He's proof of success in preparing leaders

In in the 1950s, recalls longtime Swedish leader Arne Lennart Hedberg, Church lesson materials in Sweden were faintly mimeographed, typed in Danish, and local members struggled to grasp the concepts.

Missionaries, though, illuminated gospel principles by their teaching, and captivated young Arne's interest. They also laid a foundation for future Church growth as they worked to prepare local members for leadership positions.His interest led to a lifetime of service in the Church that has culminated with his calling as the president of the Sweden Stockholm Mission. Pres. Hedberg, 58, will now fill the role of teacher for others as he begins his service as a mission president. He is one of an increasing number of mission presidents from outside the United States who will serve in their homelands.

He and 135 other new mission presidents will attend the annual Mission Presidents Seminar June 22-27 at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

In Sweden in the 1940s, missionaries filled all the local leadership positions. In the early 1950s, local people began to be called as leaders. Young Arne was called as YMMIA president at the age of 16. At the time, the Goeteborg Branch had some 70-100 attending.

"Of course I was very inexperienced," he said. "I didn't delegate anything, I didn't have council meetings or things like that as I should have, and did much of the task myself. I can see that now. But I learned a lot at the same time. I learned to sacrifice. I learned to love people. Leaders trained me, and I understand now that I was in a good school."

He and other local members experienced the challenges and need to seek the Lord, he said. With that, they developed their abilities and brought a continuity to the branches.

Pres. Hedberg still feels keen appreciation for missionaries. "I remember missionaries, especially, who were good teachers," he said in a recent telephone interview at his home. "Missionaries gave lessons I never heard before, with great spirit, and made a deep impression on me. I was just very eager to learn about the gospel."

One missionary took time to teach the young man after Sunday School class. Years later, he still appreciated that effort. "When I became a stake president, and went to Salt Lake City to general conference, the first thing I did was to thank him for his teaching and taking time with me."

The Swedish members are pleased that a Swede will succeed Bo G Wennerlund, another Swede, as president of the mission here. "We have had so many good mission presidents here that we have loved and really appreciated because they taught us so much. They had ability and leadership that we just didn't have.

"Perhaps the feeling is that the Lord trusts local people, and that we have the necessary experience. If this is a sign that we have learned the lessons taught, I think it is a blessing for us. Of course, we also understand the culture, and we know the language."

Lights have been on late at the Hedberg household as they prepare for their mission. "It took all the vacation time I had to get ready," said Pres. Hedberg, Church Educational System area director for Sweden. "I try to go out with missionaries, and I ask lots of questions of the missionaries who come home to dinner."

He said he and his wife, Gunnel, were kindly received by the current leaders, Pres. and Sister Wennerlund, at a recent visit to the mission home.

Through the activities of leaders such as Pres. Wennerlund and Pres. Hedberg, the Church is becoming better known in Sweden. Pres. Hedberg recalled meeting increasing numbers of community leaders who have been to Salt Lake City and toured Temple Square, for example.

"The Church members in Sweden have a very good reputation, generally speaking."

Having the Church become better known is a dramatic change from when he was young. Born in the Church, he is a third-generation member.

Pres. Hedberg has been associated with seminaries for the past 16 years. Many Swedish missionaries are seminary graduates. They are called to countries all over the world, and they do well, in part because of the training they received through seminary, he said.

Arne and Gunnel Hedberg served as leaders of the youth program (MIA) in Sweden from 1964 to 1976. They had responsibility for all conferences, camps and dances for youth.

When the Goeteborg Stake was organized 16 years ago, Brother Hedberg was called as the first stake president, a position he held for 10 years. He later served as regional representative for the Nordic countries for seven years.

A few years ago, the Hedbergs began a personal project that brought major changes into their lives, wrote Birgitta I. Strandberg in an article in Nordstjaernan, August 1990.

"Life became a little too comfortable for us when the children moved from home," said Pres. Heberg.

So they moved to this small community, Dyltabruk, north of Orebro, where they built a home, doing much of the work themselves.

"God wants us to succeed, and He blesses our efforts," said Pres. Hedberg. "We need not be afraid to dare to fulfill our dreams."

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