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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Why the Church befriended the Nazis, Exed a Nazi resistor and what it all means to you...NOW

When you think of Nazis, what words cross your mind? "Evil"? "Devils"? "Monsters"? "Criminals"? 

And probably worse. 

But what if someone, or something, just as bad came along? Well, naturally, the general public would say that they would never, ever allow another Adolph Hitler to come to power. And I'd agree; Any political leader who wrote a book calling for the genocide, the extermination, of an entire world race would be appalling to us. 

But what if another Hitler were to come along who had the same intentions, the same capabilities (if not more), than the original Hitler? Could we detect him then?

Could the church, which is helmed by "Prophets, seers and revelators" who say "You keep your eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We will not lead you astray" [1] ever detect an evil, devilish Hitler and his regime?

Let's see. 

"Keep Your Eyes Riveted"

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor. He called boycotting Jewish businesses, opened the Dachau concentration camp and established the Gestapo. In 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor). In 1936, Germans marched into the Rhineland (previously demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty) and opened the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On July 15 1937, they opened the Buchenwald concentration camp. [2]

Now let's say you're the President of the Church at this time (and remember: you're a prophet, seer and revelator. You know stuff most of us don't). As the one who has a direct line to God, would you travel to Germany and hang out with a bunch of Nazis? Would you get photos taken with them, add to their credibility and seek to glorify them? Or would you stay at home, and perhaps even condemn the Nazis?

Well, if you chose to avoid the Nazis and condemn them, then you would be choosing the incorrect course of action. In all actuality, the Church President at the time - Heber J. Grant - chose to spend several weeks in Germany, praising the people and Nazis at every turn. He oversaw the church when it glorified Nazi actions (and even took credit for a few of them). And it was the church Grant led which excommunicated a church member who directly opposed the Hitler regime.

"Good Citizens"

In December 1933, the Deseret News published an article with glowing descriptions of the Nazi's adoption of "Fast Sunday," Hitler's personal physical superiority by adhering to a form of the Word of Wisdom, and the praise members had been receiving "for their patriotism": [3]

A little over two years later, Nazi basketball players participated in the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Berlin. They were trained by none other than LDS elders (on the left). [4]

In his Book "Moroni and the Swastika," author David Conley Nelson stated,

"Mormon missionaries played a small but significant role in the German national basketball team's 1936 Olympic efforts. It was not enough to help a hopelessly overmatched team win even a single game, but it helped Mormons win friends among government officials and assert that the American-based sect was no foe of National Socialism. Young elders introduced basketball fundamentals to some of the athletes who had been picked to play on the German team before a professional coach could be hired. Four missionaries kept the official score books for the first round of Olympic basketball play." 

Also in 1936, the Deseret News published a picture of the European Mission President, Joseph F. Merrill, speaking at a Berlin podium adorned with a large swastika. [5]

More than 700 people attended that soiree.

The next year, in the summer of 1937, President Heber J. Grant visited both German-speaking Switzerland and Nazi Germany. [6]

Below is a picture of Pres. Grant at a banquet with the Saints in Frankfurt, Germany on July 8, 1937 - a few days before the Buchenwald concentration camp (the third one to be constructed) opened. [7]

By this time, Nazi Germany had curtailed many freedoms, including religious freedoms. More than thirty different denominations had been prohibited from preaching there. [8]

And check out that Nazi flag in the background. To the Nazis, it was displayed as a requirement of the National Socialist Government. To us, we posted it because we LDS "believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" - evil or not.

In other words, the Nazis had already shown a significant hatred for the Jews and had curtailed the religious freedoms of thousands of people. But we were OK with all that (after all, our missionaries were competing against fewer Christian denominations for converts), and to symbolize our okay-ness, the church president plopped himself directly in front of the Nazi flag.

