Christiana smiled as she counted the last of the coins. She carefully placed them in the small wooden box and closed the lid. “It is getting so heavy!” she thought as she slid the box into its hiding place under her bed. “Surely I am the richest girl in all of Denmark!” she exclaimed aloud.
Christiana Pedersen had been tending her father’s sheep for as long as she could remember, watching over them and keeping them safe from harm. She loved the green hills near her home in Oudrup in northern Denmark. She enjoyed spending her days in the open air with the gentle sheep.
Each time her father took the sheep to market or sheared their wool, he gave Christiana part of the money earned. Christiana always put her money into a special box, never spending any of it. Her father would put her on his knee and tease, “Whatever will you do with all that money? You are getting so much!”
“I will save it all,” Christiana would reply. “I don’t know why, but someday I will need it!” Her father would chuckle and shake his head. His daughter was so unlike all the other children her age who spent their coins as soon as they got them. He was proud of Christiana. What a good girl she was!
Christiana was about 20 years old when some men wearing dark suits and coats came to her little village. She heard them on the street corners, talking to passersby about the mysterious book they held in their hands. One day when Christiana and her mother were shopping in the village, they stopped to listen to the men. Christiana learned that they were missionaries from faraway America. They had come to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Denmark. The book was the Book of Mormon, the story of an ancient people who lived in the Americas. Part of the book recounted a visit of Jesus Christ to those people after His Resurrection.
Christiana’s family attended a church in her village, and she already knew about Jesus Christ from her study of the Bible. She had a warm feeling as she listened to the missionaries speak about the Savior. Her mother bought one of the books from the men and accepted a few tracts [pamphlets] that explained the beliefs taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Christiana’s father was angry when he heard that his wife and daughter had listened to the missionaries. He forbade them from joining “that American church.”
Her mother had a little wooden chest next to the bake oven where she placed the precious missionary tracts and the Book of Mormon. Christiana continued to read and study them. She was drawn to the sacred words and felt a growing testimony of their truthfulness, but she honored her father and did not meet with the missionaries nor join the Church.
At the age of 21, Christiana decided that she must follow the promptings of the Spirit and be baptized. Her father was furious! “I warn you, Christiana,” he shouted, “if you try to cross the ocean with those Mormons, you will surely be lost at sea. I will not help you with this foolishness.”
Christiana was not frightened by her father’s words; she had a strong testimony that the truth had been restored to the earth. Although she had to leave her home and family to join the Saints in Zion, she was baptized on October 25, 1856.
As Christiana counted the coins in her little treasure box, she knew why she had felt so strongly about saving all the money she had earned tending her father’s sheep. She had just enough to take her to join the Saints who were traveling west to the Great Salt Lake Valley. She was so grateful to her Heavenly Father. He had helped her to know that this money must be saved to help her obtain a treasure greater than all the money in the world—a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and a place with His Saints.
[First in Our Lives]
“We seek to put the kingdom of God … first in our lives because we know that our hearts will follow what we treasure.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Christians in Belief and Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 72.
Christiana Pedersen left the Bol Farm in Oudrup, Denmark, in the winter of 1856, traveling to Copenhagen. She boarded the ship L. N. Hvidt to England on April 18, 1857. In Liverpool, England, she boarded the Westmoreland with 504 other Church converts on April 25, 1857. The ship arrived in Philadelphia on May 31, 1857, after a five-week voyage. She then traveled by train to Iowa City, arriving on July 9. She left three days later with the Seventh Handcart Company, beginning her long walk to Utah. She later married Christian Frederick Nelson Twede and was the mother of eight children. Her mother, Anna Marie, joined her daughter in America in 1878 after Christiana’s father’s death.