Can you believe that the day has come when an entire community of Lutherans will beg a Mormon elder to hold worship services for them in their own church? Frankly, I never expected it to happen, but it has happened to me, not only once, but three times, and will probably happen several more times in the future. Here is how it happened.
As chaplain for special troops in this division, it is my duty to provide services for several different groups of soldiers in widely separated areas. A few days after arriving on the front lines, I began to go from village to village to arrange worship services for my men, and I found that the people in these villages were also in need of religious leadership. They are German-speaking people, and mainly adhere to the Evangelical Lutheran faith. Most of their pastors left with the retreating German Army, and the few who remain are not able to serve all the people here. The people seem incapable of helping themselves religiously, and are even letting their beautiful old churches disintegrate. As I went to the burgomeister [sic] of each village and asked for permission to use their chapels for my services, they found that I spoke enough German to be understood, and they asked if their townspeople might be permitted to attend also. I agreed, but told them that I was a Mormon, not a Lutheran. It didn’t matter to them. They were starving for the word of God, and would welcome anyone who could bring it to them.
So last Sunday I held three joint soldier-civilian services. Of course, using both languages presented a problem, but no one seemed to mind. I spoke, prayed, sang, and read from the Bible first in German and then in English. It was thrilling to hear them sing their songs, and to see their eyes shining with the happiness that true worship brings. At the conclusion of each service, the burgomeister [sic]and other village notables thanked me in the name of the people, and asked me to promise to come back next week.
I couldn’t help but feel that possibly a new era is dawning for our missionary work, and that after this war our missionaries all over the world will find many of the old barriers of prejudice and disinterest have been broken. I also felt to thank God for providing us with such a wise system of Church government, wherein every worthy boy and man can hold the priesthood, which gives him the authority and the responsibility to take the lead in our Church.
My testimony is growing stronger each day as I associate with people, both in the army and out, who have not been blessed with a knowledge and understanding of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. How wonderfully simple it is! How clearly it points the way to happiness! How carefully our Father in Heaven has plotted the course for us!
1945, Chaplain Eugene E. Campbell, For God and Country: Memorable Stories from the Lives of Mormon Chaplains, p144–145.