With bombs falling from the sky, starvation a very real threat, foreign soldiers occupying his country, and fleeing his homeland to escape communism my father had a wonderful childhood. He grew up in Berlin, Germany during World War II. His family fled their home in East Berlin with only the clothes on their back. Soon after my father and his brother went to America as poor immigrants.
To listen to him now tell about his childhood in Germany one would think that he lived under ideal conditions. He had everything he needed, including loving parents, three brothers, and a baby sister. His parents worried greatly about the safety of their family and their future, but these worries were overwhelmed by the hope and peace that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings.
To a young boy with the peace of the gospel, bombing raids became spectacular fireworks shows. Food scarcity made what little food they could find seem like a feast. Tanks rolling through the streets seemed like a great occasion for a parade. God is in His heaven – everything on earth will be fine.
When my father and his brother left Germany as teenagers, they came with almost nothing. My father holds no bitterness about having to leave his home and country. For him life is a great adventure. He worked hard and built a good life for himself and his family and had plenty of fun along the way.
From his gospel inspired example I have learned that if I am living according to the gospel of Jesus Christ I can and should be happy regardless of my circumstances. If I am not living as the Lord would have me live no amount of material comforts or pleasant circumstances will allow personal happiness.
In the October, 2007 General Conference Elder Dieter Uchtdorf, who shared many of the same experiences as my father, summed up my father’s outlook on life during trying circumstances. He said, “The plain and simple truths of the gospel warmed our hearts and enlightened our minds. They helped us look at ourselves and the world around us with different eyes and from an elevated viewpoint.”
My life is far removed from the material deprivations of World War II Germany. I have every comfort imaginable available to me. In these circumstances there are few threats against my physical security. The dangers in my lifetime threaten my spiritual security. In a world filled with so much material comfort there is a danger of becoming materialistic and apathetic.
Again, my fathers example shows me the way to live. He has gained the ability to keep material things in proper perspective through living for a time with nothing. Now when he has the opportunity to gain material comforts he is more focused on gaining greater knowledge and understanding of the Savior. He is more interested in serving his neighbors than getting ahead of them on the social ladder. Life is good as long as God smiles on him.
I am very thankful of my fathers example of living the Gospel and will always strive to follow in his footsteps.