The LDS Church in Nineteenth Century Brigham City/Scandinavian Mission
From Brigham City History Project
At the October 7, 1849 General Conference, several adult priesthood bearers were called to serve missions in various European countries. The British Mission had been opened in 1837. Now was the time to expand missionary activity. Erastus Snow and Peter O. Hansen were called to serve in Denmark, and John E. Forsgren in Sweden. Forsgren was the son-in-law of Bishop William Davis. He along with the other European missionaries met at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on October 19, 1849, where they were organized for traveling. 1
The three missionaries called to serve in Scandinavia arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 14, 1850, where they were joined by another missionary, George P. Dykes. This was an opportune time to arrive in Denmark as just one year previously, June 5, 1849, a new Danish charter or constitution had permitted, among other things, a more generous interpretation of the practice of religion. This was not the case in Sweden and Norway.
On June 19, 1850, a few days after their arrival in Denmark, Elder John E. Forsgren departed for Sweden in hopes of finding his father, whom he had not seen in several years. Upon arriving in his family home town of Gafle, Sweden, he was able to locate his brother, Peter Adolph Forsgren, and sister, Christina Erika Forsgren. His father, however, was on a sea voyage to America. His brother was suffering from what the doctors considered a fatal case of consumption. Believing in his brother’s preaching, he was anointed by the power of the Holy Priesthood, and was healed. He was baptized July 26, l850 and shortly thereafter his sister, Erika, and two other persons in Gefle were baptized. These were the first baptisms performed in Scandinavia. 3
Hoping to find more religious tolerance, Forsgren decided to go to Stockholm. In the meantime, while waiting for his passport to be approved, he preached the gospel to some other people in Gefle who were preparing to emigrate to America. After bearing his testimony, seventeen of the emigrating company believed and were baptized. The news of these baptisms soon became known and he was arrested and brought before the chief of police, the passport officer and assembled priests in Gafle. 4
Being an American citizen, Forsgren was sent to Stockholm where he was arrested and charged with unlawfully preaching Mormonism. For three days, he was able to defend himself before police officers and judges in the courtrooms of Sweden. The American minister became involved and refused to permit an American citizen to be imprisoned in Sweden. Despite the heavy penalty affixed by the law for such an offense, the Swedish officials decided to send Forsgren back to America. On the night of September 9, 1850, his passport was endorsed and his passage paid to New York on board an American vessel. The ship had to stop in Helsingor to pay the Danish toll before passing from the Baltic to the Cattegat. By this time Forsgren had made friends with the ship’s captain, who permitted him to escape. He was thus able to return to Copenhagen and continue his missionary activities in Denmark. 5
By the end of 1850, the mob spirit had sufficiently died down in Denmark and the missionaries were able to continue holding public meetings. On the last Sunday of the year, December 29, 1850, there were about 135 members of the church in Denmark affiliated in two branches: Copenhagen and Aalborg.
The year 1851 was an exciting year for the missionaries in Denmark. On New Year’s day, the first man in the mission field to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, was ordained to the office of an Elder by President Erastas Snow. He succeeded Elder Forsgren as president of the Copenhagen Branch. Various converts had been ordained Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood and were called to assist the missionaries in their proselyting efforts. New fields of labor were opened and the work continued to progress. Three additional missionaries arrived from the States and in March, 1851, twenty-eight hymns were published in an LDS Danish hymnal. The first foreign language edition of the Book of Mormon was published (in Danish) in 1851, translated by Hansen.
The first general conference of the Scandinavian Mission was held in Copenhagen, August 16-18, 1851. The Copenhagen Branch was divided and a Bornholm branch was organized. 11 Noting that several members of the church, residing in Brigham City, descend from Bornholm ancestry addition information is included in this history.
