01 December 2008

Ofsóknir hinna Heilögu (Persecution of the Saints)

In 1902 a book was published by Prentsmiðja Þjóðólfs called (in English) "A Call to the Kingdom of God". It was written by an Icelander by the name of Jón Jóhannesson, one of the original 20 or so Icelanders who had joined the Church, emigrated to Utah and then returned to their homeland to serve a mission. Jón had a considerable command of the history of Christianity and spends a great deal of time reviewing this history. The following is a quote from his book which I have translated from the Icelandic. He used this book, along with the Book of Mormon, to preach the gospel during his mission. How he would have loved to have an Icelandic Book of Mormon in his day! He said:

"We read also in Matthew 24th ch. 9th - 13th v., where Christ was continuing to warn his disciples concerning these false prophets, and tell them about the afflictions they would experience, he told them that they would be sold into bondage and have their lives taken, and all nations would hate them for his name’s sake, and how clearly we find this prophecy is fulfilled, that they were faithful through persecutions, they were captured and taken bound into dungeons, and within about 32 years after the Savior’s ascension, the first major laws of persecution were put in place against them: they were driven, afflicted, tormented, and in the end all were killed within 100 years of Christ’s birth, except John the revelator, who was exiled to the isle of Patmos, from 93-96 A.D."

Jón goes on to tell how each of the Apostles were killed, each faithful even unto death.

We who have served in Iceland more recently sometimes forget or know little about those who served as missionaries before us there from the 1850's to right before WWI. I'll add a few quotes from his book from time to time. These paragraphs provide an interesting perspective about the teachings in those days which contributed to many baptisms and a great deal of emigration.

Many have gone before.

04 November 2008

Hugleiðingar (Reflections)

No matter who we are, God at times gives each of us the opportunity to show whether or not we are capable of real humility. For those of us who are attempting to align our will with God's, it can seem that He gives us these opportunities most often while we are in full view of our painfully obvious faults--faults which are like our shadows on a sunny day--always there and more apparent when the light of God is on us.

In Luke 22:24-27 in the New Testament the apostles were having a "strife among them, [wondering] which of them should be accounted the greatest." I would honestly like to understand how a conversation like that could even have started in the presence of the Son of God, but it did. Jesus then taught a lesson. "but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve...I am among you as he that serveth."

Peter, in his desire to demonstrate his faithfulness in spite of the possibility of prison and death, said he would follow Jesus through anything. Then the chance for real humility came. Jesus told him he would deny him three times before the next day came. I am confident that Peter could not imagine denying the Lord once, let alone three times. He was one of Jesus' favorites, his "rock". One who Satan desired to have so he could lead the children of men astray.

But then Peter really did deny knowing the Lord; he did so three times out of fear and then the "cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord...And [he] went out, and wept bitterly."

Since we have each done things of which we are not proud, imagine Peter's feelings as he left the presence of the Lord and wept bitterly. The guilt and feelings of "worthlessness" must have been intense. Peter knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but there he was, having denied even knowing the Lord three separate times.

But Jesus knew Peter's heart and the man that he could become. On the sea shore after his resurrection he asked him a pivotal question: "lovest thou me more than these?" If so he said, "Feed my sheep." That the Lord repeated it three times caused Peter to be grieved and offered him another chance to demonstrate real humility. "I give unto men weakness that they may be humble." If we are humble he will "make weak things become strong unto [us]."

Peter then becomes one of the most noble and faith-filled disciples of all. He took full advantage of the opportunities to learn from those terribly humbling and painful experiences. Weak things became strong. "Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God;"

I know exactly where I am weak. If each of us accepts that we are weak in some areas and then turns to the true source for strength, we can refine ourselves. This refinement will make us better prepared and aware of how to build the kingdom. Our understanding will deepen. Our joy will increase.

So let's embrace the awareness of our weakness and let the real humility teach us.

