Church History
Samuelsen at the Rigsdag

Samuelsen at the Rigsdag

In the 1890s Frederik Samuelsen of Aarhus had a busy schedule. Like many Danes who lived in cities, he worked about 80 hours per week in a factory. He was active in Church: attending branch meetings Sundays and Thursdays and Priesthood some Saturdays; ministering to members; sharing Church tracts door to door; serving as Young Men president; and supporting his wife, Marie, in her calling as Relief Society president. Samuelsen was also active in his labor union: recruiting members, organizing strikes, and caring for workers. In 1900 he was elected to the Aarhus City Council, and in 1906 he became the first Latter-day Saint elected to a European parliament.

In Parliament, Samuelsen focused on the needs of Aarhus and the working class, but he was also able to advocate for the rights of Latter-day Saints and other religious minorities. In 1910, for example, he successfully petitioned Jacob Appel, the minister of culture, for protections on minority faiths’ newly won right to conduct their own graveside services. The next year, a Danish silent film called A Victim of the Mormons drew huge audiences. Many people, treating the fictional film as realistic, called for action against the Church. Samuelsen soon read a newspaper report that Appel was in talks with Norway and Sweden to expel Latter-day Saint missionaries from all of Scandinavia.

Despite the political risk, Samuelsen decided to speak up. After explaining he was a Mormon, Samuelsen called on Appel not to reduce “the already very limited freedom of religion of the non-recognized religious societies.” His speech was printed in newspapers throughout the country. Though some attacked Samuelsen, his argument for religious tolerance won the day: Appel disavowed any interest in the plan and missionaries were able to remain in Denmark.

Samuelsen was surprised the next spring when he was reelected by an overwhelming majority. “The people shouted with joy,” he wrote, “such that I could hardly get an opportunity to speak.” In 1915 he supported a new constitution that gave equal voting rights to Danish men and women, regardless of class, for the first time. “This is the greatest red-letter day I have experienced,” Samuelsen wrote when it passed.

Two years later, however, a disagreement between Samuelsen and the local party organization drew the attention of a party newspaper. The paper’s editor confronted Samuelsen and demanded he sign a statement vowing to resign. Samuelsen did sign, later writing that he thought of his father—who had died 43 years earlier on that very day, when Samuelsen was nine years old. “It was as if he came and requested of me that now I should go to the temple of the Lord and perform the ordinances for which he has waited on me for so many years,” Samuelsen wrote. He finished his term and emigrated to Salt Lake City, where he and Marie diligently performed temple work for their ancestors, serving actively in the Church and in Salt Lake’s Danish community for the rest of their lives.