“My Grandfather’s Courage,” Ensign, July 1974, 45
For the privilege of growing up in the Church in Narvik, Norway, I am indebted to my maternal grandfather. Because of its ice-free harbor, Narvik became a shipping center for the rich ores railed in from the Swedish Lappland; and with much wealth to be gained, people flocked into the area. It still has a lively traffic with foreign countries.
My grandfather came there as a schoolteacher and a hired church singer before the turn of the century. And my mother, the youngest of 12 children, was often a companion to her father, even at an early age. When she was 16, he asked her to go with him one evening to a meeting in town. He was very mysterious about it and went in the direction of the town’s largest and finest meetinghouse, where a well-known politician was speaking. Yet he did not stop there. Instead, he took her through a back yard and to a much less respectable-looking place. Two smiling Americans were there to greet them.
He had brought her, of course, to hear the gospel, and to my mother’s astonishment she agreed with their teachings. At first she had difficulty understanding their broken Norwegian; but when they explained that small children had no sin and therefore no need of baptism, she became interested.
The elders taught her the gospel, and one day she told her father she wanted to be baptized. He was not sure that one so young should take this step. However, the next day he walked three miles home from work in the middle of the day because he had no peace of mind over the issue. This frightened my mother because she thought he was seriously ill—leaving one’s work before quitting time was the same as giving notice to quit. However, he had come to tell his daughter that if she had the courage to join this church and thereby lose her friends, she had his permission to do so. Having said that, he felt as though a heavy burden had fallen from his shoulders and he walked back to work again.
The baptismal place was a lonely beach, a mile from the nearest house where a kind old lady allowed them to change clothes. Not quite understanding what they were about to do, she was shocked when they came back in their freezing wet clothes. It was October and the temperature was 10 degrees, yet the ocean was a warmer 35 degrees, thanks to the Gulf Stream that comes all the way from America.
My mother was happy. Though old friends and relatives forsook her, one by one they came back, and she won everyone’s respect and admiration. Later she attended her parents’ baptisms. I learned the gospel at her knee, and though the auxiliaries weren’t functioning fully at that time and Narvik was the northernmost branch of the Church, a few faithful members met regularly, eager to tell all they met that the Lord had spoken again.
Now we have seen the dawning of a new day. Not only the standard works, but lesson manuals and other materials are available in Norwegian. Tent camps and youth conferences are held every year, district and regional conferences are held several times a year, and now a big area conference is going to be held. I have seen beautiful modern chapels built in Trondheim (where I served as branch president), Bergen, Drammen, and Oslo, and two temples have been built to accommodate the Saints in Europe. The gospel is spreading rapidly.