Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Last Two years: from JJ to Elder Simonsen- The worth of a soul

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From Svendborg, Denmark
to the Utah Ogden Mission for the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

 This story began over two years ago when JJ Simonsen, in the middle of his education to become a sea captain, a maritime officer-  made a big change in his life.  He has recorded his story and testimony many times in this is dear to him. 

Just yesterday he described in just a few words how much he loves the work that he is doing in the middle of his mission.  He wrote:

"I love my Mission.  My mission means everything to me ! 

To celebrate JJ's two year anniversary since he was baptized, I published a short story in the middle of march on this blog.  This is a more complete record of the past two important years that led JJ to leave home, his education, and loved ones- to serve this mission that "means everything" to him.

The Savior once said:  "Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great."                                     D&C 64: 33 

This is a record of our neighbor and dear friend, who came from a very small town in the bottom of go to school in Svendborg, Denmark. This may have seemed like a small thing.

On March 21, 2009, Elder Jens Jacob Simonsen entered the waters of baptism and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

We had the privilege of being there.
We had only been in Odense, Denmark (as a Senior Missonary Couple) for about a month.  Carl, (Elder Wilberg) had baptized his first convert in the very same Baptismal font in the basement of the same old church- fifty years before.

This was an important event for all of us.  JJ, from the beginning was a wise and thoughtful new member of the Church.  He was so grateful for this opportunity.  He was surrounded by all the missionaries who taught him.

JJ comes from a rich heritage of peace and great love that he has always shared with his family and friends in Greenland.

On the day of his baptism he sang a musical number from Greenland...and with great humility, he gave his first powerful testimony as a new member of the Church.  He expressed his love for his Savior, Jesus Christ. 

photo: the gathering to celebrate JJ's baptism in the Odense Church building

On this fine day, Jens Jacob Simonsen brought with him all the good things that he had learned from his little grandmother in Qaqortoq, Greenland.  The prayers he had learned to pray..the Holy Bible that his family read.  The little Lutheran Church where his loved ones gathered on Sunday...and all the good things that he had been taught as a little child.

The Seeds of faith had been planted long before this sacred day...

The Lord has said:

"If you give place that a seed (the word of God) may be
  planted in your heart.
  If you do not cast it out by your unbelief...
  It will begin to swell within your breast; and because of your
  diligence, and patience, ..and faith"
  You have nourished that seed and it has "taken root in you"
  and born fruit that is "most precious and sweet above all that
  is sweet."                                                      --Alma 32: 28, 42

        Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children.

This little Christian boy, who grew up on the tip of Greenland, has received the benefit of the Lord's promise:

               "Thy children shall be taught of the Lord:
                 and great shall be the peace of thy children."

                                                            --3 Nephi 22: 13

When he heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ, this peaceful native Greenlander was prepared to follow Him.
The Savior has said:

                 "Arise and be baptized..and you shall receive my spirit,
                  and a blessing so great as you never have known.

                  And if thou do this, I have prepared a greater work.
                  Thou shalt preach the fulness of my gospel, which I
                   have sent forth in these last days, the covenants which
                   I have sent forth to recover my people..
                   and it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon 
                   thee;  thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with 
                   thee and go before thy face." 
                                                                     --D&C 39: 10-12 

This is a collection of pictures from this very special baptism day with JJ, the missionaries, and the ward members.

What a fine day.  Welcome to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.   Out of very small steps, "Proceedeth that which is great."

At JJ's baptism were people from all over the world.
Sweet Danes who were also preparing to be baptized, his sister missionaries who taught him with such great love, Elders from Australia, from Utah, from Idaho, and from California.

The Lord has had his eye on him for a long time.
He has said:

                  "Behold, verily, verily I say unto you that mine eyes
                    are upon you.  I am in your midst...the day soon
                    cometh that ye shall see me and know that I am...

                    Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared,
                     Behold the Kingdom is yours."

                                                               D&C 38: 7-9

How Great Shall Be your Joy...

There is great joy in sharing the simple gospel of Jesus Christ.
We will never forget this day..the day that Elder Simonsen walked through the door just like his Savior had done before him.  He was simply following what his Savior had done over 2000 years ago.

And the missionaries and friends- that gathered to celebrate this great event- "How Great is their joy."

The Savior has promised all of us..

                  "Many times you have desired of me to know that
                    which would be of the most worth unto you.

                    And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing
                    which will be of the most worth unto you will be
                    to declare repentance unto this people, that you
                    may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with
                    them in the kingdom of my Father."

                                                                 --D&C 15: 4,6

We have watched Jens Jacob Simonsen pass the Sacrament for the first time and have seen him grow in love and faith, as he enjoyed the friendship of the ward family and his dear missionaries.

