Blast from the Past

I served a mission for the Church in Norway. This picture was taken at a mission-wide conference in the back yard of the Mission home in Oslo after our evening meetings. The picture is dated 1 September 1962. The first image is a detail with me clearly visible. In the large picture, I am on the front row, seven from the left.

I had a wonderful experience there. I learned so many things about myself. When I was first called to go, my thoughts were typically about all the things that I would gain–foreign travel, learning a language, making friends, prestige among family and friends. It was mostly about how I was going to benefit. I still remember the moment I realized that I had stopped thinking about myself and what was in it for me. I was totally engrossed in the work, serving others and worrying about other people’s problems and how I could help. It was a marvelous moment.

I have often thought that one of the truly inspired programs of the Church is the mission program where a 19-year-old devotes his entire day studying the scriptures and helping others. Cutting the apron strings, forgetting about dating, maturing into men. When missionaries come home they are not boys any longer; they have learned discipline by following a rigorous schedule, relying on the Lord and concentrating on the higher things of life. The members treated us with respect and expected us to conduct ourselves with the utmost decorum. I worked very hard to live up to that expectation.

Missionaries live on as little as possible. My parents supported me on my mission by sending me a check for $70 per month. This amount did not allow very many luxuries. I was quite inspired that the local saints were in awe of the missionaries.

I went to Norway about 15 years after the end of the Second World War. Of course, the war was ancient history to me, but to the Norwegians it was still very fresh in their minds. They told me many stories about their struggles.

One member told me about a Russian prisoner of war who after being brought to Norway to do forced labor, digging trenches and building other fortifications, had escaped and found a hiding place in his barn. He was unaware the prisoner was in there until the war was over. He found a small space between the ceiling of the cow stalls and the hay loft. The hay insulated him, and the cows gave him warmth. At night he would crawl out and forage for food.

The beaches where the kids swam and played had been fortified with barbed wire and

gun emplacements. I was quite surprised that the barbed wire had been rolled aside to

give access to the beach, but not much else had been restored to the prewar state.

On my 21st birthday, I decided that I should get a portrait done to send home as a Christmas present. I guess this is really ancient history, isn’t it? Not quite as handsome as my dad but not homely either. I had no idea that I was this handsome at the time. I was timid, even shy.

 

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