William Orum Pederson (1914-2000, baptized 1922) and his wife Ida Margrethe Rasmussen (1901-1977, baptized 1910) were the first Danish Latter-day Saints to emigrate to Utah following the war. Bro. Pedersen offered his lessons on the war to the Church News in 1947.
Now World War II is past it may be both correct and of value to consider what the war has taught us.
While most of the readers very likely have spent the terrible war years at home in the United States, my family and I lived in Denmark, and thus we had the war close at our doors.
World War II taught us that with the knowledge of the gospel of faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, we could meet all tribulations and sufferings. We recalled the history of our Church pioneers and realized their greatness, and what they accomplished for their love of the gospel.
Like the Thessalonians to whom Paulos wrote: “But ye, brethren, are not left in darkness that that day (the second coming of Christ) should overtake you as a thief. We are all the children of light and the children of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” – the Danish Saints – the children of the light – were not left in darkness.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the council of the Twelve, while in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1939 with the evacuated European missionaries, gave the promise that for the hospitality of Denmark as a country and the Danish Saints especially towards the evacuated missionaries Denmark should be protected from the immediate troubles of the war.
How great a test this promise was to our faith the following events will prove.
April 9th, 1940, we were awakened by numerous German bombers and peaceful little Denmark, which had not been at war for 75 years and had not had civil war since 1536, was occupied by the country that a year previous offered and signed an anti-attack pact with us. This taught us that no matter how peaceful and kindly our intentions may be, the adversary may awaken us some morning, when we do not expect he will come, and if possible make us join his company. Only the knowledge of the gospel and prayerful, active works will protect and save us.
I shall never forget our first air attack and how confused and poorly prepared I was that night. The fact that the second and third air attacks found everybody prepared is the best proof that the unprepared condition taught us a good lesson. Air-raid signals were later ignored and the people became indiffern3t like the people of nations ignore and get indifferent and careless as to the signs of the times given by the servants of the Lord.
As a result of our occupation, the connection between other countries and our country was cut off. Among these was the United States, and with that was broken our connection with the Church headquarters. But World War II taught us that no military power on earth is ever able to cut off connection with our God.
We felt that in many different ways, and our meetings were continued. The released Danish missionaries, of whom it was my pleasure to be president, have organized a fund by which all poor boys and girls could fill missions during the war years. That the results financially were so good is due to the fact that all the Saints in the mission supported us in our efforts. That the blessings of the gospel more fully were enjoyed in the same period is a natural result of sacrifice and love for the gospel.
I hope I shall never forget how happy I was when during the war I saw the moon and the stars shine down on our blacked out city and country. This again reminded me of the Supremacy of God, who at no time receives instructions or regulations from any earthly authorities. If the lesson from this could be at all times to let the gospel light shine in this world, much progress and still more happiness would be enjoyed on this earth.
World War II taught us that those who use authority against the principles of righteousness will call down the wrath of the Lord, for as you sow so shall the harvest be. Many persons in Europe now regret very much that they did not understand or live according to this doctrine.
The occupation also brought about substitute manufacturing as many necessities of life used to be furnished by allied countries. Although all efforts were put forth to manufacture the best possible substitutes, it was understood that they were accepted only until we could get the original things. That always has made me think of why the inhabitants of this earth seem to prefer the substitute of religion when the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ is being offered.
The greatest and most difficult lesson of World War II was a proper understanding and practice of the Lord’s commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”
Every person who has seen or suffered from the beastliness of persecution and mistreatment will understand how easy and tempting it may be to have a feeling of hatred, and justify it. Maybe for this very reason the commandment is made so plain and indisputable, that no excuse can be found. Our Master later said, “On these two commandments (love your God and your neighbor) hang all the law and the prophets.”
This is our greatest opportunity to show the world the proper understanding of what “Love your neighbor” really means. The world needs and hungers for the love that does not ask for personal honor and profit. When this is a part of our daily life we will see the real reasons for this war and, having this constantly in mind, we will be able to avoid another war.
As the war became worse and the German army was defeated again and again, the war rushed quickly towards our doors. The Russian army coming from the east, the English army from the west and the U.S. army from the south moved the defeated German army closer and closer to the Danish border. As my work took me all over the country I saw how everything was prepared to “fight to the last man for every inch that is given to the enemy,” as commanded by the German general in Denmark.
Along highways and roads, holes were dug in ditches to cover soldiers with machine guns, and as far as ammunition and materiel were concerned the order would be carried out to its very letter.
The promise given by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith seemed to be unfulfilled. However, only ten minutes’ car ride from the Danish border, while the occupation army in Denmark was well prepared to fight together with the escaping army from Germany against the “enemy,” the Danish news bulletin given by the British Broadcasting Corporation received the message: “We have just received the following message from Montgomery’s headquarters – surrender for Holland, Belgium, Schlesweig-Holstein, and Denmark.”
While the Danes as a whole were celebrating the end of the war, the Latter-day Saints in Copenhagen gathered in their beautiful chapel and offered thanks and praise to our Heavenly Father for the protection and blessings we enjoyed.
The lessons these first days of May, 1945 taught us were:
Rely upon the Lord – his promises always come true.
Watch and pray that ye are not led into temptation.
Be thankful and remember, like the one Samaritan leper, to give thanks unto God.