Like most evenings in the Netherlands, the wind swirled through the small attic room. Wooden beams creaked as the 9-year-old boy knelt and began to pray. Although he had prayed there many times before, this night was unlike other nights in the family home — just one floor beneath him, his mother was giving birth to his younger sister.
“In the middle of the night, I heard a doctor come,” he recalled years later. “I noticed something was wrong and that this was not going to be an easy thing. I was nervous, so I got out of my bed and went to my mom. (My parents) tried to keep me out of the room, but I wanted to be there.”
Over the next few hours, the young boy did what he could to help — he brought towels and hot water to the doctor, and then he’d go up to his attic room to pray.
He followed this pattern throughout the night.
“I think that is the time that I really learned who Heavenly Father is,” recalled Elder Hans Theodorus Boom, newly called General Authority Seventy. “I went up several times (that night) and pled to Heavenly Father to save my mother. She survived and the baby lived. That event was for me a very important moment in my life.”
Born in July of 1963 in Amsterdam to Hans and Ankie Boom, the younger Hans is the second oldest of the Booms’s four children. His parents, both converts to the Church, taught their children the gospel and provided a happy home life.
“My father had a terrible youth,” Elder Boom said. “He spent it in a concentration camp. But he’s the most loving and gentle and wonderful father you can ever imagine. No hard feelings towards the enemy. No, never ever a bad word, … which helped us in our childhood to have respect for others.”
When Elder Boom was 8 years old, his family moved from Amsterdam to the city of Breda, located in the southern part of the Netherlands. His father, a Dutch man who had grown up in Indonesia, felt like the family needed to leave the large city and return to his ancestral roots.
“My father had a feeling that it was good to go to the southern part where the Church was so small,” he said. “We moved from a very large-sized ward. There were only a few people in the branch. I was the only boy until I was 13.”
Time with his family in that small branch proved to be a training ground for Church service and learning to rely on the Lord.
Because his father served as branch president multiple times over the years, the family spent a lot of time at the church. Often, Hans would go early with his dad.
“I did not enjoy it because it was early in the morning and we never had a car. We did everything on the bicycle — that is the Dutch way,” he said. “I decided I needed to find out if the Book of Mormon was really true or not. I admit, the reason I wanted to find out is if it wasn’t true (was so that) I didn’t have to go to church.”
He again went to his attic room and began to pray.
“No answer,” he said. “I was discouraged.”
A few days later, he asked again and still no answer.
“And then I gave it a third shot,” he said.
This time the answer was very clear.
“The answer was the feeling of ‘why do you ask me things you already know to be true? You are asking — you know this is My Church. You know.’
“So from that day on, I have never missed a day of prayer — never ever. … I never doubted a split second that this is His Church, and I gave it my full attention in whatever I could do.”
Other experiences in his youth continued to strengthen that resolve.
As a young man, Hans developed asthma, making it difficult for him to breathe.
“Our bathroom was the only place in the house that was dust-free,” he said. “So for many years, I slept in there.”
He spent many nights fighting for air.
“That whole process has been in my life to stay close to the Lord,” he said.
After completing school at age 17, Elder Boom decided he would join the police force in the Netherlands. But, being only 17, he was told he was too young and to apply again in a year.
At that time his father offered to give him a blessing.
“The blessing mentioned that if I did what the Lord wants me to do, I will always have sufficient for my needs and always have bread on the table,” he said. “He didn’t say ‘you have to go on a mission’ … but he always gives you little things to think about.”
A new plan arose for the teen — he decided he would work to save money and serve a mission a year later.
“We always had the missionaries in (our branch), so I went with them twice a week from when I was 15 — knocking on doors and doing the work,” he said.
Just as he had been told he was too young to join the police force, he was told he was also too young to serve a mission. Despite his age, he followed his plan and worked for a year to earn the money needed for a mission and turned in his mission papers.
“I waited and waited and waited and nothing happened,” he said. “And then after almost two months, there came a letter with the call.”
Elder Boom served in the England London East Mission from 1981-1983, and while there, he learned important lessons, especially the importance of obedience.
A few months after he returned from his mission, he met Ariena Johanna “Marjan” Broekzitter at a Church young adult conference. Quickly the couple knew they wanted to be married, but the distance of their homes and her schooling made it difficult. After dating for a year, they married on July 27, 1984, in Rhoon, and then three days later they traveled to the London England Temple, where they were sealed. The couple has three sons.
They chose to live in the same town Elder Boom grew up in and have made living the gospel a priority.
“My father handed me a letter that was given to him when he was young by the mission president,” he said. “The letter stated, … ‘we would really like you to stay in the Netherlands and build the Church.’ … He handed me the letter and said, ‘It has your name on it as well.’ So I decided to really stay and build the country.”
At age 23, he accepted the call to serve as branch president, and by age 30 he was serving as a counselor in the stake presidency.
The Booms have watched as the small branch has now become a ward, and the Church has continued to grow in their area.
Although service as a General Authority Seventy will take him away from the Netherlands, Elder Boom said he looks forward to helping build the kingdom in whatever capacity the Lord calls him. His first assignment is as first counselor in the Europe East Area presidency.
“We love to do the Lord’s work full-time,” he said. “This is a great blessing. Everything I am and everything I have — everything — I owe it all to the Lord and the opportunities He has given me to learn and grow.”