Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Þorrablót - 2018

Þorrablót - 2018
Icelandic Association of Utah will be celebrating Þorrablót - 2018
Saturday February 17th at 6:00 PM
City of Spanish Fork Fairgrounds 
475 South Main Street 


Monday, July 24, 2017

Fluga Hugmyndahús

Fluga Hugmyndahús is a creative media production company in Akureyri, northeast Iceland. In all our work we try to bring together ambition and aesthetics. They are two owners, partners both in life and at work, Árni Þór Theodórsson og Birna Pétursdóttir.
Birna has a background in theatre and performing arts as well as television: being an editor and scriptwriter. Árni has a background in film and television production as well as music.
They quite recently broke out of the 9-5 work-environment, at a local television station, wanting to create our own projects, within our own company, where everything has a creative and artistic edge rather then only market-driven material.

Árni and Birna and their assistant Magnus Ómarsson recently came to Utah to document part of a three part series documentary they are doing on Icelandic Latter-day Saints that immigrated to Utah from 1854 to 1914. We are hoping to have this film premiered in the fall of 2018 at the BYU Broadcasting building (next to the Marriot Center) which has a great auditorium for the premier.

I, David Ashby, had the privilege to assist these wonderful people, from Iceland, while they were here for over two weeks, June 14-30, 2017. We even went fishing at Strawberry Reservoir one day.
I continue to have these great moments in my life. This event ranks right up there with being with the President of our Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, and the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, back in 2005.

Arni og Birna

Spanish Fork Mayor Steve Leifson and Birna

David Ashby at Strawberry Reservoir

Pioneer Day 1884, Spanish Fork, Utah by Dr Fred E. Wood

Dear friends, I thought you might enjoy this description of Pioneer Day in 1884 through the eyes of an Icelander who wrote 17 letters from Spanish Fork to his friend in Reykjavik to try to convince him as to why he should become a Mormon and immigrate to Spanish Fork. This letter was written August 4, 1884 by Þorsteinn Jónsson to Jón Jónsson Borgfirðingur is wonderful. These men were both police officers in Reykjavik and both had been witnesses in the fall of 1879, when two LDS missionaries (Jón Evyindsson and Jakob Jónsson) were compelled to stand before a city hearing and told to leave the city as the men of Reykjavik were angry when three Icelandic women were baptized, one of which was the wife of Þorsteinn Jónsson. Later, Þorsteinn joined the Church and moved to Spanish Fork. Here is the description of pioneer day which is so rich in detail:
There was a great festival held here the 24th of July, naturally the biggest one of the year.  Then they call on a few men of every nation to show their national costumes and various traits, to display ones status and crafts, which they brought with them from home.  Of the Icelanders they called Þórður Diðriksson to bring six Icelandic persons.  He called my wife and I, Gísli Bjarnason and Margrét, the wife of Samuel, Eiríkur Ólafsson and Margrét, who was in the school. 
At eight o’clock in the morning everyone was to assemble by the city hall, and there everyone was ordered into groups.  First were the English and the American, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, German, all in wagons, which were decorated with cloths and upholstery of various colors.  There were also 24 young men and women on horseback, riding side by side, the boys all dressed in black on gray horses, but the girls on brown horses all dressed in white.  This was to represent the 24 days of the month.  Then they all rode along the main street, three times around so that all could see, because the sidewalk on both sides was so crowded.  Then we went just outside of town to a forest, which was planted for pleasure.  There were held speeches and singing, then lunch was served and we ate, and there after we played games.  Those who had been officers or lieutenants came in their costumes, each in their own rank that they had held at home.  I came in my policeman uniform and it was considered striking
My wife was in her national costume, which was considered the most beautiful costume they had ever seen, and I think most of the people that were present came to look at the costume, it was thought to be so significant.  The Icelanders also made a symbol for the group from blue linen, with a falcon on one side, and a Viking ship on the other side, according to Friðþjólfur.  This was also considered beautiful.  The Icelanders also carried a symbol made out of white linen with big blue inscription, saying: Iceland delights in you, Zion.  I wish it were so; however, it meant the Icelanders that are here and all of those who might come.  They also showed how they looked when they first arrived, walking with their belongings in handcarts, with their children barefoot, torn and tattered, crying because of hunger and exhaustion.  But now they have lands and acres.  But those who come now, come like soldiers in covered wagons, but may in return slave for the others, because they’ve made the lands so expensive that you can scarcely buy them.  It is not the Lord’s doctrine that this should be so.  This festival is to commemorate that the restoration of the Church, the 24th of July.  The wife and I sought to bring as much honor as possible to our nation.  It is considered a great honor to all, irrespective of their nationality.” (Letter of  Þorsteinn Jónsson to Jón Jónsson Borgfirðingur, August 4, 1884, National Library of Iceland, Archives Department, Reykjavik, Iceland,  Catalogue # Lbs IB 102, fol. B (w-ö), 1–3. See also Sigmundsson, Vesturfarar skrifa heim: Fra islenzkum mormonum, 69-71.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Iceland days 2015

