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


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


In a Church News article for the week ending November 22,1958 the following article was printed with the accompanying drawing.  It is one more published account of the early missionary difficulties of John Forsgren.  These stories come under the heading of "family traditions."   How accurate or sensationalized they might be is often up for debate.  (Note:  Gefle is the older spelling of the town now known as Gavle in Sweden).


     "The Dipper" the policeman shouted to the crowd as he marched John E. Forsgren toward the Gefle town hall.
     "Hurrah for the prophet!" was the unexpected response as the men in the street waved their hats.
     The indignant officer hurried his prisoner away from the sympathetic waterfront crowd.  In the sanctuary of the city offices the young prisoner had ample opportunity to tell his story.  He was successively examined by the chief of police, the passport officer, ministers of the state church and by the mayor.
     He was, he told them, Swedish by birth, a native of Gefle where his father and family lived still. He had gone to sea while yet a boy and had heard a new religion preached in the American port of Boston.  Convinced of its truth, he had joined the Church, forsaken the life of a sailor and had gone to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Ill.
     With the Mormon Battalion he had marched across desert and mountain to California.  He then joined the saints in Utah just in time to receive a call to carry the Gospel message to his native land.
     Elder Forsgren had traveled to Denmark with Elder Erastus Snow of the Council of the Twelve, staying only a few days in Copenhagen before coming to Gefle.
     With great power Elder Forsgren bore testimony to the truth of the Restored Gospel before the incredulous officials.
     "He claims to heal the sick," cried one of his accusers.
     Elder Forsgren readily admitted that he had laid hands upon his brother, Peter, who was known to have been an invalid for years.  Peter was sent for in an effort to find grounds up which to prosecute the "Mormon imposter."  But instsead of sickly cripple, Peter strode into the room unassisted and quite healthy.
     He testified that he had been healed by the power of God.  Not only this, he had been the first person in Gefle baptized by his brother.  (Peter was, in fact, the first convert baptized in all of Scandinavia.)
      Unable to prove any charge of fraud, the elder's opponents accused him of lunacy.  He was examined by the doctor and pronounced mentally sound.  Failing to find any basis for action against him, the officials sent him to Stockholm.
     Once again Elder Forsgren was examined by numerous goverment officers.  The process attracted wide notice in the press, and many people sought him out to hear more of his doctrine.
     Concluding that the "Mormon" preacher was too dangerous to be allowed further freedom in Sweden, the government paid his passage and placed him on a ship bound for America.
     Elder Forsgren, however, refused to be so easily dissuaded from his purpose.  When the ship stopped at a Danish port, the captain allowed him to escape.  He rejoined his companions in that country, laboring with them until there should arise another opportunity to reopen the work in Sweden.
     The opportunity did come, and eventually the work of the Lord in Sweden grew to great proportions.  Thousands of her finest people left their homes to build up Zion.  Many others have stayed to maintain the branches and to make the Church a strong organization in the homeland.
     There are now 2,500 members of the Church in Sweden.  Approximately 100 missionaries continue the work begun there in 1850 by the intrepid Elder Forsgren.

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