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


Friday, July 12, 2013


In June of 2013 I spent several hours with Clara May Forsgren Reeves, a great great granddaughter of Peter Adolph Forsgren.  She handed me the following account of the return of John Erik Forsgren to Sweden and of the baptism of his siblings and his father.  The history is only "new" in the sense that I have never seen it before.  It has now become my favorite account, simply because it contains a few details about the family's life in Sweden that are not included in subsequent, oft-repeated versions of this famous story.  It clarifies some things about the father, Johan Olaf, and adds some details about Christina's struggle to come to grips with her own conversion.  It talks about their occupations and trades.   The story is a translation  (and thus reads a little awkwardly in some places).  It was printed in 1884 in the Danish version of "The Morning Star" which was under the charge of Andrew Jenson.   I do not know if it was Andrew Jenson himself who wrote the historical sketch or if it was someone else.  I only note that it is the account written most closely to the actual event date I have yet seen!

Below is a photocopy of the title page of an 1884 edition available at the BYU Harold B. Lee Library

Here follows the translated story


This history was translated by Mona Jardine from the "Morgenstjernen---Et historisk-borgrafisk Tidsskrift.  Redigeret og udgivet af Andrew Jenson---1884." 
(See online: for a sample of a volume that is in the BYU library.   This is the “Morning Star; a Historical-Biographical Journal" – Danish version. Edited by Andrew Jenson)  Some changes or comments have been made in italics by Adele Austin as I retyped the version given to me by Clara Forsgren Reeves in June of 2013.  I have also taken the liberty of adding some paragraph breaks for readability] 

