16 July 2009

Sérstakur dagur…í gær (A special day...yesterday).

Two months ago a 19 year old young man named Eric Ellsworth went into the MTC to begin his mission. He arrived in Iceland this month, July, having not had a companion in the MTC who was also learning Icelandic. This is one of my pictures of Eric. I discussed his family and history a bit in a previous post.

Yesterday, another missionary went into the MTC who was called to Iceland. His name is Peter Christensen. I am glad that he will have another missionary who is going to Iceland to practice the language with while in the MTC. His name is Peter Christensen from Salt Lake City. This is a picture of Peter and his family in my office. Peter's dad is a lawyer in Salt Lake and his mother used to work at BYU in the Admissions Office like I do, but before I ever arrived on the scene as an employee. He seems eager and excited about his call to Iceland, though he did seem shocked when he found out he was going to that little spot in the ocean. He and his companion to be are in for a unique and wonderful experience there. Guð blessi þá.

And for those of you who are interested in knowing what grammar texts the University of Iceland is using to teach foreigners Icelandic, you can go to http://www.icelandreview.com/ and click on the "Ask Eyglo" icon at the top. Foreigners can ask questions there about Icelandic life and travel and, if the questions aren't too hard to answer or wouldn't take too much space to answer, they'll be answered. I submitted three related questions about six months ago and the answers finally came up today, July 16th. Both the grammar texts and the best Icelandic-English dictionaries (hard copy and online) are mentioned. This will help me at BYU as I choose which books to use as I teach Icelandic, but might also help others who are interested in learning Icelandic at home from a text or online. Hope these resources help.

And finally, the Icelandic Parliament (the Althing) votes today on whether or not to "begin discussions" about applying for EU membership. Many Icelanders want the benefits which come from EU membership, including a more stable currency, but many do not. Icelanders have always been fiercely independent and a large percentage of the people want to stay that way, in part by staying out of the EU. Two years ago NATO closed its military base in Iceland, last year Iceland's banks collapse and now Iceland is discussing EU membership. A lot can happen in a very short time.

13 July 2009

Nýir (gamlar) myndir frá 1981. (New (old) pictures from 1981).

I've been in recent contact with a former missionary who served in Iceland back in 1981. His name is Grant Grow. He served most all of his mission in Denmark but, at the request of the mission president there, he agreed to extend his mission to serve an extra six months in Iceland. He finally tracked down his mission photos, scanned a bunch and sent them to me. These are a few of them. Grant is in the first picture, missionary Mike DeYoung is in the second picture with Halldór Hansen and an unidentified woman. The last picture is of Orell Anderson and an unknown scantily clad statue.

09 May 2009

Stafrófið (The Alphabet)

Just when you think the world is falling apart and that the "end" must be near, it is nice to know that some things are consistent all over the world. It seems that most countries--countries that have an alphabet that is--have a version of the alphabet song. Iceland is no different. As I thought about this, I realized that I never did learn the alphabet song while I was a missionary, in the MTC or in Iceland. I'm not sure I even heard anyone ever sing it. So being the dutiful academic that I am, I dug through a set of Icelandic language instuctional dvds that I had until I found a section where the teacher was teaching the students the Icelandic alphabet and was using the song to help her do it. Below are the letters and words to the song. The "dot, dot, dots" are the holds or long notes in the song. All together now!....

A,Á,B,D,Ð,E,É…F,G,H,I,Í,J,K…L,M,N,O,Ó og P…R,S,T,U,Ú,V þá….X og upsílon, Y og Ý….að Þ,Æ,Ö, mér svo ég sný….íslenskt stafróf kættir gef….þótt C og Q og tvöföld vaf sé ekki með.

Say that now 10 times fast and you win the prize. This is what might happen to your faces though on just the second time through if you aren't careful. Thanks Björg and Ólafur.

