Swedish Culture Meets American Culture — Head On

In Sweden, we were starved for any kind of diversion. I used to enjoy reading the Swedish newspapers and expanding my vocabulary. I had a companion whom all the missionaries aptly named “Little Hitler”, who strongly objected to elders reading the newspapers. He also objected to my sitting down at the piano and composing music. If I couldn’t play a song he recognized, then he didn’t want to hear it. Hey, that’s the whole idea behind composing. Missionaries received a free copy of the Church News, a Sunday supplement to The Deseret News. Hungry for news from back home, I devoured it. But, once I was really taken aback by an article praising a California congressman named John Doolittle. He was an active Mormon from Sacramento, spearheading a campaign to deny gays their rights. I never considered myself gay at the time, but I couldn’t believe the church would praise anybody for wanting to take away peoples’ rights. I found out that this wasn’t going to be the first and only time.

Coming home from Sweden, I was shocked to find America immersed in hippie culture. In Europe, it was all about the Beatles and the Stones, and Twiggy. In Sweden, the top group was called the Hep Stars. It was started by one of the guys who eventually founded ABBA. In Europe, there is a big annual song contest where all the countries compete — Eurovision. One year, a Mormon family of brothers won both the Swedish and the European competition. The Osmond Brothers were also big in Sweden. They came over every year or so to perform outdoor concerts in parks around the country.

In America, it was a different story. Talk about culture shock. When I got back from Sweden, I was under a lot of pressure to get married. In fact, my parents had a girl picked out for me. She was waiting for me at the gate at the airport! I didn’t stand a chance!

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