Whether in times or war, peace, or political unrest, Mormons have been involved in a lot of world events. Check out a few of these courageous Latter-day Saints and their notable contributions to history. Who else did you want to see on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Helmuth Hubener
Photo of Rudi, Helmuth, and Karl retrieved from lechaimontheright.com.
No list of historically significant Latter-day Saints would be complete without German teenager Helmuth Hubener. This brave youth and two of his friends, Rudolf Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, stood against Nazi cruelty during World War II.
Though all three were arrested, only Hubener was ultimately executed. 17-year-old Hubener believed strongly in truth and had a testimony of the gospel. Some of his final words, written in a note to a ward member a few hours before he was executed, said the following: “My Father in heaven knows that I have done nothing wrong. I know that God lives and He will be the proper judge of this matter. Until our happy reunion in that better world…”
Gestapo photos of Helmuth Hubener retrieved from lechaimontheright.com.
Learn the whole story with the DVD Truth & Conviction: The Helmuth Hubener Story.
2. Walker Lewis
Photo of Walker Lewis retrieved from angelfire.com.
Walker Lewis was an African-American in Massachusetts who joined the Church in the 1840s. Shortly after his baptism, he was ordained an elder by William Smith, Joseph Smith’s younger brother, making him one of only a few to be ordained before the African-American ban from the Priesthood. Lewis and his family were abolitionists and an active part of the Underground Railroad. He helped found the Massachusetts General Colored Association, the first abolitionist organization in Boston. In 1851, he joined the Saints in Utah for a few years before returning to Massachusetts, where he died in 1856.
3. Emmeline B. Wells
Photo retrieved from commons.wikimedia.org.
In 1876, President Brigham Young put Sister Emmeline B. Wells, who was the editor of the Woman's Exponent for many years, in charge of creating and running a grain-saving program among the Relief Society sisters. By the time she became the fifth general Relief Society President in 1910, the program was thriving. During World War I, Sister Wells arranged to sell more than 200,000 bushels of stored wheat to the United States government, for which President Woodrow Wilson personally thanked her during a subsequent visit to Salt Lake City after the war was over.
4. Johan and Alma Lindlof
Photo of the Bolshevik forces marching in Russian Revolution retrieved fromwikipedia.org.
The Lindlofs were among the first people baptized into the Church in Russia. After their baptism, the isolated LDS family faithfully taught and lived the Gospel even when no missionaries were in the area. In 1918, after the Russian Revolution erupted, the Lindlofs found themselves facing an enormous life—and perhaps faith—crisis.
They were pulled from their beds at 3:00 in the morning and arrested for having too much wealth. They were left penniless and all of their children were sent to prison and labor camps where several of them died. The surviving family members ended up in Finland, where they were again the only members in their city, Helsinki. Despite these trials and tragedies, Johan and Alma defended their testimonies until they died.
To learn more about the Lindlof family, check out Gale Sears’ historical fiction novel about them, The Silence of God.
5. Sarah Young
Photo of Sarah Young retrieved from ksl.com, from the Utah State Historical Society.
In 1870, Saray Young, grand-niece of Brigham Young, was credited as being the first woman voter in any territory of the United States. This act was significant not only because Utah granted women’s suffrage years before the rest of the country, but because it illustrated to the world how women were viewed in the Church. Several other prominent LDS women were very active in teaching and participating in public political affairs, including Emily Richards, Sarah Kimball, and Pheobe Beatie.
► You'll also like: 9 Incredible Pioneers You've Never Heard of
6. Philo T. Farnsworth
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org.
Philo T. Farnsworth came from classic Mormon pioneer stock, with a grandfather who had followed President Brigham Young to Utah. Farnsworth was born in 1906 in Beaver, Utah, where his ancestors had settled, but he grew up on a ranch in Rigby, Idaho.
When in high school, Farnsworth heard about early versions of the mechanical television, like those being developed by John Logie Baird in Scotland. He quickly realized that the image in these devices would never be very clear and felt he could design his own improved version. In 1927, at age 21, he transmitted the first image on his electronic television from his lab in San Francisco.
As the invention caught hold in the world, Farnsworth became very disappointed that the device was not being used for the educational purposes he had envisioned. In fact, his son Kent recalls his father saying about television: “There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.”
► You'll also like: 14 Things You Didn't Know a Mormon Invented
7. Princess 'Elisiva Fusipala Tauki'onetuku Tuku'aho Vaha'i
Photo of Princess Fusipala (sitting on the chair) retrieved from tongadailynews.to.
Princess Fusipala received a copy of the standard works from John H. Groberg, a mission president in Tonga at the time, as a wedding gift. The princess was the first member of the royal family to join the Church and was taught the gospel largely during a visit to the United States in 1989, where she was converted and baptized.
Photo of Princess Fusipala's funeral retrieved from mormonnewsroom.org.nz.
Princess Fusipala just recently passed away in October 2014, where speakers at her funeral included Mission President Leitoni Tupou, Temple President Samisoni Uasila’a, and other area church leaders.
8. Don Lind
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org.
Brother Don Lind had the unique distinction of being the first Latter-day Saint in space. But it was a long road to get there. During the almost two decades between completing his NASA training courses and taking his first flight into space, Lind worked on NASA missions, serving as the director of lunar operations on Apollo 11 when man first walked on the moon.
It wasn’t until 1985, when he boarded the Challenger for an eight-day journey to study the Aurora Australis, that his dreams of traveling to space finally came true. Many miracles surrounded Lind’s exploration into space, the largest being simply his safe return home.
Just nine months after his mission, the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff due to faulty O-rings, killing the seven crew members on board. Lind believes that a priesthood blessing he received before his flight protected him and his crew from a similar fate as they hurtled through the earth’s incinerating atmosphere aboard that very space shuttle. Full of faith and gratitude for the Lord’s protection, Lind said, “We weren’t more righteous or more deserving of the Lord’s help—those on the Challenger were good people—but it had been promised us.”
Lind spoke in general conference a few months later, sharing the experience of partaking of the sacrament in space, and of simply viewing the world in its distant, natural glory for the first time.
► You'll also like: Mormons Who Pioneered the Space Program
9. William DeVries and Barney Clark
Photo Dr. William DeVries and Barney Clark retrieved from wired.com.
On December 2, 1982, Dr. William DeVries and Barney Clark made medical history. Dr. DeVries, an LDS heart surgeon who had been granted permission from the United States Food and Drug Administration to implant the polyurethane Jarvik-7 artificial heart in humans, performed the first transplant on Barney Clark, who was also a Mormon.
The operation was risky, but Clark, who suffered from congestive heart failure, decided to take the risk to help advance science. Clark didn’t expect to live more than a few days after the operation, but since doctors had determined he was too sick for a normal heart transplant, the artificial heart was his only hope for recovery. Clark’s health was poor after the operation, but he lived longer than expected—112 days.
Check out more "Mormon Firsts" here.
10. Mitt Romney
Photo of Mitt Romney during a campaign trip in Arizona retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.
Mitt Romney claimed a spot in Mormon history by becoming the first Latter-day Saint to win a major party nomination for the United States presidency. Though he did not win, his candidacy was considered a huge milestone, evidence of the slow disintegration of prejudices against the Latter-day Saints.