12 October 2008

Josep í Egyptalandi (Joseph in Egypt)

I was recently rereading the story in the Old Testament of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (you know, Joseph Isaacsson). I'm sure you remember the story. Joseph's dad loved him best of his many brothers; His dad gave him the coat of many colors; He had dreams that made his brothers really mad, etc. The part of the story that I was fixating on recently though was the part where his brothers wanted to kill him. One of them said no, let's just put him in this pit. They eventually saw the caravan coming and decided to sell their brother into slavery instead of killing him. Ultimately this puts Joseph in the right place to save his family and everyone else from starving to death during the famine.

I got to thinking about how the situation for the Icelanders (and most other countries in the world right now) is kind of similar. A number of people in the "family" of the Icelanders were only thinking of themselves which then caused a huge problem for another part of the family. But the family members who were strong morally and ethically weathered the very painful and difficult period of time that was thrust upon them, and in the end, those good folks were put into a position to take care of the rest.

A lot of good folks have been thrown into the pit and are just now being sold into captivity. But there are a LOT of moral and ethical people in Iceland who are even now coming together with their insights and wisdom to provide a solution. After a period of time, where the pain will be very real and intense, those good people will bring everyone through it. They will be looked up to for leadership in the future because of their integrity and will bring Iceland forward with important lessons learned. All of this can, of course, be applied to the U.S. as well.

All of us go through really hard times sooner or later. It's how we decide to respond to these hard times that makes all the difference. Are we going to keep on doing the types of things that get us in trouble? Or are we going to hold to our morals and be part of the solution?

11 October 2008

Tími minn á Akureyri (My time in Akureyri)

During the winter of 85-86 I moved out of Reykjavík for one of the few times during my mission and went up to Akureyri in the north in Eyjafjörður. I was doing some translating for a family here in Orem this week who have Icelandic ancestry. A good number of the Icelanders in their line lived in Eyjafjörður. I didn't know which fjord that was so I googled it to get a better idea of where these people had lived. It was only then that I realized that Eyjafjörður was the fjord where Akureyri was and where I have lived during that winter in the eighties. A lot of the really well-known Icelanders of history lived in the towns in that fjord, like Nikulás Þormóðsson, Björn Einarsson, Einar Eyólfsson, Eyólfur Einarsson, etc. This Eyólfur created quite a name there through the years, even as far back as in 1300. Just thought I drop in a few pictures from my mission when I was there and some more recent photos that I found on the internet today. Gerið svo vel!





09 October 2008

Ennþá á lífi! (Still Alive!)

Wow, September 8th seems like a long time ago (since my last post). Once BYU was back in session and I started teaching the Icelandic 201 course on campus, my life was no longer my own.

I did take a break though recently at the end of a long week on a Friday night and went over to the MTC at the request of another RM who served in Iceland and is one of the Icelandic missionary instructors there right now. Craig Holdaway is his name. He asked me to come over to help out the Senior Couple who was there for just a few days by acting as an investigator and going through scenarios with them. Their names are Rick & Eileen Bremner. They apparently were only going to be in the MTC for a few days as opposed to being there for two months like the seniors I taught back in the late 80's. Good folks, these, and eager to serve. They served a mission in Romania before getting this call to Iceland and were just happy to head out and do their best. During my discussion with them I discovered that they knew one of my student employees at BYU, Henry Bartholomew. He served in the mission office in Romania while they were there and they know each other well. What a small world.

I hope all of the Icelanders are hanging in there with the bank problems there and all over the world. You'll make it through. We are all praying for you (and ourselves a bit too). And if you want a little help with your personal or family finances, Ólafur & Björg in Iceland have set up a financial and debt counseling website that you might want to check out. It is at http://www.financialdebthelptips.com/. Let me know what you think and I will forward the comments on to them.

08 September 2008

Bókstafir, Orð, Setningar, Málsgreinar (Letters, Words, Sentences, Paragraphs)

In the MTC I remember getting two little cards from one of my teachers which had all the special rules on them for remembering the right way to decline and conjugate all the words in Icelandic. I kept those two little cards in my scriptures, my bible within a Bible. I looked at them every day for two years and they helped me simplify what seemed in the beginning beyond my abilities. What had at first seemed to be a unique form of "chaos" before long became a beautiful type of "order" which I had in no way comprehended in the beginning. I remember to this day looking at my nametag in the MTC upon arrival and thinking, "If I can ever learn to read, pronounce and understand these seven words, I will be amazed at myself!"

