In 1959 I was living in Helsinki with my four children, working toward a specialty in pediatrics. Although I was a doctor, we had little money, and my hours were long and strenuous. Having lost my sweetheart in World War II, and because of a later unfortunate marriage, I had an unhappy attitude toward life, and religion brought me no comfort. My only real joys were my wonderful children.
Then one day two young men called at my door and said that they were representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would have turned them away, but that long strange name sparked something in my memory. Ten years earlier I had read an article in a magazine about a man from America who claimed to be an apostle. I liked what this man, Ezra Taft Benson, had said about the doctrines of his church. I thought then that this might be the true church, if there was one. But too busy to think more about it, I brushed all such thoughts from my mind. Now, two of its representatives were standing at my door.
As the missionaries testified of the First Vision and of the Lord’s reply to young Joseph that there was no true church on earth, amazingly I believed them. I even accepted the story of Lehi and bought a Book of Mormon.
It was good to hear of the plan of salvation and the purpose of life. But when they suggested baptism, I replied with an emphatic “No!” I did not want to become a member of any religious group. I wanted to keep my freedom. Besides, I was afraid of what my neighbors would think. “Thank you,” I told them. “Now that I know what I want to know, you need not come back any more.” And they didn’t.
But in my heart there was no peace. One Sunday I slipped into a Latter-day Saint meeting. The spirit overwhelmed me, and a witness came to my soul. I knew the gospel was true and that I must join this church.
Strangely enough, I was not happy about it. I felt trapped, and I was still afraid my neighbors would turn against me. So I decided not to tell them; but on the day of our baptism my young son, who had just turned eight, went out and happily told all the neighbors that now we were Mormons. I had to face it. They laughed at me at first, but as weeks went by the hurt subsided and I was not afraid. A new joy filled my heart. I had found the true church. I could read and learn more and more. I could begin to know my Redeemer.
Perhaps my most faith-promoting experience was in helping to build our chapel in Kuopio in the early 1960s. Our small branch consisted of three elders and 75 or 80 women. Constructing the meetinghouse was difficult, but with the help of some building missionaries and the guidance of our project supervisor, we saw it completed. I was very busy with my profession at the time, being the only pediatrician in the city, but I sincerely wanted to help work on the building.
Then, curiously, a pediatrician came to our hospital and I was able to have him cover some of my calls. (He left Kuopio soon after the chapel was completed.) Laboring on the building was often hard and the weather sometimes got very cold. The temperature often dropped to 20 degrees below zero, numbing my hands until I could hardly hold the hammer and nails. Then I would repeat the words of a song to motivate me and give rhythm to my hammering: “If you love him, why not serve him?” It consisted of four beats—four hits with my hammer. I have adopted this for my motto.
Now I am privileged to serve as supervisor of the Finland Mission Relief Society, and a dream of many years was fulfilled last year when I visited Utah and got to know some dedicated people there. Since 1961 I have participated in semiannual excursions to the Swiss Temple and have completed 157 endowments. My two daughters have married in the temple, and one of my sons has completed a mission.