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IN SWEDEN, `NEW DAY’ BRINGS BRIGHT FUTURE

SHARE IN SWEDEN, `NEW DAY’ BRINGS BRIGHT FUTURE

Many members of the Church - and particularly Church leaders - in the greater Stockholm area speak or the "new day" that has dawned in Sweden. The terminology comes from a prayer of dedication that Elder Thomas S. Monson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve and now first counselor in the First Presidency, pronounced on Sweden on July 8, 1977.

Time after time, members and leaders the Church News interviewed in the Stockholm area spoke of the prayer. They remember the blessings it promised, as well as their responsibilities to help move forward the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their land.President Monson, who has visited Sweden numerous times, offered the prayer for "the purpose of dedicating and rededicating" the land. Since missionaries have come to Sweden for many generations, there is no doubt that a prayer of dedication was offered at an earlier time. However, since historical records could not be found that indicated a formal prayer of dedication had been given specifically for the land of Sweden, President Monson offered the prayer of dedication.

Sweden Stockholm Mission Pres. Arne Hedberg and his wife, Sister Gunnel Hedberg, spoke of the prayer and the encouragement it gives them as they work with 68 full-time missionaries and many stake missionaries. Pres. Hedberg referred to another phrase in the prayer that has become a theme of the Church in Sweden. "In the prayer of dedication, and many times since then, I have heard President Monson ask that the members of the Church in Sweden have a renewed determination to share the gospel," Pres. Hedberg said. "He asked that each member be as the Apostle Paul declared when he said, `I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.' (Rom. 1:16.) President Monson prayed that all the members would have a determination to invite others to a knowledge of the truth, to so live that our very lives may be testimonies in the lives of those who are investigating."

Pres. Hedberg recited a phrase from the prayer he apparently has repeated many times: "Let there be a spirit of cooperation between the membership of the Church and the missionary force which is unequaled in any other land, for we know the words of . . . President Spencer W. Kimball, to be true when he said: `When the membership of the Church unites with the missionary force, then all things become possible to them, and the growth of the Kingdom of God shall be assured.' "

Pres. Hedberg, with a smile that seemed to generate in his heart and come forth in full bloom on his face, said, "I can easily notice that where that happens, the Lord blesses the Church with progress. The old truth is evident: Follow the Brethen and their counsel and Zion will prosper."

The use of the word "Zion" in Sweden is significant. Since the first Latter-day Saint missionary, Elder John E. Forsgren, arrived in June 1850, thousands of noble and stalwart Swedes joined the Church. Many, heeding the call to "gather to Zion," immigrated to the United States and on to Utah. The Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints records that of the 19,147 converts who were baptized from the beginning in 1850 to the close of 1930, the number who heeded the call to immigrate to Utah totaled 8,545. Several thousand more immigrated in following years. Today members of the Church everywhere are generally encouraged to remain and help build Zion in their own countries.

Pres. Hedberg said, "The future of the Sweden Stockholm Mission is bright. The blood of Israel is here. Blessings have been pronounced over the inhabitants. Missionaries are not only finding people to teach, but people also seek them to be taught. Referrals from members and friends to the Church are increasing. It is a joy to work in such a climate."

Examples of members who help create such an enjoyable climate for Church growth in the greater Stockholm area are two stake presidents, Ulf Arne Girhammar, president of the Stockholm Sweden South Stake, and Gosta Korlof, who was sustained Aug. 20 as president of the Stockholm Sweden Stake when that stake was divided to create the Stockholm South stake. "Sweden has three stakes, all created by President Monson: Stockholm Sweden Stake, April 20, 1975; Goteborg Sweden Stake, Nov. 20, 1977; and Stockholm Sweden South Stake, Aug. 20, 1995."

Pres. Girhammar, 47, was baptized in 1970, after an older brother, Urban Girhammar, and their mother were baptized about five years earlier. Urban Girhammar is president of the Malmo District, Sweden Stockholm Mission.

"The missionaries came to my home, where I was living with my mother and brother," Pres. Ulf Girhammar said. "They became members after about six months. I was about 15 years old, and didn't take time to really listen, so I didn't become a member at that time. I was interested in only sports. I didn't investigate the Church in any way, but when I grew up, became older and more mature, I had this kind of testimony within me that said if anything is true, it is this Church. I told myself I had to do something about it.

"We were living in Umea, in the north of Sweden. In 1969 my brother, my good friend and I went to the south of Sweden to study at the university. At that time I had decided, without telling anyone, that I should investigate the Church, learn about the doctrine in detail and prepare myself to become a member. I was baptized March 27, 1970."

While working on studies for a degree in civil engineering, he attended a conference of the Church in 1972 at which he met Gudrum Karlsson, who had joined the Church in 1961 with her family. They were married in June 1973.

As did many Swedish Latter-day Saints before the Stockholm Sweden Temple was dedicated in 1985, they had a civil marriage ceremony in Sweden and immediately traveled to the Swiss Temple where they were endowed and sealed two days later. They have two sons. The eldest, David, 21, served in the Utah Ogden Mission; their youngest son, Olof, 19, is in military service.

Pres. Girhammar, a university professor, said, "Since my very earliest days, I have always had a strong belief in God. I was brought up by very, very good parents. I have a lovely mother. My father died when I was about 7, but he was a very strong father. I have a very good memory of him and what he stood for, and that has been with me all my life. When I was about 12, I was going to some churches, and prayed about where I should attend. I didn't find anything I felt was right. I remember a specific church I went to, and I said to myself, `If this is Christianity, I don't want to be a part of it.' I decided I had to keep this faith on my own and do the best I could on my own.

"I liked very much what I heard when the missionaries came but I wasn't mature enough to accept the gospel at that time. When I was older and took the time to really listen, I became converted. I have not had one day, not one moment, not one second, when I have had anything else but joy in being a member of the Church."

Pres. Korlof, 39, joined the Church when he was 21. He married Kristina Palm, a daughter of Gustav and Agnes Palm, who are among the loyal, dedicated members of the Church in Sweden. Brother Palm, a native of Norway who came to Sweden after World War II, is a sealer in the Stockholm Sweden Temple.

Pres. and Sister Korlof have four children: Linda, 15; Karl, 13; Erica, 9; and Filip, 6. Pres. Korlof has a master of science degree in technical physics, and a bachelor's degree in business administration. He works in international telecommunications and marketing. Sister Korlof is a nursery school teacher.

Pres. Korlof has served as a high councilor, and as a counselor in a bishopric and branch presidency. He also has served in the stake Young Men presidency, and as an elders quorum president.

To express what the gospel means to him, Pres. Korlof mentioned how, when he was a new member, he decided to stay home from Church one Sunday. "That was the worst Sunday I ever had," he said. "My soul needed the Spirit. I have never stayed home since."

The two stake presidents expressed their commitment to develop in the Stockholm area what they call "sound and fully-developed stakes" and to do their share in bringing about the blessings promised in the prayer of dedication on their country.