One of the most important missions of the church has always been the Scandinavian Mission. Two missionaries destined to open this field for the Reorganization arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 16, 1875. Elder Magnus Fyrando, a native of Sweden, and Hans N. Hansen of Denmark, had the honor and arduous responsibility of "opening the door" in Scandinavia.
Magnus Fyrando had joined the church when he was nineteen (the church as he heard it preached contained only the purity of the gospel). Before he was of age, he was preaching the message as he then understood it in his native land, Sweden. His face bore scars which remained as long as life lasted, of beatings he had received at the hands of mobs in his youth, while preaching in his native tongue. His young wife, Elsie Olsen, was as devoted as he. Had she not walked seven miles in wooden shoes, her lunch tied in a napkin, that she might bear a sermon? The young couple had, at cost of all their earthly possessions, paid their way to the Zion they hoped to find in the mountains. On the way, their first child was born at, a camp of the Saints near the Sweet Water River. Little remained of their clothing except bare necessities. Elsie Fyrando made her baby's first dress of her only sunbonnet. Arriving at their destination, they lived in a tent and a dugout; they plucked herbs and wild tea for drink; their kitchen equipment was an empty peach can and a tin plate; and their first meat a gift of an ox head, from an old German friend. Elsie Fyrando made soup three times on the bones. But physical discomfort was not all. Finally they made their way eastward, and hearing the gospel preached again by the Reorganized elders, they joined the church near Omaha.
Fyrando immediately visited Sweden, where he previously had done missionary work for the faction of the church in Utah, while Hansen visited the place of his birth. Meeting again in Copenhagen, they made, without success, a concerted effort to get a place to preach. Therefore, Brother Fyrando went back to Sweden where he had friends, while Hansen found employment at manual labor in Copenhagen. He had not forgotten his mission and spent every hour outside of those of his day's work in finding and talking to old-time Saints. At last he considered that the interest warranted his beginning to hold regular meetings. At his own expense he rented a hall and called his companion back from Sweden, that they might fulfill the well-established custom of "two by two." With an audience of thirty, they held their first public meeting, August 18, 1875. But after only a few efforts they were obliged to give up their work in the hall, and Fyrando returned to Sweden.
Nearly a year passed, and in the spring of 1876 prospects began to brighten and the month of March found both missionaries in Aalborg,1 Denmark, preaching to good-sized congregations.
Quite an interest has been manifest, and it appears as if the Lord had now opened the way for his gospel to be preached in this country. Last Tuesday we had the privilege of administering the ordinance of baptism to two that are the first fruits of labors that yet have been gathered; but we hope and believe that several more will come soon. Those baptized are both heads of families, good, earnest men, previously belonging to the Brighamite Church. One of them was an elder who opposed us as long as he could, but when he saw his error, he laid it aside and received the truth.
As there is now quite an interest manifest and the prospects are that a good many will come into the church, we see the necessity of having a hymnbook of our own in the Danish language, as we hitherto, as also the Scandinavian Saints in America, have used the Brighamite book, which is not suitable to our faith. We would therefore propose to Scandinavian Saints in America to help us with means to get up a book, with from one hundred and fifty to two hundred selected hymns, arranged similar to the Saints' Harp. We would like to have the book as soon as possible, for we need it, and would therefore ask those interested to put forth a helping hand as soon as possible.2
This book was later published, also Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.
During the summer, Elder Fyrando visited Norway and Sweden, staying two weeks in Christiania, distributing tracts and making some friends, although he could find no place, public or private, in which to preach. He walked six or eight miles from the city and found a hall he could lease for three months at a cost of twenty kroner per month, amounting for the three months to twenty dollars, but he had not the money and turned away. As he was a stranger to the country and to the language as well, he found it difficult to do much, so after three weeks in Sweden, where he had a "very good time," he returned to Copenhagen. He also had found it necessary to spend his time at manual work in order to keep up the rent on their halls and pay his own board and lodging. At one time, while in Copenhagen, he received a call to Aalborg to administer to a man who was believed to be dying. He had no money. Fortunately it was summer. He pawned his blankets to get money to answer the call of a distressed brother!
That year the little mission received reinforcements in the person of Peter N. Brix, who was in the field and working hard by July, 1877. He was ordained an elder and appointed to that mission in the spring of 1876.
