Calling him a messenger of hope, the First Presidency sent Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, to help the stricken Saints in Europe after World War II.
Elder Benson, who had just been named president of the European Mission, was charged with the task of determining and caring for the spiritual and temporal needs of Church members in the war-torn countries.A few months earlier President George Albert Smith helped prepare the way for Elder Benson by meeting with U.S. President Harry S. Truman at the White House and European country officials at foreign embassies. As a result of his and other officials' efforts, the Church Welfare Plan was registered with the U.S. government as a relief agency.
After beginning his relief efforts in early 1946, Elder Benson wrote in a letter home that "the recent world-conflict has left marks of devastation that may never be erased."
During his 10 months in Europe, Elder Benson traveled through the war-torn areas, visiting and comforting the members who had suffered extreme privations. There he found many who "were thin, weak, and hungry - their clothes threadbare and hanging loosely from their starved bodies."
But, he later wrote, "in their eyes shone the light of truth and from their lips came a testimony of faith and devotion that should be a testimony to all the Church."
He took them food, clothing, bedding and supplies. For the women he carried soap, pins, needles and thread. Many times he passed out candy and gum to the children.
"These sweet, eager but polite little ones almost broke my heart as they looked up with their large eyes and pale faces filled with gratitude," he reflected.
Elder Benson also directed and reorganized the various missions in Europe, preparing for the return of missionaries to the countries.
"I shall ever remember the scene of these sweet, innocent victims of the ravages of war - humble in their gratitude for the gospel, with no trace of enmity or hatred in their hearts. . . ," Elder Benson wrote. "I shed tears with them, gave them what encouragement I could and left my blessing and love with them." (Source: A Labor of Love, The 1946 European Mission of Ezra Taft Benson.)