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"We introduce our readers to M. L. Andreasen by way of his autobiographical portrait, some published, but much unpublished. This material is continued through most of the book and appears in italics. The first pages of this chapter, which are an account of a boy's feud with an older cousin, will not only acquaint us with our subject and give us some idea of his personality and writing style but will also furnish some insights into his way of thinking and the unfolding reasoning powers of a mind that was to make a significant mark in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Despite the fact that Charles and I were cousins, we did not get along well together. Before we had been playing half an hour, we would be, fighting. He had an abominable habit of teasing me, and when I could stand it no longer, I would fly at him, and the fight would be on. This was the very thing he wanted, for he was older and stronger than I, and invariably I would get a beating. I tried not to weep, but at times I couldn't help it, for he hit till it really hurt. I promised myself that when I grew up, the tables would be turned. I was 8 years old at the time, and it seemed that I was doomed to go through life taking a daily beating. The future was dark. Charles was simply too big and too strong for me. I did grow a little stronger as time went on, but to my disgust I discovered that Charles also grew stronger. I was not getting anywhere.
Then suddenly and unexpectedly my luck turned. Charles took sick! Glory be! If now he would only stay sick long enough so I could catch up with him, the sun would shine again. Till this day I do not know the nature of his sickness, but it was some wasting disease, perhaps tuberculosis. I didn't care what it was, just so it would last till I was ready to handle him. I still got my beatings, but not as hard as before. He was definitely weakening. I was making encouraging progress toward my goal, and soon the day of reckoning would come. And what a day it would be!
Matters were proceeding satisfactorily for me: Charles was getting a little weaker from day to day. At last the doctor sent him to bed. To this I had no objection—for I would get no more beatings. When Charles got up he would get what was coming to him. I would tackle him as soon as he was out of bed. It would be risky to wait too long. He might get well too soon. And what a licking he would get! I could hardly wait for him to recover. He had not spared me, and I would not spare him.
But then my luck turned. A most unfortunate thing happened. Charles did not get well. He did not get up. He died. That was no way to do! I had not counted on this, and it spoiled all my plans. What could I do now? If I had only had the chance to give him a good licking first, I would not have minded it so much. Now I felt cheated. Alive or dead, Charles had the best of me. I was licked for good, and I knew it. I felt the blow deeply.
The funeral was held in a small side chapel in one of the stately old churches in Copenhagen, my hometown. The priest had evidently just attended an important function, and came in his official regalia. I was impressed. I suppose that he spoke appropriate and comforting words to the mourners, but it was too high for me, and I quietly dozed. But when he
mentioned Charles as being in heaven, I woke up. He evidently did not know Charles as I did, or he would not have said that Charles had gone to heaven. Charles had not gone to heaven; that I knew. If he had gone anywhere, he had gone to the other place. I knew Charles, and I knew where he belonged. Priests don't know all.
A moment later the priest clarified his statement, and said it was Charles's spirit that had gone home to Cod. This confused, but also intrigued, me. Charles had no spirit that I knew of. The priest was mistaken again. But the climax came when he hinted darkly that it was possible that Charles might be in this very room. How could this be when it was his own funeral? But if he were present and spied me, I knew what he would do: he would make faces at me. And he would have the advantage of me, for he could see me, and I could not see him. That wasn't fair. But, then, Charles never had been fair. He should have had a good licking before he died.
But I was not to be thwarted because I could not see Charles. I could make faces as well as he. Of course, I did not know just where he was sitting, but if I made faces all around, I would be sure to catch him somewhere. This I proceeded to do.
Unfortunately, Mother had not followed my thoughts, and hence did not appreciate what I was doing. I had only covered half the room when she discovered my occupation. Horror-stricken, she gave me a pinch that was really harder than it should have been. Mothers are not always understanding. I should have been permitted to finish my round.
Having now nothing in particular to do, my mind turned to the things I had learned of heaven the few times I had attended Sunday school. I had not been favorably impressed with what I had heard, and I knew Charles felt the same way. Heaven seemed to be a kind of old people's home, where boys were not
greeted with enthusiasm. They were too noisy, and were restless if the meetings lasted too long. Many of the old people had already been there thousands of years, and long ago had run out of stories and reminiscences, and now had little else to do than rest. That was what they had come for, and that was what they were doing. They would sit under their vine and fig tree, then go to church, and after that go home and sit some more.
