March, 28, 2014

An Instrument of the Lord: The Conversion of Karl G. Maeser

pic 2While teaching at a school in Germany, Karl G. Maeser came across an incendiary text about Mormonism that, ironically, sparked his initial interest in the religion.[1]  In 1853, Maeser wrote the mission president of the Scandinavian mission requesting missionaries to teach him in Saxony.  This president then informed the president of the Swiss-German Mission, Elder Daniel Tyler, about the letter.

Because of the circumstances in Germany, Elder Tyler feared the letter might be a trick to bait missionaries into Saxony and then arrest and imprison them for preaching the gospel. Consequently, Elder Tyler did not respond to Maeser, but rather sent his letter back, having faith that if Maeser’s interest was genuine, he would write again.

Maeser did not disappoint them. He wrote again, and this time his new letter was sent to President Franklin D. Richards, the President of the whole European Mission who felt strongly that Maeser’s desire to learn was sincere.

Sending a missionary to Saxony would still be a risky task, so President Richards met with Elder William Budge and offered him the opportunity, which he was happy to accept.[2] Once in Germany, the young Scotch Elder was careful to avoid problems with the police and posed as a student of German who was seeking the instruction of the talented teacher, Karl G. Maeser. Within two weeks Maeser and his family were converted. On October 14, 1855, at midnight they were baptized in the Elbe River.2

[1] Wilkinson, Ernest L. and W. Cleon Skousen, Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny 1 (Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1976): 84-87.

[2] Wilkinson, Ernest L., Brigham Young University: The First 100 Years, (Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1975): 56-58.