After I was located in my room, I went out to talk with the people. I found that the town was in a general quarantine due to a diphtheria epidemic and that I would not be permitted to canvas homes in the city. My next planned stop was Vatsø, but I would have to wait two days for the mail steamer going that way.
I checked in at the Midtgård Hotel about 4 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m. I found my place at the long dining room table with about eight other men. All these men stopped at the hotel, and from their conversation I concluded that all of them were native Norwegians, except one who talked Norwegian with an English accent. As I listened, I wondered why this man remained in Vardø after the close of the tourist season. After the meal I asked Mrs. Midtgård who this man was, and she told me he was Mr. David Fredriksen, a missionary from Utah, USA.
I couldn't understand why an American missionary would come half way around the world, learn a new language, and start preaching in this Arctic land. I asked which denomination he represented, and she told me he was a Latter-day Saint or Mormon. A new one to me I confessed. She seemed very much surprised that I had never heard about the Mormons. Surely, she said, you have heard something of the people who believe a man should have many wives. I was puzzled until I remembered a day from my early school years. We studied US geography, and when studying Utah, the teacher pointed at the Great Salt Lake and explained how salty this lake was and that the territory around this lake was inhabited by Mormons who lived in polygamy and made their wives do all the work.
By this time I was interested and wanted to meet Mr. Fredriksen. She gave me his room number and stated I could call on him at any time, and that he would be delighted to see me. I knocked on his door that same night. We found a lot to talk about and visited until late into the evening.
Brother David Fredriksen was a very fine man. I liked him from the start. He was a sincere, honest, well informed man, and he was an interesting conversationalist, He gave me a number of small pamphlets and sold me The Life of Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, and Mr. Durant's A Stranger from the West. I read the small pamphlets. Then I read, the Mr. Durant book, and finally I read the Book of Mormon.
Fortunately for me I met this good missionary at a time when I could not work at my business, and I spent all my time studying Mormonism and conversing with Mr Fredriksen while I waited for my boat to Vatsø, my next stop. It took me about two months to complete my work in Vatsø, Kirkenes, South and North Varangerfjord. Then I returned to Vardø, thinking the quarantine would be over, but it was still on. That meant two more days before I could get the next mail steamer going west to my next stop at Honningsvåg.
I registered with Mrs. Mitgård and decided to really enjoy visiting with Elder Federiksen while I was waiting for the boat. By this time I had read the Book of Mormon and a small history in Danish of Joseph Smith, and I had come to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon was a genuine history of ancient America. Because I reasoned it would be impossible for an uneducated youth to know and understand how to produce such a book. I had also followed the admonition of Moroni, chapter 10 verse 4 and prayed for understanding and knowledge of the truth of this, to me, a new interpretation of the gospel of Christ.
Even though I had a testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I was not ready for baptism. I felt I did not know enough about the many principles of the gospel. Still, when at home on my Christmas visit that same winter, I told my mother and the family about my experience with this Mormon missionary, that I was investigating the principles of the gospel and that someday I probably would join the church.
My next contact with the Mormon missionaries was in April, 1905, on my return to Vardø. Mr, Fredriksen had been transferred to Trondheim, and two other Elders had been assigned to labor in Vardø. The new elders were James Jensen from Hibberd, Idaho and Ole Herman Olsen from Santaquin, Utah. Elder Jensen was about 27 yeas old and a new arrival. Elder Olsen was 65 years old and was born and raised in Oslo, Norway. He joined the church early in his youth, and when he was a young man he completed a mission for the church before emigrating to Zion.
Brother Olson was a devoted and well informed man. Under his influence I soon realized my responsibility and was baptized on April 21, 1905 by Olsen. It was a cold, clear night and a foot of snow was on the ground. The ordinance was performed in a little cove of the ocean, about three blocks from the hotel. There was no sandy bottom at this cove. In fact, there was no sandy beach at all any place around this island. I am sure Elder Olson was a little worried about keeping his balance on the slippery rocks, but I guaranteed to bring him out no matter what might happen, and the ordinance was completed without any mishap. Two days later on April 23rd, a few friends together with the Elders met and confirmed me a member of the church (Brother Olsen confirmed me). A young girl had been baptized earlier that winter, but I was informed at the baptism that I was the first man converted and baptized into the church in the Finmark County (the largest county in Norway). To me it was a great event, and I was very happy in the Gospel.
That same spring late in May, my brother Erling, together with four other companions (the Christiansen brothers), were seeking the fishing banks of Finmark and came to Vardø with their fishing schooner. I visited with them once or twice and talked about the church. They were not much interested.
Usually in the spring and summer, the weather on the coast of Finmark is very raw and damp. The spring and summer of 1905 was no exception. The mornings were usually started with a heavy fog rolling in from the north, but the fog usually disappeared in the evening as the sun worked around to the north, leaving the sky clear and sunshiny. The people usually stayed in bed until about noon, and then they stayed up until about 3:00 or 5:00 a.m. the next morning. As a rule more people were on the streets at midnight than at any other time of day.
I think that it was this fog that caused me to get water on my lungs in June while staying at the Midtgård Hotel. If I tried to move or walk, it was like a knife through my chest. The Doctor advised me to stay in bed, which I did for about 30 days, but when I saw no improvement, I decided to disregard that advice and take the next mail steamer for home in Lofoten.
The evening we departed from Vardø, the sea was very calm and the weather fairly good, but in the night a heavy arctic wind storm blew up. I got very seasick, and every time I vomited, it was like there were knives going through my chest. It was a tough night.
Far's Trip in Northern Norway
Click the map for a larger view
I lost everything in my stomach, and it appeared that I had also lost the water in my chest. The next day in Hammerfast, I felt 100% better, and by the time I arrived home three days later I was completely well. I went to work with my brothers in the hayfield.
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