Noteworthy Norwegians

by Janet Thomas

Associate Editor

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    The music of the gospel vibrates the heartstrings of these Nordic teens.

    Sing Out Strong

    Sabine Isaksen would like to teach the world to sing.

    She’s made a pretty good start in her corner of Norway. When she was a little girl, she taught Primary songs to her nonmember friends. They would all swing on the playground equipment and sing songs at the top of their lungs about being sunbeams and families being forever.

    As she grew up and became more serious about her music, she translated lyrics of Young Women songs from English to Norwegian and set a goal to teach one of the songs to the Young Women of the Hokksund Branch. After the young women performed the song in sacrament meeting, Bernt Isaksen, the branch president and Sabine’s father, said, “I think they surprised themselves. They sound good when they sing.”

    “I have this joy inside when I play or sing,” Sabine says. “I love to teach music; then others can share the joy.”

    Sabine’s joy has expanded as her own testimony of the gospel has become strong. “I felt I had to know for myself if what I believe is the right thing. I also decided to receive my patriarchal blessing. I did a lot of praying and searching and talking to people and asking questions and finding out for myself. But everything fits. You get this feeling inside that, of course, this is the right thing. It is so amazing.”

    One scripture that especially speaks to Sabine is in Doctrine and Covenants 88:63. [D&C 88:63] It talks about seeking and finding, asking and receiving the answers, knocking and opening. For her, it works. “It’s so clear. If you do this, that will happen.” And as Sabine finds the answers and draws near to the Lord, she brings her friends with her, introducing practically everyone she meets to the gospel. Missionary work is so natural to her; it’s just a part of her life.

    For a moment Sabine is sitting and talking about serious things, but it’s rare to find her so still. A few moments later, she has to run. She has promised to accompany a friend on the piano as he sings, and they have to practice. She’s late for her Young Women activity. She’s leaving the next day on a school trip. Her friends are waiting in the car. She becomes a blur. But as she whirls past, there’s the distinct sound of music.

    The Music Speaks

    Terje Kristian Pedersen loves music. To him, the emotions in classical music best express his own feelings. “When I have problems, I can feel some of the feelings in the music. I can get them out and leave those expressions behind in the music.”

    And his feelings may be a little more complicated and sophisticated than other teens his age. He has had to overcome some prejudice and harassment by his peers both for being a Latter-day Saint and for being born without one ear. Yet he has endured by learning from the faith of his parents. Through kindness he has turned the very ones who were teasing and harassing him into his best friends.

    Terje, as he is called at school, was named after his father. That’s why he answers to Kristian at home. His parents are deeply involved in music. His mother studied music both in Norway and in the United States. His father is a music teacher in the schools. Although they taught their son and their two young daughters to love music, their most important family heritage is in the Church. Kristian is a third-generation member. His family has been involved in the Church in Norway for many years.

    Even so, Kristian has searched out the gospel for himself. He has found great power in the words of Isaiah. To Kristian, the prophet’s words reverberate down through the centuries and speak to him of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 53:3–12 [Isa. 53:3–12], Isaiah speaks of the Savior bearing our grief and carrying our sorrows. Kristian could understand these words at a young age. “Christ went through the suffering, so he understands what we are going through here,” says Kristian. “It brings us closer to him. Our sorrows become easier because of him.”

    Working through some of the obstacles in his life has made Kristian kinder and more empathetic. He’s the one who is a good friend to people of other religions. He is the one who sticks up for others that may be overlooked or teased. Now that he has turned 18, he can help other young men make good choices as he serves in his new calling in the Sandvika Ward as second counselor in the Young Men presidency in charge of Scouting.

    Kristian and his father sometimes play piano duets. It seems appropriate. His dad was the one who taught him to play and love the music. His father and mother were also the ones to teach him the gospel. The theme of love and testimony continues and strengthens into the next generation.

    Choosing Her Path

    What a choice Heidi Heistø had to make! Should she become a doctor or a professional musician? Both paths were open to her. Both were wonderful ways to serve her country and her fellowmen. Both were traditions in her family. Both seemed attainable. She has the talent in both areas.

    So Heidi didn’t choose. She decided to pursue both. She had completed her high school years with a fine academic standing and was accepted into three medical schools and auditioned and was accepted into music conservatory. Soon she was spending every minute either at school or studying or practicing. After two quarters of this killer pace, she was tired and confused. She felt she was not giving either school her best. When she asked friends and relatives what she should do, the answers were of little help. Some said, “Oh, if you have the possibility of going to medical school, you must do that.” Others said, “Oh, you are so talented in music. Of course, you must do that.” Heidi was very confused.

    Heidi had been taught by her mother, Karin, and her grandmother how to search out the guides in her life. She had learned in church that she had an eternal friend who will always listen. She turned to Heavenly Father in prayer. She also asked for and received a blessing from her home teacher. The blessing said that she had her agency and that she should pray about her decision. As she prayed, her answer became more clear. She should devote herself to music. Her fears about not being skilled enough lessened.

    She turned to her patriarchal blessing, which encourages her to develop her musical talent. She had started with the violin at age seven even though she had been begging to start much earlier. Then her instructor suggested she change to the viola because the warm, somber tones of that instrument complimented her technique and temperament. And Heidi found she preferred the beautiful tone. Now she has chosen her course and is devoting her schooling to music.

    The enduring note in Heidi’s life is the gospel. In a class taught by a favorite teacher, Heidi and her classmates were asked if anyone was a member of another church besides the Norwegian state church. Heidi and another boy were the only ones who raised their hands. She was then asked if she would take class time to answer questions. She talked about the Church and answered questions for a solid hour. Then the class requested a second hour. Heidi had lived and learned in such a way that she was prepared for this opportunity, just as she was prepared for the other opportunities that have come to her.

    What does heaven sound like? Maybe Sabine, Kristian, and Heidi have a clue. They seem to hear it when they perform and study music. For each of these three, testimony of the gospel resonates in their lives like an eternal chord.

    Photography by Welden Andersen and Janet Thomas

    Three young people in the Oslo Norway Stake (left to right, Sabine Isaksen, Terje Kristian Pedersen, and Heidi Heistø) have a love of music in common. They each find that music speaks to them in a way that their hearts understand. Yet there is one thing more important in each of their lives—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their testimonies are like music to the ears.

    Sabine loves to teach her five younger brothers about music. She was the only member of her high school class accepted to music conservatory.

    Although his parents taught Terje and his two sisters to love music, their most important family tradition is in the Church.

    Heidi and her younger brother and sister have been taught to love the gospel by their mother, Karin. Heidi is following in her mother’s footsteps in becoming a professional musician. Heidi considered two courses of study, one medicine and the other music. Both are noble professions, but now she has chosen and is devoting her studies to music and the viola.