Well, I did learn how to read, pronounce and understand those seven words, and since then have learned about seven or eight more.

Today was my third day of teaching Icelandic at BYU. It is the third class of four--the 201 class. I had been stressing about teaching the first few classes since it was my first time ever teaching instead of just doing my regular job as an administrator. There are three regular students and three who are auditing the class. It looks to me now that I just might enjoy teaching. This is one of the things we were learning/reviewing today:

Nefnifall – Ég er nemandi.
Þolfall - Ég er að tala um nemanda.
Þágufall - Ég er að fara í burtu frá nemanda.
Eignarfall - Ég er að fara til nemanda.
Hann er að tala um mig.
Hún er að fara frá mér.
Það er að koma til mín.

I never learned the "case names" in Icelandic the whole time I was out. It wasn't necessary as a missionary. But now I know them. Nefnifall, Þolfall, Þágufall and Eignarfall. My little cards also had key prepositions on them. Um, frá and til. The nouns that followed always took the same case and therefore were used as key prepositions to help us remember how to decline nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Within all that chaos I soon discovered an order that really was enticing. I was drawn into the language and it's depths where I have been happy to stay and reach. I still have much to learn about Icelandic, but I am happy to have been adopted by the language and it's people.

28 August 2008

Ógnartími (Terror Time)

In exactly six days I will begin teaching Icelandic 201 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I got offered the job five or six months ago when the current teacher, Friðrik Guðmundsson, told the department that he would be graduating and leaving BYU. He recommended me, so that was that. I was already working full-time at BYU and will do this as an evening class (for extra pay), even though it starts at 4pm on MWF and goes till 5:20pm.

To put it mildly, the TERROR HAS BEGUN! I never knew how demanding putting together a course like this was and how many things the teacher was required to think about and prepare. Setting up the syllabus alone was a nightmare, only made easier because Friðrik gave me the framework so I didn't have to start from scratch. I went to teacher orientation and training today, most of which was spent with the four other student instructors who will be teaching Norwegian, Danish and Swedish. The outgoing Swedish teacher is a native, the newly hired one for winter is an RM. The other two teachers who will teach Danish and Norwegian were RMs as well.

We did part of our training together with the French Department since they have so many more students in those classes each semester. I felt uniquely important and yet insignificant in that part of the training. There were 15 French teachers in the room and one lone Icelandic teacher who was experiencing the increasing terror over the minutes and then hours. The Frenchies all use the same textbook with modern pictures, examples and curriculum. For ICLND 201, I have a book that was printed originally in 1949 which has been reprinted several times, but never updated with more appropriate translation exercises or lesson materials. 101 and 102 have a newer text written by four women professors at the University of Iceland, but these students have already gone through all that material. I felt like Cosette in Les Miserables, when she was little and her mother had died and before Jean came and rescued her. Hand-me-down clothes (books) with most all the faces in the room facing conspicuously in a different direction.

I did feel better that there were more 201 students signed up for Icelandic (seven) than for Swedish (five). Hopefully I can keep at least four or five of them for 201 and then into 202.

Friðrik did say that the terror for him did go away after a month or so (oh, great!) but he never went to class feeling completely at ease since it is a big responsibility to teach a class like this at a university level. My wife starts her first semester of her Master's degree program this semester too, so we won't be busy at all....What option do I have but to prepare as well as I can and show the students the passion that I have for Iceland and it's beautiful language?

25 August 2008

Sigur eða ósigur? (Victory or Defeat?)

A friend of mine, Þorbergur Sigurjónsson (pictured at left with his daughter), came to visit me today in my office at BYU. He lives in Utah with his American wife, Amy, and their three daughters, the most recent of whom was just born two months or so ago (this picture is a little older. Jóhannes his brother is also in the picture). He is getting back into BYU to finish up his computer science degree. He took a few semesters off while he was working heavily but now wants to finish up.

