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A Covenant Folk, with Scandinavian Colorings
    by Kenneth O. Bjork (Volume 21: Page 212)

Considerable interest is being shown by laymen and scholars alike in national origins and similar elements and forces that have shaped American life. Thus it is fruitful to separate the Scandinavian portion of the Mormon population of nineteenth-century Utah and to examine it critically through its foreign-language press. There is no need to describe here the unique Mormon community, which drew no distinction between secular and spiritual matters, or the Old Testament qualities of Mormon immigrants a truly covenant folk or even the life of the Scandinavians as an integral part of a great social and economic experiment on the frontier. The Scandinavian element should be viewed, however, as a distinct ethnic group, to determine whether it had a life all its own, with overtones and undertones not shared by the English-speaking population of Zion, and to consider the relations of Mormons and gentiles (that is, non-Mormons) who, divided by religious differences, nevertheless shared a common cultural tradition.

The immigrants generally accommodated themselves to an already well-established social pattern based on a peculiarly American religion, and added little more to the community than the work of their hands and bits of color derived from [213] a quaint manner of speech and behavior. And indeed the leaders of Mormonism, while acknowledging the practical needs and uses of foreign languages, took a dim view of nationalist or other trends that would have the end result of atomizing the Kingdom. They regarded English as God’s own language, had no sympathy for the historical differences that divided the peoples of Europe, and added to the typically American faith in progress an idea of the future that was conceived in the dimensions of eternity. In addition, they had a concept of brotherhood in the Kingdom that disregarded national origins as readily as it ignored economic backgrounds. Social ostracism and the sometimes violent severing of ties with families and friends in Europe worked toward the same end of producing a people who had left the old life behind in "Babylon" in order to begin a new one in the "Promised Land," and who had little desire to return to the homeland except for the purpose of leading others to Zion. Little wonder, then, that foreign languages died out more quickly in the valleys of Utah than on the prairies of the Middle West.

Mormonism, unlike Lutheranism, obviously could never be the religion of a particular national group as, for example, the Norwegians; nor could it, like Norwegian Lutheranism, grow and flourish for a generation or two with its roots planted deep in the subsoil of an immigrant culture. The leaders of the Latter-day church therefore encouraged dispersion of settlement, intermarriage, and a general mingling of peoples in Zion. They discouraged the formation of immigrant colonies and frowned upon divisive Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian expressions of national sentiment. But they could not ignore the simple fact that an uneducated folk especially one that tended, despite advice to the contrary, to settle among kinsmen from Europe is slow to shed an old language and to adopt a new one; complete linguistic change, therefore, would have to come in the second generation and this indeed is what happened. In the meantime, if the people from northern Europe were to be instructed in the faith and otherwise [214] participate in the larger life of Mormonism, they had to be permitted the use of their native tongues. The Scandinavian languages were happily so alike in the nineteenth century that Danish, for example, was virtually identical with Norwegian in its written form, and the spoken form was at least intelligible to a Swede. Concessions were made both in Europe and America to Swedish linguistic needs, but on the whole the emphasis was on a kind of synthetic Scandinavianism, which to Mormon leaders was an acceptable compromise with reality, at best an actual means to ultimate assimilation and at worst a temporary expedient that in no way threatened the unitary Kingdom of Zion.

Nevertheless, Scandinavian and even distinctly Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian feelings were and still are much alive among converts to Mormonism, though subordinate to church loyalties. This was perhaps unavoidable among nineteenth-century immigrants who had attained maturity at home at a time when strong nationalism prevailed in the northern air, and who as Mormon missionaries witnessed a practical form of Scandinavianism in the very organization of the northern European mission itself. In other ways, too, the sentiment was maintained and even stimulated in America. The use of Danish or Swedish in the special Scandinavian church meetings was a routine practice. It is reasonable to assume that speakers normally drew on common traditions, especially the lore of martyrdom in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, if for no other reason than to make their religious message more colorful and effective. Editors of the foreign-language newspapers found it hard if not impossible to function merely as translators of the speeches and writings of church leaders. Businessmen saw profits in the offing while advertising their shops and offices as Scandinavian centers, for they knew with the shrewdness common to their trade that nostalgia for the homeland persisted despite the persecution there and the pronouncements of high Mormon officials in Utah. [215]

The presence, too, of large numbers of unconverted kinsmen in the Middle West and of apostates along the emigrant trail called for mission activities in the States that drew on resources found only among the Scandinavian Saints; this set into motion a series of social and religious interchanges that have continued to this day. And, finally, the sharp attack against Mormonism in the West by Methodists and Lutherans alike, who used foreign languages and appealed to the emigrants as a transplanted people, singled out the Scandinavian Saints as an element somewhat apart from other Mormons, however devoted they might be to the teachings of Joseph Smith and the practices of the church that he founded. The gentiles were quite right in assuming that the Scandinavians in Utah, though a covenant folk with the mental and spiritual horizons of the Old Testament, could never wholly escape the implications of their Scandinavian origin.


Mormon church officials were quick to see the value of newspapers published in foreign languages and circulated among the immigrants from Europe. This is not strange when it is recalled that the Scandinavian element was estimated by some to comprise about one fourth of Utah’s population in the 1880’s. Even the most superficial study of the Danish-Norwegian Mormon newspapers, however, reveals that they served more than the practical needs of an all-embracing church organization; and they once promoted, as today they reflect, a persistent Scandinavianism that, if not really rebellious, was nevertheless too potent to be wholly contained within the forms and routine functions of the church.

The first of several Salt Lake City newspapers published in Danish and circulated among the Latter-day Saints was Utah posten (The Utah Post), which was owned and edited by Peter O. Thomassen, a gifted if somewhat erratic Norwegian. The first issue of this six-column, four-page weekly appeared December 20, 1873, and the last, September 5, 1874. It [216] contained, in addition to translations of speeches by Mormon leaders, poems both from America and from abroad, news stories from the Scandinavian countries and from settlements in Utah and the States, and prose literature that appeared serially, printed in such a manner that it could be clipped out and put in book form by the readers.

In its very first issue, Utah posten appealed for advertising by reminding businessmen that it was the only paper of its kind in Utah, and that it would circulate among the 20,000 to 30,000 Scandinavians living in the territory, few of whom could read the English papers, "though a greater number may understand and even speak English." The Scandinavians, in turn, were asked to support the paper as an agency long needed that could provide the "intellectual and spiritual" food required by their faith. Some settlements were peopled almost wholly by Scandinavians, whose environment afforded them little opportunity to learn English. During their period of transition to American life, Utah posten would bring to the immigrants the teachings of the church and the speeches of its leaders in a language that "goes straight to the heart." The paper, in providing news, would be motivated by the special interests and needs of its readers, and it would express no partisanship in politics. {1}

So far as can be determined, Utah posten was received in a friendly spirit, and subscriptions came in even from outside the territory, accompanied by letters voicing a persistent need and longing for such a paper. Even so, Thomassen encountered seemingly insurmountable difficulties in securing type and newsprint, in getting the paper off the press on schedule, and especially in collecting the three-dollar annual subscription fee, paid by many readers in farm produce. {2} [217]

Despite a warm reception and a liberal editorial policy, Utah posten was destined for failure. There is little doubt of the reasons. Thomassen, commenting editorially, explained that the paper had been launched "without help or assistance from anyone. . . . We have been able until now, under melancholy circumstances and after much trouble, to keep Posten circulating, and we hope that it may continue to make its rounds lengthwise and crosswise in our territory; but we need the support of our brothers. For eight months we have had to tend to the job of being railroad clerk during the day, and we have sacrificed to Utah posten all the amenities of our evenings and many a night’s rest, as the subscription list is altogether too small to enable us to give all our time to the paper. This procedure is much too strenuous in the long run." He asked his readers to speak a good word for Posten and otherwise to use their influence in its interest, and in the meantime to "send in produce and store it until it can be disposed of" as a means of paying for subscriptions. {3}

In August, 1874, Thomassen considered procuring German type and enlarging the paper without increasing its price, even though until then he had "worked for nothing" and had "suffered what for us is a significant ioss of money in the bargain." Support had been weak in the settlements north of Salt Lake City, and he hoped that this situation would change. He thought 1874 an excellent year for Utah, one that promised a rich harvest, marked the end of a series of grasshopper plagues, offered the prospect of a railway line to Sanpete, and assured the exploitation of rich mineral resources. The financial crisis in the East had barely been felt in the territory. {4}

