations from God” that have been incorporated into the Doctrine and Covenants, an LDS book of scripture. By contrast, Young authored one, which established the chain of command for the westward pilgrimage of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.
111 Utah History Encyclopedia, s.v. “Immigration to Utah,”
112 U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1850. Table XV. Place of Birth - Foreign, p. xxxvi.
U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1860. Table LL. Volume on Mortality and Miscellaneous Statistics. Native Foreigners Residing in Each State, p. liii.
U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1870. Table VI. Special Nativity by States and Territories and Compendium of the Ninth Census of the United States, p. 392.
U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1880. Table XXX. Natives of Foreign-born Populations in the United States. Compendium of the Tenth Census of the United States, Part I.
U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1900. Table LXXXII. Foreign-born Population, Distributed According to Principal Countries of Birth. Volume 1, Part 1, p. cixxiii.
U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1910. Table I. Composition and Characteristics of the Population for the State and Counties. Population, p. 882.
113 Includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
114 Includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden.
115 In the column for Utah, the number to the left of the diagonal includes only those born in the states of the German Empire. The number to the right includes German speakers from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Census data allows this flexibility, while LDS Church immigration records only track migrants by the mission from which they emigrated, and thus will combine German speakers from different countries.
116 Ibid.
117 See William Mulder, Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from  Scandinavia (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2000)
118 Evan Sawdey, “History of Beer in Utah,” Slug Magazine 234 (Jun. 2008): 10- 12.
119 E. P. Hutchison, Immigrants and Their Children: A Volume in the Census Monograph Series (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1956), 29-43.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:05 am

Part 1 of 3


The beginning of the First World War caught Germany’s Mormon missionaries by surprise. When compared to building God’s kingdom on earth or saving souls for the afterlife, an obscure, far-away world event such as the assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire seemed of little consequence. As the tension of the July Crisis of 1914 unfolded, at first quietly among diplomats and generals’ staffs, and only later in the consciousness of the European population, the Swiss and German Mission’s leadership paid little heed—even as the world spiraled precipitously down into war. Only in the final week of the crisis did the Mormon leadership in Basel, Switzerland become aware. On July 25, as the German government urged Austria to take immediate military action against Serbia, Rose Ellen Valentine, the wife of Swiss and German Mission President Hyrum Valentine, wrote in her journal as she sat safely across the Swiss border: “There are rumors of war in Germany.” One day later, as Russian Tsar Nicholas II ordered partial mobilization in four large cities, she added: “War seems inevitable.”1

Her husband, Mission President Hyrum Valentine, encountered more than rumors of war; he observed firsthand the reaction of Germany’s populace to the outbreak of Europe’s first continent-wide armed conflict since the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. On August 1, when Germany formally declared war on Russia, Hyrum Valentine was touring the German congregations in the company of Hyrum Mack Smith, the Mormons’ European mission president, who had come to Germany from his headquarters in Liverpool, England. On August 3, the day Germany declared war on France, Smith’s European mission office in Liverpool received an overnight cable dispatched from Salt Lake City the previous day. It instructed mission presidents to remove missionaries from all regions where they could face danger.2 Smith was not there to read it; he would not view that directive from his superiors in the LDS hierarchy until he returned to England on August 22.3 The declaration of war caused communications between the United States with Germany to be severed. Events had overtaken the church leadership’s ability to respond.

The war declarations quickly stoked patriotic fever and nationalist hysteria throughout the combatant nations. By the time Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, anyone caught speaking English on the streets of Germany risked attracting suspicion at best and risked mob reprisal at worst.4 Indeed, German police arrested the two mission presidents, Valentine and Smith, together with a young companion missionary, and charged them with being spies. Valentine and the young missionary were able to produce their American passports but when Smith could not do so immediately, it required the intervention of the American vice consul to convince the German authorities that the European Mormon mission president was not engaged in espionage for the British.5

In the absence of guidance from Salt Lake City, the two mission presidents suspended all meetings between the American missionaries and their German congregants. American diplomats advised the missionaries to seek protection in neutral countries, but overland passage proved impossible. Germany’s soldiers jammed all available trains, enacting a mobilization plan for fighting a two-front war against the French and the Russians. Valentine could not book passage back to Switzerland until twelve days after the war started.

Meanwhile, some missionaries in northern Germany, aided by funds dispatched by Mission President LeGrand Richards in The Netherlands, were able to arrange travel through that country on their way to Liverpool.6 Nevertheless, for more than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, Mormon missionaries remained haphazardly scattered about wartime Germany, forbidden to carry out their duties for fear of provoking reprisals against foreigners and cut off from their source of financial support by the suspension of postal and telegraphic service.

It was only upon Valentine’s arrival back at mission headquarters in Basel, following receipt of cables from church headquarters in Salt Lake, that the Swiss and German Mission president received what he considered to be the proper ecclesiastical authorization to cancel missionary work and evacuate the young Americans. That required a potentially hazardous, ten-day trip back into Germany. Valentine withdrew twenty thousand Imperial Marks from the mission’s bank account and began tracking down the remaining dispersed missionaries, arranging for their safe passage home, and appointing native German convert members to assume leadership posts in the congregations and in the missionary work. Valentine found most of the American missionaries secure, unaffected by the war, and protected by German members.7 By October 15, 1914, the German-language Mormon periodical published in Basel, Der Stern, The Star, had compiled a list of 152 evacuated missionaries, including fifteen who arrived at mission headquarters in Switzerland on the same day.8

After the removal of all American missionaries from Germany, the next challenge became maintaining contact with the membership. Foreign mission work had relied on regular visits by the mission president and his assistants who toured the various branches and districts on a regular basis in order to ensure compliance with proper liturgical practices and church directives issued in Salt Lake City. Although some progress had been made in the first decade of the twentieth century regarding the installation of convert German members into positions of authority on the local level, often young American missionaries had assumed the position of branch or district president in the absence of competent local priesthood authority. This became impossible upon the evacuation of missionary personnel and necessitated trust in native German leaders who would henceforth receive only sporadic counsel from higher authority.