Þorbergur always speaks Icelandic to me when he visits or calls (which I really appreciate). Since I had been so involved with the Icelandic Men's Handball team games during the Olympics recently, I asked him what his family back in Iceland and everyone else thought about the team making it to the gold-medal game. He said everyone in the whole country stopped everything to watch the game and cheer on the boys. He said even the Icelandic stock market closed--probably since no one would be trading or paying attention to their stocks during that time anyway. What a great thing to have your whole country behind you as you defeat one opponent after another.

Everyone was heartbroken when the team didn't beat France, but in the end, how could the Icelanders not be happy with the team's performance. They only lost to South Korea early on (a fluke) and to France finally. So in the end, winning the silver is really a "glass is half full" kind of thing instead of the opposite. The head coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson and the team did so well that winning the silver was as exciting as winning the gold for such a small country. And they were a blast to watch. Way to go guys!

18 August 2008

Ólympíuleikar og handbolti (The Olympic Games and Handball)

I'm sure my old missionary friend who I taught in the MTC was just being polite by sending around the email, but now I think I'm hooked. I haven't seen a full hour-long game of European style handball since I was a missionary 23 years ago. And even back then, we never saw a full game of handball since we didn't watch TV or go to sporting events.

I got an email on Wednesday last week (Aug 13th) from Eric Tuttle who served a mission in Iceland from 1987-1989. He is an architect in Salt Lake City now and has a website for his business at etuttle.net. The email was sent to me and a bunch of other RM's who served in Iceland. The gist of the email was that the Icelandic mens handball team had just beaten the world champions (their second game and second win) and that if we were interested, we could watch a replay of the match at http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/share.html?videoid=1118451. Well, I watched the match against the Germans, then went back and watched the first game they played against the Russians where they beat them too. Well, once I had watched those two games I really was hooked. So this is the standing for the mens handball team from Iceland:

Russia vs. Iceland = 31-33
Germany vs. Iceland = 29-33
South Korea vs. Iceland = 22-21
Denmark vs. Iceland = 32-32 (both teams advance)
Egypt vs. Iceland = 32-32 (Egypt had to beat Iceland to advance and didn't)
Poland vs. Iceland = scheduled

The game between Poland and Iceland will be played at 12:15am Wednesday morning (tomorrow). If you are reading this late, you already know the score. We hope Iceland can go all the way. You can hear their coach calling the whole game from the sidelines saying, "strákar!" which is the word for "boys."

Fun to watch, but since it is not a sport played in the U.S., hard to watch in the U.S. unless you get all the cable channels. "Áfram, strákar!"

15 August 2008

Nokkrar Staðreyndir (A Few Facts)

In size, Iceland claims about 40,000 square miles of land. In comparison, that is less that half the size of Utah which claims almost 85,000 square miles of land. Iceland can only boast one land mammal, the Arctic Fox. Six different seal species have been seen around the island, but only the common seal and the grey seal breed all around the country. Twenty-three individual species of whales have been seen in Icelandic waters.

A number of Irish monks wrote of a land called Thule in the 8th and 9th centuries, before Norsemen came to permanently inhabit it. Ari Þorgilsson the Learned, Iceland’s first historian, said that the Irish monks who first were in the land went away eventually because they did not want to live with heathans.

The Faroe Island were discovered and settled before Iceland. Since the Norseman of that day had no compass to sail by, it is not suprising that eventually someone would miss the Faroes when traveling from Norway and then arrive at Iceland. Both versions of Landnámabók or The Book of Settlements agree that the name Iceland came from a disappointed Norwegian named Flóki who made the first attempt to settle the island but lost all his livestock during a very hard winter. Both versions also agree that Iceland was discovered and settled by Norsemen in consequence of their insatiable lust for travel among the Scandinavians during the Viking Age.