A week later, however, Thomassen was of another mind. "It pains me very much," he wrote September 5, "to be compelled to tell our honored readers that with the current [218] number Utah posten will be discontinued, at least for awhile." Business had been "uncommonly quiet" during the past summer, "and with a winter before us that in no way gives promise of a brighter future, we have had to make the unpleasant decision to end our journalistic career." He could see before him "only increasing outlays and no dependable income," and he hoped that speedy payments from subscribers would spare him the embarrassment of indebtedness for labor and materials. Thomassen was grateful that his countrymen had been pleased with Posten and that its demise was not the result of ill will, but "just as the locomotive cannot go without steam, so a paper cannot operate without money. When times are more favorable for such a venture, or when ways open up for successfully carrying it through, our friends will hear from us again." {5}

For two years after Utah posten went under, the Scandinavian Mormon faithfuls had no Danish-Norwegian newspaper they could call their own. In 1875, however, an anti-Mormon publication called Utah skandinav made its appearance and apparently had considerable influence, to judge from many references to it; probably, too, it provided the necessary impetus for the launching of a second paper that favored the church. On August 1, 1876, the first number of Bikuben (The Beehive) was issued in Salt Lake City. On its masthead were carried the subtitle "Dedicated to the Lord" (Helliget til Herren) and the motto "And every man heard the Word in his own language." It was owned and edited by Anders W. Winberg, a Swede who had lived and worked for some years in Denmark before coming to America. Bikuben, which was to weather all the storms of religious, political, and economic life in the difficult period that lay ahead, gradually came to be known as the paper of the Scandinavian Mormons, or at least of those among them who read the Danish language. Though there were several changes in direction and editorship, it continued down until October 3, 1935. [219]

The first number of Bikuben carried on its front page the first installment of a speech on "The Resurrection" delivered by Brigham Young in October of the previous year. As if to explain this disregard for the timely, the editor remarked, "After much talk about the publication of a Scandinavian paper that would speak the truth and serve the needs and welfare of the people, Bikuben now comes into the world as the product thereof." It repeated Utah posten’s statements about the need for a Scandinavian paper but, unlike its predecessor, offered no hope that the readers would be served literary fare, or, for that matter, anything much more than translations of Mormon speeches and reports of church conferences. {6}

Bikuben was at first a four-page, five-column semimonthly paper printed in Roman type. Its subscription price was $1.50 per year just half that of the more ambitious Utah posten but this was exclusive of a ten-cent-per-copy postage charge. Bikuben was Winberg’s first adventure in journalism, as he explained editorially, and he made no pretense to learning. He occasionally wrote about literature, but his strength obviously lay in the practical rather than the cultural side of newspaper work. To businessmen his appeal was direct and effective: Bikuben was "the only Scandinavian newspaper published in the Rocky Mountains. It has a large and increasing circulation, and is read by thousands who do not read other papers. It is therefore the best medium for advertising among the Scandinavian population of Utah and surrounding territories." He hoped soon to convert Bikuben into a weekly, and then would like to print literary material that for the time being was necessarily excluded. He preferred cash payments but would accept farm produce at highest current prices. Like Thomassen, he pleaded with readers to pay up and to solicit subscribers. {7} [220]

From these humble and frugal beginnings, Bikuben slowly grew to respectable stature, though not without occasional setbacks. In June, 1877, it stated that, beginning in August, it would become a weekly, raising its price to $2.00 per year (exclusive of postage). It prudently retained its original size, however. Despite increased circulation, Bikuben announced early the next year that it must return to a semimonthly schedule "as we have no typesetters." It was, quite simply, impossible to get all the printing, to say nothing of the editorial work, accomplished in a week’s time. Winberg hoped, however, that soon the paper might return to a weekly status; this was accomplished in April, 1878. In September of the same year, Bikuben was enlarged to six columns, with a larger format; thereafter speeches were printed in a separate section that could be cut out and preserved. {8}

Despite Bikuben’s claim to being the only Scandinavian newspaper in the Rockies, it had competitors even after Utah skandinav had ceased publication. This anti-Mormon paper had received strong financial and moral support, according to Bikuben, from "local apostates and heathens"; it had had vigorous and serious leadership in its editor, Colonel B. A. M. Froiseth; even so, it had been a "costly experience" for the "radical elements" in Utah. Familie vennen (The Family Friend) appeared in 1877. Bikuben suggested that it was edited by two men from Utah skandinav; six months later Familie vennen went under, though apparently it had been founded on sound economic principles. Bikuben charged it with being "dumb" in political and religious matters and, when it failed, remarked that it was the third Scandinavian paper in Utah to go "the way of all the world." In October, 1877, Bikuben announced that another publication, Fremad (Forward), would soon appear; it would be directed by Froiseth, former editor of Utah skandinav, but, unlike its predecessor, would be neutral, if not Mormon, in outlook. {9} [221]

Meanwhile Bikuben went its uncertain way, pleading with subscribers to pay up, and suggesting in 1882 that if they did not, the paper would have to be discontinued. {10} Early in 1885 Winberg announced that P. O. Thomassen had been added to his editorial staff, so that Bikuben "might present itself in the style and appearance demanded at the present time." {11}

It is easy to read in this change something more than an interest in pleasing Bikuben’s readers. In the fall of 1884, Winberg read in Morgenstjernen (Salt Lake City), a monthly periodical devoted to Mormon biography and history, Andrew Jenson’s prospectus of a second Utah posten. This was done "with the approval," said the announcement, "of the church authorities." Without doubting the truth of Jenson’s statement, Winberg maintained that the matter should at least have a hearing and that Bikuben had as much a right to exist as did Utah posten. Outstanding Scandinavians apparently agreed with him. {12}

Nevertheless, Utah posten appeared on January 1, 1885. It claimed to be a "Scandinavian newspaper" devoted to "Truth, Freedom, and Justice." It was a four-page, six-column paper printed in Danish, and it had a larger format and bigger Roman type than it had had under Thomassen. Utah posten, which was destined to run only fifteen numbers to April 8 was published in Salt Lake City jointly by Andrew Jenson and C. A. F. Orlob. This paper and Morgenstjernen together sold for $2.25 per year. Jenson, a painstaking and capable Dane with a sense of the importance of history, urged "all intelligent Scandinavians" in Utah to subscribe to the new paper; to this Bikuben added an editorial blessing. {13}

According to Utah posten, there had long been a need among the Scandinavians of the Rocky Mountain area "for a newspaper that met the requirements of modern times." Jenson and Orlob, with the support of the church authorities, [222] therefore decided to publish "a weekly in large folio format, printed on fine, durable paper with new, attractive type." {14} Their paper, they promised readers, would contain "fresh news, especially from Scandinavia and the Rockies; scientific and philosophical discussions by esteemed writers; shorter sustaining and informative articles and anecdotes; and the like." Utah posten, they added, would be "edited in a liberal spirit consistent with sound Christian teaching" and would be "dedicated to the ideal of promoting and enriching the spiritual life of the Scandinavian public, in its social, political, and religious aspects, as in all that contributes to the betterment and elevation of mankind and brings people nearer to the goal toward which every honorable man and woman strives."

Utah posten discussed Scandinavianism in some detail. Since 1850, remarked an editorial, hardly a year had passed without hundreds of Scandinavians leaving the Old World to go to Zion. Now they made up about a fourth of Utah’s population, and still others had moved to neighboring territories. It was only natural for them to remain linked in spirit with the homeland; to the immigrant the native language was dear indeed. The publishers maintained that what was needed was a newspaper that could "interpret" the Scandinavian Mormon communities, "assert our rights, and defend our freedom"; at the same time, it could combat "the prejudice that exists against the people of Utah, by describing conditions in our territory exactly as they really are." {15}

Utah posten quite understandably won the approval of Thomassen, who, after reading the first issue, described the newspaper as a "worthy successor of the first Utah post." He hoped that it would enjoy greater success than its predecessor, and that this time the Scandinavians would place a higher value on "a respectable and well-edited Danish newspaper." [223] Thomassen could not for the life of him understand why persons living in Utah wanted news of their homeland second-hand from newspapers published in the States. The Scandinavian papers of the Midwest, furthermore, were filled with "so much religious fiddle-f addle and chicanery, and with so many articles of a scurrilous nature concerning both persons and situations that we haven’t the slightest desire to read or learn about." {16}


A controversy between Utah posten and Bikuben that took place in the spring of 1885 indicated clearly that, while Mormons might present a united front to the gentile world, they were capable of sharp differences of opinion among themselves. The conflict came into the open as the result of a statement in Utah posten, February 25, 1885. Jenson maintained that in 1884 conversations with church authorities, notably Erastus Snow, had made clear to him that a better paper was needed and that he would have their blessing if he attempted to produce one. As Winberg’s efforts had not been very successful, Jenson had thought he should try to buy him out or enter into partnership with him. He accordingly made several proposals to Winberg "to join us in the new undertaking, but each time our offer brought no result."

