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When the Gestapo Arrested 3 Latter-day Saint Missionaries (+ the Remarkable Events That Followed)

Elder Wallace D. Montague reported that he and two other missionaries were walking down a street in Dresden when they were arrested by the police. They were taken to a nearby precinct and questioned for two hours. When they asked for permission to tell other missionaries where they were, one officer sneered and said, “You are political prisoners. You are going no place.”

That phrase struck great fear in their hearts. It was common knowledge that people taken by the Gestapo were never heard from again. The missionaries were transferred to the main prison, where they had their pictures taken with their prison numbers. Again they asked for permission to contact the mission president, but this too was denied. All personal belongings, including passports, belts, handkerchiefs, money, pens, and so forth, were confiscated, and they were marched off to individual cells. Frightened and in despair, Elder Montague sat on his cot and tried to decide what to do. The situation seemed utterly hopeless. Elder Montague writes:

All of a sudden it occurred to me: “You are in this land as a servant of Father in heaven and have come to do His will. He has promised that if you will go and do what He commands He will provide a way for that to be accomplished. The one way to get a message outside these prison walls is to pray to your Heavenly Father. They cannot stop you from praying.”

In humility, and a bit ashamed for not having thought of it sooner, I knelt by the prison cot and told my Father in heaven about the trouble we were in and asked for His help in order that we could continue about His work among that people.

I arose from my knees, folded the bed against the wall, and immediately heard a clicking noise at the cell door. It swung open and the guard commanded: “Come out. You are released.”

If the story ended there, it would be a marvelous example of how the Lord answered a missionary’s prayer by intervening in the situation. But the Lord had an additional blessing for these elders that day. As Elder Montague came out from his cell, his companions were all coming out as well. They were given their possessions, warned against further proselytizing, and released.

My heart was so full of gratitude for the “miracle” that had been performed in our behalf that I could contain myself no longer, and so we stopped at a small roadside park so that I could tell of my experience. Imagine our mutual surprise when we found that this experience had happened to each of us—as we had arisen from our knees the prison doors were unlocked. 1

Through Joseph Smith, the Lord gave a promise to a group of elders returning from their missions in September 1832: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

This promise of the guiding, watching hand of God is not just for full-time missionaries. The words of one of our favorite hymns also come to mind:

Beneath his watchful eye,

His Saints securely dwell;

That hand which bears all nature up

Shall guard his children well.2

What we speak of here is a divine influence and intervention that reveal the hand of God by changing outcomes so that individuals are blessed and benefited. This is another very real form of personal revelation. And like all revelation, its purpose is to bear witness to our hearts of a Heavenly Father who is perfect in His love, mercy, and goodness. It is another powerful evidence of His reality, and that is one of the prime purposes of revelation.

As President Joseph F. Smith said: “There are those who see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church, from its beginning until now, the overruling, almighty hand of [God].”3 I believe it could be equally said, that those who have eyes to see, will recognize the overruling, almighty hand of God in their lives as well.

Image from Wikimedia Commons of Gestapo during WWII.

1.    Wallace D. Montague, “I Was a Political Prisoner of Hitler,” 90–91.

2.    “How Gentle God’s Commands,” Hymns, no. 125.

3.    Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 52.


Get more profound insights into how God speaks with us in Hearing the Voice of the Lord: Principles and Patterns of Personal Revelation.

How can we navigate safely through our turbulent times? Personal revelation is one key! Elder Gerald N. Lund, million-selling author of The Work and the Glory, offers profound insights about how personal revelation “works.” Learn how we can increase our ability to receive and recognize personal revelation, what we can do to avoid being misled, and many other ideas relevant to this tremendously important spiritual gift. 

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