We hve enjoyed being with him as he became a fine new member of the Church.

We all learned to love and appreciate JJ..  He became our dear,
reliable friend... A Spiritual Anchor.

In two short years, we have seen him receive the Aaronic and
the Melchizedek Priesthood.
He was ordained an Elder by Elder Wilberg in the Odense 1 Ward.

Four months after his own baptism,
JJ baptized Paul Li-Cong, our good friend from China.
Paul was taught by Elder Clayton and Elder Barnard.

                                     What an amazing day.
                     JJ's little sister and "auntie" were there for
                     the first time in a "Mormon Church"
                     to witness their dear JJ- dressed in white,
                     step into the old baptismal font
                     to baptize Paul Li-Cong.

When Elder Simonsen joined the Church, he changed his drinking
habits.  In Denmark he taught us how to create a "Tequilla Sunrise"
without tequilla.

When I got home, I taught my grandchildren how to make this new, refreshing drink.                                               --Sister B

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We had the privilege of being with JJ when he got his Patriarchal Blessing in Esbjerg, Denmark- about two hours from Odense.

He was with us again, as we returned with Dan and Aske, to Esbjerg when they received their Patriarchal Blessings.  We are in the home of the patriarch of our Stake who lives in Esbjerg.

                               Photo:  JJ, Aske, Rene (our student council president), and Louise after a temple
                                           session in the Copenhagen Temple- Below.

We were with JJ when he went to do baptisms in the Copenhagen Temple, for the first time.

We heard him share his conversion story many times in the two Odense Wards, and he patiently, translated for me when I bore my testimony from English to Danish in our ward.

Photo: The Denmark Copenhagen Temple

We watched him become an important leader.  He was called to be in charge of Family Home Evening for our Young Single Adult Program.  We taught him in a missionary training class.
We learned together how to be missionaries.

JJ enjoyed the close friendship of the Elders and Sisters as they came in and out of Odense.
These friendships strengthened our whole mission.

We are so grateful for his quiet wisdom and
the genuine love that he has for others. 
We learned to love this proud son of Greenland.
Many have said: "He was born a missionary."

The Apostle Paul describes the value of these friendships as
he taught the newly baptised Saints in
Ephesians 4: 13-16

When we "come to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God..
We henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro,
and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
but speaking the truth in love,
(we) grow up into him in all things...
the whole body,
joined together..
maketh an increase of the (whole) body unto
the edifying itself in love."

photos:  JJ with Elder Francis at sea,  JJ with our Elders at Zone Conference

During these past two years with Elder Simonsen,
we all "Grew up" as we shared and taught
the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We will not forget the blessings that we shared after this young, enthusiastic, new member of the Church joined us in this fine effort- to bring others to Christ.

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JJ at his last zone conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

JJ attended District Meetings with the missionaries in Odense.

photos:  missionaries and JJ gone wild-posing for a music poster for a coming talent show.

These friendships meant everything to him.
His social life changed when he left the
typical student weekends of
too many parties and lots of alcohol. 
He chose a new, more productive,
even a more fun- way of living.


He was a part of our lives from day to day. 

Photo:  The baptism of John Elvis from Africa

He went out with his good friends, the Elders, to share his
conversion story with investigators, celebrated with all of us when they were baptized and searched for them if they
fell away from
the church.  

The Danes loved him and he knew how to
invite international students to the center.  He has a genuine love for the Gospel, but he also loves people..whatever they decide to believe.  He has a real love for people.  This I have probably repeated over and over again in this post.  It can't be said enough.

--Sister B 

Photos:  JJ with the Elders at St Hans Aften in Arhus by the sea, JJ with Sister Wilberg and Jepsen
at the viking burial mounds in Alborg, Demark.

There is great joy in this effort.  This scripture describes how
valuable these two years have been to all of us, how important these choices have been for JJ.

                       "And if it so be that you should labor all of your days
                        ...and bring, save it be one soul unto me,
                        How great shall be your joy with him,
                        in the kingdom of my Father !

                        Remember, the worth of souls is great
                        in the sight of the Lord."      
                                                                     -- D&C 18: 15

One memorable missionary gathering took place in Horsens, Denmark on Thanksgiving day, November 2009.

photo: American football- Thanksgiving Jylland 2009 Turkey Bowl- all missionaries except for JJ
second from the left.  Can you tell who won?

It was a fine Thanksgiving Day, probably the only one celebrated in all of that side of Denmark.

When we returned home,
JJ asked us if he could talk to us for a minute.  He was so happy. 
He had decided that he wanted to go on a mission. 