Winberg not only denied that Snow had ever made such a suggestion to him, but maintained that Jenson’s proposal of a partnership had been made in an arrogant manner. When asked what his terms were for a partnership arrangement, Winberg had said that both parties should give all their time to the paper and divide the profits equally after expenses. Jenson, asked for his terms, said earnings should be divided equally, even though he was to be working in the Church Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City.

Other statements by Winberg and Jenson indicate that there was a sharp personality clash between the two men, but Winberg repeated that he was willing to enter a partnership [224] that might result in a "better paper" and improve literary work generally — as so many of the Scandinavians hoped would be done. But he couldn’t agree to an equal division of earnings so long as Jenson continued to work in the Historian’s Office. In fairness to Winberg it must be stated, as he reminded his readers, that he had never boasted of his literary skill; he had done his best, the Saints had supported him, and hardly a day went by that did not see new readers added to Bikuben’s circulation list. {17}

Soon, doubtless at the prompting of church officials, both Bikuben and Utah posten printed the following declaration:

"As articles have been inserted in certain numbers of Bikuben and Utah posten that seem to cast slurs on the character of the editors concerned, we herewith report that in discussions that have taken place between the persons in question, it has been discovered that the difference of opinion grew out of misunderstandings." The statement was signed by Winberg and Jenson. {18}

A farewell editorial in the April 8 number of Utah posten tells its own story. There was, Jenson and Orlob wrote, "a general desire among the people that Bikuben and Utah posten be merged, for it seemed clear to most of them that the field was not large enough for two papers." The Scandinavians thought, therefore, that "a stock company with sufficient capital" might be "in a position to found a good newspaper and thus eliminate and make unnecessary all competition." In any case, "we agreed to sell our newspaper; similarly, Brother Winberg was willing to sell Bikuben, with its affiliated business, to the new company." It had been decided already that Bikuben, as the older of the two papers, should continue and that Utah posten should be discontinued. The latter had made a good attempt and had many friends, but its expenses had been much too great. Readers would receive Bikuben, [225] together with Morgenstjernen, for the balance of their sub. scriptions. {19}

Bikuben had obviously learned a great deal from Utah posten and it continued for a while, too, to benefit from Jenson’s editorial services. It hoped — vainly, as it turned out —that Morgenstjernen might be published in 1886 as a half-sheet weekly and be included as a regular feature with no increase in price. Unfortunately, Jenson was soon forced to retire from editorial work, to devote more time to compiling the records of the Scandinavian Mission. {20}

P. O. Thomassen gives an interesting insight into the relationship of a Mormon journalist with the leading Midwestern Danish newspaper, Den danske pioneer of Omaha. This paper, started in 1872 by Mark Hansen, a prominent Nebraska businessman — shortly before Thomassen began publication of Utah posten — had a difficult struggle during its early years. According to Thomassen, Hansen wrote him a friendly letter, asked for Utah posten’s subscription list, and promised to devote more space than before in his paper to Utah news. Den danske pioneer thus made its way into Mormon territory, Thomassen said, but, except for the publication of Thomassen’s letters and some spiteful articles from "the poet in Nephi," an anti-Mormon, the last promise was not kept. Instead, the paper assumed an unfriendly tone and resorted to low language in discussing the Mormons. In 1887 Thomassen regretted his early co-operativeness and wanted nothing more than to see the Pioneer forced out of Utah. {21}

Thomassen also had difficulties dealing with a small Swedish newspaper in Salt Lake City, Svenska härolden (The Swedish Herald), which began publication in June, 1885. [226] After it had issued sixteen numbers and was on the verge of collapse, Thomassen was invited to become its editor. He turned down the title because he knew he would not be given a free hand, but he did agree to serve. He observed, he said, a lack of energy on the part of the publishers, and he spoke his mind at a directors’ meeting on February 11, 1888. He was tired of the extra work involved, but stayed on, not wanting to cause embarrassment, waiting for "a better man who might relieve me." The end came more suddenly than Thomassen had expected. According to him, the directors "leased Härolden to Messrs. Anderson and Fernström for five years without informing me thereof." Thomassen actually kept on at his editorial duties for a week before realizing that he was no longer formally associated with the company. {22}

In January, 1888, a committee composed of the directors of Svenska härolden inserted in Bikuben an invitation to all interested Scandinavians to form a company to buy Bikuben and Svenska härolden and to publish both under one direction. A meeting was to be held on January 28 to organize for that purpose. It is not clear what, if anything, were the fruits of this meeting. But in the spring of 1891 A. W. Winberg announced that he was retiring from Bikuben and that P. O. Thomassen, who had assisted him for several years, had bought the paper and would take over its publication July 1, and at the same time Thomassen announced that Bikuben would retain its old format but would be enlarged from four to six pages with no increase in price. {23} Thomassen, however, did not serve for long as chief editor and publisher of the leading Mormon Scandinavian paper; he died in October, 1891. On January 28, 1892, Bikuben proclaimed that the paper was now being issued by the Bikuben Publishing Company and that its editor was O. J. Andersen, a Norwegian. Whatever the changes in direction, one constant factor was clearly evident when this reorganization took place: The new [227] editor reminded his readers that only one third of all subscribers had paid up for the year; this, he said, was inconsistent with the general position of an "enlarged, improved" newspaper. {24}


The part played by Scandinavians in the political life of Utah can be best studied in conjunction with the newspapers and the broader issue of Scandinavian "nationalism." It is safe to assume that for the most part the Scandinavians simply followed the advice of their church leaders when supporting candidates for public office and casting their votes; certainly the admonitions to do just this were frequent and emphatic in such papers as Bikuben. Yet in politics, as in other things, they were also sensitive to the special interests of their group, and a few were outspokenly Scandinavian in their political viewpoint.

Thomassen, as editor of Utah posten, made it clear from the start that he had no more respect for Democrats than for Republicans. In an 1874 editorial, under the caption "A Corrupted Party," he maintained, with charming disregard for historical fact, that the Democrats and the administration that they controlled long before the Civil War had become so corrupt that the Northerners had finally determined to bring about a change. So, in 1860 they had held a great convention in Chicago, where a majority elected Abraham Lincoln president, "on the condition that he should fight for the abolition of slavery in the South and of polygamy in Utah." {25}

Armed with a quaint concept of the American political scene, past and present, Thomassen set out to educate his Mormon countrymen. "The Scandinavians," he explained, commenting on early conditions in Utah, "had never participated in the political agitations down in Missouri and Illinois; they had not engaged in politics at home either; and also, as they did not understand the language of the new country, [228] it is evident that they must have been oblivious and ignorant of what took place in the political world. So long as only our fellow believers lived here, everything was fine. We had no courthouses, no judges, no prisons, no police, really. The few [policemen] who were commissioned when the territory was reorganized under the Stars and Stripes had almost nothing to do and had to tend their farms or follow their crafts in order to sustain themselves. But time passed and times changed. People heard of Utah’s riches and Mormon well-being. Strangers swarmed out here and men of the same spirit and with the same purpose as the Missourians were lured after them. Our police became busy, the jails no longer stood empty, the lawyers and judges no longer twiddled their thumbs, and our brothers who had the language and ability to meet the enemy did their best in this respect. But the Scandinavians did not understand what took place; they couldn’t read English newspapers; they understood English speeches very poorly; they were not aroused by the spirit of the times nor divided by the incidents of the day; finally they became quite indifferent to all that was labeled political and thought, ‘Let the English take care of that!’

"For everything that lay beyond their daily bread and their religious faith, the Scandinavians had a decided distaste. This is not at all right. Because we and several of our brothers were aware of this situation, we went to work publishing Utah posten, in as facile a language as possible, to call the attention of our Scandinavian brothers and sisters to what the enemy was doing, and what devices our brothers employed in order to defend our territory and our rights. In short articles we have sought to present the most important events, and it has been most encouraging to us to see our efforts appreciated by many; but the mass of Scandinavians are ‘still not with us.’ Many say, ‘Give us speakers; that is the best thing!’ This we do not deny, but man cannot live by bread alone; he must also have water. Others say, ‘Only let us have news from the old country!’ This love of the fatherland is all very praiseworthy, [229] but we also have obligations to our new country, to which we have transferred citizenship and which we are pledged to serve and support before all other countries on earth. We ask to enjoy the blessings of the constitution, and we must therefore first and foremost learn what they are, as well as learn how we can defend them. It is not the Scandinavians who seek out politics; it hunts us out and whirls us around like a hurricane, and we must set our sails accordingly."

