Letters: Scandinavian Saints write about America
Taken from Danes in North America pp. 194-204, Frederick Hale, editor
Under the leadership of a Swedish immigrant, John Forsgren, Scandinavian Mormons assembled in Iowa before
beginning a carefully organized trek to Utah. (Source: Skandinaviens Stjerne 15 June 1853.)
Keokuk, Iowa 18 May 1853
Dear Brother Hansen,
Today I'm going to sit down and write you a short letter as
Brother Forsgren requested. He went to get our oxen, but we expect him to be back this evening. We have camped
here for three pleasant weeks. This Mississippi River is on one side of us and the forest on the other. Many people
have already left and gone west. Our gatherings, songs, and prayers can be heard for miles. Tents and wagons
form streets and avenues, so our camp looks like an entire town. The most unpleasant thing are the violent
thunderstorms that strike now and then. The air is pure and there hasn't been any illness among the Saints. Those
Danes who were alive the last time I wrote are still living. Brother Forsgren has replaced the dead with American
Saints. We have thirty-four wagons and four oxen for each wagon. They cost us so much, though, that the cows we
hoped to get cannot be had.
All of the men in charge of our money have acted fairly. There are a few dissatisfied people among us, but there
will always be a few of them. They can go wherever they want and grumble until they are blue in the face.
Any reasonable person can understand that this kind of a journey will seem unusual to those who are not
acquainted with immigrant life. For the Saints, however, it is easy, because they have hope, faith, and love, and
they know that their difficulties do not equal the glory that will be revealed to God's people.
I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with the quality of men I heard about in Denmark: Brother Haight,
D. Spencer, Wheelock, Joseph Young, Orson Pratt, Clawson, and many others. I can testify that they are
messengers sent by the Lord. If I could preach again in Denmark, I would implore my countrymen twice as loudly
to leave Babylon and come to the land where all noble souls can gather. I would sacrifice my life and everything
else for the fact that Joseph Smith was sent by God as a prophet of your salvation in the time that is at hand. I
testify that is true in the name of our almighty Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A plan to break camp the day after tomorrow and head toward Kanesville. All of the brothers and sisters in New
Orleans will be home this year. Agent Brown expects two more ships from England, and after they arrive he will
come up here. Only three hundred are coming up from St. Louis; twelve hundred will stay behind until next year. . .
A missionary who helped Scandinavian proselytes emigrate to Utah described life in a Mormon wagon train.
(Source: Skandinavens Stjerne, 1 October 1861.)
Fort Laramie 19 August 1861
President John Van Cott
You probably expected me to write to you from Florence, but it was impossible for me to write because all of my
time was taken up with the Saints. I'll never forget Florence, but thank God everything is going well and now we have
arrived here. Everyone is looking forward to traveling on to Zion.
When we arrived in Florence, about two hundred of the church's wagons were there to receive the poor. I have the
joy of reporting that not a single one of the Danes was left behind. Those who did not have sufficient means traveled
on the church's wagons. We had a few deaths, including Sister Olsen from Norrebro, who was buried in St.
Joseph, and a girl, age eighteen, from Vendsyssel as well as a widow, age seventy, from the Aalborg Conference,
both of whom were buried on the prairie. Otherwise, health in the company has been good except for the usual
problems of adjusting to a different climate. Two couples were married on the prairie. We haven't seen a single
buffalo and only a few Indians, who proved to be very friendly. A short distance from Loup Fork eighteen hundred
Indians were encamped and planning to wage war against the Sioux. Most of the tribes have gone that way....
At first we had sixty wagons in our company with A. C. Volly as captain. Now we have divided into two companies.
Elder Porter is the captain of the second. Olin Hansen is in charge of defending the first company and Phister the
second. I serve as chaplain, adviser, and so on. Everything is going well and nobody wants to turn back. All of our
cattle and wagons are in good condition. I have six oxen and two cows. My wife churns butter and makes good
coffee, and is doing better than ever. All of us are in good health, thank God.
I have many other things to write, but I have to mail this letter
soon. You will hear from me again as soon as I can write. I would be happy to receive a few lines from
Christian Madsen, who had been a Mormon missionary in Denmark, described an immigrant trek to Utah and the
so-called "Mormon War" with American troops. (Source: Skandinaviens Stjerne, 15 October 1858.)