Attempts to reenter Germany, even to visit with soldiers who had made their way to the Swiss border, or with members in neighboring German towns, proved to be frustrating and dangerous. Rose Valentine, wife of the mission president, wrote of such an approach early in the war, when a local missionary serving on the Swiss side of the border tried to cross into Germany:

Sister Bart and I walked to the bridge but it was heavily guarded with armed soldiers. Brother Bowman tried to cross and was arrested and taken to jail. He has previously tried to cross the border into Germany, but one of the soldiers struck him with his gun and he came back to the office with blood all over his face.9

From time to time, despite great odds and potential penalties, a German soldier would succeed in crossing the border for a visit to the mission president. An entry in Rose Valentine’s diary in the summer of 1915 tells of one such encounter with a recently discharged army veteran:

In the evening Brother Edward Hoffmann came in. (Bro. Hoffman had been an earnest local missionary before being called into the war.) I felt like taking him into my arms . . . with a feeling of laughing and weeping, joy and sadness—a soldier who had lost his right leg (amputated under the knee), a soldier for truth and a missionary. ‘Not one shot have I fired on the enemy,’ he said, and this sentence brought a glorious light into his face. We talked and talked; he ate a bite and retired.10

Mail service between combatant Germany and neutral Switzerland eventually resumed, allowing Valentine to coordinate with appointed German ecclesiastical leaders by postal dispatch. Communication was intermittent at first but then flowed more regularly. The first full reports of branch conferences, held in 1915, indicated a resumption of normal church functioning. Those reports appear in a January 2, 1916, entry in the Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories as a consolidation of the previous year’s events.11 By Easter of 1916, from the safety of his office in Basel, the mission president directed Sunday school conventions in Berlin, Zwickau, Freiberg, Frankfurt, Hannover, Königsberg, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Breslau, Stuttgart, and Spandau.12

The mail also brought unwelcome news of Mormon deaths on the battlefield, which the Latter-day Saints would subsequently exploit to demonstrate their loyalty to the government. Beginning shortly after hostilities commenced, the mission office in Basel began compiling a list of faithful Mormon priesthood holders who had fallen on the field of battle for the Fatherland. Most surviving records of these losses reveal only the name of the soldier, his local congregation, and his date of death. Some contained a few sparse details. For example, Friedrich Wehnes of Frankfurt “stepped on a mine” and perished on October 2, 1915. Helmuth Friedrich Michael Walter Kererbeck of Hamburg “succumbed to typhoid fever while in the military” on June 28, 1915. The entry for Friedrich Dahl of Karlsrhue reveals that he was “shot through the stomach and died on the battlefield. He was a true and devoted member of the Church, and while serving in the army he used every opportunity he had to preach the Gospel to his comrades.”13 In subsequent years, and especially in reaction to the rise of National Socialism, Mormons stressed the loyalty their German members displayed to the Kaiser by their service and sacrifice on the battlefield during the Great War. The ability to remain loyal to the state and to the church simultaneously, along with the skill of the leaders who brought this message to the government, became the hallmark defense of this American-based religion that aroused so much suspicion in Germany.

The experience of Wilhelm Kessler, a native German who immigrated to the United States and then returned to service in his native country—first as a Mormon missionary and then as a soldier for the Kaiser—demonstrates that German Mormons could be loyal to both their church and their native country. At the outbreak of the First World War, Kessler faced a stark choice: evacuate Germany, remain in missionary service with his American church in Switzerland, and eventually return to his adopted American home, or answer a call to military service from his native land. He chose the latter, expressing profound feelings of guilt for abandoning his church and newfound country, and subsequently paying for the decision by sacrificing his life on the battlefield.

Kessler, born in Neunkirchen, converted to Mormonism at age twenty in 1907. He moved to Salt Lake City in 1910 and worked as a bookkeeper for a candy company. Two years later, the church called him on a mission. He proselytized in Germany during 1912 and subsequently moved to Basel, where his bilingual skills helped him edit the weekly German-language church periodical, Der Stern.

When war broke out, Mission President Hyrum Valentine was touring Germany accompanied by Hyrum M. Smith, the European mission president. Kessler, at work in Basel, attempted to telegraph Valentine, seeking counsel regarding his decision to enlist in the German army. But communications links had been severed at the outbreak of hostilities, leaving the young German-American missionary solely with the guidance he could receive through prayer.14 When Valentine returned to Basel, he found a letter Kessler penned before departing for the front lines that explained the young man’s anguished deliberation and tortured decision:

[qutoe]I could not look my countrymen in the face and stand here when they call me to render assistance. It is true that I have been sent here to do missionary work . . . there is nothing here but turmoil. I don’t know but that tomorrow the French will rush over the boundary into Basel; they will discover I am a German citizen, and I will be taken a prisoner of war and interned. I don’t know but tomorrow the Germans themselves will cross over the boundary . . . and could come here and take me as a traitor to my country. I may be cast into prison, I may be executed. It matters not. I must go!15[/quote]

In subsequent correspondence, Kessler asked his mission president:

Please don’t argue with yourself that I did wrong in joining the German Army. Consider my patriotism, my rights that I am fighting for, my religious views on the subject, my belief in heavenly protection and the oath that I have taken with a conscious German heart when called into the army.16

Kessler was wounded in battle on Sept. 19, 1914, for which he received the Iron Cross, second class. After recovery in hospitals at Karlsruhe and Labry, the former missionary again served on the front lines. Kessler then attended officer candidate school, from which he graduated and subsequently received a promotion to first lieutenant on June 16, 1916.