David and JJ Ashby
two of my grandsons
Christina & Claire Marcano and Bonnie Ashby
Debi Valguardson Barnwell
Great time at Iceland Day in Spanish Fork, UT

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Byron T. Geslison

Byron T. Geslison received the Order of the Falcon, the highest honor bestowed by the government of Iceland. Byron helped open missionary work in Iceland in 1975 and has served three missions to that country. The government of Iceland's highest honor - The Order of the Falcon - was presented Aug. 6, 1993.

The Honorable Tomas Tomasson, Ambassador of Iceland, presented the award to Byron T. Geslison at a reception center in Spanish Fork, Utah. The Order of the Falcon is "selectively conferred upon Icelandic and foreign subjects, men and women, who above all others have furthered the welfare and honor of the Fatherland or have accomplished achievements in the interest of mankind. 

Before pinning the award on Byron, Ambassador Tomasson told those present: "I am here on official errand of the government of Iceland. It is a pleasure indeed for me to be here with you tonight in Spanish Fork, the oldest Icelandic settlement in the United States. . . ." He added that the president of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, had commissioned him to "honor one of the outstanding western Icelanders, Byron T. Geslison. I want to tell you that the great missionary work that Byron has done - both as a missionary from Utah in Iceland and as a missionary of Iceland in Utah - has been highly valued by the authorities in Iceland. "We value highly both the fostering of family bonds, and also the promoting of the Icelandic culture and heritage here in Utah and the Western Icelandic identity here," he added.

After the ambassador pinned the award on his lapel, Byron said, "I accept this honor, but not entirely on my own behalf." He then beckoned to his wife Melva to stand beside him as they received applause from the audience. "I couldn't do much of anything without her," he added. Continuing, Byron asked the Icelandic ambassador to "please convey to the government my great and deep appreciation for this honor that has been bestowed upon me. ”I'd like to thank those on this side of the ocean as well as those in the old land. I love the Icelandic people dearly." In speaking of the former Icelandic president, Byron said: "He gave great service to us. He was one of the first we met when we arrived in Iceland. We became friends, and I'm grateful for what he did.”

Byron Theodore Geslison was born in Spanish Fork, Utah on May 15, 1914 the son of Sigmundur Geslison and Sveinmsina Arnadottir known as Sina and Mund. They were both born in Iceland and came, when they were young, to America and settled in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Byron’s grandmother, Steinnun Thorstiensdottir Geslison, a widow lived next door. She who was also an Icelandic emigrant taught him about Iceland and the Icelandic language. She spoke mostly Icelandic to him and told many tales of Iceland and happenings she remembered. He developed a strong desire for Byron to go to this rugged land of his forbearers. She passed away when he was 10 years of age.

Byron’s boyhood was spent playing and working in the fields thinning, weeding and topping beets. He spent several summers working with his uncle Gil.

Byron became ill in the 9th grade and had to miss a month of school. It may have been rheumatic fever. He was advised by the doctor to take it easy that summer. He had been studying the Old Testament in seminary; he decided that he would read the entire Old Testament that summer. It was a large undertaking for a fifteen year old, but he did it and this was blessing throughout his life.

He graduated from seminary as a junior in 1931 and from Spanish Fork High School in 1932. That fall he entered Brigham Young University. He started working summers at the Del Monte Cannery, near Spanish Fork. He worked there until he went on his Church Mission.

He received his call to go to the German-Austrian Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1935. This is where he wanted to go. His departure was delayed because of Hitler’s threats and Mussolini’s antics in Ethiopia, but was finally allowed to depart. Byron asked permission to visit Iceland following his missionary service. He had to go through the President of the Church. President Grant gave his permission and asked that he study conditions there as to the advisability of starting missionary work there. When he returned home he gave him his report and it was very positive.

The summer of 1938 Byron spent in Iceland with his cousins and their families. His family took him too many part of the country and he grew to love it. He was able to meet people in important positions and heads of Churches; this was good material for his report to President Grant. He developed a great interest in the land of his forefathers and maintained a life-long bond with family and friends.

