Missionary Moment: Our Small Deeds Are Made Great

Contributed By Steven R. Bjornn, West Main Ward, Rexburg Idaho Center Stake

  • 7 July 2017

Relatives of Elder John A. Widtsoe interact with a memorial statue of the former Apostle designed by Utah artist Dennis Smith on April 10, 2017, at Main Street Art in Alpine, Utah. Photo by Casey Adams, Deseret News.

In 1962, my missionary companion and I taught and baptized 17-year-old Arne Dahlø in Trondheim, Norway. Whenever we would go to the Dahlø home to teach Arne and his mother, his father would escape to the kitchen and pretend he had no interest in our message.

Eventually, however, he confessed to his family that he had been listening the whole time and that it was making sense. He was also baptized into the Church and later became a bishop and a stake president. He and his wife were able to do much good for others, and their service in the Church all began because Brother Dahlø had decided to listen to the gospel message that we were bringing to his son.

Years later, in 2016, two of my own sons asked if I would take them to Norway to meet Arne and others who had blessed my life during my time there. When we met with Arne and his wife, Arne told us about his work on a new project with the Historical Commission of Frøya, who wanted to commemorate Elder John A. Widtsoe. (See related story.)

Elder Widtsoe was native to Frøya, and he had lived with his mother and brother in Trondheim. One day, young John Widtsoe’s mother had him take her shoe to a local shoemaker, who just happened to be a Mormon. When he returned a few days later to retrieve the shoe, it came with a pamphlet tucked inside.

Sister Widtsoe took the pamphlet home, where she studied the gospel faithfully for the next two years. She and her sons were baptized and immigrated to Utah, where John began his education. He would later become an authority on agriculture and irrigation, and in 1921 he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. One pamphlet from a shoemaker had made a great difference.

I also spoke to Arne’s mother during my visit to Norway. I was reminded again of others I had taught on my mission and the good that they had since done for the Church members in their country. In the same way that one Latter-day Saint shoemaker had brought the gospel’s truth to the family of the young John A. Widtsoe, and like one man overhearing lessons from his kitchen and later joining the Church, the things that we do in the Lord’s service can have a much broader effect than we would ever guess.