We had no idea that he was thinking about a mission.  He was well into his education, on a scholarship.  He loved his studies and had spent the summer at sea as an intern. 
He had learned so many things.

It was such a great surprise to hear him express his desire to change the direction of his life for two years as a full-time missionary.
It was a personal sacrifice.

photos: The Riedels, our landlords, and counselor in the Danish Mission Presidency
with a happy Elder Simonsen when he read his mission call in our living room in Odense.

His Mission Call

JJ received his mission call in our home in Denmark.
What a remarkable weekend.  It was after St Hans Aften- the lightest day of the year.

Large bonfires were set all along the beaches of Denmark.

When we returned home, his call arrived...a Spanish Speaking mission in Utah.

Who could find a better mission for our dear native Greenlander ?

A few weeks before we were released from our mission, we gathered with many of his good friends, the missionaries, to go through the temple with JJ for his own endowments.

It has been such a pleasure to watch this strong, young man grow so quickly in the gospel that he loves so much.

Elder Simonsen has learned that following the Savior and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings great joy--both to the missionaries and the dear people who are willing to listen.

The sacred promise of love and support is there:

                          "He shall feed His flock
                            like a shepherd: He shall
                            gather the lambs with his arms...
                            and gently lead (them)."

                                                              -- Isaiah 40: 11

That is what happened when JJ decided to make this important change in his very successful life.

Thank you Elder Simonsen for your great example and your willingness to serve.

Photo:  JJ Simonsen- a student preparing to become a Maritime Officer

Two years ago, Elder Simonsen knew nothing about the Book of Mormon, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..

But he knew how to pray.
He knew how to be an honest, loving friend and son.

When he found the gospel of Jesus Christ, he recognized the truth.

And in two years he has become a full time and teaching the gospel every day with a great enthusiasm for life,

and a great love for the Spanish speaking people of Utah... including the Elders and Sisters who worked so hard to learn this language in the Missionary Training Center.

He loves these dear friends.  That is what keeps him going.. the natural love that he has for the children of God.

note: click on the picture to enlarge

Before he left the MTC to go into his mission field, Elder Simonsen bought a litle box full of tiny Books of Mormon.

He was thinking about our grandchildren, and wanted to encourage them to go on a mission just like he has.

He wrote his personal testimony in each little book...individual thoughts for each child.

We gathered for Family Home Evening when we received the little box of books.

photo: click to enlarge

During our home evening each grandchild read outloud JJ's testimony for them.

We talked about what each of us believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our little grandchildren treasure these special Books of Mormon
written just for them.

While Elder Simonsen is serving his mission in Utah..
He is sharing his love for the Gospel with all of us,
from his home in Greenland,
to Denmark,
and to our little family here in Sacramento, California.

Thank you, Elder.

                                                                   --Sister B

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A Final Note: 

I wrote and published this collection of memories on the second anniversary of JJ's baptism this year, March 21, 2011

I have added a few new pages to the story since then.

It is a profound story of a young man who made a big change in his life.

This is a story of a native Greenlander with character and discipline.. who decided to quit a student life of parties and drinking to live a better life.

He, from the beginning, immersed himself in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was no accident that he met the missionaries on that deserted street in the middle of Svendborg, Denmark.  (you can find this story, written by him in English and Greenlandic on this blog)

He had been taught how to pray by his family.  He prayed for help.  He prayed for a change in his life.

Elder Simonsen will probably not love to see this story with all this focus on him.  He reminds me often, about the purpose of his mission blog.  He wants all to know that he is there on his mission to "bring people to Jesus Christ."  That is his purpose.. to give others the opportunities and blessings that he has enjoyed- since he decided to be baptized two years ago.          --Sister B

But I think that he is a fine example to his family and friends,
of the many blessings that are waiting for anyone who decides that they need to find a better way of living...
to find joy and peace in the middle of a world full of chaos.

Elder Simonsen not only discovered the true and living Gospel of Jesus Christ,

He decided to Live it- with all of his heart.

Many Elders and Sisters that  he lives and works with in the Utah Ogden Mission- were converted to the Church only a few years before they decided to serve the Lord on a full time mission.

These are young men and women who, like JJ, testify to anyone who will listen.. That Jesus is the Christ and that he loves and places great value on the worth of every soul.

It has been a privilege to record this sacred story of Jens Jacob Simonsen- who was baptized only two years ago. 

"Out of very small things proceedeth that which is great..and if it so be that ye should labor all of your days and bring but one soul unto thee..How great shall be your joy with him." 
                                                       -- D&C 64: 33,  D&C 18: 15

                                                             --We love you, Elder JJ
                                                                Sister B