The First Saints in Sweden

            Peter Adolf Forsgren, a son of Johan Olaf and Christina Forsgren was born 26 July 1826 in Gefle, Sweden.  His mother died in 1832, when he was about six years old and since the father was a sailor and was seldom home, strangers mainly raised the children and Peter got a poor education.  When he was ten years old he began to work at a linen fabric [factory?] in Gefle, where he worked for almost 5 years.  Then he got a job on [in] a canvas factory where he worked as a foreman when his brother John in the summer of 1850 came to the country as a missionary from America to preach the gospel.
            John had twenty years earlier left home as a sailor and even though his family was overjoyed over his return, they were surprised that he came back as a preacher.  He had in his travels met with the Latter Day Saints in America where he was baptized and then went to Nauvoo.  Now, in addition to everything, he was along with Erastus Snow and two other brethren come back to start a mission in his homeland.  He star[t]ed right away to preach to his family and others and it wasn't long before he was known as a false prophet that had come from America to deceive people[.] 
            His brother Peter was influenced by his brother’s circular [circulating?] rumors and was scared away for a while even though he knew the Gospel that his brother preached was true.  While he thus staggered and didn't know whether he should be baptized or not, one day while he stood by a loom he was suddenly attacked by terrible pain and cramps in his stomach and was totally helpless.  His lungs were next attacked to the point where all that saw and heard him decided that he couldn't possibly live.  In this lifeless condition, he was carried to his brother John, who had rented an apartment in Staden.  He practiced great faith in God in behave [behalf] of his dying brother and in a miraculous manner, with ointment (oil) and prayer he soon was strong enough to go to work in a Swedish mill. 
            By [In] the harbor outside the city [he was] there baptized for forgiveness of his sins.  This happen[ed] July 19, 1850.  Peter Adolf was also the first to be baptized by divine authority in [all] the Scandinavian Countries.  It was more than three weeks later that Erastus Snow baptized the first twelve people in Kobenhavn.  That same night he received the laying on of hands.  This mode of baptism soon became well known.  Peter Forsgren soon became the object of people’s conversation, the object of curiosity and people’s feelings was [were] that he was insane, that someone with good sense could let someone baptize him by immersion in our day.
            Among his strongest opposition was his sister Erikka, who was later also baptized.  When his brother was arrested and Peter was brought in for questioning to give his testimony in regards to his health because there was much talk against John E. Forsgren, because there was also talk about him having healed the sick.[,] Peter freely bore witness that he had been healed by the power of God by his brother’s laying on of hands.  There was a doctor, whose name was Nordbald [who] was encouraged to examine him, which he did with the help of instruments – and announced that he was well. 
            Peter continued to bear witness about the truthfulness of the Gospel to many [,] especially to the people who worked in the factory.  But it was against the law to preach, so he showed them the scriptures so they could read for themselves.  He soon made friends.
            In the meantime his dad came from America to look for his son John, back from his tour and in the summer of 1851, traveled to Kobenhavn, where he was soon baptized.  Then he traveled back to Gefle and there was happiness in the family.
            None other than Forsgren and his sister, along with two others was [were] baptized there in the district until Elder Mikael Johnson in 1852 came as a missionary from Denmark.  He baptized an elderly woman and a couple of others in Helsingland, where he was born.  But when Brother Johnson after a short time was deported and sent to Malmo in chains, the preaching of the gospel was stopped in that part of the country.
            It is reserved Skaane and the other southern provinces of Sweden to be “the cradle” for Sweden’s concerns and not before more years there after the missionaries could have footings in the northern provinces.  In September 1852, Peter Adolf and his sister Erikka left their birthplace and traveled to Kobenhavn, where they immigrated to Utah in the John E. Forsgren Company.
            Peter settled in Brigham City, where he lives as one respectable and trustworthy man.  He works as first counselor to the Bishop in the First Ward plus other important callings.
            Christina Erikka Forsgren was born April 26, 1820 in Gefle, Sweden.  When she was ten years old she began to work for strangers and when her brother John came back in 1850, she was working for a grocer in Gefle.  She was very surprised to see him, because everyone thought he was dead since nobody had heard from.  Some of the first things he told his sister was that he was sent from God to save his family and relatives and that he had forgotten that his mother had asked of him on her death bed that he should see to it that his younger brothers and sisters wouldn't fall into transgression.  Now he came to keep his promise. 
            The happiness to see her brother after so many years was hard to describe, but she had in a strange way been prepared for his coming.  In January 1850 or about six months before his coming, she was sitting in church [and] she was influenced by an earnest concern with her soul’s salvation and the minute the preacher entered the pulpit she was overcome with a strange feeling, a kind of weakness that started in her head and went clear through her body, clear to her feet.  Her bodily strength left her completely and she was carried away in a vision where she three times saw a big black dog, which she thought should be the devil and this made her decide that never again would she go to the Lutheran Church.  Then she heard a voice that said the present church was wrong, but on June 26th there should come a man with three books and all who wanted to be saved must believe the gospel he preached.  The voice also said that everyone who was saved must travel far away over the ocean.  It was not until they sang the last song in church that her strength came back.
            When the mentioned time arrived, the people in the area knew right away that he was the man and that the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants that he brought with him were the three books she had seen in the vision.  In spite of everything she still resisted for a while, but it wasn't long before, after several conversations with her brother, that she was completely pierced with happiness and contentment that she wanted to completely turn to the Lord and her brother’s hands, plus show obedience to the gospel.  So on the fourth of August she was baptized.  In the very minute her brother let her down in the water, she saw a bright light that filled her soul with indescribable happiness.  That same evening when she received the Gift of the Holy Ghost her eyes were opened and she understood the principals of the Gospel clear and plain and when she read the Holy Scriptures it was like something whispered in her ears and explained the scriptures to her.
            After Mikael Johnson’s arrival she was invited to come talk to the Dean, who would try to [convince her to leave] “Mormonism”.  To embarrass and humiliate her, she was taken between two police officers to the Dean’s residence.  Here she gave cheerful answers and bore a strong testimony to the Dean and to those that were present, and the results of it was that the Dean who thought he could change her mind about Mormonism, was shamed by her and was glad when she finally went away.
            When her dad, during the harvest in 1852, was in Kobenhavn, John told him about polygamy which was practiced among the Saints in Zion[.]  After he came home he told his daughter about it.  She had at that time made the decision that she would never marry and[,] having a disgusted attitude towards matrimony, it was therefore hard for her to understand about Celestial marriage.  The following night she laid awake wondering about the new religion and the following day she could think of nothing else[.]  But that evening before she went to bed, she prayed sincerely to the Lord to manifest to her that the doctrine was from him.  While she was on her knees, she saw two persons in long white robes standing in form of white clouds in front of her[.]  One was a woman [,] the other seemed to be an older man with a bald head.  In the same minute she heard a voice that told her that the older person was to be her future husband.  She jumped up and walked back in the room, whereupon the woman form walked right by and seemed to disappear into the next room, while the man form came nearer and nearer to her until a maid opened the door and the vision disappeared.  She was thus left to think about the strange thing that she had just seen and the thought that she[,] a moral and virtuous girl[,] should some day marry a man who already had a wife was disgusting to her.  But [she] now came to the conclusion that polygamy was right.  After she arrived in Utah in 1853 the vision she had came true because she became the second wife to an elderly man with whom she lives as faithful member of the church in Brigham City, Box Elder, Utah.  Sister Erikka was the first woman to join the gospel in Scandinavia in this dispensation.

            After the dad Johan Olaf Forsgren had been baptized in Kobenhavn on the twenty-ninth of August, he traveled back to Gefle in the hope he could bring some of his relatives into the gospel, but he was not successful because of his persecutors, so he went to sea and sailed different oceans for several years, then he taught school in the winter.  In 1863 he immigrated to Utah with help from his children and lived with his son Peter in Brigham City until he died in February, 1880.  He was born the seventeenth of October 1793 in Gefle, Sweden and started his sailor life at a young age.  Three of his four children accepted the gospel.

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