One month later, Valentine reluctantly penned the following dispatch to Salt Lake City: “Wilhelm Kessler, a local elder of the Church, was killed in battle on the west front, near Mamerz and Montauban, in France.”17 It was July 1, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in which the Germans eventually lost half a million soldiers, the British four hundred thousand, and the French two hundred thousand. Kessler’s death made such an impression on Valentine that he made it a subject of his address to the LDS Church’s General Conference in Salt Lake City on April 8, 1917, after the mission president returned from his duties.18 Valentine’s speech took place the day after the United States declared war on Germany, but that did not prevent the former mission president from extolling the loyalty of German-Americans to their native country. Such declarations from the pulpit at the Salt Lake Tabernacle would occur regularly in the years that followed, especially during the pre-war Nazi years (1933-39), when church leaders emphasized the loyalty of German Mormons to their country.

The Mormons were well aware that much of their nineteenth century history in Germany reflected confrontations with local authorities and defiance of government directives; in the twentieth century, the emphasis shifted to compliance and coexistence. Records of the Swiss and German Mission indicate that Wilhelm Kessler was one of seven ordained German missionaries who quit church service in favor of military enlistment at the beginning of the war; others undoubtedly followed in subsequent years. The same mission records indicate that eleven Mormon priesthood holders died on the battlefield for the Fatherland in 1914, twenty in 1915, fourteen in 1916, thirteen in 1917, and seventeen in 1918. These casualties do not include the number of wounded LDS soldiers who survived.19 The willingness of faithful Mormons to serve in the German military and to spill their blood on the field of battle became a strong arguing point for the survival of LDS congregations in the subsequent Weimar and National Socialist eras.

The Mormons’ postwar relief effort served as a trial run for a larger relief effort undertaken on behalf of German members after World War II. Although most of the Great War’s battles occurred away from German soil, continuing Allied naval blockades, enacted to pressure the German government to accept the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, caused widespread hunger and deprivation for more than a year after the armistice. Although the first postwar American missionaries would not arrive to proselytize in Germany until 1921, the new mission president, Angus J. Cannon, busied himself not only with the reestablishment of ecclesiastical supervision over the German branches and districts, but also the provision of relief supplies obtained from Switzerland and the Americas.

On September 2, 1919, Cannon cabled the church hierarchy in Salt Lake City: “Eight thousand Saints of this mission are in immediate need of flour, corn-meal, condensed milk, fats, dried fruit, beans, peas. Can the Saints at home send such supplies immediately?” Cannon followed it with a postal dispatch:

I am certain that [yesterday’s] telegram might cause some surprise because the home papers spread the idea that the people in Germany are well fed and cared for. According to reports we have received from the Saints, we fear their fate is doubtful. They almost beg that their brethren in Zion may help them. One sister, the president of the Relief Society in Chemnitz, writes: ‘A few cans of condensed milk would make us dance like children and our gratitude would reach to the high heavens.’

Cannon’s dispatch emphasized the self-reliance attempted by local Mormons, and how French-speaking Mormons from western Switzerland had been the first to respond by sending local relief items to their fellow German congregants. 20

Church leaders responded by utilizing a resource not available during the rebellious period of the nineteenth century, when their defiance of American antipolygamy laws won them few friends among American politicians and diplomatic personnel. The Mormons turned to political leaders who had emerged with the advent of Utah statehood in 1896. Reed Smoot, seated as a United States senator upon the intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt after a three-year Senate investigation in 1907, concluded in concert with church officials that the most efficient way to obtain relief supplies would not be to seek donations in America and to deal with the futility of purchasing passage on already burdened postwar shipping. Instead, Smoot used his political connections to help the church purchase provisions from the American Expeditionary Forces that had joined the war in late 1917.

Said Smoot in a cable to the First Presidency in Salt Lake:

War Department wired Judge Parker, United States Liquidation Commissioner, Paris. . . . I have guaranteed payment. Wired Cannon to get in touch with Parker. Have given him the address of the Commissioner.21

The relief effort provided one vehicle by which the American mission president reestablished ecclesiastical control over German Latter-day Saints who had acted independently of centralized authority for nearly five years. Cannon appointed Elder Johannes Borkhardt to take charge of distributing relief supplies. No figures document the total amount of relief supplies provided from Swiss members and American Army sources, but one invoice from the American military garrison in Koblenz provides an approximation of the magnitude of a typical local effort: Church funds purchased fifty thousand pounds of flour, fifteen thousand pounds of rice, five thousand pounds of oleo margarine, twenty thousand pounds of prunes, and twenty thousand cans of condensed milk.22

German Latter-day Saints during the war not only served their country well, but also attended conscientiously to the business of the church. Baptisms remained relatively stable and tithing collections increased, despite the fact that the American missionaries had departed for home and young German priesthood holders had left for the battlefield. Local missionaries conducted proselytizing activity and many Mormon soldiers preached the gospel to fellow military personnel. During a seven-year period from the outbreak of the war until the first arrival of foreign missionaries in 1921, German Mormons averaged 430 baptisms per year, quite a remarkable accomplishment for a nation in the throes of war and postwar recovery. By contrast, during the prosperous prewar years of 1912 and 1913, with the aid of foreign missionaries, baptisms averaged 564. In 1915, Germany’s first full calendar year of war, tithing collections increased over the immediate pre-war period.23 In 1920, in the midst of the American church’s relief effort but absent supervision from American ecclesiastical leaders, baptisms almost doubled to 1165.24

Thus, to the observer not acquainted with the culture of Mormonism, it may be surprising that the American mission president, upon the reestablishment of centralized church authority over the formerly isolated wartime congregations, would reorder the local ecclesiastical leadership. Mission President Cannon’s successor, Serge Ballif, embarked in 1921 upon a program of wholesale leadership changes at the branch and district level, replacing Germans with Americans. Jeffery L. Anderson, in his master’s thesis at Brigham Young University, speculated that the desire to replace these native German leaders may have stemmed from congregational discord observed by the returning missionaries, driven by the American cultural belief that Germans tend to be dogmatic and inflexible.25

