From the Journal History of the Church (on film in the Church Historian's Office):
Monday, July 8th 1878, p. 1
The weather was fine though breezy in Salt Lake City. The thermomenter registed 85F at noon.
Elder John E. Forsgren presented his private journal for safe-keeping in the Historian's office. It was a large,thick, well-bound foolscape book of 721 pages containing the history and experiences from his birth until the month of May 1878 (H.O.J.)
In handwriting at the bottom of the page of this entry: "This book was later returned to Elder Forsgren "- Andrew Jensen
Saturday, Oct. 19th 1878 p. 1
The weather was fine and breezey in Salt Lake City and the thermometer stood at 69 F at noon.
Elder John E. Forsgren called at the Historian's office and took away his journal.
What a loss to the church and to the descendants of John E. that this journal has disappeared. It was this journal that John was trying to rescue when his tent caught on fire up on the East bench that resulted in the tragic and severe disfigurement of his wife Kiersten. Is it possible it still exists somewhere, perhaps among her descendants? It would contain a lot of church history as well as personal history that we would all like to be able to feast upon.
There is a notation that his plural wife Mary Ann Mount Snyder had some of his papers in her possession which were later burned by her nephew after her death. I hope the journal was not among those things. Yet it would have had to be a huge and imposing-looking volume. I would think it would have been impressive enough to have someone, somewhere want to keep it!
Anyone out there with information???
From the time I was a young child I have heard the stories of the Forsgren siblings: of John Erik's missionary journey back to Sweden, of how he found his very ill brother Peter Adolph whom he blessed and healed, of how his sister Christina Erika had had a vision that a man would come bearing books that she was to look at and pay attention to...and, of course, the very common reference to Peter Adolph being the first baptized convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of Scandinavia. The stories have been repeated in Church media for years, particularly on the anniversaries of various Scandinavian events.
John Erik Forsgren was a great force for good and growth for the early burgeoning church membership. It is stated by those who knew him then that he embraced the doctrine with great zeal and preached firm and fiery sermons. He led a group of Saints across the ocean and into the Salt Lake Valley, encouraging them and admonishing them all the way. He served in the Mormon Battalion.
It is also true that later in his life, for reasons we don't totally understand, he became disenchanted with the Church - or more accurately, with some of its leaders. He began to be very vocal in his statements against Brigham Young whom he felt had cheated him out of a land inheritance due him from his service in the Battalion. At this point people said of him that he became cantankerous and a religious fanatic. He set up a tent on the East Bench of Salt Lake City and began preaching his own form of religion. At first he had followers, but over time lost the attention of local residents and was ignored. Tragic events occurred in his life which are referred to in other blog posts. He died in great poverty after living for a time in Idaho, then wandering homeless in Utah - a nonmember of the Church he had earlier embraced with such zeal.
This part of the story is, of course, very distressing to his descendants who for many years did not want to talk about the last years of his life. But I feel that accurate history is honest history. Not addressing an unpleasant event does not change the event. What was, was. What OUR responsibility is is to not judge. We did not walk in his shoes or live inside his head. It is our job to look at the entirety of the life of this unique man, admire him for the incredible contributions he made and not be overly critical of things we don't know much about. John E. kept a huge journal of his life. The greatest tragedy for us is that that 720 page manuscript has disappeared and we can't know all that he related in it.
This blog was created for the purpose of setting forth all the information about John Erik Forsgren that I have been able to glean from as many sources as I could. It is very much a work in progress. It is my hope that his numerous and wonderful descendants might contribute, correct, question and help verify any data I have included here...and, that ultimately this be a means of reaching out to others who want to know more of this man. I have come to reverence and respect him as I have worked on details of his life and the individuals connected to him by blood and marriage. As keeper of the Forsgren Family Association Archives it is my great pleasure to offer up what information we have. Believe me, there is nothing that better "turns our hearts to our fathers" than researching details and events of their lives. Enjoy!
Adele Manwaring Austin, July 2010