20 April 2009

Ein sérstök bæn (One special prayer)

I got an email recently from one of the former missionaries who had served in Iceland from 1976 to 1978. His name is Rob Mikkelsen. This is a mission picture of him (he's the one on the left). This is one that is quite a bit more recent.

Rob happened to be in Iceland when the land was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel back in 1977. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, who was the European Area Supervisor at the time, was the general authority from the Seventy to come and dedicate the land. The dedication took place on September 18, 1977. Rob wasn't in the city at the time. He had recently been transfered to Akureyri up in the north so he didn't take part. But he remembered hearing about it and later getting a copy of the typed-up dedicatory prayer which is in the mission archives. The follow is the text of the dedicatory prayer that day that he sent me:

"Our Beloved Heavenly Father:

"We are assembled here on this holy spot of ground, having been assigned by the First Presidency, to dedicate this beautiful land of Iceland for the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of Thy Church and Kingdom on this far north island. We are grateful unto Thee, Heavenly Father, that a large group could be here on this occasion and that we have the opportunity to offer our supplications unto Thee. The view from this hillside is breathtaking with the beautiful city of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and also the glacier-covered Esche mountains eastwardly. The Atlantic ocean lies to the west and north.

"Dear Father, we are grateful to Thee for the faith of this people and especially for those who embraced the Gospel one hundred and twenty-five years ago and made the long journey to the Rocky Mountains. The descendants of those noble pioneers are now returning to this land to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"We are thankful for the freedom of worship extended to us and the friendship of the newspapers, radio, and television. They seem to recognize something special regarding the church.

"Dear Heavenly Father, we give thanks unto Thee for the advancement of Thy work throughout the world. Thy gospel will bring peace, happiness, and salvation to all mankind.

"Under the direction of the First Presidency of Thy Church and in the authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood which is in me vested, I dedicate the land of Iceland for the preaching of the Gospel and for the establishment of Thy Church and Kingdom on this land. I bless this people that there may be many wonderful sons and daughters of Thee who will recognize the truth and embrace the Gospel. I invoke a blessing upon the members of Thy church here that they may keep the commandments, that they may serve Thee, that they will magnify their respective callings in Thy church. May they follow the words of the Saviour found in the Book of John: 'There is no greater joy than to see my children walk in truth.' We pray that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will keep the commandments and build up Thy Kingdom. May the members of the Church receive their patriarchal blessings. May they be endowed in Thy holy temples. We pray that this people will perform much research in genealogy work, and may this research be so successful that all of their families will be reunited at the proper time.

"Bless the non-members that dwell in this land. May they be receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May they be friendly to our missionaries and members as well.

"I invoke Thy blessings upon the government. Through the principles of the Gospel may they be inspired so that peace may always prevail in this land.

"We pray for all of those who direct Thy work here, President Roger L. Hansen and President Byron T. Geslison. Both are noble men who have labored diligently to move Thy work at this time. Bless all of those who follow them that they may be also inspired to direct Thy work effectively so that many will join the church.

"We are thankful for Thy prophets, those spoken of in the Old Testament: Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jeremiah, and others. We are thankful for Thy apostles who lived at the time of the Saviour. We are thankful for the prophet Joseph Smith through whom the Gospel was restored. We are grateful for all of the great and noble prophets who have followed Joseph Smith.

"We recognize in President Spencer W. Kimball as being one of the greatest of all of our leaders and pray that Thou will bless and sustain him with health and strength. Bless his counselors, President Nathan Eldon Tanner and President Marion G. Romney. Bless the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Magnify them as they travel throughout the world as special witnesses. We are most grateful for the atoning sacrifice of Thy son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind. We are indebted to Him for all that we have and all that we are.

"Heavenly Father, we are thankful for Thy Kingdom which has been established here upon the earth. We express gratitude for Thy Priesthood which has been restored to us. May we honor it by living righteously. We are mindful of all of the auxiliaries of the church--the Sunday School, Primary, Relief Society, and Mutual.

