Russian Duet
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“Russian Duet,” Liahona, Oct. 2002, 46

Russian Duet

After a busy week of serving as a worker in the Stockholm Sweden Temple, I went to the guesthouse laundry room to wash some clothing. As I loaded the washer, I absentmindedly whistled one of my favorite hymns, “High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns, number 5). This hymn and its reference to people “in distant lands” hearing the gospel and serving the Lord has always resonated with me. I have always felt that I am one of those the hymn refers to because I was born in Denmark, where I was converted to the gospel, and moved to Utah with my family at age 14.

As I was going about my chores, a Russian brother who was attending the temple that week walked in. As he did, I ceased whistling. He immediately started whistling the same hymn I had been whistling. When he stopped, he pointed to me. I whistled from where he had left off.

He then started at the beginning of the hymn once more, pointed to me, and stopped whistling. Neither of us could speak the other’s language, hence all the pointing. But I managed to understand what he wanted, and I started at the beginning as he had done. He whistled a beautiful harmony to my melody.

There we stood—a Russian and an American—face to face, whistling in two-part harmony one of the most beautiful hymns of the Restoration. We did not get all the way through it before tears filled our eyes. Finally, we could not go on. We embraced and he uttered the only English words I heard him speak: “Russian duet.”

I think we both felt an overwhelming gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which breaks down cultural and geographic barriers. Our beliefs and our commitment made it possible that we, both from different “distant lands,” could stand as brothers in the gospel in yet another land and share a moment of joy, proclaiming together as the hymn says, “High on the mountain top / A banner is unfurled. / Ye nations, now look up; / It waves to all the world.”

  • Swen Nielsen and his wife, Shirlene, returned from their mission to the Stockholm Sweden Temple in June 2001 and are members of the Slate Canyon Fourth Ward, Provo Utah Stake.

Illustrations by Brian Call