Thomassen conceded that he was no "great light in the darkness," but he was ready to assist the Scandinavians until "a person with brighter lights and greater abilities takes up our pen." {26}

Thomassen appealed to his Scandinavian readers to assume an active role in political life. Others urged them to vote as a bloc. S. J. Jonasson, who had political ambitions, argued that if the Scandinavians were united, "What can stop them from having votes in the lawmaking bodies of the country in proportion to their numbers in the Union?" Jonasson quoted the Danish poet Carl Ploug, referred to stirring events and leaders in the Scandinavian countries, and remarked that the most enlightened people there were convinced that the Scandinavians should work together toward a common goal. {27} Thomassen simply urged his readers to vote the church-approved People’s ticket. He had hoped that it would include a Scandinavian or two, but admitted that few of them qualified for public office. In the same editorial, however, he argued:

"If it is necessary and right for ‘Americans’ to have representatives in the offices of the country, then it is equally right and necessary that the Scandinavians enjoy the same privilege. If we are their peers with respect to taxation and other public duties, we should also have a voice in the uses made of the funds we pay in. For over twenty years we have lent a strong hand building up this territory, and yet in the last legislature we were denied the privilege of having the laws of the [230] territory translated into our own language so that the people might become acquainted with them. Brothers, no longer be so dulled by our concern for everyday things; take part with our American brothers in the battle for our survival and let us serve our adopted land with more than just our muscles and sinews!" {28}

Utah posten had gone too far to escape a rebuke from the church, and Erastus Snow, founder of the Scandinavian Mission and one of the Mormon Apostles, was the logical person to administer it. He appealed to all to go to the polls as Americans, and to vote for George Q. Cannon as delegate to Congress and for the other candidates on the People’s ticket. They should be willing to do this whether they were Scandinavians, Germans, Swiss, Scotchmen, or Englishmen, for Zion recruited people from all nations. Those who urged citizens to vote for candidates of their own national origin were in serious error because, if all did the same, there would be only chaos; they would tear down what others had built up, and this was precisely what the enemy wanted. The Scandinavians should vote for men who would work in the interest of all, "not for a certain class or race." And who, he asked, are "better suited to do this than the Apostles, bishops, and elders who have sacrificed their entire lives in order to gather, organize, teach, preserve, and protect the people?" Snow continued:

"That part of Utah posten which smacks of national feeling is, I hope, written from the head rather than from the heart and will certainly not give cause for offense hereafter. I wish to see Utah posten as a source of encouragement and food for the souls of the Scandinavian Saints, but not as a medium for the spread of discord. Brothers, always support your officials, whether religious or political, for these officials will serve you, if you are deserving of it, without regard to the nation you are from. It pleased God to begin his latter-day work in America and there to raise up his prophet and the first elders; it [231] pleased him to reveal his word in the English language and through it to gather his people, and from America he sent it to you. Take this language, therefore, and strive to merge with the American people, and do not seek to separate yourself from it; then God will pour out his blessings over you and your children after you, and our common enemies will be beaten and their plans will be in vain." {29}

Commenting editorially in the same issue, Utah posten stated: "Our remarks in the previous issue about the election seem to have aroused significant misunderstandings here in the city, and they have been interpreted in the most varied fashion. Last Sunday afternoon Brother Winberg took the liberty of publicly condemning Utah posten at the Scandinavian meeting, charging the paper with speaking in favor of the opposition party and commending its candidates; and the same day and hour Mr. Jonasson read the identical article at the Liberal Institute and accompanied the reading with similar comments, because it was against them [the Liberals]!"

In this case, Thomassen added, Jonasson was right, as the newspaper had opposed the Liberal ticket. The editor complained that his own party had turned against him because Utah posten had accepted for publication some notices printed under the caption "Advertisement" and paid for at the rate of 25 cents a line. {30} An editor, Thomassen told his readers, was responsible only for his editorials. On Tuesday evening, in the schoolhouse of the fourteenth ward, he continued, [232] "Brother Erastus Snow spoke against the tone of the paper. We can only briefly suggest that the purpose of our articles was by no means . . . to separate the Scandinavians from the majority . . . but, on the contrary, to bind them more closely to it, because we tried to awaken their interest in politics and wished that they might participate with the Americans in their political work." Thomassen vigorously denied having appealed to the national feelings of the Scandinavians in order to sow discord or weaken religious faith. He reminded his readers that he "stood on the side of the church, as we have been convinced for many years of the truth of its principles, and we reject every imputation of apostasy from whatever source." {31}

Bikuben consistently urged its readers to vote the People’s ticket during the 1870’s and 1880’s, and church discipline was such that they probably followed this advice. In 1877 the paper praised the Mormon administration in Utah Territory and claimed that there was none better in the country. It noted in 1880 that the Liberals, who had been relatively in-active in the late 1870’s, had recently revived, and they counted among their members B. A. M. Froiseth. {32}

The Scandinavian Saints actually formed a People’s Scandinavian Political Club; they drew up a constitution with bylaws early in 1890, and no doubt contributed something to the Mormon victory at the polls on November 4 of the same year. It is not strange that Bikuben rejoiced over the results of this election, but it is interesting that the paper also expressed pleasure over Democratic victories in most of the states —largely, the reader is led to believe, because of the editor’s opposition to the McKinley Tariff. Bikuben rejoiced that people had finally "opened their eyes to the protective policy of the Republicans," had "given the Republican party a blow [233] on the ear," and had finally "voted the father of the [tariff] law, McKinley, out of Congress." Knute Nelson had spoken for the Republicans at Armory Hall in Minneapolis, Bikuben noted; while respecting Nelson as a Scandinavian statesman of real stature, the paper emphatically disapproved his remarks in favor of the McKinley Tariff. {33}

The partisan leanings of Bikuben in national political life, however, were mild when compared to those of the Midwestern papers. In answer to charges that Mormons were neither good Democrats nor good Republicans and lacked a strong interest in national problems, the paper said that the accusation, while in a sense true, was nevertheless unjustified:

Utah had been a territory for a long time — an observer rather than a participant — unable for half a century to vote for presidents, and its people had been forced to accept tariff and other policies over which they had no control. Governors and judges whose thinking differed from that of the Saints had been sent out to administer; when the Mormons did elect persons they could trust, these were badly treated by carpetbaggers, thrown out, and replaced by lackeys despised by the residents of the territory. Laws prejudicial to their religion and inquisitorial methods had been imposed on the Saints. Nevertheless, when unpopular laws were appealed to higher courts — despite screams of protest from the carpetbaggers — and the Supreme Court upheld them, they were accepted. In conclusion, Bikuben said it was the "flood of false accusations that has kept Utah out of the Union as a kind of vassal state." The people had wanted statehood for their country, but it became only a territory, and thus "stones, not bread" were put in their mouths. {34}

After the decision of the Mormon authorities, in 1890, to discontinue sanctioning polygamy, Utah for all practical purposes entered into national political life. Though the territory was denied statehood until 1896, the Mormons began in the [234] 1890’s to pick and choose between the candidates and platforms of the Republican, Democratic, and Populist parties. In this altered situation — in which it became increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between friend and foe of the church — Bikuben in 1892 determined upon a policy of neutrality and confined itself thereafter to printing articles explaining the programs of all parties. At the same time a vigorous Scandinavian Democratic Club held weekly meetings in Salt Lake City, claimed a membership of 500 or 600 voters, and worked for the election of "one or two of our own nationality" in the city council. But then and later the balance between Republicans and Democrats was a fine one. A typical message of March, 1892, from the town of Logan, which had many Scandinavians, reported a Republican victory by 80 votes; eight Republicans and two Democrats were elected to the city council. Interestingly, Bikuben noted (without indicating party labels) that two members of the council and the recorder in Salt Lake City were Scandinavians. A cursory reading of this paper in the 1890’s reveals that it had returned to the Scandinavian political enthusiasms of Utah posten. Obviously, it merely reflected a tendency that found expression early in 1893 in the organization of an independent Scandinavian political society without party label, the purpose of which was to work for Scandinavian interests in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. {35}


In business, the Scandinavian appeal extended beyond normal church or even co-operative objectives. Both advertisers and newspapers constantly plucked the strings of nostalgia and stressed common loyalties to the northern countries.

