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....