"I invoke Thy blessings of this day on this beautiful land which is a land of beautiful lakes and tall mountains covered with eternal glaciers. Wilt Thou bless it abundantly. May it produce the necessities of life for this people.

"The inspired words of Thy prophet Alma are indicative as to how we should live and the paths we should take. He declared:

'And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle: easy to be entreated: full of patience and longsuffering: being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times: asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal: always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

'And now, may the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands, and upon your flocks and herds, and all that you possess, your women and your children, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever,' Alma 7:23, 27.

"May we long remember this holy day. May we magnify our callings in Thy Kingdom so that the land of Iceland will be one of the strongholds of Thy Church, we pray in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, amen."

18 April 2009

Snjór á Íslandi eða í Utah? (Snow in Iceland or Utah?)

I guess it is not too difficult to guess where these snowy shots were taken this week since I wasn't in Iceland. It should also be easy to guess where they were taken because trees like this don't grow in Iceland. We did have a freak April snow storm in Utah a few days ago that really was bizarre. Now, two days later, all the snow has melted and the grass is greening up and the trees are all blossoming. Old man winter has no real power in April, even when he works really hard like he did this one night.

I was really glad to have had my camera with me this morning. This is what I saw as I walked through my backyard and to the busstop to get to work at about 8:30am on April 16, 2009.

15 April 2009

Blanda og Para (Mix and match)

Imagine arriving at the MTC and going to your first day of classes as a new missionary called to Iceland. You get to your classroom with your companion and find out that it will just be the two of you with the teacher. In the classroom next to yours is a rowdy bunch (comparatively) of 14 missionaries, some of them sisters, all going to Denmark officially (you got your call to Denmark but likely will never see it). This is how it was/is for most called to Iceland and then arrive at the MTC since the early days.

Because there were always so few who were called to go to Iceland, there were bound to be some problems with keeping an even number of missionaries in the country. What if someone got really sick and had to go home? It has happened. What if someone chose not to stay on their mission for the full two years? It has happened. Having five or seven missionaries in Iceland is not a good thing.

From the early days in the 1970's this was an occasional problem. The mission presidents in Denmark began to send over a Danish missionary who would be going home before too long to even things up. These were apparently strong missionaries who were willing to spend a few months in Iceland at the end of their missions where they understood almost nothing of the Icelandic they were hearing.

One of the first to do this for the work in Iceland was a missionary named Grant Grow. He left Denmark 29 years ago this month to spend an extra six months at the end of his mission in Iceland. Orell Anderson was a missionary at the time in Iceland and would have had to go home early had not Grant agreed to extend his mission six months. There were nine missionaries at the time in Iceland and he made it an even ten. Not so bad to be able to spend an extra six months on your mission in Iceland during the spring and summer there. A beauty incomparable.
This is a picture of Grant with his wife, Monique, and their two youngest kids. Grant spent a good part of his career as a Master Gardener. He owned an orchid-growing business for many years but is now retired. Thanks to some of these great and willing Danish missionaries like Grant Grow, the work in Iceland was and is able to run smoothly. Takk fyrir, Grant!

06 April 2009

Bræður okkar í Kanada (Our brothers in Canada)

Only six of the 166 LDS missionaries who have ever served in Iceland were called from outside the United States. Four of these missionaries were from Canada, one from Denmark and one from England. These six make up 3.6% of the total who ever served there.

The first of the six was called from Canada in 1976, just a year after the mission opened. His name is Mike Little. He was about the 13th or 14th missionary ever called to serve in Iceland. I was able to track him down about three years ago and add him to our contact list of RM's who had served in Iceland. When we were preparing for our first ever missionary reunion in April 2007, he wanted to come but was kept in Canada because his oldest daughter was having their first grandchild. Mike's grandmother was full Icelandic and his mother understood Icelandic fully, though she didn't speak it really. Mike didn't learn Icelandic till he went on his mission. A picture of Mike and his wife, Jeanette, from a few years back.