In 1886 Bikuben proposed that there should be a "large Scandinavian business" in Salt Lake City. It was frequently claimed, the editor remarked, that Scandinavians lacked [235] business sense; he asked if this was really true. He pointed to several men who were prominent, notably in the furniture business, and maintained that there was leadership enough in the group for a company that could set up a kind of department store where the Scandinavian languages might be spoken and where no effort would be made to exploit the people — who, in fact, would own the firm themselves. {36}

But mostly the appeal was that of routine advertising. The reader of Bikuben in 1890, for example, knew that in Salt Lake City he could buy Norwegian fish and cheese and Swedish hardtack from J. A. Petersen on Fourth Street South, real estate or securities from A. Johnson and Company in the Wasatch Building or Christiansen and Olsen on Commercial Street, hardware from P. W. Madsen’s Utah Stove and Hardware Company on East First Street South, harness or saddles from N. C. Christensen and Brother on East Second Street South, dry goods and shoes from Western Dry Goods and Shoe Company (Nyt Skandinavisk Handelsfirma) on South Main Street, books from Otto Rydman’s Scandinavian Book Store on East First Street South, groceries from the Scandinavian Mercantile Union on South Street or from the Norden Grocery Company on First Street South, furniture and rugs from P. W. Madsen’s or Sørenson and Cariquist’s on Main Street, and jewelry from J. S. Jonsen’s between Pitt’s Drug Store and Commercial Street. When sick, the Scandinavian could call on Dr. Bjørnson, who had an office over Turngren’s Drug Store on Second Street South; if his tooth ached, he could get relief from Dr. L. Berg, in Dr. T. H. Clawson’s office on First Street South. To have his picture taken, he could go to Falmo and Matson in the Uinta Hotel on Commercial Street. Questions of citizenship could be cleared up with B.

A. M. Froiseth, "Scandinavian lawyer in land affairs," who could also tend to his land title, or, if he wished, he could talk this over with J. C. Jensen, secretary and treasurer in the Security Abstract Company in the Deseret Bank Building. [236] J. M. Krogh on East Second Street South or H. Wikström on Commercial Street would repair his shoes, and D. Turngren was a proper Scandinavian apothecary.

The situation was similar in the settlements. The Farmers Exchange in Ephraim stood ready to supply Scandinavians with groceries, hardware, and dry goods; P. P. Mejlstrup was the owner and J. F. F. Dorius a clerk. Daniel and Rasmus Jensen were real-estate dealers in Mill Creek and C. M. Wendelboe was a watchmaker in Logan. And so it went. In all of these places Danish or another Scandinavian language was spoken, thus easing the difficulties of carrying on business in a strange country. {37}


The story of Mormon missionary efforts among the Scandinavians of the Middle West, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, reflects not only strong religious faith among the immigrant Saints but also a sense of responsibility for their gentile countrymen in America and a kind of Scandinavianism in their purely religious life. Interest in the Midwestern mission seems to have focused largely on the northern tier of states during the 1870’s and 1880’s, but the rich area in and near Omaha, Nebraska, was considered of almost equal importance. At many points along the overland route of travel to Utah lived Saints, apostates, and partially indoctrinated Scandinavians — the inevitable droppings or backwash of immigration. The vigorous effort of missionaries to win converts among these people and among those in the Upper Midwest has been described elsewhere. {38} The stress here will be on the relations of Scandinavian Mormons with non-Mormon missionaries and other Scandinavian gentiles in Utah.

Pastors of the traditional Christian churches invariably wrote in a hostile vein of Mormon beliefs and activities, and their critique is an essential part of our story. One of the [237] earliest among the Norwegians who actually went to Utah and then described what he saw at first hand was the Reverend Christian Hvistendahi. En route to San Francisco in the service of the Norwegian Synod in October, 1870, to found the first Scandinavian Lutheran mission on the west coast, he stopped off for a short visit in Salt Lake City; there, with other gentiles, he attended a semiannual conference of Saints and observed Brigham Young, his two Councilors, the twelve Apostles, and other leaders of the church, whom he described in the record of his journey. He also gave an extensive and wholly unfavorable account of the Mormon religion.

Hvistendahl was not, however, merely a passive observer of persons and events. He made a serious effort to learn about the Scandinavians living in Zion. In a letter to a secular newspaper, he wrote: "There are many Swedes and Danes here in the city, but fewer Norwegians. Most of the Scandinavians live out in the settlements and they are said to be very loyal subjects." Brigham Young, he added, "rules over them and all Mormons with a power greater than that of the Pope." {39}

Hvistendahl also discussed the general growth of sentiment against Mormonism in the States, a movement that drew its chief strength from the opposition to plural marriage. He concluded: "One can readily see that Mormonism, which is based on lies, has little prospect of standing its ground. . . . After having spent four days in Mormonism’s capital, I left the city in a despondent mood but not entirely without hope." {40}

Nordisk folkeblad reprinted from Dagbladet in Copenhagen an interesting description of Scandinavian Mormons in Utah, written by V. Topsøe, a Danish theological candidate. Like Hvistendahl, he observed Mormonism from a critically conservative Lutheran viewpoint and deplored the success of its missionary work. The governments of northern Europe, he dolefully remarked, "may rejoice over a pronounced [238] popularity in Utah, because of their tolerance." As for the Scandinavian Saints, "One hears of them only the same praise of our people that is reiterated everywhere in the Union; they are said to be, in particular, peaceful, industrious, and desirable citizens." {41}

As might be expected, unfavorable reports of Mormon activities were also frequently penned by non-Mormon Scandinavians who lived in Utah. Most of these struck a moderately critical note. "Argus," writing from Salt Lake City in the spring of 1875, welcomed the linking of the Mormon capital with the Union Pacific Railroad. "Now non-Mormons have little to fear," he said, for with the railroad came new modes and new ideas. Priestly tyranny was no longer possible, and people had begun to think of Brigham Young as "profit" rather than a "prophet." A so-called Liberal party had begun to publish the Salt Lake Tribune as an independent organ; some of the Scandinavians had joined this party and were putting out a weekly paper, Utah skandinav, as a counterpart of the Tribune. The Liberals, regarded as apostates by Young, had been excluded from the church, and most of them, "Argus" said, had become freethinkers and spiritualists. Mormonism had seen its best days but would "die hard." In the meantime the people of Utah were learning to look upon United States law as supreme. "Argus" considered S. J. Jonasson, the Swedish editor of Utah skandinav, an intelligent person; he had the same high opinion of the Norwegian, B. A. M. Froiseth. {42}

A pronounced restlessness among the people of Utah was reported in the Midwestern Norwegian-American press after they had been fully informed in 1875 of the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857. Bitterness, fear, and a hope for change were said to prevail among gentiles and Mormons [239] alike. {43} While horror over the atrocity still gripped the American public, Skandinaven reprinted a story supposedly told by Niels Larsen of Deer Lodge City, Montana. Larsen had been converted by Mormon missionaries in his homeland, presumably Denmark, and himself had wandered about his native country as a missionary until 1856, when he left for Utah "to walk God’s way." After making a difficult journey to Zion and experiencing considerable disillusionment, Larsen left the Mormon Church. As a result, he was one of a group of about a thousand persons — men, women, and children — who were attacked in 1862 by avengers armed with rifles and cannons! A veritable blood bath followed. "I myself, with wife and children, was left without house or home, without wagon or tent or the necessities of life." This unlikely story, which leaves most of the reader’s questions unanswered, was typical of those that frequently appeared in the Danish and Norwegian newspapers, both in Europe and in America. {44}

Somewhat more credible was an article purporting to be a letter of August 24, 1888, from Utah; it was published in Norden without the name or residence of the author. Does religious liberty exist in Utah? the letter asked. No one, it continued, can answer this question better than the poor immigrant who arrives "alone and forsaken by all." The newcomer is baptized and admitted anew into the Mormon church, after which he goes to the important priests to find employment. After working hard for a time and receiving in return one bushel of wheat per day for his labor, he is visited by two teachers who ask him how things are going and inform him that "he must pay one tenth of his earnings to the tithing clerk and an equally large amount as a temple tax and half as much to the tabernacle building . . . also make a regular offering, and finally a contribution to the missionaries who are called to go out to preach the gospel." He is told, [240] furthermore, that even if he gives so much to the church that he and his family can eat only one meal a day, the Lord will give them as much strength as they would normally derive from several meals.

If the immigrant protests, saying he can earn two bushels a day by working for a gentile, the teachers reply, "If you do that, you will learn that there will be less blessing from two bushels a day from an ‘outsider’ than from one bushel from a Mormon priest." The teachers also harangue one who has lived in Utah for years and has "experienced many hardships and has learned to know the countless deceptions and villainies that are perpetrated by those who possess the ‘holy priesthood." On Sunday, young Mormons create every kind of disturbance during religious services in, say, a Presbyterian church. Attempts are made to prevent anyone from entering the building. But inside, according to the writer, one hears the true message of the Christian church, "the first I have heard in Utah."

