A Great Danish American Birthday - Peter Olsen Hansen

  • June 11, 2021
  • June 11, 2024
  • 4 sessions
  • June 11, 2021, 12:00 PM 1:00 PM (CDT)
  • June 11, 2022, 12:00 PM 1:00 PM (CDT)
  • June 11, 2023, 12:00 PM 1:00 PM (CDT)
  • June 11, 2024, 12:00 PM 1:00 PM (CDT)

A GREAT DANISH AMERICAN BIRTHDAY - PETER OLSEN HANSEN

Peter Olsen Hansen (11 June 1818 – 9 August 1895) was the translator of the Book of Mormon into Danish.  Throughout Danish American history,  the State of Utah has had one of the highest concentrations of Danes and those of Danish ancestry.  That is directly due to the work of early Mormon missionaries like Peter Olsen Hansen and his contemporaries.

Hansen was born in CopenhagenDenmark.  A sailor by trade, he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Boston in 1844. After this, Hansen moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. While at Nauvoo. Hansen assisted in building the Nauvoo Temple and, at the request of Brigham Young, worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon into Danish.  Hansen was a Mormon pioneer and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1847.

Hansen accompanied Erastus Snow on the first Latter-day Saint mission to Denmark.  He served on this mission from 1849 to 1855, during which he served as the first editor of the Skandinaviens Stjerne. Hansen later served additional missions in Denmark from 1873 to 1875 and from 1880 to 1882.

The Mormon missionaries arrived at an opportune time for the propagation of their faith.  The new Danish constitution written in 1849 granted religious liberty and the missionaries to Denmark did not experience the restraints by the state encountered by the missionaries in Norway and Sweden.  Religious life in Denmark also was undergoing upheaval, and people were questioning the ineffective Lutheran Church.  Baptists, Methodists, and religious dissenters appeared on the scene and sowed the seeds of religious debate.  The Mormons, therefore, were protected against government intervention and found an audience attuned to new religious approaches.

Even though the constitution of Denmark guaranteed religious freedom there were no laws supporting that right.  As a result some religious and political leaders attempted to place restrictions on the Mormons, but they were unsuccessful.  The Mormons also suffered harassment from the populace.  At Aalborg, for example, a crowd of more than 1,000 who had come to witness a Mormon Baptism by immersion in the Limfjord, was antagonized by the Mormon speaker when he told them that their church and clergy were of the devil.  The crowd stoned the Mormons and broke windows in Mormon homes.  More personal violence and property damage took place in small towns, where converts were more easily identified, than in large cities.  In the cities hostility was directed to the religious services by unruly elements who disturbed the services and interfered with the speaker.  But the government would not prohibit the assembly of the Mormons, and after ten years, after the Mormons became more commonplace, harassment declined.  The actual loss in converts is hard to estimate, but as in most other instances, the victims probably gained from the publicity and the attention.   (From: The Danish Americans by George R. Nielsen)

Hansen died in 1895 at Manti, Utah Territory.


National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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