The second missionary called from outside the U.S. was Peter Kristján Nordal. I don't remember what province he was from, but he too had Icelandic blood. Peter served just before me starting his mission in 1983. He is one of 18 or so of the 166 who I have not been able to track down since I started looking for all the missionaries three years ago. Some say he was from Ontario, but I can't seem to find him. Any ideas?

The third called from outside the U.S. was Tim Jensen. Tim is from Denmark. He and his wife Karen and their daughters live in Bagsværd, Denmark, which is a suburb of Copenhagen. Tim and his family were on the cover of the Ensign a few years back. What a surprise when I saw that out of the blue. He was a great companion of mine back in 1985 in Keflavík. Tim and I were together as companions when we heard that President Kimball had died. Tim worked for Intel for a good number of years but now works for another IT company whose name I can't remember. Tim is in a stake presidency in the Copenhagen area and was the bishop of the ward where the Danish temple is located before being put into the stake presidency. I was able to visit Denmark a few years ago and he took us around Copenhagen and we saw the sites. Wonderful.

The forth called from outside the U.S. was Andre Geurts in 1992. I've gotten to know Andre just a little from his Facebook page. A few years ago he was working as a cement plant manager in Calgary. He may still be. He has a Harley and loves to spend time with it second only to spending time with his wife and daughters.

Ryan Daniels was the fifth called from outside the U.S. in 1996. He is from Medicine Hat, Alberta and works as an engineer, I believe. Don't know too much about him, other than he and his wife have a few kids.

The final called from outside the U.S. was Jordan Balla from England who started his mission in 2004. He was married in the last year or so and did a math degree at the University of Durham in England. Don't know what he is doing for work right now but he has tons of pictures on his Facebook page to clue you in.

From all corners of the earth missionaries come to serve. To all corners of the earth they go....

31 March 2009

Frægar bækur og bókasafnið á Akureyri (Famous books and the library in Akureyri)

I spent the winter of 1985-86 in Akureyri in the north of Iceland as a missionary. I had two different companions during that winter, Joe Holt and Michael Miller. I don't recall who I was with at the time, but I remember going into the library there in Akureyri one day during that winter. I don't know if we were just trying to get warm or were looking for some icelandic books to read. We weren't looking for a computer to use for a minute since there was not such thing as email or the internet at that time.

I only remember two things about that visit to the Akureyri library that day. One was that I heard a mother say to her four-year-old child, "Út með þig!" which means, "Out with you!" She was holding a bunch of books and trying to herd her child out the door. The reason I remember it to this day is because the preposition "með" or "with" is almost always followed by a pronoun in the dative case, not the accusative like she had done (fascinating, I know). The other reason I remember that day in the library was because I found a copy of Oliver Twist in Icelandic. I remember wishing I had a copy of that book, but couldn't find one. It must have been out of print--or perhaps I was too preoccupied with my mission to really search for the book.

Many years ago, the Icelandic Reading Society and the city of Spanish Fork, Utah donated a large collection of books written in Icelandic to the BYU Harold B. Lee library. Most of them were a part of a collection that had been put together from the family libraries of Icelanders who had immigrated to Spanish Fork from Iceland between 1853 and 1914. As the original Icelandic immigrants would pass away and the surviving children didn't speak Icelandic, the books went unread and were eventually donated to this collection. In the end, Spanish Fork thought it best to donate the collection to BYU to be preserved and used by a wider audience of possible readers.

I look through the collection on occasion. I currently have three books from this collection checked out. One is a very worn copy of Oliver Twist, published in 1906, 103 years ago. It was translated from the English by Páll E. Ólason. I thought I'd never get to read it in Icelandic! The second book is Ben Hur. It was published in Winnipeg, Canada where a good many Icelanders immigrated during the heaviest immigration years in the late 1800's. It was published in 1909, 100 years ago and was translated by Jón Bjarnason. What a herculean task! The third book must have been much easier to translate into Icelandic. It was a collection of three Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and published in 1923. Extremely fun reading. The stories are engaging enough that I am eager to keep working through the parts that I don't fully understand.