The writer spoke of the murder and deception that had characterized Utah history. The person who "sees the light" religiously is again promptly visited by a pair of Mormon teachers, who caution him in the strongest language to stay away from Presbyterian services, for all sects outside the Mormon church are the work of the devil. If, despite this warning, one continues to attend the Presbyterian church, he is visited at night by a mob that destroys his trees and plants, breaks windows, bombards the doors with stones, and continues these antics until, for fear of his life, he has to discontinue hearing God’s word preached. The correspondent insisted that this was no exceptional incident. "I can cite hundreds of instances of like situations," he said, and any minister of the Christian faith who had tried to carry on in Utah could give similar testimony. "Because of the great persecution that the people know is instituted against all who go and listen to a real pastor, they dare not affiliate with any group outside the Mormon church. In this way they are bound [241] by chains of darkness . . . and thus it will remain as long as the Mormons have power; this can never be taken away from them by any means short of war. If one can say that there is religious freedom in Utah, then I do not know what freedom is." He appealed to the American people to correct this situation, to put an end to persecution, and to make it possible for one to "worship God in harmony with one’s conscience." In the opinion of the editor of Norden, this letter spoke for itself; could not the Lutheran church, he asked, do something for the many who found themselves in Mormon clutches? {45}

In 1886 Skandinaven printed an editorial on "The Fruits of Mormonism" that was inspired by the fate of the Nils Jørgensen family from Denmark. Jørgensen, apparently from religious indifference, had permitted his daughter Johanne Marie, accompanied by a Mormon agent named Lars C. Petersen, to go to America "to be instructed in the ‘true worship of God." Forty dollars was advanced to cover the cost of her trip to Spanish Fork, Utah; in return for this, she was expected to work for three years, presumably as a domestic. Shortly after Johanne Marie’s departure, her parents returned to the Lutheran Church. The mother, seeking to "recover" her child in Utah, set out for America with another daughter, aged ten. Financial assistance, which was to have been advanced by a countryman in Utah, was withdrawn when the purpose of the trip became known. As a consequence, the mother and two daughters were left stranded in Utah, "alone and friendless among enemies." Non-Mormons came to her rescue, however, and she was thus able to return as far as Chicago. There, when the newspaper story was written, she was being helped by Danish and Norwegian Lutheran pastors and was hoping to be reunited with her husband in Denmark. Skandinaven used this story not only to picture the Mormons in dark colors and to seek aid from Scandinavians for the Jørgensens, but also to raise the question that was no doubt being asked by [242] many — why was Protestant northern Europe so easy a prey of Mormon propaganda? {46}


In 1884 subscribers to Bikuben regularly saw in their newspapers an announcement of Swedish religious services Sunday mornings at 10:30 in St. Mark’s Chapel, Salt Lake City. Swedish and Danish newspapers and books, the announcement added, could be read or purchased at the place of worship from the Reverend S. M. Hill, Swedish Lutheran missionary. Elsewhere in the same newspaper, readers might observe a notice of "Scandinavian Services" inserted by the Reverend Martinus Nelson (Nielsen, Nilsen), pastor of the Norwegian Methodist Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.

Letters and news items, too, revealed the presence of non-Mormon churches in Utah. "N.P.H.," writing to Skandinaven in 1886, mentioned a Swedish (Augustana Synod) church in Salt Lake City. The Norwegians, he added, could do much to liberate their countrymen from Mormonism if only they would send out the right kind of Lutheran missionary. In 1889 Bikuben described in sympathetic phrases the appearance of a Swedish Lutheran newspaper, Utah missionären, published in Salt Lake City under the auspices of the Augustana Synod. Folkebladet reprinted an interesting article from Vestlandsposten of Stavanger, Norway; this was a letter, under the caption "Concerning a Visit to the Mormon State of Utah, January 22—26, 1891," written by the Reverend A. L. Aas, a missionary. Aas had found in Salt Lake City two Norwegian Methodist churches, a Danish Evangelical Lutheran church with 60 members, and the Swedish congregation, which numbered 80. He too deplored the lack of a Norwegian missionary of the Lutheran faith, for, as he estimated, there were from 50,000 to 60,000 Scandinavians in Utah (apart from those born in the territory), and from 4,000 to 6,000 in Salt Lake City alone. The Norwegians, who were as numerous in the [243] city as the Swedes, were reported to be strong supporters of Mormonism, thus offering a real challenge to American Lutheranism. {47}

Behind these notices and letters lay a grim determination on the part of the traditional Christian churches, not only to resist the efforts of Mormon missionaries but also to gain a foothold in Zion itself. Among the Scandinavians in America, none were more determined than the Methodists. In 1879 editor Christian Treider of Den christelige talsmand (The Christian Advocate), a Danish-Norwegian weekly published in Chicago by the Methodists, deplored the loss of many Danes and Norwegians to the Latter-day Saints, denounced Mormon practices, and sharply criticized Den danske pioneer for its alleged leniency toward polygamy. {48}

Methodist missionary work among the Scandinavians of Utah began officially in 1870, but little was actually accomplished before 1882, when Peter A. H. Franklin, a native of Norway and a onetime Mormon, was asked to prepare for intense activity. Martinus Nelson, also a native of Norway, was requested by Bishop Isaac D. Wiley to leave his church in Chicago and go to Salt Lake City as a missionary. Nelson arrived at the Mormon capital on July 2, 1883; on July 29 he organized a congregation of 18, the First Norwegian Methodist Church of Salt Lake City; and in very little time he was making plans for a church building. In a letter to the editor of Den christelige talsmand soon after his arrival in Utah, Nelson explained that a church lot had already been acquired. Before the end of 1883 a brick building, costing with the lot [244] $2,000, was ready for use. It was dedicated on November 4, 1883, and was called the Iliff Church, after Dr. T. C. Iluff. {49}

Nelson’s major problem, naturally, was to find a response to Methodism among the Scandinavian Mormons. How difficult his task was to be is revealed in a letter that he wrote in the fall of 1883. It reads, in part:

"A few weeks ago I visited a town by the name of Brigham City, in the northern part of Utah. It has about 1,800 people, half of them Scandinavians. Near Brigham City are several large Scandinavian settlements. American Presbyterians have done some work there, but they naturally could not reach the Scandinavian folk, although they are more willing to accept the gospel than the English-speaking people. The Presbyterian minister wrote me about coming up there, and I had an opportunity to look over the town and become familiar with conditions there. I was surprised to find several Talsmand subscribers. And when on Sunday evening I held services in the Presbyterian church, what should I find of even greater surprise — a Norwegian Bible and a dozen copies of Haagensen’s book on Sankey and Bliss’s songs! The pastor informed me that he himself had ordered the books last year when he attempted to conduct Norwegian services. He played the organ while the congregation sang. He prayed in English, then invited the congregation to read passages from the Bible, each in his turn. Finally he preached briefly in English."

In the same letter, Nelson reported that the mission needed at least $5,000 — $1,000 for the church and its affiliated school in Salt Lake City, another $1,000 to build a small church to serve Ephraim, Mount Pleasant, and Fountain Green, and $1,000 for Bear Lake in southern Idaho. It is not clear just how the remaining $2,000 was to be used. Peter Franklin was then in the East raising money for the Utah mission; taking his place temporarily at Mount Pleasant was Lisa M. Saugstad, [245] who had been sent west by the Women’s Home Missionary Society. {50}

Franklin’s letters, too, reveal the difficulty of working among the Saints. Upon his return from the fund-raising trip, he reported being informed by many Mormons that they dared not hear him preach, for fear of displeasing their bishops and teachers. Control of every necessity of life — not least the water supply — by the Latter-day Saints impeded, as he put it, the "progress of Christianity" in Utah. Many persons "who might otherwise attend Presbyterian or Methodist services are afraid of losing their water and their wheat crop." At times the opposition of the Mormons took an aggressive form, and Martinus Nelson regarded the much advertised Mormon freedom as a farce. In his opinion, the Saints not only were intolerant but actually practiced a form of clerical tyranny instead of Christian brotherhood. "I have never found a people," he wrote in answer to an article by A. W. Winberg in Bikuben, "who fear each other more or are more distrustful of each other. . . . Hundreds of Mormons here have not dared to write home to Scandinavia to tell their own relatives what the conditions really are." {51}