On the way to their mission, the first missionaries had rejoiced in a prophecy they heard in Philadelphia on their way to embark on their journey. The remembered every word and believed it. They were told, "You shall have a safe and speedy journey, be blessed in your labors: the angel of the Lord shall minister to you, and the same angel shall minister to your loved ones at home. You shall be enabled to fulfill your mission, you shall return to your family, and not one of their number shall be missing."
Thus encouraged they went on, nothing doubting. And when, during the year 1876, a letter came from Phineas Caldwell, president of Magnus Fyrando's home branch, saying, "If you want to see your son, come home at once," his faith was sorely tried. The letter came on a Saturday when he and Brother Brix were seventeen miles from Aalborg, Denmark, with appointments out for the next day; a hall already rented at what seemed to them with their limited means, great expense. Fyrando felt that he could not preach; he urged Brother Peter N. Brix to go alone. He could not force himself to think of aught else except that his only son (he had buried the three others in the dreadful days in Utah) lay at the point of death, perhaps already dead, thousands of miles away, and he had not the money to go to him. Brix left the house and went down the walk, but just as he went out the gate, the words of that prophecy came again to Brother Fyrando's mind, "you shall return to your family, and not one of their number shall be missing." Hurriedly calling back his missionary companion, he went with him and preached. He finished the two years of his mission, and never doubted that he would find his son there upon his return home.3 Although Fyrando had visited much in Sweden and spent many days in tracting and visiting, he found it impossible to do any preaching on account of the strict laws of the country, but made many friends. He left Copenhagen, April 20, 1877, in company with five of the brethren from Denmark. (Scandinavia has suffered, as have the English and Utah Missions, because of heavy emigration to the United States of members, particularly those members who could have aided in the support of missionaries.) The little company arrived in New York, May 8. "I was sorry," said Fyrando, "to leave the mission and Brother Brix alone. . . . It is hard to be alone." Hans Hansen had been released and returned to America the previous year.
That space forbids the story of the many sacrifices and unselfish service of our missionaries to Scandinavia is regrettable. Incidents of a character that should inspire faith in those who read them would make a large volume. Two missionaries from America lie buried there, for in October 26, 1900, Mads P. Hansen, after only a brief experience in the mission field, died at Arendal, Norway, leaving his missionary companion, N. C. Enge, alone. With the 40 kroner (about $11) he found in the missionary's pocket, Brother Enge had to meet funeral expenses. Such was the poverty of our early missionary efforts.
The next winter February 9, 1901, N. C. Enge baptized his first Norwegian converts, a Mr. and Mrs. Olson. It was they who cared for Brother Hansen in his last illness. They walked six miles in the snow to be baptized by Brother Enge in the sea--only to find after the ceremony that a recent law had been passed that any one baptizing a member of the Lutheran Church [the state church] without first notifying their Lutheran minister, was subject to fine. Brother Enge went to the authorities, confessed his "mistake" and out of his meager funds paid a fine of 25 kroner, about $6.64.
In December, 1915, in Eidevold, Norway, the first church building of the Reorganized Church on the continent was finished. The second, probably was built in Germany.
The Scandinavian mission field has been kept up for many years. During much of the time a Scandinavian paper, Sandhedens Banner, was published in the interest of the mission. Sandhedens Banner appeared first in October, 1844, as a periodical for Scandinavian people. It was issued from Lamoni, Iowa, with Peter Andersen as editor. Of the many who have sacrificed much and given much of their lives to that mission, may be mentioned Peter Andersen and Peter Muceus, also Peter N. Brix, who died in Aalborg, Denmark, and Mads P. Hansen who died in Arundel, Norway. Among other more recent missionaries were Marce Sorensen, John Wahlstrom, N. C. Enge, H. H. Hanson, J. J. Christiansen, C. Oscar Johnson, C. A. Swenson, Peter T. Andersen, O. W. Okerlind, E. Y. Hunker, and V. D. Ruch and wife.
1 Aalborg in the province of Jylland is noted as the place where the
second branch of the church in Denmark was organized. This was under the church in Utah,
but George Parker Dykes, who baptized the eight members who composed this branch on
October 27, 1850, and organized them into a branch on November 8 following, was among the
first fruits of the Reorganized Church in Utah.
2 The Saints' Herald, Volume 23, page 283.
3 "Magnus and Elsie Fyrando," by Alma M. Fyrando, Journal of History, Volume 3, page 306.