I want to share a story from my “family history vault” of my 3rd great grandfather, Hans Lars Nielsen, who was taught the gospel in Denmark in the 1870’s. He was one of the many early converts who was taught the gospel and heeded the call to come to “Zion” in America.
Even though he and his family were well-off in their home country, persecution mounted against them for their new conversion to the strange new faith called “Mormonism”. This type of persecution was common at the time, even though the country had just recently signed a constitution guaranteeing religious liberty, among other rights. Clergy in other churches convinced authorities that “Mormons” were not Christians, which meant that missionaries could be arrested and jailed for preaching, baptizing, and even administering the sacrament. Many instances of harassment and vandalism were recorded toward church members, usually from people with whom they were close before their conversion!
Hans Lars Nielsen was one of over 27,000 LDS emigrants to brave a month on a cramped ship from Scandinavia between 1850-1950 . It is estimated that half of all emigrants from the region came from Denmark. He and his wife sacrificed much for what they believed to be true. Besides giving their very lives, I know of no greater sacrifice than the one they were about to make.
This excerpt is from a history that was written years later by his granddaughter and her husband, Charley Christensen.
Yes, the spirit of Satan reigned against them. Though their relatives… threatened in every way possible, but to no avail, to Zion they must go. Then came the day when they were to sail from their native land. It was a day never to be forgotten.
They boarded the ship the day before sailing, along with other emigrants. They took with them a few belongings such as clothing and a few necessities to make the journey.
One of the Grandparents said “why don’t you let Mary stay with us tonight?, “We will bring her to the ship in the morning in plenty of time before the ship is to sail.”
Can you imagine the anxiety the next morning when it was time for the ship to sail and they were waiting for their child in the huge crowd on board, perhaps 2000 people – all strangers?
Where, where is Mary? Aren’t they going to bring her? What in the world shall we do? There were but a few minutes before sailing time. I can hear Grandpa say “Don’t get excited. They’ll come. They will be here in time. “No, no if they don’t come we can’t go”, was Granda’s reply.
But go they must. The big ship began moving. “oh, Hans, we can’t we can’t leave Mary.” Now they were facing a reality. They ware leaving their 14 year-old daughter, perhaps never to see her again.
“Sell all thou hast and come and follow me” was easy compared to leaving their own flesh who they knew would be equally lonesome for them.”
Yes, Satan reigned in the hearts of men and these grandparents to the extent of stealing the daughter for revenge.
The sacrifices that early converts to the gospel made are incredible to me. As a new father of a little girl, I don’t know if I could ever imagine a circumstance that would be worth abandoning her. But the gospel was worth it to them – it was a treasure beyond worldly wealth, which sacrifice in part gave me the chance to be born into the gospel and enjoy the blessings therein. I hope that this story will inspire you in a way that it has motivated me to become a better person and sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of truth.
This post was written/submitted by Daniel Christensen, an ameteur family historian and cinnamon roll lover. He lives near Boise, ID with his wife and baby daughter.