One feature of the Methodist mission in Utah — its educational program — met with a fair measure of success, mainly because of the general lack of public schools. Though the Methodist congregation in Salt Lake City numbered only 19 members in 1886, there were 91 pupils —50 from Mormon homes — in a school operated by the church. About 7 schoolteachers, mostly unmarried women, were appointed in 1885 for the whole of Utah. Instruction, much to Andrew Haagensen’s displeasure, was in English and thus departed from a distinctly Norwegian-Danish variety of Methodism. Early in 1887 Martinus Nelson reported 90 children and young people in the Sunday school. John Hansen spoke, late in 1888, of about 500 pupils in the day schools and of a similar number [246] in the Scandinavian Sunday schools. Haagensen records 405 pupils in the day schools maintained by the Norwegian-Danish division of the Utah Mission in 1891. {52}

"The first Scandinavian Methodist camp meetings in Utah," Professor Arlow Andersen writes, "were held during the first ten days of June, 1889, at Richfield." Christian Jorgen Heckner, a native of Norway who later became editor of Vidnesbyrdet (The Testimony), west-coast organ of Norwegian-Danish Methodism, gave the following report of one of these meetings: "The tent was packed and hundreds stood outside. Only six years ago our first preacher at that place could not hold meetings in the evening because it was impossible to preserve order. Now even the leading Mormons extend their hands in respect." {53}

The Methodists, though keenly aware of the many difficulties involved, obviously regarded Utah as a fairly promising mission field, especially during the latter half of the 1880’s. In 1886 Franklin again went east and raised $7,000 by subscription for the construction of a new church building in Salt Lake City. In Brigham City a hall was rented with funds provided by the Church Extension Society. In the previous year the presiding bishop appointed preachers for four circuits as well as for Salt Lake City congregation. Something like optimism crept into the letters of Martinus Nelson in 1887. At Spanish Fork, where a new mission had been opened in the previous year, he found a population of between 2,500 and 3,000, "half of whom are Scandinavians, mostly Danish." At his own church in Salt Lake City, Nelson, assisted by Nielsen Staalberg of Brigham City, began a series of special meetings on New Year’s Eve. Twice, he reported, the church was crowded to capacity. {54}

Nevertheless, Methodist strength was unimpressive. At the [247] close of 1887 its Utah mission numbered only 348. While it is impossible to measure the influence of the schools and camp meetings, their success was obviously insufficient to offset the growing conviction that "Utah is a hard ground to plow, even harder than China." {55} In 1889 seven pastors were appointed to serve three specific congregations at Ogden, Brigham City, and Salt Lake City, and five circuits (Richfield, Hyrum, Mount Pleasant, Ovid, and Provo-Spanish Fork); two women missionaries were also named. {56}

At times it is difficult for the student to separate the work of the Scandinavian division from the Methodist Utah Mission as a whole, as the Norwegian-Danish organization was never really distinct from the American Methodist Church. Prior to 1880, work among Scandinavians was regarded merely as a specialized missionary activity within the larger church. From 1880 to 1943 it was organized, in the Midwest, as a separate conference. Non-Scandinavian Methodist bishops presided over the annual meetings of the Norwegian Danish Conference without understanding the language used in the addresses, which was usually Norwegian.

In 1888 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church organized the Scandinavian Mormon mission into the Norwegian-Danish District of the English-speaking Colorado Conference, with Martinus Nelson as presiding elder. At that time there were small Scandinavian congregations at Spanish Fork, Brigham City, Santaquin, Mount Pleasant, Moroni, Elsinore, and Richfield, as well as Salt Lake City. The total regular membership was only about 78, but some 300 children attended the Scandinavian day schools. The Norwegian-Danish division of the Utah mission numbered about [248] 114 in 1891, and 60 had applied for membership; there were 405 pupils in the Scandinavian day schools. In 1892, the General Conference of the church authorized the organization of the Western Norwegian-Danish Mission Conference, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah; but in 1898 Scandinavian work among the Mormons was returned to the American Mission Conference of Utah. The work continued, but declined in significance as time slowly erased the language barriers and there seemed to be a call for a Methodist attack against Mormonism. One of the last reports from Utah to appear in the Talsmand indicated that in 1900 only 5 men were working exclusively among Scandinavians. {57}


Mormon reactions to rival Christian churches can be easily imagined, but they are worth mentioning, as they tell not a little of Mormon thought and feeling — especially in contrast to Methodism.

Bikuben observed in 1883 that a former Mormon missionary in Norway named Hol was now Preacher P. Franklin, who had been called by the Methodists to work in Sanpete County. "Our countrymen," the paper said, "can now become Methodists and have a Scandinavian leader." This, it added, was better than becoming Presbyterians and having to listen to an English-speaking minister. If the Saints wished to return to Lutheranism, on the other hand, they would have to go to Salt Lake City, where there was a Lutheran spokesman of some kind — not a minister exactly; it wasn’t clear just what he was, as he said very little. {58}

"C.C.A.C." used stronger language than the editor of Bikuben in describing a Methodist service at Ephraim in 1884. After commenting favorably on the singing and organ playing, he wrote that when he looked at the face of the minister, Franklin, who had belabored the Saints so shamelessly in Den [249] christelige talsmand, and heard him speak of himself as God’s servant, "C.C.A.C." thought of "wolves in sheep’s clothing" and of Christ’s words about them. He added, "According to his own admission, Franklin has traveled about in the East during the past six months, apparently with the purpose in mind of raising money for the Utah mission" but really to "tell cock-and-bull stories about the Mormons." What he really succeeded in doing in Utah was to "make credulous children of the devil" worse than they already were. {59}

A fundamental difference in outlook between Methodism and Mormonism is revealed in the newspaper controversies of the 1880’s. The December 31, 1884, issue of Den christelige talsmand attacked the Saints because they staged a ball on the eve of a missionary’s departure for Denmark. P. O. Thomassen, in answering the article, which was obviously written by Martinus Nelson, explained that it was common practice to stage such parties to raise funds for missionaries of modest means. A hall or schoolhouse was usually provided free and the entry fees were turned over to the person who was leaving. What, he asked, was wrong in this? Other churches put on bazaars, strawberry suppers, lotteries, and the like, and in some, young girls sold kisses at a dollar each for a worthy cause. Thomassen had lived in Scandinavia and there had seen many evening parties of a similar nature, where people listened to singers and danced. Not only were such gatherings harmless but they also kept young people from "undesirable places." Nevertheless, they were now less common, because other means of raising travel funds had been encouraged.

The particular ball mentioned, it turned out, had taken place in Salt Lake City, where the bishop of the eighth ward had provided the hall and had given his sanction in other ways. In discussing this, Bikuben was less temperate than Thomassen. Mentioning that other Scandinavian papers in America had reprinted the Nelson article and had invited Danish [250] editors to do the same — to warn people against a missionary who danced — Bikuben had first thought that no newspapers in Denmark would heed "such nonsense" put out by "so-called Christian missionaries"; it proved to have been wrong, however, as the story had been picked up, by, of all papers, Social democraten! Gentile newspapers, unfortunately, were not so ready to reprint answers from Bikuben. {60}

Methodists continued to attack the Mormons because of their fondness for the dance and for other reasons. In 1887, Nelson reported a Scandinavian gathering in Hyrum at which young people had danced and staged "Til sæters," a popular Norwegian comedy. Nelson’s account had been based on a letter sent Bikuben by T. A. Thoresen. Bikuben was quick to defend Thoresen, said that his story had been distorted, asked what was wrong with "Til sæters," and offered Nelson a complimentary ticket to every dance staged by Mormons. {61}

Thoresen himself answered Nelson more extensively, replying to a great many charges but especially to an article in Taismand of March 9, 1887, in which, according to Thoresen, Nelson had hypocritically set himself up as a judge. Thoresen admitted that many rascals had come to Utah, but denied that they had come because of lying agents in Europe. He said, too, that when Zion appeared in all its glory, it would have no place for misfits. He then denied a number of additional accusations against Mormon missionaries in Scandinavia. He was particularly concerned, however, with Nelson’s implications that card playing and drinking were common Scandinavian Mormon practices. Thoresen said that those most given to the bottle were the kind who visited the Methodist church. "I am told," he added, "that some of this variety are now on trial. He [Nelson] accuses them of being Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that some of them have been expelled, and several will be if they don’t change their ways. We have no use for drunkards, gamblers, whoremasters, and the like." When [251] Zion was realized in its full glory, all such elements would depart from the Mormon fold. "The tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest."

