Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Vilborg immigrated to Utah

(Taken from History of Icelandic Mission by David Ashby) Following is Elder Einar Eiriksson’s statement of missionary work in Iceland during the years 1873-1874 when my 2nd ggrandmother Vilborg Thordardottir was converted to Mormonism:

In the spring of 1873, two of the Icelandic members who had settled in Spanish Fork, namely, Elders Loptur Johnson (Jonsson) and Magnus Bjarnason, were called on missions to their native land. They arrived on the Westman Islands July 17, 1873, and immediately commenced missionary labors. At first they were well received by their relatives and friends, but soon Lutheran clergy began to oppose them. One of these denounced the missionaries from the pulpit, subsequently petitioned the district judge to undertake an investigation as to where the Elders had visited the people in their homes for the purpose of teaching the principles of “Mormonism”. The Elders were summoned to appear in court three times together with witnesses. After considerable suffering, exposure to cold weather and persecution, Elders Johnson (Jonsson) and Bjarnason baptized nine persons on Westman Island; among them was myself (Einar Eiriksson), who having been apprised of their coming by dreams and visions was ready to receive the message and was subsequently baptized May 9, 1874.

Interestingly enough Martin Luther who started the Lutheran Church in Europe that dominates many European countries nowadays including Iceland, experienced persecution when he broke away from the Catholic religion that controlled most of the civilized world in his day. As a German monk, he tacked his list of grievances on the church door in 1500 against the Catholic Church that he felt had apostatized from the primitive church established by Christ. Similarly, Joseph Smith, later to become the Mormon prophet, broke from his family's traditions as his father believed in Methodism and his mother in Presbyterianism in New York state. Joseph sought to know which church to join and was told to join none of them, but to restore the original church as it existed in Christ's day.

Vilborg was converted to Mormonism, but had to wait till she arrived in Utah to be baptized. She had married Sigurdur Arnason who accompanied her and her four children on the trip. May 29, 1874. The names of the emigrants who left for America are: Gudrun Bjarnadottir and daughter Helga; Thorgerdur, Groa Benedict, Sigurdur Arnason, his wife (Vilborg), and four children (Johann, Sophia, Olof or Olive and Vilhjalmar or William). Here's a description of their journey. Elder Magnus Bjarnason tells us...We sailed from the island May 29, 1874, on board the ship “Hermine”, accompanied by 11 persons who were all baptized after we arrived in Utah. We reached England June 10, 1874, thence sailed per steamship “Nevada” for New York, where we arrived June 21st; thence we continued the journey by railroad to Salt Lake City, Utah, where we arrived July 2nd. They settled in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Interestingly enough after Vilborg settled in Utah she would return to her original Lutheran faith. Her youngest son William was killed in a horse riding accident at age 13 in Utah and never married. Her other three children: John Peter (photo below), Gudrun Sophia (photo above-she died at age 30 giving birth to her 7th child) and Olof Thorum or Olive Annie-my great grandmother were married. They all raised large families. Many of Vilborg's descendents were brought up in the Mormon faith and now number in the hundreds residing in Utah and Taber, Alberta, Canada which is where John Peter colonized after leaving Spanish Fork. (Photos from The Icelandic Saga: Utah Story by David Ashby.)


SandyCarlson said...

Wow, Lin. This is a complex and compelling story.

Kay said...

Amazing history, Lin.

Rambling Woods said...

It is interesting to read the roots of a family member's faith