Late in December 1901, German Mission President Francis M. Lyman challenged his elders to come to their scheduled conference in Berlin not by train, but by traveling on foot, without purse or scrip, preaching along the road in the dead of a northern European winter. Two elders who accepted the challenge were Julian Emerson Young (1875-1961), a grandson of Brigham Young, and his unfortunately unnamed companion (I’m sure it’s available in the mission record, but I don’t have access to that at the moment).
The pair left from Solingen not far from the western border of Germany, and headed nearly due east toward Berlin. They made it about 105 miles on their journey before law officers forced them to send for funds from the mission president to complete their travel by rail, but before that point Julian reported it the “grandest experience” of his life.
That’s all in your point of view, no doubt …
… Singing in our hearts that dear, old hymn, “We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness,” we marched forth, our valises well filled with tracts and our pockets empty of money. Only our Heavenly Father knows the doubts and fears awakened in our minds; but, like Nephi, “being born of goodly parents,” we had early learned that great truth, “When the Lord speaks, obey.”
After a sturdy tramp we knelt in a quiet spot and prayed, the power of the adversary left us and we were ministered to by the Holy Spirit. On we tramped, mile after mile, endeavoring to reach a city where we could hold an evening meeting. We thought little of eating; we dared not think of that. It was our first trip without purse or scrip and in the dead of winter. The rain began falling, night was fast coming on. It was very cold, being in a latitude some seven hundred miles north of our home in Utah. That evening we reached a town, but found the main streets lined with saloons and the people Catholics. We took our departure, and after two hours we came to another place, but the people there rejected us also.
On we tramped, the influence of the Holy Spirit being strength to our body and balm to our aching limbs. One of my shoes gave way, letting the water in. By the light from a farmhouse window we could see an old wagon by the roadside, and in this we knelt and prayed. Then, entering the little city of Bohnsal [i.e., Rönsahl; see comment 3], we found, through the guidance of the Spirit, a supper and bed ready for us. May peace and the blessing of the Lord abide with that family.
After breakfast we marched on conversing and tracting by the way, but were rejected pretty generally. We came to a very poor, miserable house, where the family and animals all live on the same floor. We were disappointed at not receiving food there, but were glad enough when not far away a good, old miller invited us to eat at his table, and then we saw how our Heavenly Father gave His servants the best that was to be had.
On we marched, but the whole district thereafter seemed inhospitable and ignorant; card-playing, smoking and drinking were common. One man, a railroad-hand, was kind enough, however, to give us our supper and also to say that he should have liked to keep us over night. After our frugal but welcome meal of a glass of water and sour, black bread and butter, we stepped again out into the night. It was bitter cold now. We tramped past crucifixes and statues of the Saints. At midnight we lay down in a forest, but everything was so wet and cold that we could not rest. At length we found a narrow, frosty plank and lay down, but could not sleep.
Wet and cold we entered another town. The night shift was in a factory, and we sought shelter in the bunk-room, from which came a light. We found two young men; at first they were very friendly (our clothes and manners perhaps accounting for the same). After a few words we gave them tracts and they invited us to stay until 5 a.m. We stretched out on the bunks, which were nothing but boards, and though nearly suffocated with the thick smoke in the low room, we fell asleep – and then awoke! The room was full of angry, dark-faced men, and one in no mistakable terms ordered us out. There was an effort made to lay hands on us, but we kept silent and hurriedly escaped from the weird scene.
It was a little after 3 a.m.; out into the night and storm we went. The wind howling, nearly blinded us with the whirl of snow. With every step came sharp rheumatic pains from ankle to hip, and this made progress slow. We did not know the way, but were led by the Spirit. At 5 a.m. we saw a light and on inquiry found we had been traveling right. On, on we tramped, the crucifix at the entrance of every town and along the roadside telling us plainer than words the kind of community. Still we went on, the snow making it hard to travel. We were so cold that we were driven to ask a few moments’ shelter in one of the prevalent house-barn dwellings, but were denied the same, still, to modify the coldness of the refusal, something more than a penny was thrust into our hands before the door swung to. The cold was intense, especially as we were wet through and through from perspiration and the previous night’s rain.
Death hovered over us all day, death from exposure and cold. At intervals all would turn black before us, and it seemed that we must sink down in the snow and perish, but the sustaining peace of the Holy Spirit never failed us and somehow we went on. At noon we came to two houses by the roadside. The Spirit guided us to go into one, and the good lady offered us money, but after hearing our message she invited us in, saying, “the pastor must have sent you,” but we promptly denied that. She was the only Protestant for miles on either side.
Here we found sympathy and rest; then we tramped forth again. Being warned by her against the whole district, we made Gleidorf our objective point. She said that there we would find some Protestants, and we could easily reach there by evening, but we should not go farther as it was much worse beyond than what we had already seen.
We reached Gleidorf in time, tracted and were at first rejected. At length one very poor man, who had a sick wife, insisted on giving us 2-1/2 d. We explained that the tracts were entirely free, but he insisted. Now the whole village seemed open to us, and altogether we received something less than a shilling. At one place where a large company was gathered, playing cards, a “purse” amounting to nearly fourpence was made up and given us.
We saw the hand of the Lord in this giving of money, and no one receiving us, we concluded He intended us to pay for a bed. We went to one of the lodging house saloons, and after a few moments conversation the proprietor agreed to give us a night’s lodging for what we had. He was kind enough to give us two thin slices of bread with a thick piece of pork between; the bread we ate but the pork we preserved.
After writing our journals we retired. It was the Sabbath, the last Sabbath of the old year. We had been thirty-six hours without sleep and almost constantly tramping, so we were soon off to the land of dreams. Suddenly a loud clatter on the door awakened us and we asked, “Who is there?” After some hesitation we were told, “the police.” I opened the door and let them in. Our American passports were ridiculed, and we were dragged off to jail. We had been asleep just three hours.
The crowd that gave us the “purse” and a Catholic neighbor having read the tracts had aroused the police and we were arrested. It was a long distance to the Catholic town where the prison stood; we were forced to retrace our steps. But O, the heavenly influence that came to us in that prison shortly after midnight; it was like the sweet influence in the Temple of the Lord.
We had free access to the coal and wood room, and spent the night singing hymns and drying our clothes and shoes, refusing to look at the iron bars on the windows or be depressed by a name. Having a little grease with us we oiled our shoes. Never did a blessing come more timely than this seemingly adverse throwing into prison.
In the morning we were taken before an official and he trumped up some charges. Then the Lord raised up the never failing friend, who did all he could for us. He was one of the head policemen and later our jailer. He took the tracts, and he gave us of his best. The mayor was unable to handle us, so we were sent in charge of our friend to another place. This friend wasas much converted as man could be in his unprepared, narrow condition and surroundings. He did all he could to modify and better the conditions, and after the trial we were given the liberty of the city, but only on promise of going no further without money in our possession, so we sent to Berlin. That night we were shamefully abused but I need not tell of our sufferings. If ever I forget the treatment we received at the hands of his satanic majesty I hope to have the experience again. I know the devil; I know his ways. I desire to become his greatest enemy, by keeping the commandments, the agreeable laws of the Lord.
The experiences following, however, were glorious, and all ended well. We distributed a great many tracts, bore our testimony to many who had never heard the Gospel, and under conditions that they will not soon forget, left our warning with them. I can say it was the grandest experience of my life, and I thank our Heavenly Father for it.