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Stories: Elder Thomsen, The Language, Some Town Drunks, and The TEs

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Elder Thomsen, The Language, Some Town Drunks, and The TEs 12 Dec 2005
Trondheim, Norge, July 1961, From My Journal: Exactly 3 weeks to the day after being assigned with him as my first Senior Companion after arriving in Norway, Elder Christensen was called to be a Traveling Elder. It was really hard to part with him after having relied on him like a young brand-new chick relies on its mother hen. I had a very hard time, I remember, of holding back the tears when he left for Oslo. My new companion was Elder Poul Erik Thomsen from Magrath, Alberta, Canada. I was to be his first Junior Companion. Elder Thomsen was born in Denmark, but had lived in Canada for 5 years before his call to serve a mission. By rights, he should have gone back to Denmark on his mission; but he would have been drafted into Danish military service, as the Danish laws were “once a citizen, always a citizen.” Because of his knowledge of the Danish language, Elder Thomsen had a very easy time speaking Norwegian, even though at times he had more of a Danish accent than Norwegian. He also was a very hard worker, and we were on the run most of the time. Elder Thomsen was very pleasant to be around - most of the time. He was very humble, but despite this, he was not very positive. He had contracted polio when he was younger, and, because of this, didn’t have the chance to associate with others. Actually, I believe he had an inferiority complex and was very much afraid to meet and talk with people for the first time. I learned very much about the language in my 6 weeks as a companion to Elder Thomsen, and at 2 months I was really surprising myself and the people with my “prowess.” “Jeg var virkelig flink.” Not much of significance happened while working together with Elder Thomsen. Just the same old thing day after day - tracting - morning, noon, and night. Once, both of us together decided to go up into the mountainside forest above Lien outside Trondheim for our own “First Vision” of prayer alone and together to see if we were doing what was necessary to find good investigators. One evening about 6:00 PM, we were heading down Jarleveien, the main thoroughfare in Lade, when two drunk young punks came walking towards us, having just purchased some “Solo” soft drink at the local kiosk in the neighborhood. Elder Thomsen avoided their wild and arms-around-the-shoulders approach toward us by walking off the sidewalk into the gutter. I tried to go out around them on the other side of the quite-wide sidewalk, but the bigger one of the two pushed them both into me. As I pushed them away from me, I hit the larger one in the jaw with my elbow. This only served to make him really mad, and, after receiving a little up-building from his drunken buddy, he proceeded to storm after me like a man-eating ape. He grabbed the lapels of my suit coat, and, in the process of breaking his hold, I scratched the side of his face with my fingernails. This just kindled the fire all the more. He then tried to grab Elder Thomsen and me to knock our heads together; in the skirmish, I swatted him in the side of the head with my umbrella handle, which nearly cooled him. He finally decided he had had enough to do with the “stige mormonere” (ugly Mormons) and tramped slowly away, staggering from side to side from a little alcohol, and a mighty sore head. Elder Christensen and his traveling companion, Elder Dennis Engh, came to Trondheim on the 14th of August. The first time out with Elder Engh, he asked how long I had left in Norway, and, when told that I had over 27 months, he said, “If I had that much time left, I’d slit my wrists.” Talk about “encouraging” one who was just getting his feet wet! They stayed here for 10 days and held early morning class with all of us down at the Church. I learned a great deal from their stay and their training, with that one exception; albeit, training for future leadership on what not to do in a similar situation.

August 26th and 27th was District Conference in Trondheim. President and Sister Gundersen and President and Sister Kaare Larsen attended. The Trondheim District, at that time, included the surrounding cities of Ålesund, Molde, Kristiansund (N), Levanger, and as far north as there were members, including those from Hell. At the Saturday missionary meeting, President Gundersen assigned me to talk Sunday in the morning session. I really sweated that night out thinking and praying about what I was going to say. Sunday morning found me no more prepared than I had been the day before. But, prayer and the Spirit really helped. When I stood up, I spoke for about 3 minutes straight “extemp” on the importance of living exemplary lives and ended with my testimony. I was so relieved when I sat down! Many people offered congratulations at my “fluency” in the language. Even President Gundersen complimented me on how much I had learned in only 9 weeks. I owe most of my early language training to my somewhat-arduous, yet-influential companionship with Elder Thomsen.

The next Tuesday, August 29, 1961, I found out I was receiving a new assignment. On Wednesday, I made the longest move in my history of the Norwegian mission - from the first floor to just above on the second floor at Leiv Ericksons Vei 11. However, the now-four of us (Elder Thomsen and his new Junior Companion, Elder Elder D. Jerald Nielsen, on the first floor; and I and my new Senior Companion, Elder David A. Jacobson, on the second) could only use the facilities on the first floor. Elder Jacobson was the Supervising Elder of Trondheim at the time. On Sunday, September 10, 1961, I gave my first talk in Sacrament Meeting. I talked for 10 minutes on “A Promise to Readers of The Book of Mormon.” Elder Thomsen and I had translated it from the Church magazine “Instructor.” (I should say, Elder Thomsen translated it, and I wrote down and memorized what he said.)
Harold Oak Send Email
 
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