Saturday, July 8, 2017

How Firm a Foundation--and What Singing! The Johan Söderholm Journal

The following story, found in the journal kept by Johan Söderholm, my 2nd great-grandfather, shows the clear-minded and frank faith of the early converts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How could a simple factory worker, but newly baptized, find the words and the power to defend a position before a learned Lutheran priest, a man whose name yet appears in Växjö's biographical registers? While the narrator obviously has a gift with words, the answer is as simple as he was, and neither priest nor police mattered to him at all. As President Boyd K. Packer would often remind us: All members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had hands laid upon their heads and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which "giveth utterance." The Truth is received, loved, studied--and shared.

Truth must be shared:

"In the month of June, J. Cannon and I rented a hall on the west of the farmer Peter Johan Magnusson's house. We wanted to use it as our meeting hall. We were going to use it for the first time on the next Prayer day with Brother J. Cannon, and Brother Andersson from Norrkoping.

We began the meeting at 4:00 P. M. when the Wäxjö Township Parish Priest, whose name was Granstrand, came up with the entire Wäxjö police force with him, and fisherman Graffman leading the way. He wanted to prevent the people from coming in and hearing our message, but we started singing and the people continued to come.

Brother Cannon opened the meeting with prayer and song. Brother A. Andersson spoke and bore his testimony to the people in its entirety. At the meeting's end the Lutheran Priest Granstrand stood up and said it was false doctrine, and that Joseph Smith was a false prophet; that the doctrine was contrary to that of the pure Evangelical Lutheran Church, and what revelations were claimed were of the devil.

There was a physician, whose name was Hjällenqvist, who spoke to the brethren. I couldn't hear what they talked about because the Priest Granstrand called me privately into an anteroom and asked me if I had left the Lutheran Church. I said yes. He asked me why I had done so. I answered him that the Lutheran Church did not have the truth because it was built on a false premise and therefore it must stagger as those who stood outside the door for it was not built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets but upon Reformers whom God had never sent; but I knew for certain that God had sent the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that He had revealed Himself to him, and had given him the authority to establish God's Kingdom and the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth, and had commanded him to preach the Gospel. That same Gospel have I accepted and therein I am happy and fortunate.

All the same, he said, it was a deception. I said to him that the church which is not built upon the foundation of Prophets and Apostles is not true. He said accordingly then you believe in a prophet. I said we believe in God and in those whom He had sent and in those whom He would send.

Then the Priest rushed out. . . "

As Johan Söderholm continues his account, and once the threatening fisherman also said his piece and went his way, we learn that the congregation simply returned to its singing. "Babylon's gentility," as grandfather terms it, could not "interrupt [their] rejoicings" (see Alma 30:16). They "heeded them not" (1 Nephi 8:18). It was clear: once "awake unto God," nothing on earth could interrupt the desire of these Saints of the Dawn to "sing redeeming love" (see Alma 5; 26:13). And we know from the journal that as they sang, they sang of the glory and blessings of the Holy Temple in Mount Zion, and all this years before Temple spires in St. George, Manti, Logan, and Great Salt Lake City, pierced crystalline skies.

In the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are happy and fortunate: "If ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now" (Alma 5).

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