Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Reestablishing Contact with the Norwegian Saints, 1946

Reestablishing Contact with the Norwegian Saints, 1946

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 21, 2012

A. Richard Peterson was serving his third mission – his second as mission president in Norway – when he was forced to leave that country in 1939. He and his wife returned to Norway early in 1946 to resume their labors. He reported the condition of the mission and the Saints in Norway in 1948:

Instructions form Salt Lake City to evacuate all missionaries from Norway as rapidly as possible in 1939 prompted a feeling of great concern in the hearts of all who were able to discern the true significance of such an ominous sign. It was with trepidation that Sister Peterson and I turned our backs on the land of Norway where we had so joyfully laboured in the cause of truth. Not for ourselves did we tremble but for those we were leaving behind. Impending disasters, all of which had been foretold, were soon revealed in the epoch making acts of aggression which rapidly engulfed the world.

Six heart-breaking years ensued, bringing us reports of the manner in which Norway, the country we knew and loved, was being overrun by an unscrupulous oppressor. Appreciation of the proud and insuperable spirit which characterises the Norwegian people made us realise that they would never submit themselves to subservience and oppression,. We prayed that the righteous would be preserved from needless suffering.

Anxiously expectant, Sister Peterson and I landed once more on Norway’s shores February 6th, 1946 rejoicing at the first glimpse of the familiar, rugged coast we knew so well. We were accompanied by our daughter and son-in-law, Brother and Sister George R. Kasteler, their thirteen month old son, and Elders Einer M. Johansen and Olaf Vogeler.

Marked changes were immediately apparent, but we had not expected the people in general to be so well dressed as they were. Clothing was of surprisingly good appearance. This condition was not due to an abundance of clothes but rather to the resourcefulness of the wearers. An article might be used reversed; a shirt-tail often had a promising future as a collar, being replaced by a cloth of another color. These and innumerable other ingenious improvisations certainly merit the admiration of any practical-minded person. Yes, material exigencies and destruction were present, but they were attended by that indomitable determination which has enabled this hardy country to weather triumphantly the many vicissitudes that have marked its history.

Virtuous qualities are often tempered by privation and suffering. Such being true in Norway among our Saints, the Church enjoyed prosperity during the entire period of hostilities, making a story rich in faith-promoting incidents. Missionaries were called from among the Saints and laboured faithfully under severe conditions,. People were converted and baptised; meetings were regularly held and well attended, even though property was wrested from the Church by the “victors for the moment.” Ever ready to ascribe all honour to the Lord, the Saints recorded this incident in the Mission History, dated May 7th, 1945, which indicates the prevailing attitude: “We have been without communication with Church headquarters in Zion for a period of three and one-half years. But we have not been without communication with our Heavenly Father, and He has helped us through it all.” Also, “… We are now looking forward to hearing form other occupied countries and from our own dear church.” Other happenings, which show that the Lord had a hand in events here are found in the same book. The following was written shortly after hostilities commenced: “Our thoughts were recently carried back to the time when President Peterson was compelled to recall the elders from the city called Steinkjer. Early this month (April, 1940) the city was completely destroyed by the Nazi aggressor.” Another entry was made shortly after: “In the year 1936 the Lutheran Dean of Kristiansund N., Pastor Grasmo, officially declared to the inhabitants of that city that they should not provide shelter for the Mormon missionaries. His injunction was heeded by the city’s populace, and the missionaries were forced to leave the town. In doing so they cleansed the dust from their feet as a testimony to what had happened. Now, once again, the destroyer has accomplished a thoroughly work. Not a single house has been left standing. Complete destruction!”

As has been the case since the beginning of missionary activities here in Norway, we encountered bitter opposition from civil an state-church authorities after our return. Unhallowed charges and accusations were again hurled vehemently at “those Mormons.” The avowed purpose of this resistance was, “to protect the Christian people of Norway, a Christian people of irreproachable merit, from unscrupulous spiritual-invading heathens.” In many sectors of the world the fruits of our labours have shown the people that we are indeed worthy to bear the appellation “Christian.” It is hoped that in the future our motives will be understood here, enabling us to loosen the grasp of an immutable prejudice that hardens the hearts of the people.

Upon our return to Norway in 1946 influential civil and church dignitaries recruited the support of the Norwegian press to effectively arraign us publicly so that permanent permission to reside in the country was denied when our three-month visas had expired. Months of involved applications and incessant denial of permission to remain, during which time we were without permanent ration cards, necessitated our seeking the aid of the American Embassy and later Utah’s Senator E.D. Thomas. Finally, after eighteen months, the Alien Office issued the long sought “permission for residence permit.”

Our precarious position at this time did much to reduce the effect of our labours, and other missionaries experienced the same great difficulties in entering the country. Constant opposition from the press coupled with the resultant unfavourable public opinion still continue to hamper our efforts. Our prayers are that we will yet be able to penetrate that shield of ignorance which forbids the light entrance to their understanding.

Even though opposition is great, though City Councils have discriminated against us to the extent of requisitioning property we had purchased to keep us from using it, though clergymen continually warn their congregations of our supposed evil intentions, though men of influence seek to oppose us in every way, we are moving forward, taking courage in our conviction that our adversaries stand incapable of defeating the Lord’s purposes. And so, the gospel of Life pursues its destined course, resplendently clothed in folds of eternal truth, having withstood falsehood from time immemorial.

