“…at ved sma og enkle ting bliver der udretter store ting….”—Almas Bog 37:6[1]

 An ancestor I am very grateful for is my great great Grandma’s mother, on my father’s side. Christiana Frandsen (maiden name Larsen).

About a year or two ago, I was asked to teach about women and their importance in my life at Church. I wanted to do something different rather than blab on for 45 minutes about how great my wife and my mother are. I wanted to find out something more about the women further back in my family history. I chose two women. One from my mother’s side of the family, the Bradburys, and one from my father’s side.

On the Bradbury side, I choose my grandmother because she had just passed away and the funeral was a very positive and uplifting experience. On the Hansen side, I had to dig back a little further and I happened upon a pivotal story in my family’s history of Christiana Frandsen.

Besides her courageous story, to me this story demonstrated just how important the  translation of the New Testament from Latin into people’s native language was to my family’s history. Christiana’s story fulfills what Erasmus hoped for when in 1516 in the preface of his Greek translation of the New Testament he wrote:

“…I would have those words translated into all languages…I long for the plowboy to sing them to himself as he follows the plow, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey….Other studies we may regret having undertaken, but happy is  the man upon whom death comes when he is engaged in these. These sacred words give the very image of Christ speaking, healing, dying, rising again and make him so present, that were he before your very eyes you would not more truly see him.”[2]

The New Testament was first translated into Danish in 1524.[3]

In my opinion it is no coincidence the Europe’s rise from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment coincided with the lay person’s ability to search the Bible and to freely come to their own understanding of the truth. The significance of this was beautifully captured nearly 600 years ago by Nicholas of Cusa:

“To know and to think, to see the truth, with the eye of the mind, is always a joy….As love is the life of the heart, so is the endeavor after knowledge and truth the life of the mind. Amid the movements of time, the daily labor, perplexities, and contradictions of life, we should lift our gaze fearlessly to the clear vault of heaven and seek to ever obtain a firmer grasp of…the origin all goodness and beauty, the capacities of our own hearts and minds, the intellectual fruits of mankind throughout the centuries, and the wonderful works of Nature around us; but always remembering that in humility alone lies true greatness, and that knowledge and wisdom are profitable only in so far as our lives are government by them.[4]

Early Life 

Christiana Larsen Frandsen was born May 14th, 1838 in Tversted, Hjorring, Denmark, the fifth of ten children, the third of four daughters born to Lars Christian Mikkelsen and Ane Christiandatter. Lars Christian was a very well educated man for the time and the area. After his initial schooling, his father, Michael Larsen, wanted him to study for the Baptist ministry. Lars studied toward this goal for four years, but just before he was to graduate he decided that he did not have the right to become a minister, much to the dismay of his father, because he felt that there was much evidence that the Gospel taught in the New Testament had yet to be fully restored and he decided not to go through being a minister for the Baptist Church.

Despite this belief, Lars continued study of the Bible and shared his conclusions with his children about the full Gospel not being restored. Meanwhile, Christiana Larsen had married in 1862 to Hans Christian Frandsen, a fisherman from Skagen, Jutland, Denmark.  Hans Christian was born and raised a devout Lutheran. This would become a source of contention for the couple as Christiana was more free-thinking about religion.

After several years of marriage, Lars came to visit Christiana and she told her father, “I haven’t denounced my religion and I faithfully go every Sunday with Hans to the Lutheran Church. But we do have disputes about religion. Hans is so sure that the Lutherans are right and sometimes our house is like a house divided against itself as it says in the Bible.” [5]

Lars put his arms around his daughter and told her that she was right to honor her husband and attend church with him. But told her that if she would live a good life that she would live to hear about the true Church of Jesus Christ.[6]

Image Old Skagen pointing toward the North Sea probably not much different than Skagen’s look and outlay at during Chritiana and Hans Christian’s life there.

Christiana Meets the Mormon Church

Several years later, Christiana had a seamstress come over to her house and help make clothes for herself and her children. This seamstress happened to be a convert to the Mormon Church.