I was not interested in sitting still, and neither was Charles. I wanted to be where things were happening, and in heaven nothing happened. I doubted that there would even be any ballplaying there. It was probably always Sunday, and no one could play ball on Sunday. So, all in all, heaven did not appeal to me as a desirable place for boys. For old people it was all right. They had lived their lives and were tired. I hoped I wouldn't die young and have to go to heaven. That would be a calamity.
But how about Charles? He was now in heaven according to the priest, and there was nothing he could do about it. He had no choice. When his funeral was over I was going out to play ball. But Charles would have to go back to heaven and sit with the old people. Thinking it over, I decided that this served him right. It was fitting punishment. Much as I regretted that I had not been able to give him his last beating before he died, his banishment to heaven was almost as satisfactory to me. In fact, as I considered the matter further, I believed it was an improvement on my plan. I was content to let matters rest. Life was good again.1
Young Lauritz had already started the habit of thinking things through, which course was to enable him to develop into an educator who would teach all
the way from kindergarten to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, and write fifteen books on doctrinal and devotional subjects.
It was not so much to be the spectacular things he would do during his almost eighty-six years of living, but the unique manner in which he did them, that stood out. Those who watched him were constantly stimulated by his unexpected approach to problems, his deep insight into the whys, and his unflagging earnestness to pass on to others, especially young people, what he was discovering.
Milian Lauritz Andreasen (An-dree-uh-sen) was born in 1876, in Copenhagen, Denmark. His parents were busy tailors, catering to royalty. They had little time to care for their children, nearly all of whom died in infancy or childhood. A sister reached the age of 10, only to have her appendix rupture, a calamity for which there was no remedy in those days. Lauritz—the name his parents called him—had to watch her suffer and slowly die, while nothing could be done. He had a half brother, Carl, eight years older than himself, who eventually ran away to sea. Carl made contact with the family some years later, and again at the close of his life, when he was tenderly cared for by his niece.
Lauritz' mother was a woman of settled, determined character. His father, born in Norway, was more retiring. Yet he favored Lauritz above the other children and wouldn't hear of his being punished. He didn't have the same reservations about punishing Carl.
Occasionally the boys could get their father to tell them stories of his childhood in Norway. Lauritz relates:
As a boy I was greatly interested in hearing father tell of conditions when he was young, and of the changed living conditions that came with the invention of the sewing machine. What interested me
most, however, was the story of the kerosene lamp.
From time immemorial people used candles for illumination, or a small vessel of oil with a wick. Poor people, however, could not afford to buy either of these, but made their own candles of such material as they had. Many could not even afford such candles. They used slivers of wood from certain trees, impregnated with rosin. With skillful handling these could be made to bum for several moments. People living where wood was available had fireplaces that furnished some light. But poor people like my grandparents, living in cities or woodless regions, had only the slivers.
My father's job was to hold these slivers, replacing a burned-out one with another, so my grandfather could do his work. It was, of course, not often that work requiring this was done at night, but it happened once in a while, and then father was hard put to it to furnish adequate and continuous light.
Then came the kerosene lamp. To father there was no greater invention ever, with the possible exception of matches. The lamp gave a feeble light, but it did free a little boy from an intolerable bondage. Life became worth living. The kerosene lamp did it.2
In the Andreasen home in Copenhagen there was always a pot of coffee on the stove, and generally some kind of fruit soup. The mother was so busy with her dressmaking that the family members were supposed to serve themselves when they wanted something to eat. This casualness probably helped to explain the high mortality in the family.