Another factor may have been the spike in patriotic German meetinghouse pronouncements that made the American leadership uncomfortable after the United States joined the war in 1917. An article in the German-language church periodical, Der Stern, which published continually from Switzerland throughout the war, mentions a commendation from the Kaiser bestowed upon a German Mormon for authoring poetry with a patriotic tone.26 Another article cited the tendency of congregants to pray for a German victory.27 Although the Mormon leadership always stressed the loyalty of converts to their secular government, such pronouncements occurred as part of a strategy coordinated by the hierarchy. When Germans expressed patriotic fervor for their native land during a war with the United States, those declarations may have been disquieting for the American leadership—even if they were read, after the fact, in written records of wartime church services.

The most alarming reason for the reversion to American congregational leadership, however, may have been the tendency of the German wartime priesthood— often converts who had limited Mormon Church experience prior to the departure of the American missionaries—to modify ironclad liturgical practice in accordance with their previous Christian experiences in the Catholic or Lutheran churches. In Hamburg, for example, the local branch president began withholding the Sacrament of bread and water from members of the congregation who did not pay a ten percent tithing.28 The same leader began pronouncing “prophesies” regarding the fate of Germany’s enemies in the post-war period.29 Mormons believe in the authenticity of personal prophecy for oneself and one’s own immediate family, but such wide-ranging, global predictions of the future are usually reserved for the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator—the church president. In Bremen, the simple Sacrament ceremony found itself upgraded to a Catholic or Evangelical Church-style presentation with candles on a sacrament table adorned with a gilded tablecloth, water consumed from a crystal chalice, and a musical accompaniment.30 The Mormon Sacrament is served in silence.

The First World War served as a dress rehearsal for Mormon survival after the Nazi seizure of power and the Second World War that followed. In 1914, and again in 1939, missionaries were suddenly and expeditiously withdrawn upon the outbreak of hostilities, leaving local congregants accustomed to close supervision to wield church governance on their own, which they did quite successfully on both occasions. With American missionaries gone, persecution by religious prelates and the police waned. German Mormons enlisted in the armed services and supported their country’s war efforts during both conflicts, demonstrating genuine patriotism and dedication to mutual support by the members. Customary German immigration to the United States practically halted during both conflicts, only to begin again after peace was restored. After both wars, the church moved aggressively to reestablish ecclesiastical supervision of members and institute effective material aid to its German members in a war-ravished country. Following both world wars, improvements in constitutional democracy gave the Mormons more freedom of action to promote their church programs and missionary conversion efforts in both postwar periods.

The First World War proved to be a crucible in which German Latter-day Saints demonstrated they could survive as a foreign-based religious sect without direct guidance of their traditional mentors. However, it took the return of that American leadership, and the political savvy it had developed after the demise of polygamy, to provide the German church with the mettle it would need to survive National Socialism in both peacetime and war.

Mormons in the Weimar Republic

Critics of the Weimar Republic, that fourteen-year experiment in German democracy born of devastating defeat in war and ultimately crushed in the catastrophe of National Socialism, often refer to it as a “republic without republicans.”31 The degree to which German society was ready to embrace constitutional democracy lies beyond the scope of this study, but the freedom afforded by the new republic appeared fortuitously timed to benefit a struggling American religious sect hampered by its inconvenient past and a history of being persecuted. Mormon society, a theocracy governed by rigid, centralized authority, did not require all of the constitutional freedoms ostensibly guaranteed by the new German republic; it needed only some breathing room. This is what the German LDS Church received when Friedrich Ebert, the state president, affixed his signature to the Weimar Constitution on August 11, 1919. Henceforth, although Mormons would still encounter resistance from offended Protestant and Catholic ministers and priests, and the occasional policeman would still take an elder into custody, there would be no question of a law-abiding American’s right to preach his version of the gospel on German soil.

Mormons had been their own worst enemy during the nineteenth century; their doctrine of polygamy was a self-inflicted wound. Latter-day Saints, branded as outlaws in their own country, could hardly have expected to receive recognition of legitimacy in Imperial Germany. Although the First Manifesto prohibited new plural marriages in 1890 and the Second Manifesto in 1904 cleaned up hierarchical resistance to the new doctrine of monogamy, skepticism in Germany remained. The conduct of Mormon missionaries did little to convince officials otherwise. For example, during the first decade of the twentieth century, young Americans from Utah were registering themselves as “English teachers” rather than missionaries in order to circumvent a banning order in Prussia.32

Hugo Preuss, a respected left-wing politician, Secretary of State of the Weimar Republic, and a Jew, drafted a constitution that challenged the Mormons and their German antagonists to adhere to a higher standard of conduct. The freedom to proselyte in Germany carried with it a responsibility to respect the sensitivities of Germans toward emigration of young, single, female citizens to distant lands. The policeman who investigated an incensed Lutheran minister’s hysterical and unsubstantiated complaint against a young Mormon missionary could also become a resource that helped the same emissaries of the gospel locate and rent a schoolhouse for Sunday meetings.33 When a town mayor did not respect the lawful right of a young missionary to conduct his religious teachings, the Mormon leadership bore the responsibility to hire an attorney or seek help from the American consulate, rather than sneak the young man out of town and clandestinely replace him with a surrogate. The responsibility fell upon the church leadership to effect a strict code of conduct for missionary work and to employ skilled and sensitive mission presidents who would enforce it. For the most part, the Mormon hierarchy met this challenge successfully by employing more stringent selection, training, and supervision of missionaries.