Ingólfur Arnarson is named in the Book of Settlements as the first to leave for Iceland and set up a permanent settlement there. He did so in what is now called Reykjavík, the capital. Ari states that Iceland was settled first in 870 A.D. whereas the Book of Settlements states that it was settled first in 874. Recent studies of the Greenland ice cap have settled the matter that Iceland was likely settled just a few years previous to these dates. Icelandic settlement scholars mostly agree that the original number of settlers was around 10,000.

The most common reason for leaving Norway at that time was the aggressive nature of the Norwegian King, Harald Fairhair. Harald inherited a kingdom in eastern Norway but moved to unite all Norway under his rule. He did so with a firm hand and once accomplished, many of the lesser nobles left Norway out of self-preservation and not wanting to be subject to the whims of the new king of all of Norway. Those who had opposed his attempts at taking over all of Norway were then "black listed" in essence and could not be assured of their safety. Egill's Saga is one of the best of the sagas which discusses this tumultuous time in Norway and the lives and events leading these noblemen to Iceland, away from the tempermental King Harald.

11 August 2008

Íslenskur trúboði á Íslandi (An Icelandic missionary in Iceland)

I don't know exactly how many years ago it was, maybe five or six, but I remember when it was normal to go up to Salt Lake City in early April and October of each year to help with the translation of General Conference for the Icelanders. There was one or two people who were over the process of keeping the RM's who were still around on a list and calling on them when conference was getting close to help out. I was on that list since I planned to stay in the area and still had contact with those who were putting everything together. During a few of those years there was not an Icelander around to help us with the process. During other years Þorbergur Sigurjónsson and Friðrik Guðmundsson were at BYU and able to keep the group of us organized.

I remember starting out as a translator in the basement of the old tabernacle on Temple Square. Then, once the Conference Center was complete, we moved over there to a beautiful facility above the main floor in the north-west corner of the building.

In my third or four go-around doing this, I showed up to my particular session of conference and met up with some of the other RM's who would be helping out. I saw this one elder who I didn't recognize and didn't hear his name right off. He was speaking Icelandic to one of the two natives there and my mouth fell open. I said to myself, "wow, this guy's Icelandic is perfect. He is gifted and probably just barely home from his mission." I'd never seen him before, not even a picture of him so I was curious. Well I asked Friðrik, I think, who he was and he told me that he wasn't just an RM but an Icelander who was baptized after I left my mission. No wonder I didn't know him. His name was Kristján Mathiesen and had served his mission mostly in Bristol, England.

I learned a bit about his story that night and then a bunch more later on. He, it turns out, is the only Icelander to my knowledge who has ever served part of his regular mission in his home country, Iceland. He served his last three months in Iceland because of either the death or illness of one of his parents. That is why he is in this picture with the other missionaries of his day back in early 1993. He is the 2nd from the left on the bottom row. An interesting three months that must have been.

Kristján married Sóley Ólafsdóttir whose family are all faithful members of the Church. It is very difficult for LDS Icelanders to find spouses who are also LDS Icelanders, but in Kristján's case, he found a great one; one who was a favorite of all the missionaries since she was so happy and helped us patiently with our Icelandic. She was seven when I arrived in Iceland. Now the two of them have three kids of their own, the oldest of whom, Daníel, just became a deacon.

09 August 2008

Fyrr 1975 (Before 1975)

I was speaking with Hera Toutai recently, an Icelander who I knew when I was a missionary in Iceland and who I stay in contact with. Her husband, Henele, is Tongan, hence the last name. She told me an interesting story about a Mormon American living in Iceland before the mission got formally started in 1975.

It was actually nearer the end of 1975 that the mission started in Iceland. Byron and Melva Geslison came to start things off at that time, but they didn't just hop on a plane and then go right to work without speaking to anyone in Iceland about what they would be getting themselves into. Byron found out that there was an LDS American man there named Payne who was teaching Sociology at the University of Iceland as a guest professor for a period of time. Byron called Payne on a number of occasions and they discussed the cost of housing, possible receptivity of the Icelanders to the Church, etc. Housing was very expensive, so the Paynes agreed to allow the Geslisons to share their apartment when they arrived until they could find something of their own or until the Paynes left Iceland. Byron mentioned in an interview with Fred Woods for his book, Fire on Ice, that the boys had slept of the floor during that time with their coats over them.

