1985
Swedish Saints: Anticipating a House of the Lord
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“Swedish Saints: Anticipating a House of the Lord,” Ensign, July 1985, 78–79

Swedish Saints: Anticipating a House of the Lord

The Swedish architect who was to work on the Stockholm Sweden Temple project puzzled over just what this “temple” was to be. How was it to be different from a meetinghouse, or from a cathedral of another church?

But Bo G. Wennerlund, regional representative for the Stockholm Sweden, Copenhagen Denmark, Oslo Norway, and Helsinki Finland regions, and chairman of the Stockholm temple committee, patiently answered questions and taught gospel concepts. At last the architect began to understand.

“Oh,” he exclaimed to Brother Wennerlund, “you want to lift man!” From that insight he proceeded with the design for the House of the Lord that will soon be dedicated in Västerhaninge, near Stockholm.

This recognition—that the gospel has the power to lift man—has helped to bring Scandinavians into the Church since the first LDS missionaries visited their countries in the early 1850s.

Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve led that first group, accompanied by Peter O. Hansen, called to Denmark, and John E. Forsgren, called to Sweden. Elder Snow also chose George Parker Dykes, who was at the time laboring as a missionary in England, to accompany them.

Brother Hansen was sent to Denmark about a month ahead of the others; Elder Snow and his other two companions arrived in Copenhagen 14 June 1850. Missionary work commenced immediately. The first Danish baptisms took place August 12, and the first Danish branch was organized September 15.

By this time, John Forsgren had been sent to Sweden. There he baptized his first convert, his own brother Peter A. Forsgren, 26 July 1850. The first Swedish branches of the Church were not organized until 1853, however.

Hans F. Petersen, one of the first converts to the Church in Aalborg, Denmark, was sent to Norway to open missionary work in September of 1851. The first Latter-day Saint baptisms there took place 26 November 1851; the first branch was organized 16 July 1852.

In the eight decades after missionary work began in Scandinavia, more than fifty-four thousand Scandinavians became Church members. Nearly half of them emigrated to Utah. In times when both the populations of their home countries and membership in the Church were much smaller, their numbers were significant. So, too, were their contributions in Church service.

Today, there are some eighteen thousand Saints in the district that will be served by the Stockholm Sweden Temple. They include members of seven stakes: Goteborg and Stockholm Sweden; Aarhus and Copenhagen Denmark; Helsinki and Tampere Finland; and Oslo Norway.

“Up till now, we have traveled to Switzerland” to visit the temple, noted one Swedish member. It was a thirty-six hour trip. (For faithful Finnish members, who have been leaders in temple attendance, it was a forty-four-hour trip by land through four foreign countries.)

Bjorn Magnusson, high priests group leader in the Norrkoping Ward, Stockholm Sweden Stake, points out that it has been a challenge to coordinate vacation times with the schedule of Swedish sessions in the Swiss temple. Now many more of the members in his area will be able to visit a temple frequently, even though they are some two hundred kilometers (about 120 miles) from Stockholm. “Of course, we think it’s wonderful.”

“We are preparing ourselves to enjoy the spiritual blessings of the temple,” says Nielo Diegas, president of the elders quorum in the Stockholm Second Ward, Stockholm Stake. Brethren in his quorum, Brother Diegas says, are working diligently on their genealogy to prepare four-generation family groups for temple ordinances when the temple opens. They are also setting personal goals for temple attendance.

President Erik G. Johnson of the Sweden Stockholm Mission says the temple, and the growing visibility of Latter-day Saints, has increased interest in the Church. “We have people asking, ‘What do we have to do to become members?’” More than a third of the mission’s 163 baptisms last year were “self-referrals.”

Brother Wennerlund reports that efforts to acquaint the Swedish with the temple and its purposes are continuing. Some twenty-six thousand households in Västerhaninge received brochures about the temple and invitations to the open house.

Many members are preparing diligently to enter the temple for the first time, and wards have begun reactivation campaigns to bring in others.

One member, who has kept close watch on the temple’s progress, reflects: “It is a very, very special sight to see Moroni watching over southern Stockholm.”

The Stockholm Sweden Temple will serve members in four Scandinavian countries.