FREIBERG, Germany Johannes Herold has lived most of his 89 years in the same house. The view out his front window of verdant green hills and pastures of cows hasn't changed much.
But as one of the "rugged and solid and wonderful Latter-day Saints" of former East Germany as described by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the recent general conference, Brother Herold maintains a hearty smile and firm handshake after enduring much.
Born in 1913, Brother Herold never knew his father, who was killed during World War I. His mother was a woman of faith, however, who joined the Church after hearing the missionaries. Brother Herold joined with her in 1921 when he was 8 years old.
As a soldier in the German army during World War II, he served six years and fought battles in 10 countries. Three years were spent in Russia where he came within 20 kilometers of Moscow. The cold was so fierce at times, he said, that he had no feeling in his feet or legs. Food and supplies were scarce. Uncertainty about survival was constant.
Much had changed by the end of the war in 1945. Upon his return to the Freiberg area, Brother Herold found 200 active members who had stayed true to the doctrines of the Church. The youth were led by valiant leaders who strengthened them against the Nazi culture.
In the next years, Russian occupation limited members' rights of worship, but they were permitted to hold meetings and teach those who approached them.
For 20 years, from 1953-73, Brother Herold was president of the Grosshartmann Branch. Proselytizing was prohibited, but that didn't prevent him from making as many friends as possible. Some became interested in the Church and visited his apartment for discussions.
Among those who heard the gospel was his future wife, Dora. Others also joined the Church.
Four years after the Freiberg temple was dedicated, the first two missionaries were allowed in the country after a 50-year absence. They arrived April 22, 1989, at 8:10 p.m., and were greeted by 60 cheering, grateful members of the Church.
Despite his age, Brother Herold continues to walk with a strong stride and extend a firm hand in friendship. And he is still eager to share the gospel. During the recent open house prior to the rededication of the Freiberg temple in September, he finished his meal at a local restaurant one day and handed the waiter a card inviting him to visit the temple.
With a smile, he waited until the young man promised he would attend.