Time went by and Bro. Payne's assignment at the University came to an end without the Geslisons having found a better apartment for themselves and the twins. It was hoped that the Geslisons would be able to take over the Payne's apartment, but for some reason they were not allowed to do so. One of the few Icelandic members on the island at the time was Þorsteinn Jónsson. Þorsteinn felt so bad for the Geslisons that he agreed to let them stay in his apartment for a time and he went and moved onto his boat (he was a seaman) until they were able to find another apartment. I lived with Þorsteinn in his apartment for about a year and a half of my mission back in the mid-eighties. He always let missionaries share his apartment. A true Latter-day Saint. I gained a lot from my relationship with Þorsteinn.

Hera told me that the Paynes were the first to help her understand some of basic principles of the gospel at the age of 12 when she was sure she was not going to heaven. The Paynes were set apart as special missionaries to the Icelanders by a General Authority. She her comment on this blog on 17 Jul 2008.

Þorsteinn, the Paynes, the Geslisons, Hera, Sveinbjörg and others. All willing pioneers in that far away tiny land.

04 August 2008

Trúboðadagbækur mínar (My missionary Journals)

My wife and I have moved seven times in the 20 years we've been married. The reason for some of the moves was because of school, other times we just didn't have enough room for our growing family.

Sometime after our last move to Orem, Utah, I lost track of my mission journals. I had been wanting for some time to find them and remember things I did and saw and heard since I would be writing some of the stuff in this blog. I found them today....

10Jan1986: "I can't figure people out sometimes. We taught--or should I say tried to teach--another man but he just sat and watched TV. He fed us cookies and milk but hadn't read any in the BofM. I'd sure like to find someone out there who was pure in heart and who was trying to really follow the Lord...The Church is true even if no one ever listens to us."

It seems lots of my entries were like this, having a hard time understanding why people didn't understand or grasp onto our message. But that is what made the other days when people did hear and accept our message so great!

30 July 2008

Nokkrar trúboðamyndir í viðbót (Just a few additional missionary pictures)

I have just received the following three pictures from former missionaries and an Icelandic member or two who went through their photo albums for me. In this entry I thought it would be fun to name all the people. So in this first one from a 1980 zone conference in Iceland we have on the top from left to right: Bret Leifson, Court Skabelund and Mike DeYoung. On the middle row L-R: Danish AP, Curt Hutchings, Orell Anderson, Kevin Barton, Ted Davis, another Danish AP and President Jensen from Denmark. Bottom row L-R: Grant Grow, Arthur Hansen, Bob Farris and Bryan Beck. Bryan is one of only two missionaries (of the 163) who has passed away since the mission opened in 1975. He died of cancer some time ago. The other who died was David Chadwell, who I taught in the MTC, who also died some time ago a few years after he was married.

This next picture was taken in early 1993. On the top from L-R: Danish AP, Chris Smith, Eric Ball, Mark Patey, Andre Geurts, Thomas Eastmond, Joe Staker. On the bottom L-R: Ben Johnson, Kristján Mathieson, Phillip Papenfuss and Nathan Taylor.
This last one I really like. It is from May 1980. From left to right on a great day of baptisms in Iceland: Snorri Einhversson (ha ha), Bryan Beck, Jóhann Karlsson, Gerhard Guðnason, three Icelandic girls, the little one named Halla, Bret Leifson and Ýrr Bertelsdóttir, the mother of Halla. I remember Snorri, Jóhann, Gerhard and Ýrr from my mission from 1984 to 1986. All together, a good looking bunch of Icelanders and faithful servants.

22 July 2008

Svo Mörg Orð (So many words)

There were so many Icelandic words that missionaries had to learn quickly upon arrival in Iceland if they wanted to be able to carry on the most simple of conversations. We had to know the difference between sæll and sæl when greeting people. You didn’t say “sæll” as a greeting to a woman your first time in church trying to make a good impression for example (I never did that, of course).

