When Karl woke up, he jumped right out of bed. Usually he liked to stay curled up in the covers until his mother called him for breakfast, but today was special: today he started school. Karl could hardly wait to learn to read and write. And his friend Joey would be starting school too.
Karl put on a clean shirt and trousers and slicked his hair with water from the well. Then he took the milk pail his mother had packed his lunch in. He walked carefully along the dirt road so he wouldn’t scuff his shoes. When he reached the one-room wooden schoolhouse, he slid into a seat beside Joey.
The schoolmaster was a stern-looking man with bushy eyebrows. He called the classes up one by one to recite their lessons. Karl studied his primer so he wouldn’t make any mistakes. Soon he could read, “B-a, ba, b-e, be, b-i, bi, b-o, bo, b-u, bu.”
At lunchtime he and Joey ate beside the brook that ran by the schoolhouse and played with the other boys until the schoolmaster rang the bell to call them inside. When all the boys and girls were seated, the schoolmaster called out two names: “Karl Rytting and Joseph Hoagland, please come forward.”
Karl felt his insides churn. He hadn’t had time to study his afternoon lessons. What if he made a mistake? But when he and Joey reached the front of the room, the schoolmaster asked only one question. “I have been told that you boys are Mormons,” he said. “Is that true?”
Karl’s mouth was dry and his knees shook, but he looked right at the schoolmaster and said, “Yes, it is true.” Joey did the same.
“Then you must go home. We do not allow Mormons in our school.”
Karl fought back the tears as he picked up his coat and milk pail. As he and Joey walked back along the dusty road, he began to cry.
Soon Joey turned into the path that led toward his house, and Karl continued on toward his. When he walked in the door, his mother asked, “Karl, what’s wrong? Why are you home from school so soon? Are you sick?”
“No, Mother,” Karl answered. “The schoolmaster said Joey and I can’t go to school because we are Mormons.” He felt his tears welling up again.
“Oh, Karl, I am so sorry,” his mother said as she held him close. “We knew when we were baptized that some people would not understand. But the true gospel of Jesus Christ is worth anything we have to give up.”
“I know,” Karl said, crying into his mother’s skirt.
Then a voice came from the corner of the room. It was Grandfather Jansson, who had first brought the missionaries to their home two years ago. “You can still learn to read if you want to,” he said.
“How can I learn to read if I can’t go to school?” Karl asked.
Grandfather Jansson smiled. “I will teach you,” he said. “We will read the Bible together. Would you like that?”
“Yes, very much.”
Grandfather opened the Bible and beckoned for Karl to stand by his chair. His finger pointed at the words as he said them: “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).
“In the beginning was the Word,” Karl repeated, looking at the letters. It was a good beginning, after all.
Karl Frederick Rytting moved to Utah with his family in 1880. Thirteen years later he returned to Sweden as a missionary and met his old friend Joey, who was then Elder Hoagland.
Karl’s early studies with his grandfather served him well on his mission. On one occasion he was arrested and taken before an archbishop and 12 bishops of the state church. They questioned him until one of the bishops said it was useless to try to catch him, for it was “obvious that he had the Bible memorized.”
“You … will need a lot of courage —courage to stand up to peer pressure, to resist temptation, to withstand ridicule or ostracism, to stand up for the truth.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2003, 110.