About the Collection
John Peter Johnson
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
John Peter Johnson was born on 21 September 1864 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to John Johnson and Cajsa Lisa Anderson. His parents were converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and worked for years to acquire the necessary funds to relocate to Utah. In the summer of 1869 John emigrated with his mother and two sisters to America to join his father and brothers who had made the journey previously. They settled in Spring City, Sanpete County, Utah, where John’s father engaged in farming. As a youth John worked herding cattle, harvesting wheat, hauling lumber, and making shingles in order to help provide for the family, but never gained much of an education in his early years.
In his 20s John served in various positions in the LDS Church and as city councilman for Spring City, and in 1887 he received his United States citizenship. On 22 November 1893 John married Hannah Hansen, a Spring City native of Danish descent, whom he described as “a true and kind, faithful, and loving wife to me.”1 John labored as a farmer and as postmaster of Spring City until 1899 when he moved with his wife to Provo to study at the Brigham Young Academy. On 5 July 1902, however, he received a call to serve a mission to Scandinavia for the LDS Church, so the couple moved back to Spring City to prepare for this event.
After a few months of preparation, John left home on 29 September 1902 and journeyed to Copenhagen, arriving on October 20. Even though he spoke Danish, the mission president immediately assigned him to the Goteborg Conference, Sweden, where he remained for the duration of his mission. In regards to this he faithfully declared, “I am here to do Father’s will, and my prayer is and has been that his servants will be inspired to send me where I can do the most good.”2 He quickly learned Swedish, but never considered himself an eloquent speaker or effective teacher. As he explained in a letter to his wife, “There is one thing that supports me very much in my trial of preaching and that is that I know I have the truth even though I cannot explain it as I would like.”3
John did not face much persecution as a Mormon missionary, but noticed a spirit of indifference among the people in regards to spiritual matters. After one long day contacting people he remarked, “It seemed as though I could not reach the hearts of the people I came in contact with, all turned away from me with a sneer.”4 Thus, despite countless hours of tracting, teaching, and preaching, very few Swedes joined the Church as a result of his labors. Indeed, only 257 baptisms occurred in Sweden in 1903 and 1904, despite the presence of 66 missionaries, an average of 2 converts per missionary per year.5 After receiving his official release in October 1904, John bid the saints of Sweden farewell, professing, “I have learned to love the saints…dearly and it was hard for me to say goodby [sic] for the last time to them.”6 After a month of traveling he arrived in Spring City on 4 December 1904.
After returning home John resumed farming and served in many important civic positions in Spring City, including city councilman, election judge, justice of the peace, chairman of the school board, member of the board of education for North Sanpete School District, and mayor for two terms. He also belonged to the Genealogical Society of Utah, actively researching his own and his wife’s family lines. In the Church he labored for several years as a home missionary, and then for nineteen years as an ordinance worker in the Manti Temple, receiving his release in 1942. Due to Hannah’s ailing health the Johnsons moved to Salt Lake City in the mid-1940s where Hannah eventually succumbed to illness in 1947. John Peter Johnson passed away at home in Salt Lake City on 22 January 1953 and was subsequently buried next to his beloved wife in the Spring City cemetery.
1 John Peter Johnson, “John Peter: The Faithful Steward,” p. 8. MSS 1957, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Johnson to Hannah Johnson, 19 November 1902. MSS 1957, LTPSC.
3 Johnson to Hannah Johnson, 27 September 1904. MSS 1957, LTPSC.
4 Johnson, “Journal, 1902-1904,” 13 January 1903. MSS 1957, LTPSC.
5 Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927), 535.
6 Johnson, “Journal, 1904,” 31 October 1904. MSS 1957, LTPSC.
Jenson, Andrew. History of the Scandinavian Mission. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927.
Johnson, John Peter. “Papers, 1872-1946.” MSS 1957, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.