Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Elias Nielsen was born on 30 January 1870 in Hjadstrup, Fyen, Odense, Denmark, to Jense Nielsen and Kirsten Hansen. Having been converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Nielsens in 1887 emigrated to the United States and settled in Logan, Cache County, Utah.
In 1897 Elias was called to serve as missionary in the Northern States Mission of the LDS Church. His first assignment was to serve in Michigan, but “on account of poor health” he was transferred to the newly-opened North Dakota Conference.1 After six weeks Elias and his companions decided that no good was coming of their labors in North Dakota due to “prejudice and the indifference to the message which we brought.” 2 Elias described this failure to convince people of the truthfulness of their message to “pouring water on a gooses back or casting pearls before swine.”3
As a result, he was transferred to the South Dakota Conference on 2 September 1898 and labored in and around Brookings County for the remainder of that year. Here he found friendly people and many opportunities to preach the gospel, although none became converted to the Church. On 23 November 1898 he wrote, “Today it is 18 months since I started in my field of labour [sic], and must say that the time have speedily past before me and the Lord has opened the way before me much beyond what I expected.”4 It is unclear exactly when Nielsen returned home from his mission, but it likely occurred in 1899 after a two-year proselytizing term.
After returning to Logan, Elias was called to serve as a home missionary in Cache County. In 1903 he and four partners opened the Union Knitting Mills in Logan, the first power knitting factory in Utah, and Elias worked there as production foreman. He subsequently worked as foreman for two other knitting mills, John Sawcroft & Sons, and the Ogden Knitting Works. On 19 February 1908 Elias married Rosina Grebber Stirland, a Cache County native; from this union came one daughter, Evelyn Rosina Nielsen, and a son, Ariel Elias Nielsen. Elias eventually moved to Salt Lake City and found employment as a machinist at the Salt Lake Regional Welfare Center of the LDS Church. Elias Nielsen died on 27 May 1946 from complications following an operation.
1 Elias Nielsen, “Diary, 1898,” 31 December 1898. MSS SC 2850, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
3 Ibid., 29 August 1898.
4 Ibid., 23 November 1898.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 19 April 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Carter, Kate B., ed. Our Pioneer Heritage. Vol. 15. Salt Lake City: Daughter of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
Nielsen, Elias. “Diary, 1898.” MSS SC 2850, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Salt Lake Tribune. “Knitting Plant Pioneer Dies.” 28 May 1946.
United States Federal Census, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 19 April 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.