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“Reduce Missionaries in Neutral Countries to Smallest Workable Number,” 1939

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 19, 2013

As war in Europe seemed more and more likely in the fall of 1939, the Church made plans for what leaders hoped would be an orderly and non-emergency evacuation of missionaries. If you had been an elder in the Swiss Mission, you would have received this letter at the end of September:

Schweizerische Mission
Leimenstrasse 49
Basel, Schweiz

Telegramme: Quickmere Basel
Telefon 4 11 47

September 25, 1939

To all Missionaries in the Swiss Mission

Dear Brethren:

The following telegram came a few days ago: “Reduce missionaries in neutral countries to smallest workable number, and be prepared for releasing of all excepting mission president. – Presidency.”

In obedience to the above and previous instructions we have already arranged transportation for six missionaries of the French-Swiss Mission released by President Evans, three from the West German released by President Wood, and four of our own released elders.

We have plans under way now as soon as reservations can be obtained on the U.S. Lines for the release and transfer of about 30 more of you missionaries. You brethren who have been in the field fewer than twenty-one months may indicate if you so desire whether or not you have a preference of American Missions to which you would like to be transferred. Of course you understand that it may not be possible to grant such a request, but I shall be pleased to report your feelings to President John H. Taylor, of the First Council of Seventy, who is now in New York in charge of receiving transferred missionaries from these European Missions and giving them new assignments.

We should like you missionaries to so arrange your financial affairs as to leave no debts behind. We suggest that you notify your parents immediately via air-mail if necessary from new York, which costs 20 centimes extra for each five grams, and have them send through the Church Office at Salt Lake City the amount of money necessary to take care of all your expenses except railroad and steamship tickets. Further instructions with necessary forms to be filled out will be sent from the office.

We suggest that you leave a complete list of your friends and any other information that you think would be helpful with the Branch and District Presidents; also give notice of your intention to leave to the people from whom you are renting, and also proper government authorities.

We are stating in a note at the end of this letter whether you are to be released, transferred or retained.

We express our appreciation and hearty congratulation on the splendid efforts you have put forth to carry on in spite of unsettled and rather trying conditions. It has been and still is a rather unique experience for all of us. Continue to keep your head high and your heart humble and keep in mind always that you are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ, and representing the best people on earth – your parents; be true to the name they have given you.

God bless you always. We love you all and wish you continued success.

Sincerely your brother,

Mission President

Sooner or later I’ll need to find some missionary diaries or reminiscences  — I know there are some; there have been articles published about the dramatic evacuation of North American missionaries from Europe in the following weeks  — because I want to know what their emotional reaction to this notice was.




  1. I knew a member of the Church years ago who was a missionary in Europe when the war started and had heard all kinds of rumours about things but he said he wasn’t budging. Then he said they woke up one day and saw a tank going down the street and that changed his mind! he was supposed to have been there 1937-1940 but went home in 1939

    great piece!

    Comment by Cameron — June 19, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  2. My husband’s grandmother, Leonora Moody, was a convert working in the mission home in the Netherlands when that mission was closed. She immigrated to America with the Murdock Family (mission president), arriving in NYC in November 1939. I wonder if she has a journal…

    Comment by mahana — June 19, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  3. Thanks, Cameron. Let’s hope your friend would have followed instructions when it came right down to it …

    Oh, try to find out, mahana!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 19, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  4. The horrible foreshadowing. Makes me incredibly sad.

    Comment by Chad Too — June 20, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

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