We had a great ten days in Sweden. My daughter Sophie finished her mission there on October 12, 2017. Most of our time was spent meeting with former investigators and other people who were meaningful to Sophie. Eating took up most of our time too! There is a Swedish word, “fica” which means getting together for pastries and visiting, like “We need to fica”. We did a lot of that!
Since this is a blog focusing on Fierce Mormon Mothering, I knew I had to write about some of the Fierce Mormon Mothers that I met in Sweden.
Sophie had many Swedish Grandmothers that she adopted. Angelic Anna-Lisa is one of them. She is 94 years old, living by herself still, energetic and a lively conversationalist. We sat in her tidy apartment and listened to her story. She converted in 1940 but her husband did not. They had 6 children together. She said that for thirty years she took her 6 children to church alone. Yes, please read that again. Alone. She lives close to the ward house now and can walk, but she said all those years the church was on the other side of town. She would take three buses to church with 6 children. I am sure that’s why they located the new chapel by her. Someone in Heaven poked whoever was looking for real estate, and whispered in their ear, “She has stretched so much to get to church. Let’s make it easier!” I think about the cold and dark winter days in Sweden and how she would have bundled up six children every Sunday. Finally, finally in 1970, her husband joined the Church. “And,” she said, “Once he was in, he was 100% in.”
I asked her how it happened. She said one of her sons had moved to America and had wanted them to come and visit him. Her husband said, “You go, I will stay.” She insisted that he come. She said, ” I am not going without you!” So they both went. They toured church sites and Temple square. She said they went to 6 or 7 visitor centers which is no small feat back in the day. When her husband could see how their son was thriving in his gospel membership and also how established the LDS Church was in America it had a deep effect on him. She said the Church was so small and struggling in Sweden at that time and that the trip to America showed her husband that the Church was more rooted than just the small branch they attended. She said when they got home they had a family home evening with their children. Her four-year-old grandson was in charge, and he was having everyone bear their testimonies, going around the circle of family. He said to his Grandpa, “Are you going to bear your testimony?” And her husband did. He was baptized a week later.
Anna-Lisa then said that for the next two years, she and her husband read the Standard Works and the Miracle of Forgiveness every day. They would spend a half hour a day every day reading together before he went to work. I loved hearing about her strength with taking her children to church and then how she helped her husband get firmly rooted in his testimony. She said he became a sealer in the Stockholm Temple and later when they had temple marriages of their grandchildren he got permission from the First Presidency to seal four of their grandchildren to their spouses in other temples. As she sat in the temple on those happy days she must have reflected on their journey together and how her dedication to the gospel brought them to those sealing rooms with their posterity.
We took pictures of our group of four with her. And then she got out her iPad and posted the picture on Instagram. We were so impressed that she could do that!
One funny thing was, she couldn’t get over how much my husband Craig looked like her husband’s brother. She kept commenting and exclaiming over that.
I left Anna-Lisa’s apartment with such deep and profound respect. I wanted to be her when I grew up in my 90’s! I remember my mother told me stories about Grandma Adams, who is pictured above. She and my Grandpa got married in the temple but he stopped going to church during their marriage. My mother said when we were all young and she was always out in the hall of the Church with one child or another, she would think, “Why come, when I am never hearing the talks?” Mom said that Grandma’s strong example of always coming to church, even alone with no one to help, helped my mother go, Sunday after Sunday, through those hard toddler years she was experiencing. My Dad was active but was in a leadership position during that time and so my mother handled us in the pews.
Anna-Lisa has 22 grandchildren, (barnbarn in Swedish) and 35 great-grandchildren (barnbarns barn) to date. She has a picture of 5 generations with one of her great-granddaughters who she is holding, hanging in her foyer. All of her children aren’t active, but the majority of her posterity are because she hung in there. I think of the couplet, “What-E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.” She did and she does. So fierce, so committed, and what a light!