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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

Did the LDS church support Hitler during his leadership of Germany?   I’ve read that there were articles at the time from  LDS magazines that actually praise him.  Why wouldn’t LDS leaders at the time receive some revelation or at least an inkling feeling that maybe there was something very wrong with the Nazi party?

Brittney

 

Answer

 

Brittney,

The general policy of the Church is to refrain from any sort of political endorsement.  Such a policy has been in effect long enough to have been applicable during the time of Hitler’s power in Germany.  The Church continued its missionary efforts in Germany, and doing such would have required some form of positive relationship with the German government at least until the time when missionaries were pulled out in 1939.  The Church as a body, nor any of it’s General Authorities ever endorsed Adolf Hitler as a praiseworthy man, nor as an honorable leader.  However, there were individuals who lived within the German society, as missionaries or members, who had positive things to say about the German government, or it’s leaders in some fashion or another.  Also remember, in serving their country and complying with the 12th article of faith in ‘being subject to . . . rulers’, the German saints would have complied with the law requiring all youth to participate with the Hitler Youth program, and in serving their country on the battlefield.

There are many resources online that will portray differing opinions on the matter, however, resources you will find directly from the Church do not generally discuss Hitler’s politics, except that his perspectives on race and Jews and religion were wrong and of a fear mongering nature.  I recommend studying Lesson 40 from the Church History in the Fulness of Times manual for further understanding on the topic of the Church and its members during WWII.  Another resource that I have found to have a valuable compilation of information on this topic can be found on the BYU Religious Studies site.  Some key conclusions from the linked article:

For the most part the missionaries had very little contact with the German government. As early as 1933 missionaries were cautioned not to speak or write of politics. Elder John A. Widtsoe asked the missionaries not to be discouraged about missionary work, saying, ‘This troubled time is a time to share the gospel.’ This policy continued according to President Welker. A letter circulated to the presidents of the East and West German and Swiss—Austrian Missions explained that the German-speaking paper Der Stern ‘should be confined to discussions and explanations of a purely religious character.’ . . . The American missionaries’ views of Hitler varied during the 1930s. . . Yet for those missionaries who grew to love the German people and wanted to share the gospel with them, tolerating Hitler seemed the best course of action at that time.”
(Deliverer or Oppressor: Missionaries’ Views of Hitler during the 1930s)

You ask why would the Church leaders not receive a revelation about the evil of the Nazi party.  Sometimes we think God should just stop evil from ever happening, but scripturally this is not how God works.  In the Old Testament we read on many occasions how Israel was taken into bondage. In the Book of Mormon we have the Nephite’s continual fight with the Lamanites (See also the people of Limhi and Alma).  Even in the restoration we have stories of suffering under the hands of the unjust.  Sometimes we bring it upon ourselves through disobedience, other times it is a test of our faith.  But it happens quite regularly.  When we see it this way, the Nazi party was simply one more in a long line of oppressors who had power for a short while and were then pulled down.

Regardless of individual opinions, and regardless of where those individual opinions were published, it is important to remember that sometimes in life, just as in the gospel, we learn things line upon line.  It is easy to look into the past and see the evil of Adolf Hitler, however, as he rose to power, he accomplished many things that people deemed as good and especially as good for Germany before he beguiled many and set them on the path of his evil design.  The German citizens are and were God’s children, who deserve the opportunity to receive the glorious message of the restored gospel.  Whether or not the Brethren had been inspired with foreknowledge of the evil designs of the Nazis, the mission of the Church would still need to move forward in proclaiming the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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