A Hole Chopped in the Ice


Anthon stepped from his doorway onto the cobbled street, hesitated, and turned back to his wife—“the best in the land” he called her.

“Are you coming, Ibine?”

His wife stepped out of the doorway. She was wrapped in woolen scarves and a heavy coat. The February night was icy cold. Their destination was the seashore, a few blocks from their home. The children followed Ibine out the door. Thorvald and Astra were too young to be baptized but not too young to be excited for their parents. Only Anthon didn’t feel excited. He was quiet and pensive while walking along the clean-swept streets of Aalborg.

As he passed his little garden, now covered with the white of winter, he remembered the first time he had met the missionaries almost two years ago. It was in the summer of 1893. They had come by and talked with him as he stood bent over, pruning bushes.

“Those missionaries planted a sweet seed in my heart that day. It all seemed sensible,” he remembered. As he walked slowly along he remembered other things, too. “The next day the minister came, and I told him what the missionaries had told me. He tore every word to pieces, and he filled me with his talk again. The next time the elders came, I told them what the minister told me. They taught me the gospel again and planted the seed again. It soon became obvious that I had to know for myself.”

The night was very dark. The children cuddled close to their parents. The hand of tiny Thorvald squeezed his father’s, and pretty little Astra clung to Ibine. Anthon looked down at Thor and remembered his own childhood. He remembered the cows he had herded, the wooden shoes he had worn in winter, his own sister who had died in a terrible blizzard too far from home to get help. He remembered the worried look of his father who couldn’t support his family of nine during the mid-1800s war with Germany. He remembered working from 2:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night on a farm in order to help. He remembered crying in bed at night. “I wondered what I was sent on this earth for. I couldn’t see what good I was doing. All I could see ahead was endless work to no real worthwhile end.”

The frigid cold gripped Anthon’s face, and he wondered if the children or Ibine were uncomfortable. The chilling breeze made him think of glacier ice, and he remembered learning that ice-age glaciers had left his Denmark an undulating flatland so suited to farming and agriculture. He was grateful that at least a few years of formal education were mandatory—that his country believed in the virtues of learning and working. He saw ships’ masts in the harbor poking above the fields.

He and his family were nearing the place where they would be baptized. A sick feeling of loneliness hit him in his stomach. “My homeland, my forefathers, all that has been good to me—am I giving up their trust in me for a far-fetched religion sprouted in a distant, upstart country?”

Then he and his little family turned the corner of the last block. They could see the ice-covered water clearly. Anthon felt the whitened wool next to his skin. He had been ordered to wear it constantly since his illness. His illness! Yes, he remembered the birth of his testimony. He had been healed after 12 months of life and death struggle with pneumonia. The elders had said that with faith and a special blessing called administration he could be healed. He had submitted to their counsel and believed. Shortly after Anthon had resolutely cleared away the dark clouds that had been gathering around his search for truth. He told the ministers of the other churches that he could not serve two masters. They had been good neighborhood friends, but with his decision to join the Mormons, that friendship ended—the ministers gave him up as a lost soul.

Every member of the Mormon church who lived in Aalborg was there on the seashore, some holding lanterns. It was a small but cheery group. They sang hymns and smiled. But Anthon was still quiet. He looked into the faces of his beautiful children and wondered if he was doing what was right for them. He knew he would have to find a private school for them because the prejudice in the public schools against the few Mormon children was too much for such young children to bear.

The singing was over. A prayer was given to open the meeting. The missionaries asked a blessing on Brother and Sister Jensen that as they were baptized they would not fall ill from the freezing temperatures. A hole was chopped in the ice. The sacred ordinance was performed for both Anthon and his wife, Ibine. The two new members were welcomed with hugs and handshakes and sent quickly home to a warm fireplace. It was then that Anthon noticed something special—something unexpected. On their way home he found himself walking, almost skipping, with lightened step—his wife and children smiling at him all the way. The heavy burdens of worry had been lifted. He knew he had done the right thing, and above all he knew now that there was something important for him to do in life.

“I went to my former friend and minister the next day to bear him my testimony. I was so happy that I felt I could convert the whole world, and I wanted to,” he later recorded. “I wanted everyone to feel the peace and the joy that came with my baptism. And the most wonderful thing of all, I had an assurance that greater joys and greater knowledge were yet in store—not only for me but for my beautiful family.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Preston Heiselt