It is reported that there were about 870 people present at this meeting -- one of the largest groups of saints that had ever assembled in Europe." [9]

All of these efforts above were synergistic in positioning the church, its leaders and members as non-threats to the Nazis. Nelson summarized:

"From the top to the bottom of the ecclesiastical chain, Mormons in prewar Nazi Germany cooperated to survive and prosper. Many happily believed that they were favored citizens in a police state. Some ordinary congregants convinced themselves that Hitler had read the Book of Mormon and was a secret church member. Mission President Roy Welker, whose wife rode with Hitler in the Führer's limousine, told a civic meeting in Salt Lake City in 1937 that "Jews are safer today in Germany than they are in many parts of the world." [10]

As BYU professor and historian Douglas F. Tobler summarized (regarding Arthur Zander, the Hamburg Branch President and a Nazi party member), 

"He wanted to show that latter-day saints were good Germans, and there was a tremendous amount of pressure that was put on by the government and the party to quickly separate those who are who are good Germans and those who aren't." [11]

Tobler also said,

"I believe Zander put that [a pro-Nazi sign] up there [in a church building] partly as an expression of his support for the regime and partly to communicate that latter-day saints were good citizens in the Third Reich and partly perhaps to protect his own flock." 

We are told that God will "inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." [12]

Are praising, assisting, validating and glorifying Nazis "good" things? I'd say no.

Where was the power of discernment amongst the prophet and apostles? How could they not have had any clue that Hitler, that the LDS Church wrote many praising things about, was within a few years of becoming the most evil man in history?

(Kind of reminds me of that picture of the First Presidency meeting with Mark Hofmann just before he killed two people).

That being the case, is it possible that the Lord was telling the church, its leaders and members to avoid the Nazis, and to quit giving them credibility? If he didn't, then he abrogated his responsibilities of "Standing for Something". If he did, then it looks like the Jehovah's Witnesses got the message (see below). But why not the LDS Church? 

Let's see what happened to one member who did resist the Nazis, and went on to define what a real hero is made of.

The (Nazi) Traitor in the Midst of the Church

If you're not familiar with the name Helmuth Hübener, you need to be. Click here for the Wiki article about him. Or better yet, watch these YouTubes about him. It would be well worth your time to do so.

And of course, I can't recommend enough THE definitive work on this topic, David Coney Nelson's book, Moroni and the Swastika, available here.

To summarize:

"Helmuth Hübener, a 16-year-old Mormon youth living in Hitler's Germany, exhibited unprecedented moral courage in opposing the propaganda machine of the Nazi regime in the summer of 1941. 

By all accounts, Helmuth Hübener was a remarkable boy - a worthy role model for any teenager, male or female, then or now. Unlike his peers in 1941…Helmuth acted on his discomfort with the ever growing restrictions on civil rights and personal freedoms in the totalitarian dictatorship and specifically with the treatment of Jews. Following his conscience rather than his fears, he secretly tuned into illegal German-language BBC broadcasts and discovered the distortions and outright lies in the Nazi propaganda about the progress of the war effort, as compared to the details provided by the BBC. He discretely enlisted Rudolf "Rudi" Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, trusted Mormon friends from his St. Georg LDS branch in central Hamburg - the largest branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its West German Mission with over 400 members at the time - (and later also his colleague Gehard Düwer) to help him distribute leaflets typed using the branch typewriter, which he kept at home as part of his work as Branch Secretary. As noted, his resolve was fatal.

For his trouble he was arrested on February 5, 1942 (less than a month after turning 17)." [13]

What is not commonly known is that when Hübener was arrested it put the whole branch in danger. The Gestapo scrutinized the branch even more intensely, with agents frequently attending meetings and taking notes. The Gestapo naturally believed that adults in the branch had influenced Hübener and his friends to act, which it did not.

Thus, 10 days after Hübener's arrest (15 February 1942), Hübener's branch president excommunicated the young man without consulting his church superiors or holding the church court normally prerequisite for excommunication or other discipline. [14] The reason: for "intercepting and spreading foreign broadcast transmissions." [15]

"In removing Helmuth's name from the church membership rolls, and simultaneously defrocking him from the universal Mormon male priesthood, Arthur Zander had decreed that Helmuth Hübener's soul could not enter the Celestial Kingdom, the Mormon concept of Heaven. That was a steep price to pay for defaming Adolf Hitler, but apparently the Nazi Party was pleased with Zander's actions and with the attitude of his congregants. On February 24, 1942, nine days after Zander's excommunication of Hübener, the Hamburg district leader for the Nazi Party wrote to the Gestapo: "This [St. Georg Mormon] church congregation is legally recognized and stands on a firm footing with the present government." [16]

What a place to have your congregation - "on a firm footing" with Nazis!