The Island of Bornholm, known as the “Pearl of the Baltic” is located about 62 miles from the southern coast of Sweden on the Baltic Sea. Although a Danish province, it is actually located closer to the countries of Sweden, Germany and Poland, and is about 240 miles from Copenhagen. The island itself is about 20 miles from east to west and is a similar distance from north to south. Ronne is the largest city on the island and is located on the major seaport. 12
Preaching the gospel began on the Danish island of Bornholm commenced on June 6, 1851, under the direction of Brothers Andreas Agren and L. J. Ipson, missionaries who held the Aaronic Priesthood. 13
“On the 10th of July (1852) we had a big gathering at Brother H. P. Piil’s to celebrate the congregation’s birthday on Bornholm as it was just a year ago that the first four persons were baptized on the island. On that occasion Elder John E. Forsgren was with us. He had come over for a visit from Copenhagen and was the first ‘Zions Elder’ to visit the island . . . . That same evening a large gathering was held under open sky at Anders Moller’s in Vestermarie where Brothers Forsgrn and Svendsen were called upon to hold a meeting to defend their teachings against the Lutherans, ‘Grundviganerne’ and Baptists. Several hundred people were present. As Brother Forsgren spoke with much power, he was interrupted by a Mr. Brant who yelled, ‘Now, he does not have God’s Spirit.’ Brother Svendsen took the opportunity to speak and present our teachings in a clear light. . . ” 14
“Brothers Forsgren and Svenson while preaching on the island of Bornholm, experienced an abundant flow of the Spirit in speaking to a very large and respectable congregation, among whom were three or four priests who rose up and commenced contending with Elder Forsgren. The result was that he baptized twelve or fifteen more converts, and left the fire of his testimony glowing all over the country. . .” 15
Proselyting on the Island of Bornholm in the early years was very successful and several people joined the church. According to baptism records, about two hundred people had been baptized on the island between July 10, 1851 November 28, 1853. 16 Four neighboring farm families from Vestermarie had joined the church during this period, Jens M. Kjoller, Vallentine Vallentinsen, Jorgen Jorgensen and Jens Ibsen. These families along with several others suffered considerable persecution including physical, verbal and mental abuse and considerable destruction to their homes and property. They later emigrated to Zion and settled in Brigham City. 17
On February 22, 1852,when President Erastus Snow completed his mission, Elder Forsgren was named as president of the Scandinavian Mission. 18 His brother, Peter Adolph Forsgren and sister, Erika, left Sweden in about September, 1852 and joined the saints in Denmark. 19 On December 20, 1852, two hundred ninety-four Saints joined President Forsgren as he left Copenhagen to come to Utah after filling his mission. This group arrived in Salt Lake on September 30, 1853. 20 On October 4, Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rebaptized nearly all of the emigrants as they renewed their covenants. Many of them went to Sanpete Valley to settle. 21
Elder Forsgren, his brother and sister, and other of the Danish emigrants soon found their way to Brigham City where Forsgren was reunited with his wife, Sarah Belle Davis, after a four year absence. While he was away, the Davis family had been instrumental in settling this new Box Elder community. Andrew H. Jensen also “listed as arriving in the fall of 1853, Peter A. Forsgren’s new wife and her family, the Jens Knudsens, as well as Jens Olsen and sixteen-year-old August Valentinesen (one of the first to emigrate from Bornholm Island, Denmark).” 22
On June 26, 2001, a bronze bust memorializing John E. Forsgren, the first missionary in Sweden, was dedicated. It is located in a park in Gefle, close to the original Forsgren home. 23
The four Bornholm families, mentioned above, left Denmark about Christmas time of 1853 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October, 1854 with the Hans Peter Olsen Pioneer Company. It is not known whether they were part of the fifty families chosen by Lorenzo Snow to settle in Brigham City, but they soon joined their associate and friend, John E. Forsgren, as early settlers. Some time later, Lorenzo Snow recommended that the families change their names so as to be more compliant with the English language and spelling. Jens Kjoller became known as James Keller, Jorgen Jorgensen, John Johnson, Jens Ibsen, James Ipsen. and Vallentine Vallentinsen, Valentine Valentine. 24 However one polygamist branch of the Valentine family spelled the name Walentine Walentine, since that was the pronunciation in the Danish language. Koford, Romer, Folkman, and Sonne are other common Bornholm names of families who settled in Brigham City and Northern Utah.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pp. 2-3.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pg. 2.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pp. 6-9.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pp. 9-10.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pp. 10-12.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pg. 15.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pg. 17.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pg. 186.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pg. 19.
- Zobell, Albert L. Under the Midnight Sun; Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950, pp. 17-18.