At this time, the Mormon Church (or Jesu Krisit Kirke) had been in Denmark for over 25 years. The Church in Denmark had been opened by the young apostle Erastus Snow and Peter O. Hansen who landed in Copenhagen in June 1850.[7] And, the Book of Mormon was published in 1851 in Danish and year later the Doctrine in Covenants, the first non-English publications of these scriptures. The Church also began publishing a periodical, Skandinavens Stjerne (Star of Scandinavia).[8] Denmark became one of the most flourishing missions for the Mormon Church in the nineteenth century.[9]

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Danish Temple in Copenhagen built in 2004

Despite the guarantee of religious freedom in the Danish Constitution, signed by King Frederick VII in 1849. Danish society as a whole was not favorable to the Mormon Church, especially since Lutheranism was more than a religion, but part of their cultural identity. In fact, it would not be until 1970 when the Danish government would officially recognize the Mormon Church as a Christian Church and also allow the Mormon Church to perform marriages. Ironically, this coincided with the Danish government’s decision to legalize pornography and make it widely available.[10]

Many early members suffered persecution, destruction of property or exclusion from their family, friends, and neighbors for joining the Mormon Church.  Many also encountered opposition from Lutheran ministers, schoolteachers, and gangs of Danish rowdies.[11]  A typical experience would be of one Peder Isaacson who was ready to immigrate to America in 1854 and he traveled to his mother’s home to bid her farewell but was met with disappointment when his stepfather refused to let him in the house because he was “one of those Mormons.” Peder never saw his mother or sister again.[12]

Up until Christiana had met the seamstress, she and Hans like many others Danes had heard unfavorable things about the Mormon Church. Christiana knew Hans was very prejudiced towards Mormons. Despite this her intellectual honesty got the best of her and she and the visiting seamstress had many discussion about religion. He daughter Irene wrote the following about this experience:

“Mother was a great reader of the Bible (Bibelen)…she and her seamstress had much to talk about. The lady told Mother many things to which Mother would reply, ‘That isn’t in the Bible’. The seamstress would reply that it was and would get the Bible and show her where it was in the Bible. Mother was dumbfounded. It dawned on her that the seamstress knew more of the Bible than she did.”

Some of the things the seamstress may have discussed with Christiana that would have been different than what she had been taught by the Lutheran Church would have been the Mormon doctrine that family relationships and marriage continued beyond this life. We can only imagine for someone who had recently lost a son and her father that these words would have brought peace and hope to her heart to know that lost family members were not lost eternally.[13]

Other doctrines distinctly different than Lutheran doctrine that the seamstress may have exposed Christiana to would have the Mormon beliefs of a pre-existence, the organization of Christ’s church during his mortal life, modern revelation, and priesthood authority.

   Image  Skagen Lutheran Church

 Lutheran doctrine as Christiana would have been taught stated there was no pre-existence and that Christ did not organize his Church during his mortal ministry but that was done after his death. Like many Protestant religions, Lutherans taught that all the revelation ever needed for this world is contained in the Bible and that no more revelation is needed for mankind as all pertinent and relevant revelation is contained in the Bible. Similarly, Lutherans also believed that divine authority is given to man through the Bible.  Any person acting in accordance with God’s will as revealed in the Bible is acting with Divine authority.[14]

After several discussions and remembering what her father had taught her about restoration of the true Church, Chirstiana decided to follow her heart and join the Mormon church. Her daughter Irene describes her mother’s conversion:

 “Mother didn’t mention any of her discussions with Father, but the rest of the family would often talk about these things when he was away. One day, the seamstress invited Mother to a cottage meeting to hear the missionaries’ message. Mother went, but cautioned us children not breathe a word to Father. Mother was very impressed by the message and became anxious to join the Church. It was not much longer after that meeting that a hole was cut in the river and she was baptized on January 3, 1877 (A 135 years ago). About a month later, Anna the oldest daughter was baptized on February 24, 1877 at the age of 11 years old.”

One evening Hans Christian was coming home from work when two friends told him that his wife and daughter had joined the Mormon Church. Hans Christian was distraught. He had never heard a good word said about the Mormons and had heard many tales how they would take innocent girls and women to Utah to become plural wives.