Members of the church leadership in Salt Lake City had discussed problems pertaining to the quality of missionaries since the turn of the twentieth century. Only after the First World War did concrete reforms find their way into the process. The reliance on volunteers without sufficient spiritual, moral, or health screening resulted in embarrassing incidents that occurred in the foreign mission field prior to World War I. Some missionaries in Switzerland and Germany, just prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, surreptitiously violated the church’s health code, the Word of Wisdom, by drinking tea and coffee, smoking cigarettes, and enjoying an occasional beer. Earlier that same year, the mission president in Japan reported that five of his missionaries “had visited houses of prostitution and that one had contracted a venereal disease.”34 Other well-meaning missionaries had reported for duty in questionable health and found themselves unable to keep up with fourteen-hour days of going door-to-door, preaching on street-corners, and walking across town to attend meetings. Only after 1922 did the church require that prospective missionaries submit a statement of fitness from a medical doctor, and by 1926 authorities added the requirement for vaccination against smallpox and typhoid fever.35

Prior to World War I, new missionaries arrived in the field with only the preparation they had received in church, Sunday school, or at family devotionals. A turn-of-the-century effort to offer missionary training at church-operated colleges and normal schools collapsed because of the students’ financial burden, failure to complete the course, or decision not to pursue a call to missionary service after graduation. The only recourse was the anonymously written Elder’s Reference or Notes for Missionaries by Apostle Francis M. Lyman. In 1925, missionaries and mission presidents called from the Mormon Culture Region began attending a one-week course of instruction at Mission Home in Salt Lake City.36 By January 1927, newly arrived missionaries in the recently established Swiss-German Mission, responsible for the western half of Germany but headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, began attending a four-to-six-week instructional program in Cologne.37 The curriculum stressed missionary responsibilities, teaching strategies, and rudiments of the German language.38

Disciplined, Knowledgeable Mission Presidents Lead the Way

When Oliver Budge hurriedly closed his oral surgery practice in Utah’s Cache Valley late in the summer of 1930, having agreed on only two months’ notice to become an emergency replacement for the Mormons’ Dresden-based mission president, he hardly expected that his first duty would involve quelling a congregational revolt.39 Having spoken little German since returning from a youthful mission just prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Budge found his linguistic, diplomatic, and managerial skills abruptly challenged when a thirty-three-member faction in the Breslau Central Branch petitioned the mission office demanding that it be allowed to split off from the main body of local worshipers and elect its own local leadership.40 That constituted a surprising degree of rebellion almost unheard of in a Mormon congregation, especially one located in the foreign mission field, where the local faithful obediently submitted to close supervision from the American mission president.41

The fifty-eight-year-old bespectacled dentist, the first in Logan, Utah, to own his own x-ray machine and one of the first in the state to administer local anesthetic to patients before a tooth extraction, handled the schismatic congregants with a degree of interpersonal skill befitting an experienced practitioner of the healing arts.42 Yet, as a ten-year veteran stake president, the equivalent of a Catholic bishop who oversees a diocese, he also displayed the authoritarian manner characteristic of a Mormon ecclesiastical leader.43 His first order of business was to reestablish respect for the church’s chain of command; only then did he address the underlying cause of the discontent.

Three days after disembarking from the ocean liner S. S. America in Hamburg, Budge repacked his suitcase for the trip to Breslau in Lower Silesia. There, on the train platform, Budge met with one of his stalwart missionaries, Donald C. Corbett, the mission secretary who assumed command after illness struck the wife of Budge’s predecessor, forcing the previous mission president to leave for America ten weeks earlier. The youthful Corbett had been trying unsuccessfully to quell the schism. He identified the two instigators of the hostilities as local members, both long-time residents of the German city that later became Wroclaw, Poland. 44

The members’ complaints seemed understandable. The insurgent leaders, who were older, married German priesthood holders and their wives, objected to their branch being led by younger, single American missionaries.45 Undertones of matrimonial jealousy permeated the obvious friction between older German members, many of whom had recently converted to the LDS faith, and the younger American missionaries who had been born into the church regimen of the Mormon Culture Region. The petitioners proposed that the breakaway church members be allowed to elect their own local leadership, which would subject itself to the counsel of the American mission president and use tithing money to rent a separate meetinghouse. An unauthorized search had already resulted in the selection of one property.46

On the first day of his journey to quash the rebellion, Dr. Budge prescribed vinegar for the miscreants and on the second, honey for the congregants. He instructed Corbett to assemble the petition leaders, Paul Köhler and Karl Hübner, and then called in each individually. Budge’s memoirs describe the confrontation, recounting how he patiently listened to each member and then forcefully but tactfully warned of the absolute necessity to obey church authority—and the implied threat of the consequences to their church status for failing to conform. Budge recalls his approach to the first man.

After he had finished his story, I commenced to talk, ‘Brother,’ I said, ‘your attitude in this matter is not what it should be. If you value your Priesthood and the Gospel, you should be willing to take the advice of your Mission President.’ After talking to him for some time, he softened.47

Budge’s admonition is familiar to anyone reasonably fluent in Mormon parlance. By questioning how the errant member cherished his religious values, Budge warned him that rebellion not only endangered his church membership but also his eternal salvation.48 Faced with that ultimatum, the believing member relented. Budge took a similar tack with the second instigator:

I used the same procedure that was so successful with the first man. He became so excited at times that he jumped off his chair and danced around like a centipede on a hot stove. Several times I had to ask him to sit down. . . . After I had explained to him what it meant to be a Latter-day Saint, to hold the Priesthood, and to enjoy the blessings which follow a consistent Priesthood holder, he became calm and apparently repentant.49