Eighty-six full time missionaries now carry our message to the most remote sectors of Norway. Novel and faith-promoting experiences testify convincing that there is still divine purpose and intervention in this work. In Hammerfest, which claims the distinction of being the world’s most northerly incorporated city, the elders report a most significant occurrence. Prior to the retreat of the Germans the city was burned to prevent the Russians from occupying it. The story reads much the same as the previous ones. every building was burned to the ground – except one! This particularly building, a tiny chapel situated adjacent to the burial grounds, somehow escaped. Several days previous to the destruction fo the city the town’s church records had been transferred to this already incommodious establishment. This act proved to be the salvation of the records. Had they remained in their original place of storage, the city church, a seemingly safe retreat, they would have been reduced to ashes with the rest of the city. They are the type of books invaluable for genealogical research that we are seeking the world over.

The recent establishment and reopening of thirteen new branches, the organisation of a new district, with plans for another, the arrival of many missionaries, and the general progress of our work prompt optimistic expectations and rejoicing in our hearts. We are led to a humble and grateful acknowledgment that the Lord is supporting His servants int his work, enabling finite man to transcend his own capabilities – teaching us to love, to pray, and to work.

“Indeed, ‘tis a prelude to eternal life.”



  1. Thanks. Enjoyed the read.

    Comment by Steve C. — May 21, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  2. Am I reading it correctly, that the Norwegian saints (and President Peterson) interpreted the Nazi destruction of Steinkjr in 1940 as divine retribution because the Lutherans kicked out the missionaries in 1936?

    I don’t know why that startles me; God smiting cities that rejected the Lord’s messengers is an old Bible tradition. I think it’s the idea of the Nazis as agents of divine retribution that really seems odd.

    Good read, though.

    Comment by Douglas Hudson — May 21, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  3. Interesting account. Thanks, Ardis.

    A couple of questions that came to mind: why evacuate the missionaries in 1939? Norway was not a combatant during 1939–and it wasn’t obvious as a strategic target for the Germans. On the other hand, shipping from Norway to the U.S. would have been just as much at risk of submarine attack as any other neutral shipping.

    As to the “providential destruction of the enemies of righteousness”–I checked to see if those stories had non-LDS corroboration. And found, about Steinkjer, the following:

    Steinkjer has survived two major disasters in modern history. The first was a town-wide fire in the year 1900, which burned down much of the southern parts of the town. The second disaster happened on 21 and 22 April 1940, when the town was struck by Luftwaffe bombers during the Norwegian Campaign. Most of the town was destroyed, but no lives were lost.

    It’s interesting that the buildings were destroyed, but nobody was killed.

    And Kristiansund indeed was bombed and severely damaged on 28-29 April.

    I wonder if those hardy Norwegians learned their lesson!

    Comment by Mark B. — May 21, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  4. If the Assyrians were good enough to act as God’s agents in destroying ancient Israel (See Isa 10:5-19), then I suspect that the Nazis would work in the 20th Century.

    But, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to hire someone to dispatch a rival to the great beyond, the roster of possible assassins is not filled with Eagle Scouts and returned missionaries and College Republicans. Potential assassins are mostly an unsavory lot. It’s a dirty job and dirty people do it. (College Republicans are unsavory in “their own special way” but that’s another topic.)

    What’s really annoying (besides the fact that, like the Assyrians, they don’t recognize their part in God’s delivery of justice to idolatrous Israelites) is that they, amoral bunch that they are, sometimes decide to play Sparafucile and kill whoever knocks on their door at midnight instead of the guy they were hired to rub out. And then you’re back to square one.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 21, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

  5. Mark’s #4 deserves some sort of a Niblet.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 21, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  6. I wonder why no lives were lost–did the Norwegians have some warning that the attack was coming?

    The whole idea of God using the Nazis as tools is just unpleasant. Especially since they claimed to be acting in His name (“Gott mit uns”)–I’d hate for the Nazis to be even partly right about that, even if the only one of their evils that He approved was the destruction of a Norwegian town.

    Besides, I’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, I know how God feels about Nazis.

    Comment by Douglas Hudson — May 22, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  7. The Nephites had a real problem with God using those dastardly Lamanites as tools, too.

    As to “Gott mit uns”–by the time of the Nazis, it had fallen far its place in imperial Germany, where it appeared above the eagle on the imperial standard. The soldiers of the Wehrmacht in World War II had the phrase inscribed on their belt buckles, and the SS, obviously the paragon of Nazi soldiery, had got rid of it altogether. On their belt buckles was inscribed “Meine Ehre heißt Treue”–My honor means loyalty.

    Nowadays, the Bundeswehr uniform includes a belt buckle that reads “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit”–“Unity and Justice and Freedom”–the first line of the first verse of the German National Anthem. I’m not sorry that they don’t use the first line of the former first verse (“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”) but the former second verse has more interesting possibilities: “Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue, Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang.” What better reasons to go chase the Taliban in Afghanistan than German women, loyalty, wine and song?

    Comment by Mark B. — May 22, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  8. Add “from” as necessary. Obviously the god of proofreading was nicht mit mir.

    But, what about a new slogan for Romney:

    “Gott. Mitt. Uns.”

    Has sort of a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

    Comment by Mark B. — May 22, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  9. Very funny. I’ll second that nomination for a Niblet (assuming there is any such thing anymore) for meritorious contributions to this thread.

    But think of the potential complication, Ardis, when (along with all the marijuana aficionados that haunt these parts) you start getting web searches from people looking to hire an assassin. : )

    Comment by Amy T — May 22, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  10. No problem, Amy. I’ll just refer them to the narcissist leading this parade, and the idiots who support it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 22, 2012 @ 2:07 pm