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WWII Survivor, Mexican Revolution Prisoner, and Wife of an Apostle: 3 Inspiring Stories About Faithful LDS Women

The Women of Faith in the Latter Days series gives voice to generations of Latter-day Saint women belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its purpose is to let women speak for themselves and tell their own stories in authentic ways, using original sources when possible. It diverges from traditional histories by bringing forward stories of little-known women from a wide variety of backgrounds.[1] Here are just three inspiring stories about some of the women you'll find in the new book Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume 4: 1871-1900.

Magdalena Presser Adam

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“One day, in Sunday School class,” wrote Magdalena Presser Adam, “a fine sister . . . testified that it is our holy duty to our future generations to chronicle our stories, our histories, our achievements and our downfalls; and to bear our testimonies.”[2] Inspired by this message, Magdalena, at age seventy-seven, began writing her life story. She was born in Breitfurt, Bavaria, Germany, on September 5, 1882.

Orphaned as a child, Magdalena navigated her world feeling alone and unloved. Pushed into a life of hard physical labor, she worked “often till my joints ached and my fingers bled.” She recalled one winter’s evening when she, at fifteen years of age, “returned to my dark and cold room so hungry and miserable that . . . for nearly an hour, I sobbed tears of lonesome agony,” she wrote. “I then looked to the heavens and cried out ‘Oh Mother, how could you have left me! A good mother would have never left her daughter alone for these many long years! . . .’ I had reached the depths of despair, deeper than my soul could bear. It was then that I felt a warm presence gradually fill my heart, my soul, and then my whole being. I was encompassed with peace and hope, I felt myself cradled in my mother’s loving arms. . . . ‘Peace be with you.’ She said, ‘Have patience my child, for you see, when we are resurrected, we shall be together forever. I have always, do now, and will always love you. My dearest child, I watch over you constantly.’” This transformative experience put young Magdalena on a quest to understand resurrection and the possibility of spending eternity with her mother.

Fortunately, the tide of Magdalena’s life turned when at age nineteen she married a “warm, wonderful, handsome, stubborn, and stern man” named Heinrich and they built a happy life together. In 1906, she attended her first LDS meeting (a Sunday School class) and, to her amazement, the topic was the resurrection. “With every principle,” she wrote, “I felt deep in my heart that it was true.” Magdalena was baptized, but Heinrich did not share her religious convictions. She abided by his request that their children not be baptized “although it broke my heart,” but she joyfully raised her children in the gospel.

World War I began in Germany in 1914. “It was a horror for everybody!” Magdalena recalled. “Life was a nightmare.” She recounted the great physical deprivations they endured because of the war, but also the “fellowship and strength she received from fellow [Church] members” as they met together. She said her friends and neighbors “could not comprehend our tranquil attitudes during such troubled times.”

At last the war ended, and a year later the Church sent food packages to the Latter-day Saints in Germany, who were still struggling to survive. “They contained flour, sugar, powdered milk, and shortening,” Magdalena recalled. “Each member got five pounds of each. I joked with my husband, ‘You see, if you had allowed the children to be baptized, they would now be members and we could get more food packages!’”

She continued, “After discussing the matter with the area president, he decided that since my children came to church regularly, paid their tithing, and fulfilled all of their duties with honor and vigor, that they too could receive the food packages. We now had 25 pounds of each item! I figured that this would be a good time to get my husband’s permission to allow the children to get baptized. (I must admit that I did tell him that if they were baptized, we might even get more food!) He did give his permission, and my four children all became members of the church!”[3]

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Magdalena Presser Adam and her family ins Saarbrücken, Germany, ca. 1920. Back row: Heinrich, Heinrich Jakob, and Alexandra. Front row: Ella Sophia, Magdalina, and Caroline.

Magdalena Presser Adam eventually immigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she died on November 11, 1965.

[1] The first volume was published in 2011 and features women born before or in 1820, volume two was printed in 2012 (1821-1845), and Volume 3 in 2014 (1846-1870). A slim gift book called Fearless in the Cause: Remarkable Stories from Women in Church History, was published in 2016 and comprises short stories from volumes 1-3.
[2] Magdalena Presser Adam, “My Book of Remembrance,” 1960, trans. Max Adam Jr., ed. Walter Max Adam, typescript, private possession.
[3] Heinrich and Magdalena’s children were baptized in April 1920. “Carolina Magdalena Adam,” “Ella Sophie Adam,” “Alexandra Adam,” and “Heinrich Adam,” FamilySearch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed September 10, 2016, http://familysearch.org.

Image titleGet your own copy of  Women of Faith In the Latter Days Vol. 4This groundbreaking series recounts the lives of women of faith and dedication in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Often in their own words, they share their trials, triumphs, and testimonies.

This fourth volume features women born between 1872 and 1900 whose stories explore a comparatively untapped era in Mormon history. This generation of Latter-day Saint women experienced firsthand the challenges of the Mexican Revolution, World War I, and World War II. They also witnessed the unprecedented global expansion of the Church and the first young women to serve as proselytizing missionaries.

The faith these women exhibited as they rejoiced in blessings and dealt with struggles provides a model for us today in facing our own challenges as we too strive to build lives of faith.

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