"[Hübener was] brutally interrogated and later tortured in Gestapo prisons in Hamburg and Berlin, and then finally beheaded by guillotine in the Gestapo's Berlin Plötzensee prison on October 27, 1942 as the youngest person (at age 17) to be sentenced by Hitler's special "People's Court" and executed for conspiracy to commit treason against the Nazi regime." [13]

Hübener died with a clean conscience. He was executed for engaging in acts of heroism against a truly evil totalitarian government. Here are the last words he said in mortality:

“Now I must die, even though I have committed no crime.
So now it's my turn, but your turn will come."

"Standing for Something"? Damn straight he did.

Amidst a church which had adopted - from top to bottom -- an enthusiastic attitude towards the Nazis, it's clear to me that Hübener acted as inspired by the Spirit and was morally right in warning others about the evil Nazis.

On January 24, 1948, Pres. George Albert Smith ordered the reversal of Hübener's excommunication. [17] Hübener was later ordained an Elder and endowed by proxy on June 8, 1948. [18] So, the church and its leaders abandoned Hübener when it actually meant something, then supported him after he'd been long dead and it's the popular opinion again. How brave! While some members may see this as a good thing, it's the most awful example of how fickle, cowardly and pathetic the church's leaders really are.

The church's Hitler policy was to display allegiance to the Nazis in hopes that the church would thrive. The Nazis had power, and the church's leaders needed power in order for the church to survive in Germany. So, they aligned themselves and promoted this powerful political entity. Conversely, Jehovah's Witnesses spoke out against the Third Reich. They were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. They suffered dearly and many were murdered. I admire them speaking out against Hitler. 

(One might think, "Well, the LDS Church had to go along to get along, in order to maintain its membership base there," but that would be wrong. If membership numbers are any indication of inspiration, the Jehovah's Witnesses (who opposed the Nazi regime) still come out on top. The LDS Church currently has around 40,000 German members [19], whereas the Jehovah's Witnesses have four times that much, or 161,931 [20]).

Still, the story of the church's very public admiration and assistance of the Nazis and its excommunication of a Nazi resistor among its membership is proof enough that the church's leaders were not in tune with God.

"I don't know what we accomplish by dredging these things up and trying to sort them out."

In 1992, BYU produced a play, Hübener, which enjoyed sellout crowds and gained national acclaim and recognition. Yet because German Mormons in Utah and Europe (many of whom were former Nazi party members and military officers) feared the play would cast them in a bad light, church leaders (specifically Dallin Oaks, then the university's president) asked the play's producer not to make the play available again. [19]  

(Today, you can get the play -- and a lot of other cool stuff -- here).

Of the play's quiet suppression, then-apostle Thomas S. Monson stated, ''Who knows who was right or wrong. I don't know what we accomplish by dredging these things up and trying to sort them out." [21]

That's called "sweeping it under the rug" -- a classic action which demonstrates an unwillingness (or perhaps inability) to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Which takes us to today.

Have the church's leaders learned from their mistakes?

Because of our natural human predilection not to learn from the past -- and church leaders' ambivalence toward learning the lessons of Nazi sympathy and Hübener's excommunication -- neither the general church membership nor its leaders are in a prime position to ensure past mistakes are never repeated. 

And as we know, God's pretty fond of teaching us the same 'ol lessons until we get them.

Today, the church is dealing with a number of interesting situations:

As I asked earlier, what if someone, or something, just as bad as Hitler and the Nazis came along? 

Will we have the necessary discernment to detect evil?

What this all means to you...NOW

We are told in Revelation 18:23, "And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived."

