“Standing Tall in Denmark,” Liahona, May 2002, 21
Three young women in Copenhagen, Denmark, tell three very different stories. Pia tells about her conversion, Rebecca tells about an antipornography program she is involved in, and Annelise tells about fasting and praying that the government will allow the Church to build a new chapel. These three stories have at least one thing in common. All are about Church members standing tall in Denmark.
Pia is a 16-year-old Laurel in the Frederiksberg Ward, Copenhagen Denmark Stake. Her mom is a lifelong member of the Church and Pia can remember going to Primary when she was younger, but Pia has been a Church member for only one year.
“My mom and dad are Church members, so when I was young, I went to Primary. But I never was baptized,” Pia says.
After her parents divorced, Pia, her two brothers, and their mother stopped going to church. Pia turned 8 but wasn’t baptized. She turned 12 and didn’t attend Young Women. For about 10 years there was little Church involvement in her life. Home teachers still came and visiting teachers called on her mom, but the Hentzens stayed home on Sundays.
Then a Young Women leader called Pia and invited her to start attending activities. “My leader wrote letters inviting me to go to church. I went once but thought it was boring and didn’t want to go back. But the missionaries changed my mind about church,” she says, laughing.
The missionaries knew Pia had never been baptized, so they scheduled a time to visit her. At that first appointment, they brought a short spiritual message. That pattern continued for several weeks until one day they tried something different, bringing with them something every missionary has to offer—the first discussion.
“They asked if they could give me the first discussion, and I said, ‘OK.’ It didn’t take long—probably a few weeks—before I finished all the discussions and agreed to be baptized.” About this same time, Pia’s mother started becoming active again, as did her two brothers.
Today, in the small group that makes up the Young Men and Young Women program of the Frederiksberg Ward, Pia is at home. Joining the Church and being active took some getting used to. Now it’s a way of life. “I’m the only Laurel in the ward. We also have two Mia Maids and two Beehives. That’s our Young Women,” she says. Then she stops and thinks seriously about how the Church has changed her life. “I think my life is better now,” she concludes. “I have something I know is true.”
Sheets of postage stamps wait to be affixed to a pile of envelopes. But Rebecca is only one person. A Laurel in the Allerød Ward, Copenhagen Denmark Stake, Rebecca has a few thoughts about pornography and its damaging influence, and she’s doing something about it. But the work—stuffing envelopes with antipornography literature—is tedious and time consuming.
As she addresses the envelopes, she talks of her involvement with a program organized to protest pornography in Denmark.
“Pornography has such a large effect on our values, but Denmark is quite a liberal country and I can see that people almost get used to the pornography. But instead of getting used to it, we should be startled by it,” Rebecca says.
At Rebecca’s school, a fellow student started a protest against pornography and enlisted Rebecca’s help. These students gathered signatures for a petition they hope will gain them a voice with the government—especially with Denmark’s minister of culture, who oversees public television in the country.
“We can’t stop people from looking at pornography,” Rebecca explains, “but we would like to see pornography removed from public places where children can easily see it. You can’t just put children to bed early and expect them not to see those things on television.”
As she thinks about the Young Women values and considers what she represents as a member of the Church, Rebecca is glad to be involved in something she hopes will effect a change.
“You have to make a statement in your life. I think it’s important for us, especially as members of the Church, to do something to make the world a better place,” she says. “That thought has always been important to me, but a couple of months ago when I received my patriarchal blessing, I realized even more that I had to do something.”
When Rebecca’s group completed the project and sent the petition to the government, she allowed herself to think about the small part she played in getting more than 22,000 people to sign the petition and how the project strengthened her resolve to make Denmark a better place. She also smiles. Her group easily exceeded their goal of 15,000 signatures.
Rebecca knows things are not going to change overnight. But you have to start somewhere, right? “I think a lot of people out there hate pornography and its effects,” she says. “But many people are not willing to do or say anything. Sometimes I think people just need a little reminder once in a while.”
Annelise is a third-generation Church member. Her grandma and grandpa were baptized many years ago, her dad grew up in the Church and married a member, and Annelise is a lifelong member. She is now a member of the Frederiksberg Ward, and Annelise, a Beehive, is, along with Pia, one of the few young women in the ward.
The ward currently meets in a rented building. The elevator in the building is pretty slow, so Annelise takes the stairs. Three flights of stairs get her to the top floor, where she enters the chapel. The building is clean and nice, but Annelise says there is a temporary feeling about where the Frederiksberg Ward meets. She looks out the window of the chapel and points.
“That’s our old chapel right there,” she says. She’s looking at a beautiful brick building one block away, one of the first the Church built in this country. And it sits empty—for good reason.
“That is where our temple is going to be,” Annelise explains.
The temple in Copenhagen will serve the members in Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia. Having a temple 10 minutes from her house instead of the 12 hours it takes to get to the Stockholm Sweden Temple is a real blessing. Annelise knows it is worth the sacrifice.
But there is still the issue of a new meetinghouse. The lease on the temporary building will expire soon. So this Sunday, the Frederiksberg Ward is holding a fast, praying that the city will give the Church approval to build on property it has purchased.* Annelise is joining other ward members in fasting and praying for this special purpose.
This morning Annelise admits she’s hungry. “But when I fast I feel close to God and I feel more humble,” she says. “I don’t feel fasting is that much of a sacrifice, and I believe if everybody in this ward prays for the same thing, then our Heavenly Father will help us.”
After sacrament meeting, with her fast almost complete, Annelise doesn’t dash home to eat. Instead, she walks out the door holding the arm of Christel Petersen, a 96-year-old ward member. Sister Petersen joined the Church in 1958 and taught Annelise’s father in Sunday School. Each month Annelise gets to know her better by taking some time to visit with her.
“Sister Petersen is nice to talk with. I think she is a strong woman because she is the only member of the Church in her family. Her husband never joined, and her children were already grown when she was baptized,” Annelise explains. “She is 96 years old, and she still comes to church each Sunday.
“I admire people like Sister Petersen who are close to Heavenly Father,” Annelise adds. “And when I do things like fasting, it brings me closer to Him too.”
In Copenhagen stands the original, well-known statue of Jesus Christ, the Christus, created by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. In that same city, Latter-day Saints also stand tall, emulating the Savior in all they do.
* A few months after Annelise and others fasted, the Church received a permit to construct a new building for the Frederiksberg Ward.