A Bed for Nils
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“A Bed for Nils,” Friend, Dec. 2003, 16

A Bed for Nils

Based on a true story

Every one that hath forsaken houses, … or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life (Matt. 19:29).

Nils heard creaking, cracking, and then a great big crash! Everyone in the house jumped up to find the two missionaries buried in a pile of blankets and boards that had been Nils’s bed. His bed had been too small for these two grown men who were in Sweden preaching the gospel.

They had come just after supper and had stayed so late that Mama had insisted they stay the night. She had let them sleep in Nils’s bed while he slept on the floor.

Dismayed, Nils looked at his broken bed. Mama whispered, “Don’t worry. Papa will make you a new one.”

But Papa didn’t seem to have time. He worked all day and talked to the missionaries in the evenings. He said that the Book of Mormon explained everything he hadn’t understood in the Bible.

Soon Mama, Papa, Peter, Botilla, and Bengt were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nils and his baby sister would have to wait for their eighth birthdays. Even though they were happy, everyone else in town seemed angry—especially Grandmother and Grandfather. Nils’s family decided to go to America where they could be with other Church members.

“You will like America, Nils,” Mama said, “and when we get there, we will get you a new bed.”

The ship to America was crowded with other Swedish and Danish members of the Church. Nils slept on top of two giant water barrels. He was afraid that when the ship rocked back and forth he would roll off! He could hardly wait to see land and sleep in a bed that held still.

But Nils’s first bed in America didn’t hold still. After leaving the ship, they got on a train. Nils fell asleep listening to the clacking of the wheels. When they got off the train at a place called Council Bluffs, they loaded their belongings in wagons pulled by oxen. Nils had thought the ship was crowded, but this was worse!

“No room for mattresses or pillows,” shouted the man in charge. “Pack only your clothes and blankets!”

“No pillow, no mattress, and no bed,” Nils sighed.

His family shared a wagon with a widow and a newly married couple. Every night Nils and his family slept on the ground, and day after dusty day they walked until they made it to Salt Lake City. Once there, they shared a house with another family.

The family’s first home of their own in the valley was a little room dug from a hillside, with a dirt floor. They slept in blankets that could be rolled up during the day. They longed for a more permanent home.

Finally Papa found them some land for a place of their own. Once again, they packed everything into their wagon and rode to Huntsville, Utah. The valley there was green and full of tall grass, and the hillsides were covered with trees. Their second home was a rough cabin with a leaky willow-branch roof and corn-husk mattresses on the floor.

Finally, on Christmas Day, they moved into a real log home with a wood floor, pine shingles on the roof, and real beds! Four and a half years after leaving Sweden, Nils snuggled under his quilt in his own new bed. It creaked a little when he moved, reminding him of the night his old bed broke. How much had changed! Nils smiled. Maybe someday he would grow up to be a missionary in Sweden, too. If he did, he would watch out for little beds!

Years later, Nils P. Lofgren did return to Sweden as a missionary.

Illustration by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki; photo by Christina Smith