Monday, October 27, 2014

You May Take My Life But Never My Faith

You May Take My Life But Never My Faith is a book put together by The Hendrickson Family Organization. The book is a life history of Gerda Alma Hendrickson (originally Reinholdsen) and Lars Wilhelm Hendrickson. The majority of the book is taken from Gerda’s own journals. She was an avid writer and faithfully wrote each day. The family organization selected the most faith-promoting passages to include in this work. A smaller portion of the book is written by Lars as he tells his own life story.

The title of this book comes from an incident in Gerda’s life while she still lived in Sweden (where both she and Lars were natively from). When she joined the church, Gerda suffered extreme persecution from her family. They gave her up as dead to them and referred to her as a harlot. One night, one of her brothers went to the place where she was living and pointed a gun at her and said, “Deny your faith this minute or I will send a bullet through your heart.” Gerda replied, “You can take my life, but never my faith.” Her brother ultimately didn’t have the courage to pull the trigger, but instead cursed her and fled. Interestingly, Gerda never stopped loving her family and in later years they all softened their hearts and demonstrated great love towards her.

Gerda was a woman of strong character and a firm determination to serve the Lord. She is the grandmother of Amy’s Grandma Whitney. She has miraculous accounts in her journals of witnessing the Lord’s healing power again and again, and even being aware of the presence of guardian angels. Her spiritual intuition was remarkable and it inspires the reader (and especially members of her family) to emulate her example.

I was also neat for me to read about changes in the Church and in the world. She lived from 1872 to 1950. As you can imagine, she saw a lot of change. At one point I actually called Grandma Whitney to learn more, because Gerda refers to her son earning money for his mission by doing temple work for a sister in their ward. I learned from Grandma Whitney that for 70 years or so, it was the practice that if you couldn’t go through the temple to do your own names for your kindred, that you would pay someone else a dollar a name to do the work for you. I had never heard of this before, and I’ve read a lot of Church History books, so it was fun for me to learn more.

I feel that no “review” on this book would do it justice. Philosophers and scholars may write volumes of what good Christian living looks like, but their words pale in comparison to the actual real-life example of a devout follower of Christ. Gerda Alma Hendrickson is one such example. She remained focused only on things of an eternal value. She had a grateful heart. She had true charity. I am so grateful to have married into a family with such an incredible legacy, and I feel both honored and humbled to have the duty of passing on that legacy to my own children so that they may honor their ancestors by choosing to follow in their footsteps.