22943_000_008Denmark’s a small country, but what’s happening there is causing some big smiles.
Forty-eight hours in Copenhagen isn’t enough time to tell all the stories of the young men and women in Denmark’s largest city. But it is enough time to tell about Pia, Rebecca, and Annelise. After all, everybody has a story to tell, and the three young women are ready to talk.
Pia is going to share the story of her conversion, Rebecca will discuss an anti-pornography program she’s involved in, and Annelise will handle the topic of fasting and prayer and how her ward is holding a fast so that the Danish government will allow the Church to build a new chapel.
Three girls. Two days. One story.
Pia Hentsen slowly walks down the hall and sits down in the living room of her home. A visitor has stopped by, and his Danish leaves a lot to be desired. So two missionaries are there to translate for him. As she begins talking, she realizes there is some confusion and it has nothing to do with language. Instead, it’s math that’s the problem.
So she turns to the missionaries to try to help her visitor understand.
Pia is a 16-year-old Laurel in the Frederiksberg Ward in a Copenhagen suburb, her mom is a life-long member of the Church, Pia can remember going to Primary when she was younger, yet Pia has only been a Church member for—are you ready?—exactly one year.
The visitor still looks puzzled, as if he’s trying to do the math in his head without a satisfactory result. Pia senses this and clarifies.
“My mom and dad are Church members, so when I was young, I went to Primary. But I never was baptized,” Pia says.
After Pia’s parents divorced, Pia’s mother, Pia, and her two brothers stopped going to church. Pia turned eight but wasn’t baptized after her birthday. She turned 12 and didn’t join Young Women. For about 10 years there was very little church involvement in her life. Home teachers still came, and visiting teachers called on her mom, yet the Hentsens stayed home on Sundays.
But when a Young Women leader called Pia and invited her to start attending activities, Pia’s life began changing. “My leader would write me letters inviting me to go to church. So I went once and thought it was so boring. I didn’t want to go back. But the missionaries changed my mind about church,” she says, laughing.
Those missionaries had already determined that Pia had never been baptized, so they scheduled an appointment to visit her. At that first appointment, the missionaries brought a short spiritual message. That pattern continued for several weeks until one day they tried something different, bringing with them something every missionary has: a flipchart.
“They asked me if they could give me the first discussion, and I said, ‘Okay.’ It didn’t take long—probably a few weeks—before I finished all the discussions and agreed to be baptized.” At about this same time, Pia’s mother started becoming active again, as did her two brothers.
Today, in the small group that makes up the Young Men and Young Women program of the Frederiksberg Ward, Pia is right at home. Making the change to join the Church and then becoming active took some getting used to. Now it’s a way of life. “I’m the only Laurel in the ward. We also have two Mia Maids and two Beehives. That’s our Young Women,” she says before she stops and thinks further about how the Church has changed her life. “I think my life is better now. I have something to believe and something I know is true.”
The big sheets of stamps are waiting to be affixed to the pile of envelopes. But Rebecca Pedersen is only one person. A Laurel in the Allerøt Ward, Rebecca has a few thoughts about pornography and its damaging influence, and she’s doing something about it. But the work—stuffing envelopes with literature—is tedious and time-consuming.
As she addresses the envelopes, she begins talking of her involvement with a program organized to protest the prominence of pornography in Denmark.
“Pornography has such a large effect on our values, but Denmark is quite a liberal country and I can see where people almost get used to the pornography. But instead of getting used to it, we should be startled by it,” Rebecca says.
At Rebecca’s school, a fellow student started this protest against pornography and enlisted Rebecca’s help. As they educate, they are also gathering signatures for a petition they hope will gain them a voice in the government—especially with Denmark’s minister of culture, who oversees public television in the country.
“We can’t stop people from looking at pornography,” Rebecca explains, “but we’d like to see pornography removed from public places where kids can easily see it. You can’t just put kids to bed early and expect them not to see those things on television.”
As she thinks about her Young Women values and considers what she represents as a member of the Church, Rebecca is glad to be involved in something she hopes will effect a change.
“You have to make a statement in your life. I think it’s important for us, especially as members of the Church who have the truth that we have, to do something to make the world a better place,” she says. “That thought has always struck me, but a couple of months ago when I received my patriarchal blessing, I realized even more that I had to do something.”
When Rebecca’s group completed the project and sent off the petition to the government, she allowed herself to think about the small part she did in getting more than 22,000 people to sign and how it strengthened her resolve to make Denmark a better place. She also smiles. They easily exceeded the goal of 15,000 signatures they set before they began.
Rebecca knows things are not going to change overnight. But you have to start somewhere, right? “I think there are a lot of people out there who hate pornography and its effects. But I think many people are willing to not do or say anything, or they’ll buy the magazines and watch the TV shows. Sometimes I think people maybe just need a little reminder once in a while.”
Annelise Nielsen is a third-generation member of the Church. Her grandma and grandpa converted, her dad grew up in the Church and married a member, and they had Annelise. They’re all now members of the Frederiksberg Ward, and Annelise, a Beehive, is, along with Pia, one of the few young women in the ward.
And the ward currently meets in a rented building. There is an elevator in the building, but it’s pretty slow so Annelise takes the stairs. Up three flights gets her to the top floor of the building, where she enters the chapel. The building is clean and nice, but Annelise says there is a temporary feeling about where the Frederiksberg Ward meets. She looks out the window of the chapel and points.
“That’s our old chapel right there,” she says. She’s looking at a beautiful brick building one block away, the first the Church built in this country. And it sits empty—for good reason.
“That is where our temple is going to be,” Annelise says.
The Frederiksberg Ward chapel is in the process of being converted into a temple that will serve the members in Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia. So to get a temple 10 minutes from her house opposed to the 12 hours it takes by car to get to the Stockholm Sweden Temple is a real blessing and worth the sacrifice.
But there’s still the issue of the Church building a new chapel. The lease on the temporary chapel will expire soon. So on this Sunday, the members of the Frederiksberg Ward are holding a fast, praying that the Danish government will approve building a chapel on property the Church has purchased. * Annelise joined other ward members in fasting and prayer for this special purpose.
This morning, Annelise admits she’s hungry. “But when I fast I feel close to God and I feel more humble,” she says. “I don’t feel like fasting is that much of a sacrifice, and I believe if everybody in this ward prays for the same thing then our Heavenly Father will help us.”
After sacrament meeting, with her fast almost complete, Annelise doesn’t make a mad dash home to get some food. Instead, she walks out the door holding the arm of Kristel Pedersen, a 96-year-old member of her ward. Sister Pedersen joined the Church in 1958 and taught Annelise’s father in Sunday School. Each month, Annelise gets to know her better by taking time to visit with her.
“Sister Pedersen is nice to talk with. I think she’s a strong woman because she’s the only member of the Church in her family. Her husband never joined, and her children were already grown up when she was baptized,” Annelise says. “She’s 96 years old, and she still comes to church each Sunday.
“I admire people like Sister Pedersen,” Annelise adds, “who are close to Heavenly Father. And when I do things like fasting, it brings me closer to Him too.”
In Copenhagen stands the original, well-known statue of Jesus Christ, the Christus, carved by 19th-century Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. In that same city, three Copenhagen young women stand tall also, emulating the Savior in all they do.
Editor’s Note: A few months after the fast, the Church received government approval to construct a new building for the Frederiksberg Ward.