Jens and Elsie Nielson

Born in Denmark in 1830, Elsie was taken into the home of the Beaboum family and had no recollection of her family. She attended school until she was fourteen and then was hired out as a farm hand. Here she met another farm hand, Jens Nielson, and they were married in 1850.

In the fall of 1852, missionaries came to the Nielsons neighborhood. Jens had heard only bad reports about the church, but he decided to attend a meeting out of curiosity. Before the meeting was out, he knew the testimony they bore was of God. Jens and Elsie were baptized in March1854.Their friends and family shunned and persecuted them.

Although they had worked hard and become prosperous, their desire was to sell their property and go to Zion. Jens found a buyer for their property, but before the sale was completed, a Church leader asked them to stay in Denmark for a time for Jens to serve a mission. Jens was obedient and served a successful mission.

Jens and Elsie Nielson, along with their son Niels (5 years old) and Bodil Mortenson (who turned 10 years old), the daughter of friends who could not emigrate at the time, left for Great Britain to sail on the Thornton to America. As they approached New York harbor, the Neilsons made a great sacrifice. Many people needed financial assistance for the journey from New York to Iowa City. Jens and Elsie contributed part of their savings to assist those in need. Upon arriving at the end of the railroad in Iowa City, Jens and Elsie parted with the rest of their money and security. They had the money from the sale of their farm, but gave it all to the church, except enough to buy a handcart and to stock it with 15 pounds of belongings per person. They could have obtained wagons, stacks of food and other supplies and traveled west in style and comfort, and early enough to beat the winter, but they unselfishly parted with their life’s savings and demonstrated unyielding faith so that those Saints who had nothing might at least have a handcart.[1]

Jens and Elsie Nielson%22After consuming their last pound of flour days before, the Nielsons struggled up and over Rocky Ridge and finally arrived at Rock Creek. Little Niels and Bodil Mortenson succumbed to their trial here on earth and were buried in a common grave with eleven others. The end appeared to be near for Elsie’s dear husband also. His feet became so frozen he could not walk another step, which caused his right foot to be deformed the rest of his life. At this point, Jens said to Elsie, “Leave me by the trail in the snow to die, and you go ahead and try to keep up with the company and save your life. Elise a very small women replied, “Ride I can’t leave you I can pull the cart.”[2]

Jens had to suffer the humiliation of riding while Elsie pulled like an ox for about a week until there was wagon space available in which he could ride.

Jens later wrote of this terrible time:

“It looked like we should all die. I remember my prayers as distinctly today as I did then, if the Lord would let me live to reach Salt Lake City, that all my days should be spent in usefulness under the direction of his holy priesthood.”[3]

Although they lost Niels and Bodil during their difficult journey across the plains, Elsie and Jens were not beaten, and they lived on to fulfill Jens promise to the Lord. After arriving in Salt Lake on November 9, 1856, Jens was called to be Bishop and they were called to settle the communities of Paragonah, Circleville, Panguitch, Cedar City, and finally Bluff, in San Juan County, Utah. They eventually had three more children, all daughters.

Her son-in-law, Kumen Jones, paid her this tribute:“Elsie Rasmussen Nielson…lived the gospel, with its golden rule, to the fullest, forgetting herself…by making others comfortable and happy; industrious, careful, sensible, unpretentious, she plodded on, working for Eternal reward, while the great majority of her fellow mortal pilgrims were clamoring for the things that perish after this earthy life ends.”[4]

Elsie died in May 1914 at the age of 84, having been a widow for 8 years. Of their experience, her husband said, “No person can describe it, nor could it be comprehended or understood by any human living in this life, but those who were called passed through it…Obedience is better than sacrifice.”[5]


[1] Allphin, Jolene S. Tell My Story,Too. 2012, 90-91

[2] Jolene Allphin, Tell My Story, Too 2012 , p92

[3] Id

[4] Olsen Andrew D., The Price We Paid, p 208

[5] Jolene Allphin, Tell My Story Too 2012, p 90