Thoresen advised Nelson to cease lying about the Mormons. What did they — Nelson, the Methodist church, and Taismand — really care about Thoresen’s report of a harmless Scandinavian meeting? He, Thoresen, never wrote about Methodist events. And he added this bit: "We are not so long-faced that we cannot visit a theater, concert, or dance; if we do this are we then committing a sin?" In conclusion, he accused Nelson of spreading stories that Joseph Smith had asked to be taken into the Methodist Church, but had been refused because he was not sufficiently Christian — and then had founded the Mormon Church; and that in Brigham Young’s day it was not uncommon to see dogs in the streets of Salt Lake City with human heads in their mouths. {62}

Toward the Lutherans the Saints showed a somewhat friendlier spirit, possibly because the former were less inclined than the Methodists to use the frontal attack. Bikuben observed in 1885, however, that the Lutheran mission, which was about to build a church on Second South and Fifth East streets in Salt Lake City, would not fill this structure during its first century of life. The paper noted that the Lutherans built well but that their funds came from afar, and observed that there were no Mormons among the workmen. This was not only illiberal of the Lutherans but a good example of prejudging, and very stupid besides. Their pastor had missed an opportunity to win the good will of the Saints. It was poor policy, indeed, to send cranks and religious fanatics from Babylon: work among the Saints called for the best brains that could be found. {63} [252]


<1> An interesting feature of this venture in journalism is the fact that Thomassen was forced to obtain the characters æ and ø in California and to use Roman type, which could be secured in any newspaper shop; Utah posten (Salt Lake City), December 20, 1873. Files of the Utah newspapers cited in this study are in the Historian’s Office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, Salt Lake City.

<2> Utah posten, January 3, 1874.

<3> Utah posten regularly carried notices of religious services in Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches, conducted in the German, Scandinavian, and English languages. For Thomassen’s comment, see Utah posten, August 29, 1874.

<4> Utah posten, August 29, 1874.

<5> Utah posten, September 5, 1874.

<6> Bikuben, August 1, 1878.

<7> Bikuben, August 1, October 1, November 15, 1876. The issue of February 15, 1877, announced the arrival of new type and also printed some stories in Swedish. Editorially it admitted that the paper had begun in weakness, "in the small end of the horn."

<8> Bikuben, June 1, July 1, 1877, September 19, 1878.

<9> Bikuben, October 25, 1877, March 14, 1878.

<10> Bikuben, November 23, 1882.

<11> Bikuben, January 15, 1885.

<12> Bikuben, October 16, 1884.

<13> Utah posten, January 1, 14, 1885; Bikuben, January 22, 1885.

<14> An editorial quoted a letter from Erastus Snow of November 19, 1884, which not only expressed approval of Utah posten but also thanked the Scandinavians for the support they had given Bikuben; Utah posten, January 1, 1885.

<15> Utah posten, January 1, 1885.

<16> Utah posten, January 7, 1885.

<17> Utah posten, February 25, 1885; Bikuben, March 5, 1885.

<18> Utah posten, January 28, March 25, April 1, 1885; Bikuben, April 2, 1885.

<19> Utah posten, April 8, 1885. Bikuben announced April 16, 1885, that the joint cost of Morgenstjernen, a monthly, and of Bikuben would be $2.00, less than the price of many eastern Scandinavian papers. It also said that Thomassen, who had been a true friend in time of need, would no longer serve as editor, now that Winberg had taken Tenson as an equal partner.

<20> Bikuben, May 7, 1885, December 16, 1886.

<21> Bikuben, September 8, 1887.

<22> Bikuben, March 8, 1888.

<23> Bikuben, May 28, 1891.

<24> Bikuben, January 19, 1888, January 28, 1892.

<25> Utah posten, July 18, 1874.

<26> Utah posten, July 25, 1874.

<27> Utah posten, April 11, 1874.

<28> Utah posten, July 25, 1874.

<29> Utah posten, August 1, 1874.

<30>The offending ads read:

"This is the first time in Utah’s history that Scandinavians have been candidates for some of the more important public offices; now our countrymen should do what they can to elect them."

"Our countrymen should cast their vote for Scandinavian candidates at the forthcoming election."

"S. J. Jonasson will deliver a political address tomorrow at 5 P.M. in the Liberal Institute."

"Scandinavians! Look to whom you give your vote next election day; do what you can to elect some of our countrymen."

"Give your votes to S. J. Jonasson for probate judge and to Engineer C. L. Ericson for surveyor."

<31> Utah posten, August 1, 1874. For an interesting discussion of a subsequent Swedish revolt against church-sponsored Scandinavianism, see William Mulder, "Mother Tongue, ‘Skandinavisme,’ and ‘the Swedish Insurrection’ in Utah," in Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly, 7:11—20 (January, 1956).

<32> Bikuben, August 2, 1877, August 19, 1880.

<33> Bikuben, January 23, November 13, 1890.

<34> Bikuben, March 19, 1891.

<35> Bikuben, January 28, March 10, 1892, January 19, 1893. The Scandinavian Democratic Club also continued to function.

<36> Bikuben, June 10, 1886.

<37> Advertisements in Bikuben suggest a vigorous Scandinavian sentiment, and they invite careful study and interpretation.

<38> See Kenneth O. Bjork, "Mormon Missionaries and Minnesota Scandinavians," in Minnesota History, 86:285—293 (December, 1959).

<39> Fædrelandet og emigranten (La Crosse, Wisconsin), October 27, 1870.

<40> Chr. Hvistendahl, "Gjennem Omaha og Salt Lake City til San Francisco," in Kirkelig maanedstidende (Decorah, Iowa), 16:8—12 (January 1, 1871).

<41> Nordisk folkeblad (Minneapolis), September 20, 1871.

<42> Norden (Chicago), April 15, 1875. Froiseth’s name appears frequently in the Mormon story. As deputy clerk in the federal supreme court, Utah Territory, in 1878, he appealed to Scandinavians through Bikuben to consult him about filing claims to railroad land. In the same year he traveled to the settlements on behalf of the General Land Office; he also handled naturalization problems. In 1885 he urged immediate acquisition of free government land.

<43> Skandinaven (Chicago), August 17, 1875. The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a term given to the slaughter, by Indians assisted and encouraged by Mormons, of a company of emigrants en route to California.

<44> Skandinaven, August 17, 1875.

<45> Norden, October 3, 1888.

<46> Skandinaven, February 17, 1886.

<47> Skandinaven, March 17, 1886; Bikuben, February 21, 1889; Folkebladet (Minneapolis), April 15, 1891. Aas gave the following population figures for Scandinavians in Utah: Danes 25,000, Swedes 20,000, Norwegians 5,000 to 8,000; there were about 2,000 of each in Salt Lake City.

<48> Den christelige talsmand (Chicago), August 19, 1879, quoted by Arlow W. Andersen in ‘The Utah Mission," a manuscript account of Norwegian-Danish Methodism. A copy of this paper, on which much of this subject is based, is in the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association. A file of Den christelige talsmand is in the Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Illinois. All references to Talsmand are from Andersen’s manuscript.

<49> Andrew Haagensen, Den norsk-dansk methodismes historie paa begge sider havet, 161 (Chicago, 1884); Den christelige talsmand, August 29, November 14, 1883.

<50> Den christelige talsmand, November 14, 1883.

<51> Den christelige talsmand, September 12, 1883, May 28, June 25, 1884.

<52> Haagensen, Den norsk-dansk methodismes historie, 162—167; Den christelige talsmand, August 5, 1885, January 1, July 16, 1889.

<53> Den christelige talsmand, June 25, 1889. Heckner was then serving as pastor at Mount Pleasant.

<54> Haagensen, Den norsk-dansk methodismes historie, 163—165.

<55> Martin T. Larson, in Memorial Journal of Western Norwegian-Danish Methodism, quoted by Andersen in "The Utah Mission." The Larson pamphlet, a paper-bound booklet of 42 pages (Portland, Oregon, 1944), is in the possession of Professor Andersen.

<56> Haagensen, Den norsk-dansk methodismes historie, 165; Den christelige talsmand, July 16, 1889. Christian Treider, on a visit in 1890, reported that the Utah mission had begun publication of Utah tidende (Salt Lake City); Den christelige talsmand, August 19, 1890.

<57> Haagensen, Den norsk-dansk methodismes historie, 163—167; Den christelige talsmand, July 16, 1889, June 23, 1891, September 6, 1900.

<58> Bikuben, September 27, 1883.

<59> Bikuben, May 1, 1884.

<60> Bikuben, January 8, February 26, 1885. Social democraten was published in Copenhagen.

<61> Bikuben, March 17, 1887.

<62> Bikuben, April 21, 1887. Thoresen’s feud with Nelson continued in the issues of May 5 and December 29, 1887.

<63> Bikuben, October 1, 1885. On December 31, 1885, Bikuben announced that the Zion congregation (Swedish Lutheran) had moved into its new church. The Reverend J. A. Krantz was its pastor.

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