Royal couple visits at Swedish temple with Pres. Monson

Swedish tradition from the 1200s and contemporary events of the Church in Scandinavia were blended Aug. 23 as President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, helped welcome Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to the grounds of the Stockholm Sweden Temple.

Sweden's royal couple visited the temple site in a revival of "Eriksgata," a tradition that dates back to the 13th century in which the king traveled through the country to be met by its citizens. The tradition was discontinued during the 1600s but was revived by the present king's grandfather, King Gustav VI.Each year, a Swedish television station films the royal couple's visit to a different area of Sweden. On Christmas Eve, a special program is broadcast featuring the visits within that region. This year, the couple visited sites in the community of Haninge in the county of Stockholm, which includes the temple grounds in Vasterhaninge (West Haninge), located about 20 miles south of Stockholm.

On an unusually warm day in this "Land of the North," several thousand people gathered on the temple grounds for the royal couple's visit. Accompanied by President Monson and his wife, Frances; Stockholm Sweden South Stake Pres. Ulf Arne Girhammar, and other local Church leaders and their wives, the king and queen walked up the cobblestone path that leads to the temple. The pathway was lined with Boy Scouts dressed in Scout uniforms and by young women, each of whom held a small Swedish flag. LDS families and missionaries also lined the pathway. Several couples, including some who serve as workers in the temple, held flags of many nations, among which was the flag of the United States and those of the countries located within the Stockholm temple district.

Before they reached the temple, the king and queen paused to listen to Primary children sing "I Am a Child of God." In a garden, Stockholm temple Pres. Bo G Wennerlund welcomed the visitors to the grounds. The entourage paused in the garden to listen as an adult chorus sang an LDS hymn.

Elder Graham W. Doxey of the Seventy and president of the Europe North Area and his wife, Mary Lou Young Doxey, were among those who greeted the king and queen at the steps leading to the temple. In a brief ceremony on the steps, President Monson presented gifts to the king and queen on behalf of the Church. First, he presented to Queen Silvia an extensive history of her family. The history was gathered from the Church's archives and copies were made for the king's and queen's three children.

In making the presentation of the family history to the queen, President Monson spoke of the strong family values evident in what he referred to as "a royal family."

Queen Silvia expressed surprise and delight in the gift. She told President Monson that she looked forward to reading the history of her ancestors.

Then, turning to King Carl XVI Gustaf, President Monson said, "I would like to express appreciation to His Majesty. He is a Scouter of world-renown, the recipient of the Bronze Wolf. Our Church is the oldest sponsor of Scouting of any religious organization in America. I, too, am honored to serve on the International Committee and to be a fellow recipient of the Bronze Wolf. Not only is His Majesty supportive of the Boy Scouts, he is supportive of the Girl Scouts as well. His influence is felt worldwide."

President Monson spoke of the interest of the king and queen in families, and said the Church had a special gift for them that is typical of the family. Two Boy Scouts then stepped forward, carrying a small bronze casting of Dennis Smith's sculpture, "First Step."

"This shows mother helping daughter take her first step toward father," President Monson said to the king. "We know you will appreciate this gift. It is typical of your family, and we express appreciation once again. We wish you well in your service to the youth of the world, and thank you for being here."

President Monson referred to having met the king and queen in 1988 at a dinner hosted by then U.S. Ambassador Gregory J. Newell and his wife, Candilynne, who are active members of the Church, at their embassy residence in Stockholm.

"Your Majesty and I sat side by side at the table and my wife, Frances, sat with Her Majesty Queen Silvia," President Monson said to the king. President Monson reminded the king and queen that the song they heard the children of the ambassador and his wife sing was the same that was sung by the Primary children on the walkway to the temple.

As the king and queen left the grounds with their party, they conversed with President and Sister Monson and local Church leaders along the way.

In an informal program after the royal party left, President Monson stood on the top step leading to the temple and addressed members of the Church who remained on the temple grounds.

"This has been grand, a historic day," President Monson said. He spoke of Sister Monson's parents, Franz E. and Hildur Booth Johnson, who were born in Sweden, and of his paternal grandfather, Nels Monson, who was born in Torhamn, Sweden, in 1867. (See Church News, Aug. 26, p. 12.)

"I think of my dear wife's parents, and I think of my grandfather and his family, and of all the immigrants who came from Sweden to America, and what they would think as the Church has been honored by Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Sweden," President Monson said.

He noted that Queen Silvia "was pleased and genuinely excited about looking through her family history." He said the king and queen extended an invitation for representatives of the Church to call at the castle to explain the details of the research that went into gathering the queen's family history.

Of King Carl XVI Gustaf, President Monson said, "There is no question that he is a representative of Scouting in all the world. He gives freely of his time in the interest of young men and young women. . . .

"You are privileged to have good people as King and Queen of Sweden," President Monson said.

In his remarks, President Monson spoke of the temple and grounds, which, through the visit of the king and queen, were being called to the attention of all Sweden. "Some of you were here when Sister Monson and I were here, and we broke ground for this majestic temple

March 17, 1984T," he said. "The sun was not shining. It was cold. . . . With the help of a torch we cut through the ice so that we could turn the sod. Overnight it froze over again, and we had to clear the ice again. . . . Now you have a lovely temple." The temple was dedicated July 2, 1985.

President Monson spoke of the three stakes in Sweden, two in Stockholm and one in Goteborg, and of stakes in other Nordic countries, and of stakes yet to be created. "The North is awakening from a long hibernation," he said.

He spoke of having checked historical records of the Church in Sweden and of having discovered that there was no formal dedication of Sweden itself for missionary work. (The nations of Scandinavia are believed to have been dedicated by Apostle Erastus Snow on June 14, 1850, in a prayer offered in Copenhagen, Denmark.) On July 7, 1977, President Monson rededicated Sweden for the preaching of the gospel.

"As I offered the prayer of rededication of Sweden, I emphasized that the future of the Church in Sweden will be maximized when the membership of the Church and the missionaries work hand in hand in meeting and teaching the gospel to others," he said.

Further, President Monson added, "This is God's work. We are His children. We love Him. . . . Let's show the Lord that we love Him. Let's keep His commandments, and Zion will flourish in the Lands of the North. Let this day be a day of a new beginning. If there is anything that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing, today is the day to make a change. If there is any commandment where we've been a little lax in honoring it, let this day - the day of the visit of Their Majesties, the King and Queen - mark the day of further righteousness on our part."

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