Monday, December 12, 2011

Latter-day Saint Women Around the World: Pamela from Finland

Today's guest post is by Pamela from Finland. Pamela is the one who inspired me to start doing these posts on Latter-day Saint women around the world. So you if you are enjoying this series you have her to thank for it! I am so glad that I've gotten to know her better, and hope that maybe someday we will get to meet in real life. Her answers to my questions and below and wow, they are SO interesting. I would love to go to Finland.


(Photo taken by Daniela Talvitie)

Hi! My name is Pamela. I live on the beautiful west coast of Finland. I am 31, married, and mama of two. When the kids nap I like to read, knit and… let’s be honest, stare at a glowing screen. Our family loves the wonderful outdoors! I fantasize of babies, genealogy, traveling and that perfect dream house. I’m a journalist, indigo is my favorite color and I use three languages on a daily basis. I have a neglected little craft blog, found here: fridulina.blogspot.com

1. 
What is the dominate belief system in your country?

A large majority of the Finnish population is Lutheran (78 %) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has a legal position as state church. Although the Lutheran faith is so dominating, I wouldn’t say Finns in general are very religious. In a recent poll 29 percent of the respondents stated that religion is important to them. Tradition however is, and I believe many are Lutheran simply because of tradition, not conviction. For many Finns it’s important to be able to have an old-fashioned church wedding, a church christening or funeral.

People in general don’t attend church on a regular basis, not necessarily even those that are religious. When I tell people I go to church every single Sunday, three full hours with kids and all, they really think I’m joking.

I naturally wish many more would share my faith, or even show a little more interest in religion. But I still have a deep appreciation for the tradition and legacy of Christianity in this country. Every time I step inside an old Lutheran church I feel something special. I feel that it is a part of my heritage as much as anyone else’s.



2. How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

I was born in the church. My mother joined the church when she was a teenager and my paternal grandparents became members in the 50’s.

One favorite story about my family is about my grandfather Viktor. As I was writing this I was a little unsure about some of the details, and so I e-mailed my dad and asked him to write down the story for me. This my father’s story:
As a boy I had noticed an old book sitting in a drawer at home. I sometimes wondered to myself why it hadn’t been thrown away. It had literally been read to pieces. The cover and the first few pages were missing, the binding was starting to come undone so several pages at the beginning and the end were loose. The edges of each page showed marks of being turned countless times. It lay in the drawer with a rubber band wrapped around it to keep it together. I asked someone sometime about that book, and was told it was my father’s old Bible. Our neighbor had a brother that was very religious, and he knew about my father’s interest in religion. So he stopped by a few times every year, while he was visiting his brother next-door. My father who was on disability retirement (he was a war veteran) had plenty of spare time, and these two would immerse themselves in different religious topics. This friend sometimes wanted to question the Book of Mormon, and one time he especially wanted to underline the importance of the Bible. So he pulled out a Bible from his briefcase, and explained that he had received it many years ago as a wedding gift from the Lutheran priest that married him and his wife, with the exhortation to study it carefully and follow the teachings he would find. He said that he had followed the priest’s advice and this had led him to join another faith of which he was now a member. I wasn’t present when this happened, but my father told me about it afterwards. He told me that the Bible this man had showed him was very well kept and looked like new. Then he said: “I also have the Bible we were given when we were married, but I didn’t have the heart to take it out. I didn’t want to embarrass that man. You know, it’s the one in the drawer with the rubber band around it. I have read through it twice, and some of the scriptures I’ve read over again hundreds of times."
I love to think that when the missionaries earlier knocked on that same door and taught my grandfather about the restored church and of another testament of Jesus Christ, something within him recognized the same truth he already loved and knew so well from the Bible.
3. What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon?

To be honest, I am super shy about my faith. Some of my friends don’t know. I’ve never given away a Book of Mormon, and I only just recently shared a Mormon Messages video on Facebook for the first time. (I promise to post a link to this blog post!)

I really don’t mind people knowing or asking, but I always worry about being pushy or offending people. Religion is considered a very personal thing in our culture. Like sex or something. It’s nothing you discuss with a stranger.