Lauritz early realized that he was not outstanding in appearance, but he learned to do the best with what he had:
I well remember a conversation of which I was the subject when I was a little boy. Some of mother's friends were discussing me. I was not supposed to hear or understand. I confess the conversation was not very flattering to me—doubtless on good grounds. After those friends had discussed me for some time and pointed out my physical and other failings, one of the women remarked, "Have you noticed his ears? They are not bad." For weeks after I heard that remark I washed my ears carefully every morning. I had something to be proud of; not much, it is true, but enough. I was not a complete and total loss. My ears were all right.3
Clean ears or not, Lauritz was all boy, as the story of Charles's funeral demonstrated.
The Andreasen home faced a canal which was a short block wide. During winter it made for perfect skating. When it was time for Lauritz to come home, his mother would put a white flag in the window. But Lauritz' wooden skates glided so smoothly that it was sometimes quite a while before the red-cheeked boy noticed the flag and went home.
As Lauritz developed his physical skills he also developed his thinking powers.
I was reared in the state church, and attended the public schools, in which, in addition to the ordinary subjects taught, instruction in religion was given. I went for further religious instruction to the priest, learned the catechism, and was duly confirmed on a certain Sunday at the age of fourteen. I appeared at the office of the priest the following Monday, handed him the money which my parents' standing in the community indicated, and in return received a certificate of confirmation as necessary proof that I had satisfactorily passed the test. I was now a
full-fledged Christian according to the custom of the day, and my name was inscribed as one who had publicly covenanted to forsake the devil and all his ways. Confirmation was the dividing line between school days and the more stem realities of life. It was an important occasion.
We had a great celebration in my home that night, as was the custom. It was hardly a Christian celebration. Not a few had to be assisted to their places of abode when it was ended. But I was a Christian! Had not I and all the other boys who had been confirmed in my class promised to forsake the devil and all his ways? And did we not have our certificates?
Yet I had my doubts. Was I really a Christian, a child of God? I had my doubts myself, but the state and the church evidently had none; and who was I to doubt their wisdom? The priest was a good man, and he had confirmed me and certified to the fact. I was probably a Christian without knowing how it was brought about!
I recalled an experience of some years before, which also had puzzled me. Some relatives desired to have my parents, with others, stand sponsors for a little babe who was to be christened, and they wanted me to come along. Mother explained to me the responsibility of sponsorship, which meant little to me. I was more interested in the celebration which was to follow the christening. But when the day came, I marched to church with the sponsors, and was greatly interested in the proceedings.
I shall never forget my astonishment when we gathered about the baptismal font in the little country church, and the priest, after having made a few preliminary remarks, turned to the little babe less than two weeks old and asked, "Do you forsake the devil and all his ways?" etc. He looked as though he expected an answer, and with mouth open I
wondered what the babe was going to do about it. Was a miracle about to be performed and would the babe answer? No answer came. The suspense was terrific. Somebody ought to do something about it. At last somebody did. I suppose it was the father who answered for the child, but in the excitement of the moment I also piped up, "I do." This was evidently a mistake, as a quick jerk promptly made me realize. But I had done my duty. I did not understand what it was all about, but something had happened to the child apparently. It was now a child of God.
Perhaps a similar thing had happened at my confirmation. I was a full-fledged Christian, but I did not know how it had come about. I had not acted as a Christian before my confirmation, and I was no different now from what I had been. And yet I was a Christian. The whole thing did not make sense to me; but then, perhaps boys were not supposed to understand. It might be best to accept the situation without asking too many questions. It might be if I thought it all through more carefully I would find that after all I was a Christian. I had joined the boys' department of the YMCA at the age of 12, mostly because other boys of my acquaintance did so. We had gymnasium privileges, there were good pool tables, beer was served with meals, and smoking was permitted. We had a good place to meet where we were not under too-strict supervision, and our club meetings were interesting occasions. I could not testify that this had helped me in my Christian experience, but in some way I had now become a Christian, and in attempting to find out how it had come about, I thought that perhaps every little thing counted. The whole thing was a mystery to me.4
Lauritz remembered one person to whom Christianity had some meaning.
One of my first childhood recollections is of visiting my grandmother, who then was in her 70's. Her husband had died many years previously, and she was living alone in a small home in the country. I spent several delightful summers vacationing in her home, and became much attached to her.
