Continuing on with Swen and Bothilda’s story… I told the kids the story of how Swen and Thilda met.
While Swen was attending the university, he came to the home of Thilda’s mother to find a boarding place. When Thilda would come home to visit her mother, she met Swen. It didn’t take long for them to get aquatinted and fall in love. They were married November 18, 1873.
After graduating, Swen secured a teaching position in the parish of Osby in the place by the name of Röena.
They enjoyed a very happy life over the next 10+ years as they added children to their family, had many friends, and were very active in the Lutheran Church.
Life was great… until Swen lost his teaching job. Because there were no storehouses or welfare organizations, the Swenson children faced the scary chance of being auctioned off to farmers that could use the help, basically to become slaves. If this happened, they would be separated from their parents, and from their siblings.
Swen and Thilda would never let this happen though. They would do anything to keep their family together. … things worked out (I’ll share the rest of that story next week when we talk about that.)
After Swen lost his teaching job, the family moved to a humble three-room cottage at a place named Hasslaröd. Life was very hard and resources were extremely limited. (As I mentioned in the last post, I will insert the rest of this part of the story next week).
Living in this small cottage proved to be a blessing in disguise. It turns out that Emma Erickson, the owner of the cottage, had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Through this circumstance, Swen met two Latter-day Saint missionaries and became interested in their teachings and very friendly with them. When Thilda found out, she was not happy. The Lutheran Church was very popular in Sweden at the time and Lutheran clergy had warned the people about “the Mormons”. Thilda was indeed worried and it all seemed too much for a mind and heart to bear that was already burdened to the breaking point.
As Swen became more acquainted with the missionaries and their teachings, he asked them to visit his home. Internally, Thilda was not happy about this, but she was civil and kind anyway. The elders talked to Swen for a while and sang some Latter-day Saint songs, one of which touched Thilda deeply. It was a song that later was sung in their home and gatherings hundreds of times. The title of the song is “Älskade vän, O min broder sa kär” (Beloved friend, O my brother so dear). (*side note, after searching for quite a while online, I found this song! It is only the lyrics though. I hope to find the music and/or a recording of it so I know how it sounds.)
One of their sons, Helge also recorded this about Thilda’s conversion: “I still remember when Mormon missionaries came to our home. Father seemed a little interested in their teaching, but mother was hesitant until one time when they came back to talk to father she went outside, and kneeling behind a lilac bush, she prayed that she might know if their message was from God. After that, she never faltered but remained faithful and true to the gospel all her life.”
The Swenson family spent a few months learning and studying the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught to them by the missionaries, Olof Monson and John Swenson (same last name, but not related). Swen, Bothilda, and 5 of their kids (that were old enough) decided that they wanted to be baptized. The date for Swen, Thilda, and the two oldest children (Marie and Orson) was set for June 5, 1892. The baptisms were performed in Osby Lake, just a short distance from their home. Because of the bitter feeling among the people against the Latter-day Saints, it was decided to have the baptism late at night when most people had gone to bed, so there would be no likelihood of any disturbance. The baptisms went as planned, without any interference.
On the evening of June 6th, it was Ada and Dan’s turn to be baptized. As they were about to head over to the lake, Helge (who was 8 years old) asked “can’t I too be baptized?” It was explained that perhaps it was best if he waited a while even though he was technically old enough. Then he countered, “But if you believe, can’t you be baptized?” Elder John Swenson placed his hand on Helge’s head and said “yes. If you believe, you can be baptized.” (*side note, Helge is the grandfather of Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
Thilda quickly found Helge some clothes and then the 3 children (Ada, Dan, and Helge) were baptized.
This is a photo of Olof Monson, one of the missionaries that taught Swen, Thilda and their kids the gospel and baptized them. We are fortunate to have excerpts from his missionary journal where he talked about his experiences with the Swenson family. Here are a few of those entries…
June 5: “It being pingst holiday and while we conversed with these people they presented themselves for baptism and we went down to the water and I baptized Swenson and his wife and his oldest son and daughter and returned to the house. Bro. Swenson (*his companion) and me confirmed these four and we had a time of rejoicing and we also went out in the woods and saw a wonderful birch. It is a dwarf kind or a kreeper. It is about 10 ft high and it covers a round spot of 80 ft in circumference. I took a leaf of it to remember it by for it was beautiful sight.
June 6: We had a long talk with sister Roth after which we returned to Skolteacher Swenson and had a bible reading in which the whole family took part, after that we all went out in the woods and enjoyed ourselves the very best and in the evening we went down to the water again and baptized 3 more of the children. The youngest of those being eight years old as he was about to be left, he felt very bad and said that he had faith in the Gospel as well as his brothers and sisters and asked brother Swenson that he be permitted to baptism also and we confirmed them.”
June 7: In the morning we all partook of the sacrament of the Lord and brother Swenson and me talked to them and admonished them to hold fast to this Pearl of Great Price which they had received and while we talked to them we could see them shine in satisfaction and tears of joy rolling down their cheeks and if ever I felt the spirit and power of God rest upon a family it was in this case. We blessed the two youngest children and thus leaving them all in the church 7 baptized and 2 blessed. We all went down to Jebken Roth and told her of what had transpired and she was very glad with us – it was now time for us to leave as we had appointed meetings in Gvittinge for the evening. We now had formed such attachment for each other these few days we had been there together with these people that could scarcely be surpassed by our own family ties and when we bid them goodby the tears came to the eyes on both sides as the train passed that carried us off they were all down the track and waved their handkerchiefs and we could see them waving as long as the train was in sight. And thus we had passed a time that shall never be forgotten neither by us missionaries or the family of whom we had been guests for are truly a noble family.