Monday, June 4, 2012

Mom's conversion story

My niece said she wished I had posted my mother's entire conversion story so here I go. This is in Mom's own words written February 1, 1992 in Täby, Sweden

Inga Kristina Edlund Morgan

Not many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today would hold the distinction I do. You see, with my baptism on 14 June 1950 I doubled the membership in my hometown of 16,000 citizens. But my conversion started long before that day.

I was born of good, but not "church-going", parents in Söderhamn, Sweden. We moved to Bollnäs a couple of years later. Bollnäs became very important in my life in 1991 serving part of our mission there. At six years of age we moved to Falun where all my schooling  took place.

At age eight my parents separated and were later divorced and my sister Karin and I were reared by my mother who was a very outgoing and generous person. Karin and I made at least yearly visits to Sundsvall to where my father had moved. He remarried, and we received a wonderful stepmother, whom we loved very much. Her greatest honor in life was to be called "Mrs. Lars Edlund", and next to that was to be introduced to my friends as "my stepmother". I was indeed blessed with two good mothers.

In "the olden days" in Sweden "Religion" was part of the curriculum in the schools. I loved the Bible stories and some of them made a deep impression on me. I still have my first school book in Religion, and the stories are just a dear to this day. The pictures fascinated me and made the stories very real. I never doubted the reality of the Old Testament prophets or the divinity of Jesus Christ. Angels were real to me, and I remember the terrible hurt I felt when I was a little older in my childhood and my friends started telling me that there were no angels ~ they were only a myth. It was as if my life crumbled, but I was so shy and so unsure of myself that I never disputed it. When I some year later heard about "another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth..." I had no problems accepting the reality of that scripture.

When I was old enough for high school, our religion classes consisted of reading in the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament. It was not so easy to understand everything but I enjoyed the classes. As we had none of that kind of training in our home, I believe this was a preparation for me to accept the gospel. The Lord must "have loved me best," as Brother George Durrant would have said, to prepare me so early to receive the gospel. I remember that I sometimes, not always, would pray. One time I asked my mother if it was permissible to say one's own words and not the set prayers we had learned in school. She said she was sure I could. I am sure she didn't know I prayed occasionally until that time.

When I graduated from high school I was not sure of what I wanted to do for the "rest of my life". My dearest friend Carin Persson, and I talked about becoming elementary school teachers. For some reason we decided to wait a year and then try the difficult exam necessary to pass to be accepted. In the early part of summer the year after high school graduation I received a phone call from a cousin of mine who had a summer home in Kopparberg, a small town some miles from my hometown. She asked if I would be willing to work the summer months as a waitress for a friend of hers that had lost a worker. My mother and I thought it might be a good thing for me to do if I could get time off to go home and take the exam that I now had decided on.

The restaurant served mostly single people who came in for the same meals every day and paid by the week. Sometimes tourists came but there was not a lot of variety. One day eight young men came in for lunch. It was obvious that they had an accent, and it didn't take long to figure out they were Americans. To be friendly I asked what they were doing in Sweden. My assumption was that they had come to study something. They looked like American students with their jeans on. To my big surprise they told me they were missionaries! In Sweden??? Maybe Swedes didn't go to church more than at Christmas time, but heathens, no!! They told me about "summer tracting", whatever that was, and invited me to a street meeting that evening at the town square. I told them I would come to it, if I was through working that early. I had long working days.

I looked forward to attending the meeting mostly because there wasn't much for a single girl, a stranger, to do in Kopparberg. The meeting had just ended when I came. I saw another sight now. Here were these same young men dressed in suits talking to quite a number of people. When they spotted me a couple of them came up to me and began to talk to me about a church I had never heard of before, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt somewhat confused because I didn't know what they were talking about. They asked if they could come and visit me to tell me more about it. I informed them that I was in Kopparberg temporarily and would soon go back to my hometown, Falun. They told me that two of them would going back to Falun also and asked if they could visit me there. I gave them my address.

Carin and I had taken our exams and passed. We were back in school again. In those days it took two years to become an elementary school teacher, and we were enjoying the choice we had made. One evening in the fall I was in our home when the doorbell rang. To my surprised there stood the two Americans I had met in that street meeting. I had forgotten all about them, but I invited them in. We had a nice visit, and that was the beginning of many, many visits. I was "golden" but I didn't know that term then. My mother with her open arms and big heart always had dinner or refreshments for the missionaries. Thinking back on it now I suppose we were like Martha and Mary. My sister had a fiance' and was seldom there for the teachings.

I soon began to understand what the elders, which I found out they were to be called, were teaching me. There wasn't anything that seemed foreign to me. In fact, it seemed more like I had known it before. Their concept of God the Father, of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was the same as mine, except I had never been able to express it in words. I don't believe that I questioned anything. I have always enjoyed putting jigsaw puzzles together, and this was like a giant puzzle where all the pieces fit in perfectly till I could see the beautiful picture. The only problem that I can remember was in praying aloud and kneeling to pray.