I remember particularly the evenings when we sat by the fireplace before retiring for the night. As the evenings were cool, there would generally be a fire burning. While she was not outstandingly religious, she would read from her Bible or some religious book, and sing a hymn. She had one hymn that she included in her devotions more than any other. It was sung in a minor key and had a peculiar fascination for me. I enjoyed the words as well as the tune. I have forgotten most of the text, but not the melody, and on occasion I find myself humming it. But the words of the refrain I have not forgotten. Literally translated, they would be:
"O Thou, my loving and precious Redeemer,
Comest Thou not soon, Comest Thou not soon?"
This may sound awkward in translation, but it was not awkward when she sang it. I can still see the frail woman, who did not have many days left on this earth, sit with her eyes closed, singing softly. Life had brought her many sorrows, and she was longing for deliverance. To her the song must have been the prayer of her heart, for she sang as though she was addressing her Master. To me it seemed that she was talking with God. Perhaps she was.5
One part of Lauritz' boyhood experience gave him a background of Biblical knowledge.
As a boy I sang in a large boys' choir of one of the state churches in my native country, Denmark. The structure was of imposing appearance, built in the
Gothic style of the medieval churches. The choir loft was at the rear of the church, high above the congregation, mostly out of sight. But we boys were not out of sight or hearing of the minister as he mounted the stairs leading to the pulpit, which was fastened to one of the massive pillars some ten feet above the people, near the middle of the church. Here the minister would expound the Scriptures at length, and in the course of a few years we boys gained a somewhat clear conception of the contents of the Bible. On many occasions we were permitted to leave as soon as the preliminary hymns were ended and the sermon had begun—and oh, how quietly we tiptoed down the long, narrow, winding staircase to the ground. But we had to be back in good time for the closing hymns. To ensure our return in time, one of the boys who was acquainted with the routine and could tell from the "firstly," "secondly," "thirdly" just how the minister was progressing, was left as a lookout to notify us, so that we would be back in our places in time when the "finally" was expounded.
Altogether too often I was chosen to be the one to remain. While that was considered a position of trust and thus had a certain honor attached to it, it did not make up for the loss I sustained in not being able to be out with the rest of the boys doing exploits in the hour or more that the sermon lasted. As a kind of revenge, occasionally I called in the boys earlier than was strictly necessary. But most of the time I gave them the benefit of my experience in judging the length of sermons, and thus they escaped having to listen too long to that which some of them did not understand and in which few of them were interested.
During those years I gained a considerable general knowledge of the Bible that stood me in good stead later on. Not that I had any special faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures—those were the days of
Ingersoll, and infidelity was especially attractive to young minds—but I did get an idea of the contents of the Bible so that I could talk reasonably intelligently about it with others. 6
Cousin Charles's death may well have been occasioned by tuberculosis, for not too many months afterward his mother also succumbed. Her death increased Lauritz' problems in an unforeseen manner. The great family evening pastime was card playing. When Charles's father lost his partner, Lauritz was pressed into service.
Playing cards didn't appeal to Lauritz. Besides, drinking and other immorality accompanied the evenings' diversions. Moreover, he was inexperienced, and played poorly. A result was the expression of strong displeasure by the uncle. So each time Lauritz had to play cards he became so frustrated that he vowed he'd run away from home. But then he'd reflect that he had no place to run to, that he had no skills to sell, and hence would soon wish he were back home.
Finally, one evening he ventured to talk to his parents about the whole situation. With chagrin they realized that theirs was no home in which to rear a teen-ager. But what could they do? A few weeks later they announced to their open-mouthed son that they had decided the only thing to do was to go to Canada, and so get a fresh start. So, despite the protests of friends and relatives, to Canada they went, first the mother, to look over the situation, then the father and son.
1 M. L. Andreasen, "Charles's Funeral" (unpublished manuscript).
2 M. L. Andreasen, "Our Day in Prophecy, Signs of the Times, March 4, 1952. Adapted.
3 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By (Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1943), p. 160.
4 Ibid., pp. 55-57.
5 M. L. Andreasen, "Comest Thou Not Soon?" Signs of the Times, Jan. 1, 1952. Adapted.
6 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, pp. 31, 32.