My father, when he first heard about the Mormons, had just come from his native Sweden, in about 1869. He and another boy friend were renting a room from a neighbor of some Mormons, and they had been told by others that the Mormon neighbors were going to have a "Dance of the Angels" in their home. That's what they told them; just think of them talking like that. The house didn't have a basement in it. It was built on the hillside on stilts. They slipped over there and stood underneath the house to see what was going on. All they heard was singing, praying, and preaching, but they never heard any dancing. They were so wrapped up in listening that they forgot where they were until the lady of the house stood right by them and said, "Wouldn't you like to come up inside? The meeting is over and we're going to have some refreshments and visit. Wouldn't you like to be our guests?" They went up and found the Mormons friendly but made no further investigation of the gospel.
It was some years Later, in about 1896, that he became interested in Mormonism, and after a period of investigation he became converted by the Elders. When he was ready to be baptized, he told my mother. She cried for three nights ... and worked all day with a big family. This was when I was about 18 months old, and I was the seventh child at home (she had raised the other two who had now left home), so she had a lot of little ones to care for. My father felt so badly about her reaction that he told her to stop crying and that he would wait until she could accept the gospel too and they could be baptized at the same time. In the meantime these Elders were called away, and some new ones came in their place. After that, he more or less lost interest, as these new Elders knew very little of the language. Although at work when someone would say, "Why you're a Swede" he would say, "No, I'm an Israelite."
During my childhood father always let the Mormons take our row boat when they went on their picnics out to the small islands in the area or on the other side of our island. Several times we were invited as a family to their Christmas parties because Far was always friendly to them, and of course we just loved it. There was nothing like the parties that the Mormons had. The food was always good and we had a good time. We all went, including my mother. She was good friends with many of the Mormons, and our neighbors were Mormons. To my knowledge she never read the Book of Mormon. I think she was afraid to. But anyway, I know the missionaries used to call, and I was proud and pleased and still embarrassed when I saw them walk up the hill to our place, because of my friends. And then there were periods of time when father didn't have much to do with them.
My oldest sister Ingeborg came home from America in 1909, where she had joined the Free Christian Church because she felt the Lutherans didn't have the right gospel. My mother died shortly after her arrival home, and Ingeborg assumed the responsibilities of the home and seven children still at home.
During that summer I was to go to America. My sister Magnhild, who was in Oslo, was going to go with a nice family. Their girls were my friends, and they were going to New York and we could go together with them. They decided that I should go too because it would lighten the burden at home. I was 14 years old at the time. The night before I was to leave, my father said, "You're really happy now that you are going to America aren't you?" I said, "No, I'm not one bit happy. If I could take some flowers from here and some rocks from there and some dirt and part of Norway with me, it probably wouldn't be so bad." Then he said, "If that's the way you feel, you are not going." I said, "But father I have to go. Everything is packed I've got my store dress that Margaret's mother gave me, and we've bought the ticket." He said, "The dress you can take back and you can unpack, and as far as the ticket is concerned, we've only paid down ten crowns." (We were to pay the balance in the morning before we left). I said, "Do you mean it?", and he said, "Yes, I do. You're not going if that's the way you feel." I was so happy when I heard it. I fairly flew down the hillside. It seemed my heels hit my back, I ran so fast down to my friends to tell them that I wasn't going to America. I've often wondered since if I had gone at that time what would have happened to me -- if the gospel would have come to me in America. It probably never would. I hadn't been exposed to it yet. This was the summer of 1909. Magnhild went to America and she never joined the church.
My very first contact with the Church was when I was about five. A girl friend about four years older than me lived in a house above ours. She came and asked me if I would go to the Mormon Sunday School with her, which I did. The teacher was another neighbor girl, Martha Winther. She knew that I could read. So she said, "I want you to read a few verses out of the Bible for us." And I said, "I can't do that." She said, "Oh yes you can." I had been reading out of primers and little children's books. I said, "No I can't, but if I do it's going to be very slow, because I'm going to have to pronounce it to myself first." She said, "That's all right. No matter how you can read, just read it to us." So I did. She had the Elders in to listen to me too. And they thought it was marvelous that a little kid five years old could read from the Bible. But it scared me and I didn't want to go back. In fact, I didn't go back until I was about six years old when my father went to the English class that the missionaries gave once a week. He asked me if I wanted to go with him, which I did. I can still remember the sentence which I learned. It was: "The boat will leave the dock at four o'clock." That was the only sentence I knew when I came to America. I learned that when I was about six.
About that same time, the Mormons were going on a picnic. They had borrowed my father's boat. My father was home, and he let me go with him down to the dock to see them off. Just as they were ready to push out, there was a little old lady that said, "Isn't that young lady going with us?" My father said, "No." She asked why not, and my father said, "Well, she isn't dressed up and she didn't bring any lunch." She said, "Lunch, I've plenty of and I have an extra cup, and she is dressed well enough." I said to my father, "Yes, and I have my best hat on." I had a beautiful straw hat with a beehive crown and green silk ribbons around it, with a tassel hanging on it. So I felt really dressed up. But over there if you went some place and didn't have your Sunday clothes on, you weren't really dressed. But anyway, he let me go. Oh, I enjoyed it; I was so thankful to that little old lady for years after, because we had such a good time. I remember that while we were sitting on the grassy meadow eating, I had my foot under me and my foot went to sleep. I tried to stand up on it, and I couldn't stand at first. That's the first time I can remember my foot going to sleep. But it was just like needles being put in my legs when the feeling returned. I guess I was just a little bit scared, but this old lady said, "That's nothing to be scared of. You just sat on it and stopped the circulation. In a minute the blood will come right back in it and you will be all right." And of course, that's what happened.
Then One Sunday, years later (I must have been about twelve), I went to the Post Office to get the mail, and there was another girl there, Ananda Terjesen, who had a sister, Ingeborg Terjesen Gundersen, who was a Mormon in Salt Lake City. The lady at the Post Office said, "Well, here is a letter from Utah." Of course, she was tickled, but I thought if that happened to me I would be so embarrassed I would want to go and kill myself. I thought the only way I could do it was to drown myself, and I had the spot in my mind just where I would go, and then it dawned on me that I can't drown myself because I float. I float just like a cork. Isn't it terrible that you can feel that way, but of course it was the result of people talking as they did about the Mormons, which made us think that it was just something of the devil.
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