As we went along, we learned lots of new words from our companions and from the people we met with. We frequently would go to our dictionaries in the mornings during companion study and write down 10 new words that we thought would be useful to learn and try to use them during the day. Every missionary new the following Icelandic words or phrases in a very short time and how to inflect them:

Ég skil ekki = I don’t understand
Aftur = again
Áfram = onward
Áætlun = plan
Að þekkja = to know
Bók = book
Drukkinn = drunk
Erfiður = hard
Að gefa = to give

I was having a hard time focusing in a meeting one day at work about a year ago and I decided to write down all the Icelandic verbs I could think of. I don’t remember how many I wrote down that day, but I remember it being a lot. Every missionary hits a plateau though, being able to communicate well in almost every conversation without feeling stupid, but never being able to get close to a native’s ability because we usually spent most of our time talking about spiritual topics.

I loved certain words or names like:

Sáluhjálparáætlun = plan of salvation
Frón = Iceland (the way poets said it)
Hlakka til = look forward to
Hallgrímur = (a man’s name)
Ævintýri = adventure

On my 2004 trip to Iceland, I was walking through a churchyard early one morning and saw a number of names on the gravestones that I really liked but that were not so common in Iceland any more. One was Guðfinna (one who finds God) and Friðfinna (one who finds peace). They sound really nice in Icelandic, but say them with an American accent and they sound stupid. So needless to say, only one of my children got an Icelandic name and it is her middle name. She still says it is hard to say, but I am letting her grow from the experience. Kristjana.

21 July 2008

Wohlgemuth Trúboðshjónin (The Wohlgemuth Missionary Couple)

Þegar ég var trúboði, fékk ég þá blessun til að kynnast þremur trúboðshjónum á Íslandi. Fyrstu hjónin voru Byron og Melva Gíslason frá Spanish Fork, Utah. Þau þjónuðu þrisvar sínum á Íslandi sem trúboðar. Þá komu Austin og Geniel Loveless sem voru þar á miðju trúboðs míns frá Logan, Utah. Síðast komu þau Don og Mary Dilworth from Pocatello, Idaho.

Síðan ég kom heim, hef ég ekki haft samband með trúboðshjónunum mikið fyrir en síðasta þrjú ár. Ég byrjaði þrjú ár síðan að senda email til trúboðshjónanna öðru hverju. Þegar ég for til Íslands í 2004 voru Shirl og Mary Holt hjónin að þjóna á Íslandi, að hafa komið frá St. George, Utah. Þá komu Mike og Kristi Simkins frá Washington ríki. Núna eru þau, Lee og Marti Wohlgemuth þar að gefa íslendingunum og kirkju þeirra tíma og peninga þeirra til að kenna íslendingunum um Drottinn og það sem hann er að gera fyrir börnin sín í dag.

Ég er búinn að taka eftir því hvernig hver hjón koma til Íslands með hæfileika sem eru afar ólíkar en þeir sem síðastu hjónin sýndu. Þetta blessar líf þeirra sem eru í og fyrir utan kirkjuna þar. Wohlgemuth hjónin sem þjóna í dag eiga hæfileika við að „skipuleggja”. Þau eru búin að skipuleggja trúboðsheimildirnar sem voru í íbuð þeirra og hafa verið þar í langan tíma. Þau nota mikinn tíma að hjálpa ungu trúboðunum með ábyrgðar þeirra og að standa í stað fyrir foreldrar og afa og ömmur þeirra.

Ég er mjög þakklátur fyrir hjón eins og Gíslason, Loveless, Dilworth, Holt, Simkins, og Wohlgemuth hjónin sem eru öll fús til að fara á trúboð og þjóna á þennan hátt án þess að hugsa jafnvel pínulítið um það sem þau vildu frekar vera að gera. Guð blessi þau og hin sem eru eins og þau um allan heim.