A curious fact: In 1930 one book per 12,497 persons was published in the U.S. In Iceland in the same year there was one book per 466 persons. I don't know what the current ratio is, but I heard often on my mission that this still held true.

So many books. So little time. So many Icelandic words I don't know!

28 March 2009

Á vegamótum (At the crossroads)

I am really quite lucky. I have somehow ended up frequently being at the crossroads of things that happen in the Church in Iceland. I don't know how it has happened over the years.

The newly called young man who will be going to Iceland on his mission in May of this year came by my office again. Remember he is from California. He is coming to the Icelandic class we have on campus two of three days a week that we hold the class. He comes with a friend who is an RM already who served in a Spanish-speaking country. They are trying to catch as much as they can in the class. It's tough since it's a 202 class and the other students are quite a ways along. But it is fun to have them there. Well, when Eric dropped by my office last week, he came with a brother, Dale, his mother, Karen, and the friend he comes to the Icelandic class with, Brandon Cruz. We chatted about Iceland and the great future that is in store for him there.

I then went out to another blog that I am following of a family of Icelanders whose son, Matti, is on a mission just an hour north of me here in Utah. I saw a picture of a former missionary to Iceland who was having dinner with Matti and his companions. The former missionary in this picture is named Greg Larsen who is a dentist in the Salt Lake valley and served in Iceland a few years before me. It was fun to see them together in a picture. Matti's parents, Ólafur and Björg, are in the Reykjavík branch.

Right after seeing Matti's and Greg's picture, I opened up my emails and saw an email from a former missionary named Travis Hoban who I might have mentioned before. Travis is back in town in Provo and we have arranged to have him teach a 211R Icelandic class in the spring at BYU. a 221R class is a conversation class where the students in the class get together and just speak Icelandic on assigned--and sometimes unassigned--topics. Travis has been home for about 9 or 10 years. I am only allowed to teach one class fall and one winter because of my full time responsibilities in the International Admissions Office. So this is perfect for RM's and others who just want a chance to improve their Icelandic speaking abilities in a little more structured setting than they might be getting otherwise. It can be taken for credit or by audit, so perfect for anyone. So get signed up if you are in the area and want to improve your Iceland skills. This last picture is of Travis.

So many great people have taken and are taking part in the work in Iceland. :)

02 March 2009

Undrun! (A surprise!)

Today is Monday. So at five minutes before 4pm I get all my Icelandic books together that I use to teach my Icelandic class at BYU and head over to the classroom. The class is held in the JKB, or the Jesse Knight Building, which used to be the Humanities building until the new Joseph F. Smith building took all the Humanities folks in. When I get to the classroom each day, there is at least one student already there and then the other two wander in. This is the ICLND 202 class and we are having lots of fun this semester putting everything they have learned up to this point into practice. Today we talked a lot about eating at restaurants and what words you would need to know to seem like an Icelandic pro, like "þjónn, ungfrú, flesk, sykur, reikningur, hrísgrjón, smjör" etc. It is a fun class and each of the three is learning a lot and getting better and better.

Once class was over today, I wiped down the white board as usual and then began to leave with the students. Right outside my door though a young man stopped me and said, "Professor Allred?" I said that I was he. He then introduced himself as Eric Ellsworth who had just received his mission call to serve in Iceland. I was really shocked! He is a current BYU student from California and had looked up the class online and found out where we were and dropped by to meet me. The three students were jealous that he'll be getting to go to Iceland in July after being in the MTC for two months. He will be replacing Elder Soelberg who goes home by himself so Elder Ellsworth will go to replace him by himself. Kind of a bum deal in the MTC not having a companion to speak your language to though.

I had Eric come over to my office in the next building and printed a picture of all the elders who are there now and labeled them for him. He recognized President Olauson in the picture which I was impressed with. He is very excited to go to Iceland. He is just beginning to learn about one of the most interesting places on earth. He wants to begin studying the language now, so I suggested he come to the Icelandic class if he could. He will be free to come on Mondays and Fridays, so he'll come then.

