My wife and I have discovered that Scandinavia is a beautiful land filled with people of great ability and promise. Our family has a special interest in Denmark. It is the ancestral home of my wife’s great-great-grandparents. These ancestors came from Aalborg, Veeborg, Vila, and Presta. One of her great-great-grandfathers was Jens Christian Johansen. He was born in Frederikssund in Jutland in 1832. We have been privileged to read his journal, and we have become more appreciative of the rich spiritual heritage we enjoy as a result of this righteous Danish ancestor.
Jens Johansen was an industrious man. He had grown up in poverty and had prayed that his children would not be required to go begging for food as he had done as a young man. He took a job at an early age. He worked as a stable boy. He learned to farm and to make wooden shoes. His integrity and ambition as a worker enabled him to purchase a farm in Hormesta in 1857. It was at this time that the missionaries came to Grandfather Johansen and his family. He accepted the restored gospel with the same enthusiasm and dedication that had characterized his working endeavors. He worked hard trying to help the Church increase in numbers and influence in his community. Church meetings were often held in his home. At that time there was the desire among many Scandinavians to immigrate to Utah. And Jens Johansen had this same desire. Since he couldn’t go himself, he sent his three daughters in advance. In one year they had earned enough money to help their parents to follow them. He called this a miracle.
Jens discovered that his Danish talents of thrift and industry were assets in his new homeland. It was not long before he bought a small farm and erected a home on it for his family. He located in Elsinore, Utah. Grandfather Johansen’s faith in the Lord enabled him to deal successfully with hardships and challenges. It allowed him to live an enjoyable life. He enjoyed music. He loved to sing and to play the accordion. He liked to speak in Church meetings. He records that his favorite meetings were the ones spoken in Danish. He stated that they were “spoken loud enough so we could all hear and say amen.” He couldn’t understand why those speaking English always mumbled so no one could understand. He took pride in the labor of his hands. His skills were often sought after by his associates. He would willingly provide help to those in need, and he gratefully acknowledged the contributions others made toward his own comfort and happiness.
One of grandfather’s finest qualities, and the one that I’d like to make the focus of this article, was his ability to forgive. Examples from his journal are many. Reading them has not only built up our love and respect for him, but it has given my family a greater desire and determination to live this same principle.
In grandfather’s journal dated September 28, 1906, we find the following: “As I piled my hay and did my work, I took twelve piles and stuck over the fence to my neighbor, as they had no hay for the horse and cows; and we could see a little gone from our area the night before.” He declared, “I would rather give them a little than have them steal.”
The Savior taught us this principle of forgiving and how important it is in our lives. He said: “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
“And ye ought to say in your hearts—Let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” (D&C 64:9–11.)
When we forgive men in our hearts and let the Lord judge the acts of men, we create a condition whereby men can live in peace with one another. Forgiving others frees us of ill feelings toward them. It lifts the burden of grudges from our heads, and it puts us in a position of seeking forgiveness from the Lord for our own sins. A spirit of forgiveness enables us to remain in control of our thoughts, words, and actions. An attitude of forgiveness generates a feeling of peace and optimism about life. Being forgiving helps us to keep from being easily offended, and we are less likely to judge the intentions of others in a negative way. We are also ready to accept correction and criticism ourselves. In times when we may be wronged or mistreated, we can, in the spirit of love and peace, work out solutions to the problems. We can determine a positive course of action. If an honorable agreement cannot be reached, the attitude of forgiveness provides us the strength to turn the other cheek in the spirit of love.
On one occasion some men were constructing a watering gate in a canal on grandfather’s farm. He noticed that they were placing the gate in the wrong location. He tried to persuade them to put the gate in a location that they had originally agreed upon. The foreman became angry. He said, “Johansen, that will be enough from you. We’re going to do just as we please.” Grandfather replied, “And so will all robbers.” Then he began to sing the words of a Danish song that begins, “Be careful what you say.” These words were a reminder to him to remain forgiving. The men continued to build the watering gate, but the gate did grandfather very little good. He never mentioned the wrong that these men had done to him, but he often recorded how he had to pray for rain because he could get so little water from the canal. He also records that the rain came.
Yes, prayer is a very important part of the spirit of forgiveness. We must ask the Lord to forgive those who offend us and soften our hearts toward them. Through prayer we may find the strength to forgive others and leave their judging in the hands of the Lord. We also receive comfort and direction for our own lives. Grandfather Johansen’s life has demonstrated the value of living the principles of forgiveness and obedience. His faith in the Lord enabled him to live a full and happy life, a life which has left his posterity a rich spiritual heritage. I am grateful to him and to my Heavenly Father that my family are the beneficiaries of that righteous man.