Byron graduated from BYU in the spring of 1939 in secondary education and German. He continued school seeking a M. A. degree. He went to California with his brother, Arthur, with the intention of joining the Navy Air force.  He was unable to pass their requirements. He returned to Spanish Fork and went to work for the Nebo School District and continue his work on his M. A. degree at BYU. He took ill and went to a hospital in Ogden, Utah where he spent the next year. This is where he fell in love with one of the nurses that he describes as “a beautiful dark haired, brown eyed nurse.”

Melva Ilene Holt was called to serve a mission to the Northern California Mission just about the time Byron was released from the hospital. He waited for her and they were married December 1, 1943 in the Salt Lake Temple. Byron and Melva made their home in Spanish Fork next to his parents. Their children are; Elaine, Allen, Mary Kathleen, David and Daniel. Byron and Melva also had Earl Riggs, a Navajo Indian, live with them for several years, as well as Rose Eichler, a German girl that stayed with them for two years.

Byron was appointed Bishop of the Spanish Fork Fifth Ward in September 1946 and served there for ten years until 1956, at which time he was called as 1st counselor in the Spanish Fork Stake Presidency, a position he held for nearly sixteen years.

His work included working for Spanish Fork City as City Clerk and Treasurer, school teacher in Spanish Fork, Electrolux Corp., National Public Services Insurance, teaching Seminary and Principal of the Spanish Fork LDS Seminary.

In 1954 he was appointed to the executive committee for the Icelandic Centennial Celebration along with J. Victor Leifson and John Y. Bearnson. This was an outstanding event that even brought Icelanders form Iceland and Canada to Spanish Fork.

 In November of 1974 a call came from Elder Hartman Rector Jr. to determine his circumstances with regard to accepting a subsequent call to go to Iceland and open this land to missionary work. After the first of the year they were called into the Church offices to discuss the matter further. Byron and Melva were asked if they could accept such a call. Their response was we would go were ever the Lord wanted us. They then asked if there were any problems. The first response was the language. The answer was “You can brush up, can’t you?” The next concern were their twin boys David and Daniel serving missions in the Far East, one in Japan and the other in Korea who were soon to be released. These two young men were called to serve an additional two years, to go to Iceland with their parents.

One of the first things Byron did when he arrived in Iceland was to go to the officials of the nation and let them know who they were and their purpose for being in Iceland and invite their cooperation, and promised blessings for so doing, and leave his testimony with them. Byron and his family visited with; the President of Iceland, the Prime Minister, The Mayor of Reykjavik, The Bishop of Iceland, the President of the University and others. An extra bonus was a State visit by the King of Sweden; the Geslison family was invited to his reception and they gave him a Book of Mormon in Swedish.

Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir was the first to be baptized after his arrival. Byron said; “The Lord picked her and prepared her to be the official translator, which they needed so much. Her willingness and her qualities have helped her become a great strength to the work in many ways.” A Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was soon organized and became fully functional so the investigators could see how a Mormon Branch really worked.

In 1977 Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sent word for Byron to find a suitable place overlooking Reykjavik were the dedication of this land to missionary work, could take place. Öskjuhlíð was selected. They were holding the morning session of Conference in a hall at the University. The weather was bad, raining and blowing. It was decided that the dedication would be moved inside, so at the end of the morning session Byron announced the decision. A young teenager, Trudy, came up to him asked; “where his faith was”. “We have an appointment with the Lord at Öskjuhlíð and it will not rain”. Byron felt the power of her faith and they went to Öskjuhlíð and it stopped raining and Elder Wirthlin gave a marvelous blessing to the land, its people and leaders as well as to the work of establishing his Church in Iceland. They returned to the University for the afternoon session of Conference and again the rain began.

Byron and Melva returned home about three years after Elder Rector’s first call, feeling that the work was now established and in good hands. Young elders had been called to serve in Iceland and the work was going well.

In 1981, Byron returned to Iceland on request of the Church's Translation Department to help review Icelandic translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. In 1983 and 1987, he and Melva served 18-month missions to Iceland.

On New Year’s Day of 1983 a tragedy occurred. Two priesthood leaders, the Branch president and the former Branch president, were killed when they fell while hiking. This triggered another call for Byron and Melva to return to Iceland. One of Byron’s goals set by the Church leaders was to have the government of Iceland officially recognize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Iceland. This was accomplished on November 1, 1983 when visiting General Authority, Elder Hales was in Iceland. This official recognition was a great step forward for the Mormon Church in Iceland.