But every time I do have a chance to tell people something about my beliefs, people are kind and respectful. People are definitely more open and less prejudiced nowadays, than perhaps one or two generations ago. Some will ask questions out of genuine interest, and some will feel really awkward in that typical Finnish way and quickly change the topic. ;)

I’m really trying to change my ways and be more open. I want to set a good example for my children. But it’s hard! (I’m even a little nervous about writing this post for the whole world to read!)

4. How is missionary work in your country? Would you say that it is difficult or easy for missionaries to find people to teach? 


Not easy. Finnish is a complicated language. And Finns are a complicated people. But the work is slowly moving forward. I can remember a time when there were only about a dozen baptisms per year in the whole country. Today, just in our ward we have a new baptism every three months or so.

I know the missionaries are teaching more families these days, and more young adults. The Institute Outreach Centers have been a huge hit, and I feel like there’s a growing optimism and enthusiasm about missionary work in this odd little corner of the vineyard.


5. How far away is the nearest temple? When was it built? How busy is it? Do most people in your country know about it? What are their feelings about it?

The Helsinki temple was dedicated in 2006. Having our ”own” temple was something many Finnish members wouldn’t even dream about. I’m so glad president Hinckley did! With only 4 500 Finnish members we obviously wouldn't be able to keep a temple running just with our own resources, but the Baltic States and big parts of Russia are also part of our temple district.

The Helsinki temple open house attracted about 50 000 visitors. It's nothing exceptional compared to visitor numbers in other parts of the world, but for us it exceeded our wildest dreams. 50 000 Finns got out of their comfort zone to learn about our most sacred doctrines! Many of them stood in line for hours, whole families, sometimes in rain... It was a miracle. (I even invited some of my friends to the open house, which was a little miracle too. And they came.)

The building, and the dedication of the temple were widely covered in the media, mostly in a respectful and positive way. For anyone living in this country I'd say it was almost impossible to avoid hearing something about the temple. Through this whole process I’d say the church in Finland finally fully established itself in Finnish society.

What can I say; I just love the temple in so many ways!

6. What is the LDS church attendance like in your area?

There are two wards in our city. I should check this with someone, but I think attendance in our ward is about 100 on an average Sunday. The ward covers a large geographical area, but most active members live quite close by. We have a nice balance of people in the ward, maybe slightly more active women than men.

There are only two stakes in Finland, plus three districts. We travel far for our stake meetings!

7. How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

The Finnish fertility rate is actually slightly on the rise, but still hangs below two. Four children isn’t in my opinion unusual, but is definitely considered “many”. And anything above four is already a little unusual. I actually can’t even think of that many LDS families that have more than four children. My husband comes from a family of ten kids and they were always considered a little strange, haha. (Sorry, darling.)

8. What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?

- The constant struggle to find balance in life - between children, husbands, home, work, church, society, personal needs and so on… Many sisters are tired, stressed and struggle with feelings of inadequacy.

- Trying to stay strong, and trying to find hope and happiness in the gospel, when children, husbands and friends choose a different path of life. While this is a challenge that can sometimes feel almost unbearable, I’ve found that the greatest comfort often comes through faithful, loving sisters in Relief Society.

9. What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?

Three things that give me a lot of joy are the temple, the Book of Mormon and understanding my birthright and potential as daughter of Heavenly Father.



Thanks Pamela! Your testimony is so beautiful and thank you so much for being brave enough to share it with us all.

4 comments:

  1. I have only lived in Scandinavia a short time (my new husband is Finnish), but I have the same impressions of Finland relating to the gospel.

    I recently attended a mission reunion in Utah for the Finland missions. The former mission president (just released) was very excited to report a substantial increase in baptisms. The work is definitely moving forward in this area!

    Wonderful post! Kiitos paljon!

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  2. I was a missionary in Finland a long time ago. I loved hearing about the Temple. I am excited about how many people showed an interest in the open house and my heart soars with joy to hear how many Finns are embracing the restored gospel. I love the people of Finland. I hope to take my husband and children to Finland someday to see the Temple and the wonderful people there.
    Kiitos, Pamela!

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  3. My in-laws are currently serving as Branch President in Kemi. Thanks for shedding some light on living in Finland.

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  4. Yay for all the members in Finland and yay for the temple. I'm a Finn, but moved out of Finland to Australia last February. I'm also a convert and can tell you that I got a lot of persecution from my family and some friends who consider themselves lutheran. I love the members there because they have helped me to be strong and stay true to the gospel. Cheers to Pamela!

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