Finnish faces radiate gospel light

Years of faithful service by Alakoskis will continue with temple calling

TUUSULA, Finland — Jorma Alakoski knows his place in the pecking order of home chores.

"My job is to chisel a hole in the ice for my wife, Mari, to swim in the winter," he said.

Alakoski couple near the lake behind their home in Vantaa, Finland
Alakoski couple near the lake behind their home in Vantaa, Finland Photo: Photo by Shaun Stahle

Some think it borders lunacy to swim these icy waters so near the Arctic Circle.

"It is common in this country," Brother Alakoski said. "People love it."

The Alakoskies — with countenances brightened by their love of the gospel and rosy complexions that bespeak their love of this pristine country with its sensory overload of colors, textures and soul-soothing lakes — mirror the face of the Church in Finland.

They are converts who raised their five children in the gospel. During their nearly 30 years as members they have served in most callings. More recently, Brother Alakoski was called as first counselor in the Helsinki Finland Temple presidency, and Sister Alakoski as assistant matron.

"We've been blessed in so many ways," she said. "We've been so happy."

Reflective of the solid granite that underlines much of this Nordic country, the gospel seed has, more often than not, fallen on stony soil. But not with Brother Alakoski.

He became acquainted with missionaries as a boy when he attended English classes sponsored by the missionaries.

Over the years he wondered about the faith of such young men to leave home and family. When missionaries knocked on his door years later, in 1977, he invited them in.

He felt an incompleteness with his religion, and over the next months, used his conversations with the missionaries to air his concerns.

Alakoskis tell of their conversion while seated in their home with view of lake in background.
Alakoskis tell of their conversion while seated in their home with view of lake in background. Photo: Photo by Shaun Stahle

During much of this time, Sister Alakoski felt disdain for the missionaries and their message. It was convenient on many occasions for her not to be home when the missionaries came. She vowed to never read the Book of Mormon, and once recoiled with disgust after scooting a copy of the Book of Mormon away from her on a table, as if it were poisonous.

But, one day, missionaries invited to her to participate in a flannel board discussion of the Plan of Salvation. She couldn't think of an objection and listened.

"It was what I always believed," she said. "I had always believed in an eternal life."

Her testimony blossomed quickly. She joined her husband's quest for truth, and, by the end of the year, they decided to flush their bottles of alcohol and keep the commandments as unbaptized members.

On Jan. 21, 1978, Brother and Sister Alakoski were baptized in the Pietarsaari Ward meetinghouse, the area where the gospel was first introduced in Finland.

Soon Brother Alakoski had to face his two fears; wearing a tie and speaking to a congregation.

"I couldn't even say 'Hyvaa Huomenta,' the first time," he said. (Good morning).

Their lives were quickly consumed with the Church.

Several years later, they moved closer to his employment as air traffic controller, where he was assigned to be the ward janitor. Several months later he was called as bishop. "That was quite a jump," he said.

Sister Alakoski
Sister Alakoski Photo: Photo by Shaun Stahle

Their two boys and three girls were reared in the gospel and learned to contribute to their Kerava Ward, like Laura who taught herself how to play the piano as a young teen and accompanied the congregation for eight years.

"We were too busy to know life was hard," Brother Alakoski said.

Announcement of a temple in Finland took them by surprise, just as the prompting that came one day to Brother Alakoski. "I keep impressions to myself," he said. "But the feeling that I'd be called to the temple presidency was so stunning that I had to tell my wife."

They approach their new assignment with the same placid tranquility of the lake located behind their home.

They know their place in the kingdom and serve with faces of faith.

Alakoski raises Finnish flag
Alakoski raises Finnish flag Photo: Photo by Shaun Stahle

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