Salt Lake City 25 July 1858
Dear Brother Widerborg,
We arrived happy and well on 9 July after traveling across the prairie for thirty-nine days. The company consisted
of about forty men with forty-seven mules and horses. Brother H. Eldridge was our captain, and Joseph W. Young
was captain of the guard. We assume that the rest of the company, including Brother Iversen, left Iowa three weeks
after us and that they will arrive here early in September.
I drove one wagon with four mules across the prairie. Knud Svendsen from Vendsyssel drove another. Each of
these two wagons accommodated five people, and each constituted a kitchen. AEdler was our cook, Oman cooked
for the second kitchen, and Poulsen for the third. The entire company consisted of thirteen wagons and five
horsemen. Everyone, both people and animals, survived the ordeal. All of the Indians we met were friendly. We
kept a strong watch at night and sometimes during the day.
Fourteen of the men are now scattered around the valleys. Some of us are staying here in the city a while to work
during the harvest. Knud Svendsen and I have worked for Brother Benson for six days. We've built fences, done
gardening and carpentry, and so on. Tomorrow we're going out to cut grass. I expect to work on a threshing
machine for Brother Little, who is Brother Orson Pratt's adviser. Then I might get some land in one of the
settlements, get it planted, and work for the Kingdom of God in accordance with the prophecies and the advice of
my brothers. Brother Erastus Snow and I visited Brigham Young on Sunday, so I saw and spoke with that glorious
and divinely gifted man whose
influence produces peace, joy, life, wisdom, and love!
The American troops are now on their way back to the United States. I don't know what the conditions of the peace
treaty are, but Brigham has said that if the United States does not abide by them, there will be trouble. The States
have to withdraw from the "Mormon War" without losing face. Because of the mercy of the Lord, they got off without
being punished for their injustice. The entire army, including Cumming and others, can thank Brigham Young that
they are still alive today. The young lions of Zion were not bloodthirsty, but they were justifiably indignant and
wanted to punish this great injustice as a testimony to the world that the Lord had delivered the army into the hands
of God's people and that, according to Brigham Young, for a few days a third of our boys were ready to wipe them
off the face of the earth.
There are a lot of heathens here these days, especially people who belong to the army. They are orderly and don't
disturb the peace or harm anyone. The merchants are unhappy, though, because when the troops leave, the
profitable trade will be over. .
Christian A. Madsen
O. N. Liljenquist, a tailor from Copenhagen, found life in Utah bountiful and encouraged other Danes to emigrate.
(Source: Skandinaviens Stjerne, 15 June 1869.)
Hyrum City, Cache Valley, Utah 15 April 1869
President Jesse N. Smith Dear Brother,
It was six years ago when I wrote my last letter to Scandinavia, and I'm sure it was to you.
We have been very busy since last autumn building the railroad. This enterprise has given the local residents
several thousand dollars. Recently the Saints in Hyrum have realized that they should pay their immigration debts
and contribute something to delivering poor people from Babylon. I am sure that if our more prosperous brothers in
Utah were fully aware of the need and misery of their fellow Mormons in Scandinavia, they would contribute more toward liberating them.
The grasshoppers did a lot of damage to the crops last year, but we were nevertheless able to sell a great deal of
grain to the railroad agents. We also sold a large amount of timber to the railroad. Last month a branch of our
Cooperative Mercantile Institution was opened here. Business is lively and everyone seems to be satisfied with it.
The Female Relief Society is making good progress. Its members have planted mulberry trees on a large piece of
land here in town and want to produce silk. We have two schools in addition to a Sunday school and an evening
school where we practice reading and writing the Deseret Alphabet.* A new steam-powered sawmill produced
130,000 board feet of lumber last autumn, and a new shingle machine has also been built. We expect to have our
new church building ready this summer if we can get all of the materials for it together.
The health of the community is better than ever, and the Saints are as happy as can be expected. I am happy to
report that there is no poverty in town, and the people are united on economic matters. "Civilization" is marching
forward, but fortunately it passes through Utah Territory without leaving behind any of the ungodliness that
accompanies it.... Our struggle against ungodliness is by no means over, but our aim is to denounce all injustice
until God's peace and blessing cover the earth.
