ISSUES OF FAITH: ‘Love thy neighbor’ is not always easy to do

MY WIFE AND I lived in The Netherlands for a year and a half on a work assignment.

I was fascinated by the stories we heard about what it was like to have lived through the German occupation of World War II.

One of the members of our church congregation in Almere, where we lived, told us of how the city of Rotterdam had been completely decimated by the German bombs.

She said that they just kept bombing and bombing even after all the buildings were rubble.

Nothing was left. After WWII, the entire city had to be reconstructed.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go through that. So much destruction. So many lives had been lost.

Everyone had been through a terrible ordeal.

After the war, the Dutch members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained some potatoes, not for eating, but for planting.

They kneeled and prayed over their potatoes and planted them asking God to bless them and the land for a bounteous harvest.

These people had hardly anything left. They were in a dreadful situation.

Across the border in Germany were members of the same faith.

Walter Stover, a leader from the church in Germany, came to visit Cornelius Zappey, one of the Dutch church leaders.

Stover told Zappey that the members of the church in Germany were starving and even in a worse situation than the Dutch members of the church, and winter was approaching.

Zappey felt that he needed to ask the Dutch members to donate their potato harvest to their German brothers and sisters who were in desperate need.

He wondered if he could ask so much of them.

Imagine being there.

Your country had been overrun. Unspeakable things had happened. You were left with almost nothing. Germany was to blame for it all.

Yet, members of your faith in Germany were starving, and you had been asked to give your harvest to those who were your foe just a few months prior.

The Dutch church members were blessed with a superabundant harvest.

These faithful Latter-day Saint Christians responded.

Seventy tons of potatoes were sent to Germany.

Of this harvest, they said, “These were the Lord’s potatoes.”

Soon, German families received 100 pounds of potatoes each.

It saved their lives.

The next year, the Dutch decided to do the same thing again, and in addition to the potatoes, they sent herring.

Things slowly turned around for Germany and, in 1953, devastating floods hit The Netherlands.

Who was there to help when the Dutch were in need? The German brothers and sisters who shared the same faith.

Despite both countries being war-torn, healing had occurred.

Sacrifices were made. Love replaced hate. Hearts were knit together.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”

Sometimes, that might not be so hard.

We love God. He gives us everything that we have. But Jesus also said, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

That one can be a little harder, especially if that neighbor has not shown love to us.

The prophet Moroni taught, “Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47).

I don’t know of many better examples of the pure love of Christ than these humble people of The Netherlands, giving their potatoes to the Germans while their cities and homes were still lying in ruins and while their pantries were almost bare.

Striving and praying for this type of charity and love today toward our neighbors — even those who don’t think like us, who don’t believe like us, who look different than us or who are marginalized — will help knit our hearts together as a community and as a nation.

We are all children of our Heavenly Father.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the leader of the Mount Pleasant Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is

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