In 1987 Byron and Melva was called a third time to Iceland to help in organizing a Branch of the Mormon Church in Akureyri. Of this experience Byron said; “My testimony is that the work will continue to advance here and that other branches will be organized.”

Byron was active in the Icelandic Association of Utah all his life. He was often asked to translate old letters and books into English. He was a devote Mormon Church Leader, having a guiding influence on many of the young Western Icelanders in Spanish Fork as their spiritual leader. Weather it was serving as their local Bishop, in the Stake Presidency and/or as their Seminary teacher. He lived his life as a humble servant of his Heavenly Father.

Byron T Geslison died on October 10, 2001 at 87 years old. He is buried in the Spanish Fork City Cemetery.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kate B. Carter

Kate B. Carter

If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…
nothing shall be impossible unto you
                                      ―Matt. 17:20

Catherine Vigdus Bearnson was born July 30, 1892 in Spanish Fork, Utah. She is the daughter of Josephine Marie Christine Jensen (Mary Bearnson) a Danish emigrant and Finnbogi Björnsson (Tim Bearnson) an Icelandic emigrant.
Catherine was known as Kate or Kate B. She began her education in Scofield, Utah and later in Rush Valley, Utah. Kate’s mother felt the children would receive better training in a larger school so the family moved home or Spanish Fork as it was always considered to be home.  Kate graduated from Spanish Fork High School. Next she graduated from Henager’s Business College, and at different periods in her life she took courses from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Education was an important part of her family’s home life the children were provided with as many books as it was possible for them to obtain.

During the years of her young girlhood Kate served in every female organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the age of fourteen she taught Sunday School. At sixteen she taught girls her own age in the Mutual Improvement Association (M.I.A.), which led to her appointment to the Nebo Stake Board of M.I.A.  About this time Kate and a partner won several debates, an activity she enjoyed and for which she did much research.

When Kate was only twelve years of age an elderly neighbor asked her to write letters for him, as he could not write the English language, this led her to write his life story as he dictated it, thus began her interest in the Utah pioneers and their history.

On 14 June 1914, Kate married Austin Carter in the Salt Lake Temple. Austin was a fine man, patient, kind, and affectionate. They made their home in Spanish Fork, Utah until 1926, when the moved to Salt Lake City. Their children were born to them: Boyer, Paul, and Kathryn. The whole family cooperated in helping Kate, especially her husband, who took her to conventions in distant areas, handling the books and arranging travel schedules.