When I was a missionary in Scandinavia, many people asked me how long it would be until God's judgment fell on
the gentiles. Perhaps they asked me so that they could postpone their conversion until the eleventh hour. I want to
tell such people how much they are missing by not obeying the gospel the first time they hear it. They could be
united with God's people here and receive the blessings and teachings that prepare us for the great day. But they
have put off their conversion and will not be endowed with the glory that awaits the humble and the faithful.
To the Saints in Scandinavia I wish to say this: Be courageous, because your deliverance will follow shortly. Your
brothers in Zion are concerned about you and are working to help you emigrate.
Whether you emigrate this year or next is of little consequence if
you are true to your religion and patient in times of trial. The Lord is guiding everything for your benefit, and I pray
that His blessing be upon you.
O. N. Liljenquist
* Introduced in 1854, the Deseret Alphabet of 38 phonetic characters was intended to assist immigrants in learning
A former tailor from Vendsyssel in northern Jutland commented on several aspects of life in Manti, Utah, a
community with many Danish immigrants. (Source: Skandinaviens Stjerne, 15 March 1870.)
Manti, San Pete County Utah Territory 10 February 1870
President Jesse N. Smith Dear Brother,
This is just a short letter to let you know that my family and I are doing well in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints, with Brigham Young as its president, prophet, and leader.
We built a stone house last summer. It has a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a cellar, and an attic. We have
also planted several fruit trees, including some mulberry trees, and about fifty kinds of flowers. I am a farmer,
gardener, tithes accountant, and postmaster.
The women here in Manti and in other settlements held meetings to protest the Cragin and Cullom bills and all other
similar bills.* We are in the process of buying our land from the United States. It seems a little strange to buy land
that was once purchased from the Indians.
We are happy that the railroad has reached Salt Lake City, and we hope it will be extended southward through the
territory, if the United States would just let us live in peace. If not, we will still live according to our religion, come life
or death. We are not afraid of them. They can kill the body but God, our eternal Father, controls both body and
soul. There are many upright Saints here, but also some "bad eggs" who take the easy way to salvation that the Josephites, Godbeites, and
Harrisonites offer.** The way to the Kingdom of God is narrow, and few remain true until the goal is reached.
Every other Saturday we rejoice in the School of the Prophets in Ephraim. Last year we harvested a lot of wheat
and other feed, even though the grasshoppers came. In all likelihood they will be back again this year. The Saints in
Ephraim who belong to the School of the Prophets joined with those in Manti to have a Christmas party that about
four hundred Saints attended. We had the joy of President Orson Hyde's presence. We have had a mild winter, but
there has been some illness, especially mumps, which our daughter Grethe has. . .
Jens C. A. Weibye
* The Cragin Bill of 1867 would have abolished jury trials in polygamy cased Two years later, the Cullom Bill tried to
subject Utah to total federal control. See Mulder, Homeward to Zion, p. 289.
** The three groups were sects on the periphery of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a letter to his Mormon father-in-law in Denmark, Carl Larsen defended polygamy and commented disparagingly
on government officials. (Source: Skandinaviens Stjerne, 1 March 1871.)
Salt Lake City l9 January 1871
Elder P. O. Thomassen Dear Brother,
Thank you for your letter of 20 December. Since returning from my mission in Denmark I have had some amusing
experiences, including a few religious ones. I'll try to tell you a little about them. First, the "learned" chaplain of the
American Congress, Dr. Newman, challenged our president to a debate on the frequently discussed question,
"Does the Bible sanction polygamy?" Brigham Young found it beneath his dignity to defend our principle, but sent
Orson Pratt in his stead. The debate lasted three days. The first two Elder Pratt lathered his learned opponent, and
the third he shaved him as smooth as an eel. I attended the entire debate. Shortly afterward several American
newspapers, both in California and the eastern states,
wrote things like: "The learned Reverend Dr. Newman recently went to 'the city of the Saints' to convince both the
prophet and all true Mormons that polygamy is wrong. He wanted to point out verses in the Bible that forbid its
practice. Old Brigham did not himself refute Dr. Newman, but sent one of his apostles, Orson Pratt, who did it so
impressively that we must tell the learned gentleman from Washington the same thing the Savior told the woman: 'Go
and sin no more."
