“They Came to Hear the Choir,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 28
When Thor and Solvor Torgersen of Hosle, Norway, traveled to the United States on a business assignment in November 1993, they had planned a short vacation before returning home. They had always wanted to visit three places in the United States: Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and then Salt Lake City—to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Thor, who had enjoyed the choir’s recordings for years, wanted to hear them in person. “We knew about the choir,” explains Solvor, his wife. “But we didn’t know anything about the Church. We knew about the missionaries in black suits walking around the streets, talking to people and knocking on doors, but they never came to our house.”
After the Torgersens visited the two other locations, their vacation time was almost over. “But something kept driving me to go to Salt Lake City before we went home,” says Solvor.
Thinking that the Tabernacle Choir rehearsed on Friday nights, the Torgersens flew to Salt Lake City on a Friday evening—their last night in the United States. “We quickly rented a car and drove to Temple Square,” recalls Thor. “We hurried to the Tabernacle, but no one was there.” The door was locked!
“It was late, but we started knocking,” says Thor. “Actually, we started banging on the door. For some reason, we felt we had to get inside.”
Fortunately, someone inside heard the persistent banging. Elder Wilmer Taylor, a Temple Square missionary, kindly invited the couple in and showed them around the empty tabernacle. He also explained that the choir rehearsed on Thursdays, not Fridays.
“We can’t wait until next Thursday!” Solvor pleaded. “Our plane leaves for Norway tomorrow, and we have come all this way just to hear the choir!”
Elder Taylor offered to return the next morning and take them on a tour of Temple Square; the Torgersens agreed. On that crisp fall morning, they heard for the first time about the temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, and the Book of Mormon.
They concluded the tour in the Tabernacle and were about to leave when a choir recording of “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, no. 152) began to play. “I sat down and started crying,” recalls Solvor. “I couldn’t stop. Thor attributed my strange behavior to being overcome by beautiful music, but I didn’t tell him what really happened, because I couldn’t speak.”
Elder Taylor simply said, “That was the Lord’s Spirit.”
“I didn’t know the song the choir was singing, but two thoughts kept crossing my mind,” Solvor continues. “First, I felt a deep desire to know what members of this church had, and second, I felt a great longing to become a member of this church.”
Before they left, Elder Taylor asked if they would like the missionaries to come to their home. Thor and Solvor’s answer was an immediate “Yes.” They left their address with the missionaries and walked away, not able to explain what had just happened.
They returned to Norway full of questions and started to read the literature given them by Elder Taylor: a Book of Mormon, some missionary pamphlets, and a copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Eager to know more, they called the number listed for the Church in Oslo. On 10 January 1994 two missionaries knocked on their door.
Thor and Solvor listened intently to the missionaries as they answered their many questions about the gospel. The discussion was going well until the Torgersens heard about the First Vision.
“I wondered about Joseph Smith,” remembers Solvor. “At first I thought it was a strange story, but then I realized it wasn’t strange at all.
“I remembered a long night 35 years ago, just before I gave birth to my first child. During a sacred experience that night, I was told that my baby would stay with me only a short while, that he would soon be taken back into the presence of God.
“I was devastated and prayed that it would not be true. But the next morning my child was born with severe medical problems, and the doctors confirmed what I had been told. I will never forget the despair I felt.”
After reliving that experience, Solvor thought again about the account of the First Vision and realized that what the missionaries had been telling her and her husband was true, that through modern revelation the boy prophet Joseph Smith had seen the Father and the Son and that they had spoken to him. “I believe now that my conversion actually began 35 years before we found the Church,” she says, “and that my child, lost to me so long ago, had been waiting for this moment.”
Before Easter, Solvor had made her decision to be baptized. When Thor was still reluctant to make a commitment, the elders asked him, “Can you give us one good reason for not being baptized with Solvor?”
“Solvor and I talked until 1:00 A.M. about my decision,” Thor remembers. “I felt I needed to be alone for a while, so I went out in the middle of the night and worked on my car. I worked—and I prayed. I prayed that it would become clear to me that this was the right way to go. After two long hours, I received the confirmation that I needed. I knew there was not one good reason that I should not be baptized with my wife.”
Thor and Solvor were baptized on 17 April 1994. One year later they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. Robert, the child lost to them 36 years before, was also sealed to them by proxy on that day. “I will never forget that moment,” says Solvor. “We felt that Robert was there in spirit—everyone in the room felt his presence.”
Solvor smiles as she recalls her feelings after her first visit to Salt Lake City. “I arrived on the grounds at Temple Square as a tourist, but I left as a Church member. My husband said it was the beautiful music that brought tears to my eyes; Elder Taylor said it was the Spirit. They were both right! God knew what kind of instrument he should use to instruct me—it was the choir!”
Since that time, the Torgersens have added many Tabernacle Choir recordings to their music library and have even heard the choir in a live performance. But of all the glorious music in the choir’s repertoire, none will ever touch their lives so profoundly as did that first hymn of faith: “Till we meet at Jesus’ feet, … God be with you till we meet again.”