The next evening, after giving the malefactors an opportunity to think about the consequences of rebellion and allowing the news of his corrective action to circulate among the congregants, Budge summoned the entire branch membership. Once everyone assembled, his approach changed. Undoubtedly, Corbett had told Budge that many had not supported the disgruntled members. Exploiting the congregational division, the American leader downplayed admonition and instead urged the flock to avoid factionalism. He assured everyone that recent disagreements had been settled to everyone’s mutual satisfaction. Then he asked for and received the congregation’s sustaining vote.50 According to official reports of the German-Austrian Mission, “A few left the meeting in a bad spirit, but . . . no more trouble was experienced.”51 The congregants of the Breslau Central Branch eventually received their desired all-German ecclesiastical leadership, but that did not occur until four years later in 1934, after the American leadership had emphasized the training and development of German members for leadership positions in their own congregations.52

Budge had arrived in Germany in 1930, in the midst of the Mormons’ gradual but steady rebuilding of its church network after the American leaders and their missionaries had fled the country at the outbreak of the First World War. Like those who preceded and followed him as mission presidents, he governed both his missionaries and German church members lovingly but firmly. He traveled the expanse of the mission’s territory, visiting congregations and extolling the virtues of faithfulness and obedience. He disciplined errant missionaries. He presided over church courts that excommunicated or dishonorably released missionaries from their callings. He never hesitated to send a young man home on the next transatlantic steamship if his behavior violated mission standards or threatened to embarrass the church. He managed the German church’s meager resources during the country’s decline into the Great Depression, which struck industrialized Germany with rapidity unmatched in more agrarian European countries. Despite their financial hardship, Budge never relented in his appeal to the German Latter-day Saints to continue their tithing and other church offerings. He continued an ongoing process of integrating newly converted German Mormons into the governing structure of their local congregations, a process impeded by the steady stream of emigration by many faithful Germans. He interacted with government officials when his missionaries faced legal challenges to their right to proselytize. He cultivated contacts among American consular officials, employed German lawyers, and used the local court system to defend the church’s interests when necessary.

Budge’s skill in dealing with the government proved valuable upon Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor on January 30, 1933. This sudden change of regime focused new suspicion on foreign religious groups operating in Germany. His tact in dealing with Nazi officials, which will be discussed in the following chapter, bespeaks the kind of leader the Mormons dispatched to the foreign mission in the twentieth century. That Budge possessed this critical ability, as did his immediate predecessor and successor mission presidents, explains to a large degree why the Mormons were able to succeed in their dealings with the National Socialist state. Their experience contrasts with that of other foreign-based small religions, which suffered persecution or suspension of their rights to worship.

Missionary and Member Discipline

When twenty-four-year-old American missionary Reed Galli, a native of Midway, Utah, appeared for his church court—an ecclesiastical disciplinary tribunal in Dresden on February 19, 1927—fanciful tales still circulated widely in Germany about lecherous Mormon elders preying on meek and defenseless young German women and shipping them off to the wilds of Utah for sexual service in polygamous harems.53 Priests and ministers still condemned the better-documented lasciviousness and misjudgment of church founder Joseph Smith, whom various modern scholars have credited with marrying from thirty-four to eighty-four times.54 Distinguished former Brigham Young University historian D. Michael Quinn documented Smith’s:

violation of laws and cultural norms regarding marriage and sexual behavior—the performance [or authorization] of civil marriage ceremonies by legally unauthorized officiators, monogamous marriage ceremonies in which one or both partners [had not yet been divorced] from legal spouses, polygamous marriage of a man with more than one living wife, his marriage proposals to females as young as twelve, polygamous wives as young as fourteen, polyandry of women with more than one husband, marriage and sexual cohabitation with foster daughters, and [sanctioning of] Mormon marriages of first cousins, brother-sister, and uncle-niece.55

Hyrum Valentine, on his second tour as a Mormon mission president in Germany, officiated that winter morning in Saxony over a jury of ten young Mormon elders, who would hear testimony and render judgment on Galli, a peer who stood:

charged before this tribunal with serious violations of missionary rules and regulations, to wit: sexual sin, committed three times in the city of Dresden, according to his own admission of guilt. All done at the time that he has been commissioned as an emissary of the Meek and Lowly Master, contrary to each and every suggestion given the missionaries, and in violation of our mutual sacred covenants and obligations.

Faced with Galli’s guilty plea to all three specifications and unambiguous instructions by the First Presidency concerning convictions for adultery and fornication, the disciplinary tribunal pronounced its only allowable sentence: excommunication.56

Excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that epoch not only severed one’s church connections in the temporal existence and chances for spiritual exaltation in the afterlife, but it also pinned a badge of shame on a young missionary who returned to his community. Elder Galli or his parents faced the immediate burden of paying for the errant young man’s transatlantic passage back to the United States, as the church immediately disavowed any connection with or responsibility for him.

Once he returned to his small community in Utah’s Heber Valley, he would have been welcome to attend services at this church ward, but everyone would know about his shameful excommunication and eventually the reason would become common knowledge. Many would avoid eye contact and verbal greetings would be embarrassingly perfunctory. More than likely, concerned elders would have advised the disgraced young man to seek a new life away from community.