Then Rabbi Sneerson, a Jewish clergyman from Jerusalem, delivered a lecture in the old tabernacle about Jewish
manners and customs, faith and hope. He and his fellow believers are certain that the God of Israel will gather them
to the promised land. Toward the end of his speech he said loudly and clearly, "In Jerusalem there are many Jews
who have more than one wife, because the Law of Moses does not forbid it." As you know, I am not a polygamist.
Secretary of State William Seward stopped here while traveling to China. He attended the worship service in the
new tabernacle, where Brigham Young preached that day. I don't know what Seward thought of it. Brigham and
Captain Hooper helped the decrepit old gentleman back to his coach after the worship service. .
At the moment there are a lot of miserable scoundrels here who are changing the laws of both God and men, such
as Supreme Court justices, marshals, generals, and so on. The Devil will have his day. Perhaps the Methodist
minister was right when he said at the funeral of our deceased Governor Shaffer: "He has died and gone to heaven;
you, my friends United States government officials, and I will not see him any more." Judging by his own words,
both he and the officials are going to hell, because if they went to heaven, I suppose they would meet the governor.
I haven't seen your family recently, but I know they are well. I've had to lie in bed for several days, but this evening I
got up to write these lines while my wife and Mrs. Madsen, who lives with us, are at the theater to pay tribute to Miss
Adams's beneficence work. I twisted my right ankle a while ago and haven't been able to walk, but I hope to be
healthy again in a few days.
As you know, I have a good job as assistant bookkeeper for the Walker brothers. I am currently earning one
hundred dollars a
month. Our business is lively and indications are that it will get even better, so I expect to have more work and,
hopefully, a higher salary. . .
Your son-in-law, Carl Larsen
Despite the anti-Mormon literature, which began to flood Denmark in the 1850s, describing the alleged enslavement
of women in polygamous Utah, a female immigrant wrote about the joys of living there. (Source: Skandinaviens
Stjerne, 15 January 1858.)
Farmington, Davis County Utah Territory 24 July 1857
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I could not resist the temptation to write to you, because I know all of you will be happy to hear from Zion, your
home. I long deeply to hear from you, from little Denmark, and to know whom the Lord has given the grace to
emigrate home this year. I would also like to know whether any of my friends or acquaintances have joined the
Church. I know that the work of the Lord goes forward with power every day, and it is a joy to hear the testimony
that is constantly given to the Danish Saints.
I have not yet had the opportunity to give you a description of this area, the beautiful valleys between the mountains.
All of nature is remarkably beautiful out here. Salt Lake City lies in a lovely valley surrounded by high mountains that
form a wall
Around it. The city is not densely built up, like cities in Denmark. Nevertheless, it holds several thousand inhabitants.
The houses are so far from each other that each one has a garden and a yard. Many people also have several
acres of land outside the city. The streets are wide but unpaved. The sidewalks are made of clay and are lined with
trees, as are the streets. Clear water from the mountains flows along both sides of the street like streams. It is fresh
and delicious. It is remarkable to look up at the high mountains, which in many places are covered with forest.
People drive up there to get timber and fuel. The cattle always run loose, and it is strange to see horses, cows,
sheep, and all kinds of cattle
grazing in the mountains. The slopes are very steep in many places, but they are so accustomed to it that it is
nothing for them to run up and down. This is true not only of the Salt Lake Valley, but of the other valleys as well.
Every city or town is surrounded by mountains. In some places there are sulphurous mountains, from which flows
boiling water. I traveled past one such place between Salt Lake City and Farmington.
People here dress quite like the Danes, especially the ladies. They wear round hats. The men's clothing resembles
that of sailors; in the summer they wear colored shirts of chintz and in winter of wool. They usually wear coats and
have straw hats as well as gray and brown plush hats. Their military uniform is a dark blue coat with gold buttons
and gold braid, dark trousers with scarlet piping, a scarlet scarf, and now they have a new kind of hat made of
black felt and silk plush adorned with black feathers. They are round and go up like a sugar loaf but look dashing....
The Fourth of July was American Independence Day and was celebrated everywhere in the United States. Here in
Farmington it was celebrated with music and a military parade through the streets. Today is 24 July, when we
remember the founding of the Church in the desert. The celebration was held in a forest in the mountains several
kilometers from Salt Lake City. . .
Marie Louise Lautrup
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