Finnish Is the Very End


Hours into its midsummer journey the golden, early morning sun shines across Helsinki and onto the little island of Seurasaari, gilding the roofs of two-hundred-year-old farmhouses, churches, windmills, and barns that line the streets of this national park.

Across town the golden rays find the windows of Helsinki’s Finnish Design Center, drawing rainbows from the lovely i-lasi glassware and Marimekko fabrics on display inside.

Nearby, the panes of a small hardware store reflect their own version of the Finnish sun and symbolize a miracle.

The miracle is that a foreign visitor could walk into the hardware store thinking it was the Design Center and leave still wondering, because the tools and utensils on the shelves of everyday Finnish shops are almost as beautiful as the treasures at the Center. Natural woods and simplicity of design make the most common tool as basic and appealing as the music of Sibelius, Finland’s beloved composer.

Meanwhile, on Seurasaari, sunlight fires the hair of seven young people whose lives radiate these same qualities of appealing naturalness and comfortable harmony with the beauty around them. Like other young Finnish Latter-day Saints, they dress simply, smile easily, share gladly, and are down to earth in their approach to living. Today they have invited us to join them as they visit their past under the midsummer sun.

[photos] Photos by Ralph and Jane Reynolds

[photo] Juha Lehtinen, Leslie Petersen, Taina Tuominen, and Leena Hannula watch as Tim Petersen (out of picture) climbs to the aitta (upstairs room)

[photo] A large row boat (kirkko-vene) holds a couple of dozen people and was often used out in the country for several families to row themselves to church

[photo] Leena inspects the prow of the kirkko-vene in the outdoor museum

[photo] Another sign of the good taste and sense of design of these Finnish people

[photo] Sinikka Ahola and Tim Petersen inspect on old aitta originally used as a meat storage room to protect against raids by small animals

[photo] Juha Lehtinen is a slalom skier and a tennis player. Juha plays the guitar as a hobby. He is in a group with other Mormons, and they play Finnish national music and popular songs. He has no intention of leaving Finland after his mission and after he becomes an engineer

[photo] A sod roof on an ancient barn intrigues Leslie, who looks to see how thick the sod is

[photo] Taina and Sinikka, looking at a kuurna (water trough), wonder at the resourcefulness of their country folk in finding ways to have water available at the Sauna

[photos] Leslie ignores the ladder and climbs up to the aitta on the front. Farmhands usually slept in these upstairs rooms accessible only by outdoor stairs or ladder

[photo] Eeva-Leena Eronen tries her hand at opening a complicated handmade latch system on a farm fence gate

[photo] Our teens love seeing a group of six ducklings with their mother

[photo] Leena Hannula has two more years of her normal schooling; then she will specialize in nursery school teaching. She was born in Pori, Finland. Her parents joined the Church as converts about 23 years ago. Leena is the song leader in the branch and also a Primary teacher

[photo] Similar to ceramic tiles used in some areas of the world, wooden strips, hand-hewn and alternately cupped under and capped over, provide a waterproof roof

[photos] Entrance to the island is a long, wooden boardwalk on piles. The view as you approach is of a lovely old home with the second floor larger than the first

[photo] Leslie and Taina feed a squirrel with nuts that they have brought in their pockets for this purpose

[photo] Taina, Tim, Juha, and Leslie turn to answer one of our ten thousand questions

[photo] Taina Tuominen came into the Church through her sister, who had come into the Church through her older sister, and the whole story started because the older sisters were attending English classes taught at the LDS chapel by missionaries

[photos] The youth enjoy studying the vavais-ukko in front of the church. He is made of wood and metal, with rusted steel bands and a three-pound padlock hanging from a steel belt. He represents the poor people, and there is a slot for contributions

[photo] A grave marker in the churchyard

[photo] An old wooden kello-tapuli (bell tower) next to a church, set in a beautiful, wooded area, looks so natural that it is hard to believe it hasn’t always been right here

[photo] Sinikka Ahola is a small, rather delicate, and very ladylike teen, which makes the fact that she comes to her Church meetings on a big motorcycle seem a bit inconsistent. She is a convert to the Church, plans to go on a mission, and is secretary of the Young Women

[photos] An old and beautiful windmill, tuulimylli. The young people tell us that a mill like this with wooden sails chatters and clatters so you can hear it a couple of kilometers away

[photo] Handsome, carved-wood decorative work on the front of one of the wooden church buildings. The delicacy and sensitivity of this work give it a poetic feel

[photo] Back view through birch trees of the old church as seen in the center of these two pages

[photo] Leslie and Taina find a locked church door but admire the beauty of the pulpit through lovely triangular window panes

[photo] Eeva-Leena Eronen is studying French, Swedish, English, and German. She also is studying interior decorating and designing in school. Eeva-Leena’s mother is a nurse, and together they enjoy making exotic salads. She was in charge of organizing the temple trip for all the young people who went recently to Switzerland

Taina plays basketball with Leslie. She is also an avid reader. She likes to sing and direct music. She also dances. She said that formerly in school she had a little bit of trouble with other students because she was the only Mormon in the school. But now with Leslie there, the two of them have had a lot of success with their young friends. She likes meatballs and cabbage rolls

Tim Petersen is going to the English school in Helsinki. Tim is interested in basketball, and that seems reasonable because his father is head of the national Finnish basketball team, which is the same as the Olympic team in Finland. Tim also plays a lot of soccer and ice hockey

Leslie Petersen, like her brother Tim, plays basketball. She works for her dad in his popcorn business. Around Easter time Leslie eats mämmi. Leslie’s father is a former American missionary to Finland and her mother’s a Finn, so she has an advantage over the other young people: she speaks both Finnish and English fluently