Apparently, the resiliency of youth allowed Galli to overcome some of the worst consequences of excommunication, but a short, bittersweet life followed. By June 1928, some sixteen months after being dismissed from his mission, the young man apparently had regained his church membership, a remarkably short period of spiritual renewal in twentieth-century Mormonism, when rehabilitation from excommunication usually required a much longer period of repentance. Galli used that privilege to marry a young Salt Lake City native of Danish descent in the Salt Lake Temple, a religious venue where Mormon marriages could be solemnized for eternal duration.57 Nevertheless, the young couple had no children and the best employment the young man could attain, given the dual consequences of the Great Depression and a dishonorable mission release, was the position of custodian at a newspaper office. Records of the Salt Lake City municipal cemetery authority reveal that Reed Galli died prematurely at the age of thirty-two in the year 1935.58 His death certificate indicates he suffered from chronic leukemia and Vincent’s infection (trench mouth).59 Victims of trench mouth usually manifest several accompanying symptoms: emotional stress, poor oral hygiene, and poor nutrition. Probably, Galli never recovered from the emotional consequences of his indiscretion and resulting banishment from missionary work.60

Mission presidents were no more tolerant of other young missionaries who stepped out of line during a period when the church was trying to stress its conformity with the law and social customs. One month after Galli’s excommunication, the same German-Austrian mission records describe the release of another missionary who fared slightly better at the disciplinary tribunal. Twenty-one-year-old Elder Rulon W. Jenkins faced charges of:

despoiling a wife, dishonoring a mother, and destroying a home. You have made a mockery of things divine, by baptizing a woman as a penitent sinner, which placed you in the position of her spiritual adviser, and thus you have despoiled her. You have greatly aggravated the situation already strained by again meeting with her clandestinely after having somewhat of an understanding with her offended husband.

The record of the church court then got specific and graphic regarding Elder Jenkins’ transgression:

According to a statement by Willie Zacheile, Ludwigstrasse 26, Chemnitz, which he read to the tribunal, Rulon Jenkins was charged with several clandestine meetings with Sister Zacheile, and of handling her sexual organs, and hugging and kissing her, taking her out several times late at night at which times she returned home in a drunken condition, and even after having been taken to task by the husband of this woman, of meeting her later and indulging in these liberties with her.

This tribunal handed down a different sentence than the one that had convicted Elder Galli one month previously. Jenkins was dishonorably released from his mission, asked to surrender his missionary credentials, and required to return home at his own expense. But he was not excommunicated and thus remained a full-fledged member of the church who would eventually be able to marry in the temple and regain the full fellowship of his congregants, on earth and in the life to come.

Why was this church court more lenient? The record indicates that Jenkins:

acknowledged all of the pertinent points of these charges, taking exception to one or two . . . but admitted them generally. The accused was then questioned as to whether he had committed adultery, to which he solemnly replied he had not. He was then questioned, ‘Has your sexual organ been placed next to hers?’ to which he replied, ‘No.’

Although Elder Galli had admitted to three sexual liaisons, nothing in the record of his disciplinary tribunal indicates he had done so with married women. There is no record of a pregnancy. Galli was an ordinary missionary. By contrast, Jenkins was a branch president, had baptized the woman with whom he had a relationship, and had become her spiritual adviser. The woman’s aggrieved husband testified at Jenkins’ hearing. Nevertheless, because of the distinction drawn between tactile and coital sex, Jenkins’ membership was left intact.

The social consequences once Jenkins returned home were also different. He would not be allowed to speak triumphantly from the podium in his home ward, as befitting honorably released missionaries upon their successful return. He would have to answer to his parents and local ecclesiastical leaders for his dishonorable release. Astute congregants would have noticed that he returned home earlier than scheduled. But his ability to partake of the sacrament, speak and pray aloud in church, and eventually obtain his bishop’s endorsement to attend the temple would have facilitated his acceptance back into his local social and religious circles. Unlike Reed Galli, who died five years after his excommunication, Rulon Jenkins lived to the age of eighty-six.61

One did not have to partake in illicit sexual relations in order to run afoul of the new orthodoxy being enforced by Mormon mission presidents in the Weimar period. Merely becoming engaged to a local German girl and marrying her at the conclusion of one’s obligated missionary service was sufficient to deny a missionary an honorable release and a church-funded steamship ticket home.

The case of Elder Edgar C. Schwab illustrates how far the mission leadership was willing to pursue this policy. Schwab, a native of Smoot, Wyoming, arrived in Dresden in February 1926 and immediately fell into disfavor because he smoked cigarettes. The mission president assigned him to be supervised by “one of the best men in the mission” as a companion, but he was soon discovered smoking in a railway station restaurant while seated with an empty glass of beer in front of him. The mission president then transferred Schwab to Berlin, where he would work under another missionary with an excellent reputation. At this point he repented somewhat and continued his missionary work for the better part of two years before falling sick early in 1928 and being granted an honorable release based on ill health.

When Mission President Valentine learned, two days after Schwab had sailed from the port of Bremen, that the former missionary had been married between his last contact with mission authorities in Dresden and his departure for America, he took the extraordinary step of writing the First Presidency in Salt Lake City. Ostensibly, that correspondence would be forwarded to Schwab’s ecclesiastical leadership in Wyoming. On official German-Austrian Mission letterhead, Valentine sought the return of the young man’s certificate of honorable release and forwarded a demand for reimbursement of funds expended by the church to send him home. Valentine was particularly incensed that Schwab had left his new wife in the care of relatives while she resolved difficulties with her visa. Instead, Schwab traveled home in the company of his wife’s sixteen-year-old sister, who faced no difficulties with immigration procedures. Schwab’s father, who had relatives in Germany, had joined his son and new wife in Bremen for the wedding and transatlantic passage home. Said Valentine in that correspondence:

The taking of this 16-year-old girl, a sister of his wife, as far as New York is an unpardonable indiscretion and wholly uncalled for, even though it was done with the consent of her parents, who are faithful members of the church in long standing.62

Elder Schwab’s last contact with mission authorities had occurred on February 11, 1928, when he received his certificate of honorable release. He married on March 8 with full knowledge of both sets of parents, who were presumably at the ceremony.