  • "And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee"
    • Is literally kai phOs luchnou ou mE phanE en soi eti, or "And light of lamp not no may be appearing in you." (source)
    • This cross-references with Jeremiah 25:10: "I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle"
  • "the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee"
    • The bride (righteous, faithful mortals) and the bridegroom (the Lord) no longer resonate within them. See Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9.
  • "for thy merchants were the great men of the earth"
    • The Greek word for merchants is emporoi (plural of emporos) (source; source)
    • They - the great and important of the earth - are selling something. What are they selling? Keep reading…
  • "sorceries"
    • Is pharmakeia (far-mak-i'-ah) - the root word for words we commonly use today, like pharmacist and pharmaceutical.
    • It not only means "drugs," but also "poisoning" and/or "the use or administering of drugs" and/or an "enchantment" (source)
  • "were all nations deceived"
    • Is eplanEthEsan panta ta ethnE, or "all the nations were strayed/deceived" (source)

Because the faithful lack the light they need to detect these sorceries, Hosea 4:6 kicks in: 

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee … seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God. …"

Joseph Smith once explained how members develop darkness in their minds. He said,

"if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves..." [22]

Or, as Brigham Young stated,

"What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually." [23]

Question: Would true "prophets of God" encourage you to put your trust in "medical experts and government leaders" [20] -- in other words, the arm of flesh -- or in God? [24]

They've aligned themselves with "government leaders" before, and with tragic consequences.

Seems to me since church leaders are reluctant to do it, it's time for us to not be found having a lack of knowledge. We need to learn the mistakes of the past, and ensure they are not repeated today…

…before it's too late.

"To sin by silence, when they should protest,
makes cowards of men." (Ella Wheeler Wilcox,
contained in "Poems of Problems", p. 154–55)


1.   M. Russell Ballard, "When Shall These Things Be?" BYU Devotional, March 12, 1996
3.   Deseret News, Dec. 10, 1933.
4.   "Two Modern Methods: Sports, Radio," Deseret News, January 25, 1936
5.   "Germany holds M.I.A. 'Echo of Joy' Festival" Deseret News, July 18, 1936
7.   Hyrum J. Smith, "President Grant in Frankfurt, Germany," Deseret News, August 7, 1937
8.   Grant, in 108th Semi-Annual Conference of the Church, p. 4
9.   Bertis Lloyd Embry, Journal, July 5 and 8,1937, typescript, Missionary Journals November 1935-July 1938, Church Archives
10.   David Conley Nelson, "Moroni and the Swastika," p. 13.
12.   Moroni 7:13.
14.   Barbara Beuys, "Vergeßt uns nicht - Menschen im Widerstand 1933-1945", 1987. P. 488.
15.   "Abhören u. Verbreiten ausl. Rundfunksenden."
16.   District Leader to State Secret Police, in Holmes and Keele, "When Truth Was Treason," Document 17: 175.
17.   "Helmuth Hübener Membership Record," LDS Archives.
18.   Kunkel interview, LDS Archives, 21.
22.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38
23.  Brigham Young, JD 9:150


Anonymous said...

I still don't understand how God can create everything we need here on earth for everything, every sickness etc, millions of plants, fungi, bacteria, etc etc and we need to have aborted fetus cells injected into us? How do the Profits not see that partaking of the flesh of an innocent unborn baby who's been torn and shredded from the womb, murdered and had its' cells cultured IS not a black magic sacrament? Is this something Jesus would mandate?

PNW_DPer said...

Helmuth Hübener is one of my favorite heroes, one I am trying to emulate today in a small way in this crazy covid world.

Ironically, he is probably the best example of an LDS person willing to stand alone or nearly alone according to Monson's speech about being willing to stand alone.

Latter Day Truths said...

“O ye gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay, but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads, for I the Lord hath NOT forgotten my people.” (2 Nephi 12:9)

PNW_DPer said...

In regard to your scripture reference - 2 Nephi 12:9 - I remember reading in a book by one of Hübener's accomplices, Karl Heinz-Schnibbe if I recall correctly, that the the Branch President had kicked out and forbidden Jewish members from attending the branch meetings. In other words, Jews who had actually responded to one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon - to bring the Jews to Christ. If I remember correctly, this was going on before Helmet and his accomplices, Karl Heinz-Schnibbe and Rudolf Wobbe were caught and arrested.