17 July 2008

Helmingur Trúboðanna (Half of the missionaries)

I have been gathering a collection of photos over the last 3 or 4 years of all the missionaries who have ever served in Iceland as Mormon missionaries. There have been 161 of the young missionaries to have served thus far since 1975. I have at least one photo of all but 13 of them. Still working on getting at least one of these elusive thirteen.

Here is a collection of 14 pictures which include about half of all those who have served.














12 July 2008

Gamlar myndir út í sveit (Old pictures from the country)

Rural life in Iceland has changed dramatically from what it was even 20 years ago. Environmental concerns are taking hold in the minds of Icelanders like never before. But sometimes it's important to stop...to think about yesterday...and then to consider what is most important in life.

28 June 2008

Mikið frá mynd (A lot from a picture)

You can tell a lot from a picture. Take this one for example. It is of some unknown Icelanders. I got it during a random search of websites having to do with Iceland.
What can you tell from the picture? It is easy to see that more than one family is represented here. At first glance it appears that there are two daughters and a son in the foreground. Upon closer inspection though you can see that the little girl on the right has the hand of, not the grandfather in the picture, but the woman behind her. The little one wanted to see something through the crowd but couldn't do so without squeezing through. Mom is holding on tight though. Whatever is being looked at is fascinating to the kids and adults alike. The boy in the red shirt appears to be a part of a youth soccer team and if you translate the words on his shirt, they read, "corner ball". There are some kind of festivities in the area. The red-shirt boy has a ballon with a netting around it. The girl on the left has a ballon but it is not blown up, though it appears she has and is trying. The boy in the blue shirt, by the way he is standing, seems to have been right there for at least a few minutes. There is likely some kind of performance underway that is captivating them all. I would dare to say that this boy is "popular" at school.

The date of the picture is August 21, 2004. On that day in Reykjavík it was the Reykjavík Marathon. There may have been festivities downtown on a warm Icelandic day in August that would have brought everyone out. The mom on the left is being entertained. She and at least one of her children came to the events with a jacket, just in case, but has taken hers off, as well as has perhaps the boy. The girl on the left doesn't mind dressing like one since she is wearing pink, has a butterfly on her pants and lace at the bottom of her shirt. Grandpa has a newspaper or a program of the days events and seems to be intent on the out of sight performance as well.

What else can you see about the picture of these unknown Icelanders?

26 June 2008

Trip of a lifetime....again!

About nine months ago I received a phone call from my mother. During our conversation, she reminded me that in 2008, she and dad would be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I had already given the subject some thought, and was ready (i thought) for what was to follow. I told her not to worry. I was already in the preliminary planning phases of a big party. We would fly in long-lost friends and relatives for an extravaganza not to be soon forgotten. She stopped me mid sentence, and said that they had some ting else in mind. She said, "Iceland has always been such an important part of your life, and dad and I feel like we've missed out on something....We want to go to Iceland, and we want you and Chris (my wife) to come with us. We readily accepted.

We left on the 12th of June, and arrived in Reykjavík at nearly midnight to a beautiful midnight sun. This is a picture we took at a baptism that we were able to attend on the first night there Mattíus Olafsson had a friend that was baptized. He got to know some of the kids in the branch through work.

This is Olafur Olafsson´s extended family. Olafur married Björg Marteinsdottir while I was there in 1984. When I left, Björg was expecting Unnur. That is her on the left. Sóley and her family are on the right. The young man third from the left was the one baptized that night.

Sóley hates it when I tell this story, but I can´t help myself. When I was just a new missionary, Björg and Sóley had just moved back to Iceland from the states. Sóley spoke very little Icelandic, but was learning quickly....probably more quickly than us. She used to corner the Elders in church and beg us, "Please .......speak English to me!" Inevitably, Björg would find us, and scold both of us. Sóley has such a great family. Kristján is a great man, and has done much for the church in Iceland. Together they are raising another generation of Icelandic saints. Daniel, their oldest, just became a Deacon this week. The girls are the cutest. Anja and Yrja. This was a great evening, getting caught up with Olí and Björg.