Mormons and Sweden
Those might not be two words you’d expect to go together for the 3rd most atheist country in the EU, but the Mormons are here and since I’m one of them, I thought I’d share a bit about the Church in Sweden. First off, you should know that despite the wide held sentiment that God doesn’t exist, the population at large is still considered to be 87% Lutheran…other religions represented are: Protestants, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jewish, Buddhist and Latter-day Saints.
What may surprise you, is that the Swedes, played a large and important role in the development of the Mormon Church. During the early days of the religious organization, between 1850-1930, approximately 19,147 Swedes joined the Church, and of those, according to statistical records of the LDS Church, (44%) “8,545 immigrated to the United States to join the Saints in the intermountain west.” Those numbers added a tremendous pool of talent, leadership and strength to the members residing in “Zion.”
In 1910, the prophet and president of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, visited Stockholm and encouraged the members to stay in their country to help establish “Zion”. It wasn’t easy to live here and not be in the state religion; you were likely ostracized and still to this day people think you’re a little wacky if you’re, what they term “Free-religious,” meaning any religion outside of the Lutheran, Catholic or Jewish faith.
The members faced more hard times during WWII when all the missionaries were forced to leave the country. The Saints who remained did what they could to help LDS members in other countries, sending food and supplies to Russian-occupied Finland and German-occupied Norway. Quietly, as always, the Church carried on.
By 1946 the LDS Church was again sending missionaries from America to Sweden, 66 of them, and by 1952, when Sweden passed a law granting non-state Churches religions freedom, the Church began purchasing, remodeling and eventually dedicating 22 meetinghouses. The Stockholm Temple was built and dedicated on July 2, 1985. The temple ensured the Saints living in Sweden and the surrounding countries, would have access to all the blessings the temple has to offer, including sacred ordinances sealing families together for the eternities. For more on what a temple is and how it functions, click on the video clip below to take a tour.
As an American, attending Church in Swedish, I’ll admit, it has its challenges. For one thing, everything is in Swedish, (other countries we’ve lived in have had International English speaking congregations), so we have to wear translation headsets to hear the English version spoken by the 19-year-old missionaries. Yes, they’re amazing. These guys literally just learned Swedish at the MTC (Mission Training Center) for 9 weeks and in a few short months they’re fluent enough to translate. We love them!
Singing the hymns is another, well…challenge. I hear the familiar tunes and think the English words in my head as I attempt to pronouce the Swedish. What comes out is a mix of both…Swenglish. But no one seems to mind. The Swedes are ever so reserved. Even if they were annoyed, no one, I’m sure, would tell me.
Culturally, Swedes have a tendency to wait to engage in conversation until you start with a “hello”. That means at Church if you want to talk to people, you better not wait—just smile and jump in with your English—they can all speak it anyway. Once you get them talking, they have a lot to say. They are kind, friendly, many of them very fond of America and its politics, wanting to know more about the States.
Having the opportunity to attend Church in almost any foreign country in the world today is a privilege I don’t take for granted. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the governor of Missouri issued an extermination order, giving legal authority to kill the Mormons, a time when the temple built in Nauvoo Illinois was torched and burned to the ground, a time when LDS Saints had to cross the plains by foot, pulling hand-carts behind them to find a safe haven where they could worship freely in a free country. Many of those pioneer men, women, and children died along the way, but their sacrifice is not forgotten, not by my parents who are converts to the faith, nor by myself, who was raised Mormon and has enjoyed the blessings of worshipping in my religion around the world.
We are Christian; we believe in Christ, we read the Bible, along with the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Christ during His visit to the America’s following His crucifixion. The Book of Mormon is an ancient record, filled with stories similar to what you’d find in the Bible, about people that lived before and after the time of Christ’s ministry. It’s an incredible book and I’m not just saying that ‘cause I’m a Mormon, or maybe I am, but really, it’s worth reading and if you want a free copy you only have to google “Free copy of Book of Mormon,” and you’ll get the link to Mormon.org.
As Mormons we believe all people are God’s children and that He has provided the earth as a place for us to come in order to grow and learn and progress. I live my faith not because it’s easy, but because I love what it teaches, that we are all sons and daughters of God regardless of our differences. In a world that is always changing and filled with conflicts and problems, my faith is my anchor, it’s who I am (along with 14 million others).