I was ready for baptism. I had taken my time because I wanted to be sure, so very sure. I felt it was a very big step to take. My mother didn't have any objection, but she thought it would be a passing fancy and that I was more interested in the young elders than in the church. I knew that wasn't true; however I enjoyed very much my association with the missionaries. It was different to be with them than any one of my friends. My friend, Carin, and I had long talks. She was never then, and isn't now, interested in the church; but she was, and is, a true friend. She respects me for my decision and she is very understanding, and I love her for her loyalty throughout these many years. She helped me a lot over rough spots.

Because I was so immature in spiritual matters and because I didn't want to make a commitment I couldn't live up to, I decided to go to one of my teachers who I thought would understand and talk to him about my decision to be baptized. I left him in tears. He told me I would not be able to graduate from the school I was attending if I didn't belong to the state church! Perhaps that is when I realized how much the church had come to mean to me. I had one year of schooling left.

I participated in church as if I were a member. It felt good and I was not as unhappy as I had thought I would be. I was asked by the missionaries if I would play the piano for them in the meetings they held in a rented hall. I really couldn't play the piano very well, but I guess better than the Elders; so I would practice and practice for hours till I could play the hymns without making a mistake. But when it was time for the meetings I would be so scared that I still made mistakes. Shy as I was it was very embarrassing for me, but I kept doing it. A few years later after I had immigrated to the United States and I had come home for a visit, I was asked again to play the piano in a very important meeting in the branch that had been established in Borlänge, a neighboring town to Falun. The guest visitor was none other than President Spencer W. Kimball, although at that time he was one of the Twelve Apostles. The same feelings of inadequacy came over me again. Years later after reading the wonderful book about President Kimball did I learn of his love for playing the piano. I reminded him one time about that meeting and told him of my fears! With his kind disposition he would never have made me feel anything but the best. And I guess I was... the best they had at the time!

It was a drizzly early morning on 14 June 1950. There was still some ice left on the lake where I was to be baptized. I had not slept at all during the night realizing the seriousness of the commitment I was making. A makeshift shelter of cloth was set up where I changed my clothes into white clothing. It was cold and I realized it would get colder when I was wet. When Elder Doyle Anderson and I stepped into the ice-cold water I shuddered, but suddenly it didn't seem so cold. The sun broke through the clouds for a brief while and I was baptized. I knew it was the right thing to do, and it became a lifelong commitment. I did not know it then, but I have learned throughout the years and have had it reaffirmed at other baptismal services the consequences for good that started that morning. For the many wrongs I have done in my life, I did one thing right that day for the children that were to be mine. I hope they will always know the correctness of the choice their mother made that day.

After having dressed in warm clothes again, the Elders laid their hands on my head and Elder Rex Olson confirmed me a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. It seemed I had waited a long time for that to come about.
My conversion story is not complete without mentioning Sister Berta Lindborg. She was my tutor in spirituality. A more faithful sister can hardly be found. How come it takes  some maturity on our part before we realize learning opportunities the Lord provides for us?

Sister Lindborg was about 60 years old when I joined the church at age 21. She had been the only member in Falun for over 30 years and remained as faithful as she possibly could with a nonmember husband who would forbid her at times to see the missionaries or go to meetings. Can you imagine the joy she must have felt when she witnessed my baptism? There is strength in numbers, but few would have considered this strength. She did. She was so happy, and she really took me under her wing and wanted me to learn. In her home we would hold Relief Society meetings, the two of us, a neighbor who enjoyed coming, and the missionaries, if they were permitted by her husband. I can't remember what we studied or what we did because it was all so new to me, but study we did.

Sister Lindborg was so kind. Her eyes were warm and loving and she was always optimistic. Nothing seemed impossible for her and the Lord. She was eager for me to learn of "a better way" and corrected me if needed. The missionaries and I were invited to her home late in the afternoon one Saturday. As was quite customary in Sweden then when you went to visit someone you knew well enough, I had brought my knitting. After all,  it was not a meeting we were attending. I was eager to get my knitting done, so I proceeded to bring my work out. Gently but firmly she informed me that we don't work on the Lord's day, and for her the Sabbath Day started at six o'clock on Saturday! I put away my knitting somewhat embarrassed but not hurt, and we studied the scriptures instead. What a lesson! I can't say that I have kept the Sabbath from Saturday afternoon since then, but it taught me sacredness of the things we believe in.

After I left for America Sister Lindborg chose to leave her husband to go on a mission. She served in Luleå, way up north in Sweden, for, as I remember, six months. Perhaps it was longer. When she returned to Falun she served faithfully in the church till she died. I believe she was 90 years old when she passed away. She took delight in serving the Lord even when it wasn't easy. What an example for all of us! I am so thankful for the influence she has had on my life. I can say without hesitation that she and my husband Keith have had the greatest impact on building and nourishing my faith. How blessed I have been!

I call my conversion the miracle in my life. It is a miracle to me how the Lord will help direct a person's life to the gospel. I was not looking for a better life, a church, or a religion when the traveling Elders "found" me. Why did they choose this place to eat where I worked? Why did they follow up on a contact with remote possibilities of leading to a chance to teach? The reason must be that "the Lord loves me best". And I love Him best for His goodness to me.

"...and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.                     Jeremiah 3:14-15

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