Christiana was sitting in the front room reading the Bible when Hans Christian came through the front door. She looked up from her book and knew in a split second somebody had told him. Hans Christian walked over to the center table where Christiana was seated and raised his hand as if he were going to strike her, but as he raised his hand he broke the lamp shade and cut his hand. Christiana ran out of the door and over to her sister-in-law’s house.

Despite his initial outrage, it would not be long before Hans Christian would join the Church. Soon afterwards Anna Amelia, who had been baptized with her mother, had a dream where her older brother Lauritz Christian [15] visited her and had told her that “you and Mother are on the right track.  Pray for Father and he will come around.” This visit bolstered both Anna’s and Christiana’s testimonies and gave them much needed hope.

Several incidents occurred within the next few months that helped soften Hans Christian’s heart. The first occurred when Irene Elizabeth, one of the younger daughters, broke her arm. Hans and Christiana tried to comfort her but nothing seemed to work. Finally, Christiana suggested that they get the missionaries. After some argument, Han’s surrendered ‘Well, have it your own way’.

Anna ran and grabbed the missionaries and they ran immediately to the Frandsen household. After the missionaries had administered to Irene Elizabeth she got down from her father’s lap and opened the door with her bad arm and told everyone outside the house “Now I will be alright!” Not too much longer the youngest Laura Christine contracted Whooping Cough. Again, Christiana called on the missionaries and they ministered until Laura Christine and she never had another spell. Unbelievably, several months later Christiana herself contracted, at that time the sometimes fatal Scarlet Fever[16] and called on the missionaries to give her a blessing and she too recovered.[17]

Irene notes that “this was the starting point for my dear Father. He began to ask them questions and began to see the Lutheran Church was the same as other Protestant Churches of the day.” However, his epiphany finally came when he and his brother Mikkle and another fisherman went out to sea and were caught in a big storm.

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The three men attempted to make it back to shore, but were rebuffed time and time again by the large, icy waves of the North Sea. Meanwhile, both families were beside themselves knowing the possible sad outcomes of such incidents. Christiana called together both families and each person took turns praying all through the night. By morning the North Sea had calmed down and the men were able to return safely to shore. Hans Christian and Mikkle were greeted with much rejoicing and thankfulness by their families. When asked how they were able to survive such a terrible storm, Hans Christian explained that an angel of the Lord had been beside them all through the night. That God had saved their lives. After many witnesses in a very short period of time, Hans Christian was baptized May 14, 1877.


[1] “…that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass….”—Alma 37:6, Book of Mormon

[2] Durant, Will, The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564, Simon and Shuster, New York: 1957, p.285

[3] Ibid., p. 628

[4] Ibid, p.257

[5] Refers to Matthew or Mattaeusevanganliet 12:25: “…og en by eller et hus i splid med sig selv kan ikke.”

[6]  Lars Christian Mikkelsen passed away in 1874 at the age of 75.

[7] Highlight of the Church in Scandanavia, Ensign, July 1974, The Church of Latter Day Saints website (see how to cite).

[8] Experience Denmark to Manti, One Man’s Experience, Jensen, Richard L., Ensign, January 1980, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[9] Friends in Denmark, Friend,October 1975, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints website.

[10] In Denmark, a Quiet, Vibrant Faith, Liahona, March 2006, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[11] From Denmark to Manti: One Man’s Experience, Ensign, January 1980, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

[12] From Denmark to Zion, Gaunt, LaRene Porter, Ensign, August 1999, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

[13] Lutheran doctrine taught and teaches that no family relationships exist in the afterlife and that marriage is only good for this life and terminates when either one of the spouses pass away

[14]  Ibid.

[15] Lauritz Christian Frandsen was the oldest child of Hans Christian and Christiana Frandsen. He passed away at the age of 12 on December 3rd 1875.

[16] Apart from a fever and a sore throat, Scarlet Fever is characterized by the strawberry color of tongue and sunburn like rash.

[17] A vaccine for Scarlet Fever was developed in 1924 and later on treated with penicillin.