Valentine’s rant was motivated by two factors. First, he knew that the Mormon Church in Germany had been criticized severely for its recruitment of young single women, who then emigrated. Elders taking German brides home, even if their courtship had adhered to all standards of Christian premarital chastity, did not seem consistent with the church’s stated twentieth-century goal of merely spreading the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Valentine’s second desire was to maintain control. As he stated in the letter he sent after Schwab’s departure:

Missionaries generally should be made to feel that their mission begins, and terminates if at all, in the ward from which they are accredited. The technicality of ‘release’ does not permit them to do that the next second, which they are not permitted to do as missionaries.63

Apparently, Mormon mission presidents applied the same rules to native German missionaries serving on their home soil. In January 1928, Albert Zenger received a dishonorable release for “marrying a local member.”64 Another German missionary, Bruno Böhm, released dishonorably for unspecified purposes one month later, reacted with an unusual degree of defiance. He took the mission president to court, suing him for having made “insulting remarks.” In April, the local judge dismissed the litigation.65

From time to time, groups of proselytizing elders misbehaved, which required the mission president to travel to the scene to investigate and reorganize the ecclesiastical units that he purged of the malefactors. In November 1930, German-Austrian Mission President Oliver Budge summoned by telegram the missionaries serving in the West Pomeranian hamlets of Prenslau and Stargard to meet him in Stettin, where he held an inquiry pertaining to facts not disclosed by the mission records. He sent the district president home on the next transatlantic sailing without a certificate of honorable release and then demoted and reassigned the rest of the offending missionaries.66

Discipline of errant German members occurred even more frequently, and often without the same degree of due process from the mission president and his top-level assistants. Although the mission president would eventually have to approve the excommunication, the disciplinary courts would almost always be held at the district level, where young, single American missionaries in their twenties would sit in judgment of older, married German members. The three most frequently cited reasons for depriving congregants of their membership—their ticket to paradise in the afterlife— were adultery or fornication, disrespect or disobedience to proper ecclesiastical authority, or acquiescence to a member’s request that his name, or those of his entire family, be removed from the membership rolls.

Much of the verbiage that appears in the official mission historical records is curt and lacking in detail, and gives the impression that separating these members was a routine act of culling the flock: “Marie Elizabeth Rattei was excommunicated from the church for immorality,” said one entry.67 Both parties in a German couple, who had apparently separated and sought companionship with others without taking the trouble to file for divorce, were “excommunicated for committing adultery,” according to another record.68 Eight members of one family in the Swiss-German Mission were excommunicated together on one day in May 1929, apparently at the behest of the parents.69 Two days later, a single entry in the German-Austrian Mission’s records names nine unrelated German members who were “excommunicated at their own request.”70

Recording the details of a German member’s excommunication became more important, however, when that individual became a public apostate or heretic, or when he stole money from the church. Paul Seifert of Dresden serves as an example of the first category, when in August 1930 a priesthood tribunal found him guilty of “vigorously fighting against the church and excommunicated him.” Having fallen out of favor in his local congregation, but not having bothering to request the termination of his own membership, he voiced his opposition publicly by authoring “many vile articles that appeared against the Church in newspapers around the country.”71

Theft and embezzlement rated an even more extensive accounting of the miscreant’s disciplinary hearing. Immediately after the end of the First World War, the Latter-day Saints had tried unsuccessfully to become certified as a church by the German government, but resistance from bureaucrats and religious leaders forced the Mormons to apply, instead, for recognition as a Verein, or an association or club. The government’s rejection of the application for recognition as a church stated that for a foreign religious organization to receive German accreditation, it must first be recognized as a church in its home country. Since the United States did not certify churches, the Mormons could not receive such recognition in the Republic.72

The LDS Church obtained its status as a legal association in 1923, which allowed the purchase of the Dresden mission headquarters and an attached meeting hall for several of its congregations. However, the laws that governed the recognition and operation of a Verein required that its officers and directors be German citizens. Earlier mission presidents had appointed ostensibly loyal German church members to the “Board of Control,” with the understanding that they would control nothing. Instead, they were expected to defer to the American mission president regarding important decisions. In January 1928, a Dresden resident and prominent church member, Bruno Ernst Richter, received a seat on the board.73

In September 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, German-Austrian Mission President Oliver Budge decided that expenses required for the upkeep of the mission headquarters building on Königsbrückerstrasse in Dresden were placing an undue burden on the church’s finances. More desirable property had been identified in Berlin, and Budge decided to move the mission office to the nation’s capital. However, when the sale of the Dresden property closed on December 19, 1931, church officials learned that Richter had used his authority as a legal owner of the property to mortgage it and abscond with the proceeds.74

Richter’s church court, which tried him in absentia, convened on January 19, 1932, with a prayer followed by the well-known LDS hymn, Do What is Right. Marvin A. Ashton, the designated prosecutor, accused Richter of misappropriating several thousand Rentenmarks by mortgaging the mission headquarters and “spending the money on riotous living.” His estranged wife, with whom Richter apparently did not share the proceeds, testified that her husband “had led an indecent life and had previously been punished by city and other governing officials for dishonesty.” Then, in an effort to increase the severity of Richter’s sentence, Ashton accused him of “being an apostate at heart” and of drinking and smoking. The tribunal returned a guilty verdict and unanimously prescribed excommunication.75 When subsequent articles describing the embezzlement appeared in local newspapers, the church records referred to them as anti-Mormon or propaganda “against the church.”76

For German Mormons, the Weimar period marked a strict reestablishment of control by American missionaries and their mission presidents after four years of ecclesiastical home rule necessitated by the First World War. For many native members, it was a humbling experience to once again be subjected to the authority of younger, unmarried American missionaries. Likewise, it was occasionally difficult to accept the leadership of older American mission presidents who preached an American gospel in distinctly accented German. However, as the next section demonstrates, these same Americans brought with them the spirituality of an idyllic, far-away American Zion— where miracles were presumed to be common occurrences. The same upstart young foreigners who could offend an older German congregant could, on the other hand, serve as an inspiration for those who dreamed of emigrating. For the most part, the young missionaries themselves seemed to prosper in an environment that prescribed strict rules of conduct, but which allowed them to develop their spirituality in outposts far away from the constant supervision of the mission president.
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