I snapped a picture of him before he left. Welcome to the family Eiríkur! There's no going back now!

01 March 2009

Af tilviljun? (By chance?)

My blog entries from yesterday were made late in the afternoon while I was at my office trying to catch up on some things on a Saturday afternoon. I almost couldn't get to my office with all the cars in the area trying to park and hurry into the Marriott Center to watch the BYU vs. Utah basketball game. I was there for a few hours and then rushed out of my office heading to where my car was parked. I had to walk through the Tanner building where all the business classes are taught. I followed a young man and a woman out of the building and noticed as I was passing them that the man looked familiar. I took a second look, and sure enough, it was Kris Richardson who had served his mission in Iceland back in 2004. I said, "Kris, is that you?" and sure enough it was. The girl left and we stopped and talked for about 15 minutes. He finished his degree at BYU recently and is preparing for law school in Arizona before too long. Kris and I had met back in 2004 when I was on my first trip to Iceland since my mission and he was there in the middle of his. He came to our mission reunion in 2007 (the first picture here) and two years later I run into him in the parking lot on a Saturday at BYU. Strange coincidence. Some RMs don't like to speak Icelandic with other RMs, but he seemed to enjoy it. I like that.

28 February 2009

Til að geta beygt eitt einasta íslenskt orð sem til er! (To be able to decline and conjugate every single Icelandic word that exists!)

Since I am not a native speaker of the Icelandic language I am often looking for sources online that can help me decline a noun or conjugate a verb that I am unfamiliar with when I can't figure out how to do so in my dictionaries. In the Icelandic class I am teaching at BYU right now, I have three students. I was grading one of their writing assignments not too long ago and came upon a website while doing so that was the answer to this problem. The website was designed specifically for Icelanders and has no English. But it is also a really powerful tool for those of us who are non-natives who also want to learn the language correctly. All you do is type in the word and it will show you EVERY SINGLE way the word could be declined or conjugated in EVERY SINGLE language situation. I couldn't believe I had finally found a site that I could go to for EVERY SINGLE Icelandic inflection question and the answers would be there.

Well, the site is: http://bin.arnastofnun.is/. No more dead ends or frustration about not knowing for sure how to correctly change a word when I wanted to use it. The site does NOT help with phrases or colloquialisms, but that is small potatoes when you consider what it DOES help with. Thank you to the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies which has developed the online reference for the rest of us. (A missionary from the late 70's or early 80's sent me this picture of early Icelandic training in the MTC. lol)

Nokkrar heimsóknir (Some visits)

Yeah, long time. I know. I've been a busy beaver keeping the wolf away from the door, as my grandpa Best used to always say. But I've had a few visitors come to my office in the last few weeks. The first happened to be right before Christmas on the 23rd of December. Lee and Marti Wohlgemuth had just come home from serving a Senior mission in Iceland a few weeks before to their home in the Ogden area. They had told me that they wanted to come down to Provo sometime and to see me and a few other friends. The first time they tried to come it was snowing too much so they made it down on the 23rd instead. It was snowing that day too, but they came anyway and made it withough too much trouble. This is the photo of them and me that day.

They had to come home from Iceland a few weeks early because of some heart trouble that Elder Wohlgemuth was having, but he seems to be doing better now. Good hard-working folks who I look up to.

Two months later I was in my office again and a colleague called me on the phone and said he had a friend of mine in his office. I turned out that it was Curt Hutchings who was one of my teachers in the MTC back in 1984. He had come up from his home in southern Utah in Ivins with his recently returned missionary son to get him back into BYU after having deferred for his mission. My colleague friend brought the two of them to may office and we had a great time catching up. It is amazing to me how little a deep friendship changes in twenty-five years when the friendship was created during an LDS mission. We've both cashed in a bit of youth to raise great kids, but other than that....