Kate B. as she was often called, was a charter member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) in Spanish Fork and joined camp #2 when she went to Salt Lake City to reside. Realizing that people cannot be fully informed unless they have a thorough knowledge of their forebears, she began researching into the records of the pioneers. In 1930, Kate was asked to prepare the first outline of the lessons for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. At this time the organization could not afford to have them typed, so she, her friends, and children typed them. Later they were mimeographed and sold to various D.U.P. Groups. Thus began the great publish career of Kate B. Carter. She was elected president of the Daughters of Utah pioneers in 1941; she served until death in 1976. During her time as president she compiled, edited, and did much of the writing for twelve volumes of Heart Throbs of the West, six volumes of Treasures of Pioneer History, and nineteen volumes of Our Pioneer Heritage, as well as numerous pamphlets.
Kate was especially interested in the everyday pioneer life, how the ordinary emigrant lived. This was often overlooked by many historians. The common everyday life of these Utah pioneers are preserved forever in the many volumes of history she compiled.
The sale of these books and pamphlets provided funds for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Organization to erect a Pioneer Memorial Museum completed in 1950 and the Carriage House added in 1973. Kate did not receive any salary for this work; her pay was the satisfaction of achievement and the knowledge that she had the love and respect of the members of the organization.
Two important educational projects are notable in her achievements: the placing of 396 historical markers throughout the United States and Europe. One of the historical markers is the Icelandic Monument in Spanish Fork, Utah. In 1938 Kate was vice president of the National Association of Daughters of Utah Pioneers and was a part of the planning committee to erect this monument. At that time Kate B. Carter said, “The Icelanders in Utah are said to have preserved the folklore and customs of their mother country more than any other nationality that pioneered in Utah.” As part of the Utah Iceland Days on 2 August 1938 this monument was dedicated. It remains a reminder to all of Icelandic descent of our Icelandic heritage. Every visiting Icelander to Spanish Fork, Utah goes to that monument and has their picture taken with the monument in the background.
Kate was recognized for her work with a number of awards. In 1945: Kate B. received an award of merit for work as a Minute Woman and also an award as a member of the Bushnell Recreational Fund Committee and a special citation and medal from the National War Salvage Board. Mr. J. C. Krug, chairman of the War Production Board of the United States of America issued the following citation to her: “In acknowledgement of meritorious services rendered in behalf of the National War Salvage Program. Given under my hand this 30th day of September 1945”. September 26, 1953 she received an award for distinguished service in the cause of making Americans aware of their local history from the American Association for State and Local History. 
1953: The Soroptomists Club presented Kate B.’s name for the Mary Margret McBride Award, sponsored by the National Broadcasting Association. This honor was given to her for preserving western history, which she had done by housing documents and relics of the Utah pioneers.  On January 27, 1953, seven women were named to the Salt lake Council of Women’s Hall of Fame for their outstanding service over a number of years. Kate B. Carter was one of those seven.
1955: High honors were given to two people at the concluding event of the Icelandic Centennial Celebration. Kate B. Carter and her brother John Y. Bearnson each received the Order of the Falcon Award from Peter Eggerz, Minister of Legation of Iceland at Washington D.C. He was the official representative of the government of Iceland and a representative of the president of Iceland at this event. This award is one of the highest given by the Icelandic Government. The award is presented to Icelanders and foreign men and women who above all others have furthered the welfare and honor of the fatherland achievements in the interest of mankind. At the time of this presentation Kate said; “I come from a people who are history minded and from a people who make up a very literary country”
1960: Kate B. was awarded an honorary life membership in the Utah Historical Society for distinguished service to Utah.
In 1967: Kate B. was appointed a member of the Golden Spike Centennial Commission by Utah Governor, Calvin L. Rampton.
1969: The Salt lake City, Lions Club gave Kate B. a certificate of appreciation and in 1973 they again honored her for thirty five of years of community service as co-chairman of ’47 Committee’. Kate was co-chairman of the annual Days of 47 parade and celebration for many years, an event observing the entrance of pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
1971: The Utah Woman’s Review honored Kate B. as a true woman of the week who had dedicated her life to compiling the history of the Mormon Pioneers. Responding, she said: “I had no real history training. My desire and love of history came from my father, an Icelandic pioneer who settled in Spanish Fork. Utah Governor, Calvin L. Rampton presented Kate B. with a plague of the Great Seal of the State of Utah for her outstanding contribution to the state as president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
1972: The Salt lake Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers honored her for her outstanding service as co-chairman of the Days of 47.
1973: The Mormon Battalion gave Kate B. their Distinguished Service Award.
1974: In her eighty-second year, she received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Southern Utah State College.
1975: The National Association of Secretaries of State honored Kate. B. with a medallion for “meritorious public service”, presented to her April 5, 1975, by Secretary of State Clyde Miller. Every year in May a tree is planted in the southwest corner of the Utah State Capitol grounds by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. This ceremony was started by Kate B. Carter.
Visiting in Sacramento, California for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers county convention, Kate B. told of various awards and prizes her history volumes have brought her, she said; “But the one that mean the most to me is the Order of the Falcon from Iceland. It means the most to me because it’s from the land of my father”
Her writings dealt with the personal stories of thousands Utah pioneers, and to the end of her life she admonished modern-day Utahans to compile their own histories for future generations.
Kate B. Carter was a student of the scriptures. Starting in the home of her parents and continuing throughout her life daily scripture study was a priority. She started every article and lesson she wrote with a scripture from the Bible or The Book of Mormon. That is why this article starts with a scripture.
Kate B. Carter is to be considered one to of the truly great women of our time. Her attributes were many. She was a born leader and doer. She was a humanitarian, historian, student, researcher, genealogist, church worker, executive, and a friend. Through her leadership and love of history, Kate B. Carter brought the Daughters of Utah Pioneers from a largely social organization to one of great renown in gathering and preserving the history of the pioneers of Utah. Spoken words soon pass on, written words, like the books by Kate B. Carter, well preserved, will forever be a monument to her and a gift to future generations.
Andrew Jensen, Assistant Historian, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave Kate B. a new title, “The greatest woman historian the West and the L.D. S. Church has ever known.”  Those who worked closest with her in this life’s work called it “Icelandic determination”.
Kate B. carter passed away 8 September 1976, she is buried in the Spanish Fork City Cemetery.
Icelandic Monument
Spanish Fork, Utah