Does the Lord Have a Plan for You Too?

The Lord can magnify your life beyond your own dreams and goals

Rexburg Idaho Temple

This is my story about faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I hope you will enjoy learning about my journey to Canada and to Christ.

Stockholm Sweden Temple
Stockholm Sweden Temple


I was born on April 8,1956, in Lulea, Norrbotten, Sweden to Jorun (1927-2020, born Kristoffersen in Lodingen, Norway) and Gerhard (1925-2000, born in Alvsbyn, Sweden). My dad, Gerhard, met his wife-to-be in Sweden as she arrived from Norway a few years after WW11. He changed his life and beliefs about Christ when he accepted the Lutheran Church just before he married the love of his life in 1951. I also changed from being a Lutheran after I met my wife-to-be, married on June 9, 1979.


Missionaries greeting on street

An early missionary encounter

As I was attending the University of Karlstad in south Sweden, the missionaries knocked on my apartment door. I had just finished my track practice as I was competing in decathlon for IF Gota track club in Karlstad. As a youth I had competed for IFK Lulea and Lulea Friidrott track clubs.

As I opened the door, I saw two young men dressed in suits who addressed me as missionarer fran Jesu Kristi Kyrka. I was aware that they were “Mormons” (Mormoner) and I replied that I was a true Lutheran since birth and that my dad was a minister up north. I abruptly slammed the door on them, but my running shoe stopped the door from closing shut, and it happened again, however, the third time it closed.

Bertil johansson

An invitation to attend Ricks College

This incident happened around March of 1978. I was in the process of getting ready for the upcoming track outdoor season after winning the 1974 Swedish Youth and in 1976 the Junior Decathlon Championship, and in 1975 the Nordic Junior Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. The US colleges had noticed my achievements and a friend of mine, Jari Keihas (javelin thrower), asked if I was interested in Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). I already had a few friends on the Swedish team attending BYU-Utah, so I said “sure!”.

Arrival in Idaho

I had some knowledge about the Ricks program as they were very competitive and interested in Scandinavian track athletes. As part of the application process, I had to be interviewed by the branch president in my home town of Lulea, Sweden, which was not a problem. I agreed on the “word of wisdom” commitment, which was pretty much the lifestyle I lived anyway. Upon arrival at Idaho Falls, coach Jed Gibson greeted me, enrolled me in classes, and put me up in the Apollo Apartments near a park and close to the Circle K and the Ricks College campus.

young man running

Family home evening and beyond

After a month, we, mostly foreign non-member athletes, were invited to a Monday night “family” home evening which was cool enjoying good-looking girls, cookies and juice. One girl, Julie Bender from Montreal, Quebec, caught my eye and attention and she invited me back a few more times after that first Monday activity event.

After a few weeks she invited the missionaries over and I met a Swedish returnee who lived in Rigby, Idaho. He was also attending Ricks, and Julie found him as she was asking around on campus. His name was David Boyce and he said that I was the track athlete from Karlstad who had slammed the door on him . . .WOW! I thought, “Am I caught or what . . . giving him a second chance on his home turf? This can’t be real . . . but here I am with no way out!”

As discussion after discussion replaced each other, I finally drove to Pocatello, Idaho and met with a Lutheran priest who I urgently felt the need to confide in as to my future choice of following faith in Christ. To my surprise he did not discourage me or defame the “Mormon” faith, so I later decided to join and get baptized back in Rexburg, Idaho on March 15, 1979.

Man being baptized

I was going to get baptized the same weekend as my first decathlon meet representing Ricks in Fresno, California. I was so excited to compete in palm country of California, but after rolling my ankle the baptism took priority on the Lord’s agenda.

I remember that day when my coach and nearly 100 college students attended, supporting my baptism. I felt the Spirit of bearing my testimony and sharing my conversion story to the audience from the pulpit for the very first time, recognizing the Book of Mormon and that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a young man similar to my age of 21 when he interpreted the gold plates.

That day I also expressed my acceptance of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants to be the truth. I paid tribute to the suffering and travels of the many Saints who fled my home country of Sweden (approx. 9000) and the European Saints who were the majority of the Salt Lake/Utah immigrants (80,000) by the end of the 20th century (two thirds of Utah’s population).

Bertil with his coach

I was certain that my complete conversion to Christ and acceptance of the fullness of the gospel had finally entered my life; and I was as truly devoted as I was to my commitment to athletic and academic goals. My faith as a “Mormon” had now embedded my faith and my soul forever. Obviously, I shared this news first with one of my sisters, Berit, and later with my parents and the other three siblings. They seemed to accept it, but were truly confounded and disappointed in this religious “sect” that I had joined. Mom and Dad could not deny fully the Book of Mormon, but why change your birth religion?

Bertil Johansson
Bertil Johannson

My life in review

I can now look back 45 years from January 2024. My wife, Julie, and three children, Michael (33), Stephanie (37) and Christoffer (41), plus three grandchildren (ages five, six and ten), have contributed to a blessed life beyond my own doing. Furthermore, my coaching and college teaching career has been unprecedented. My 32 years of coaching the Lethbridge College Kodiaks have resulted in: seven Canadian (CCAA) XC running banners; 16 provincial team banners (ACAC); 43 individual ACAC medals; 18 national individual (CCAA) medals; which total 110 medals (49 team and 61 individual) for my athletes.

Thanks to my Lord Jesus Christ for supporting my health and strengthening the program and athletes under my care.

To my dear wife, Julie, I appreciate all her time, efforts and her support in life and faith.

God bless!

Editor’s note

Bertil Johansson will be inducted into the Alberta ACAC Sports Hall of Fame at their 60th anniversary on May 10,2024 in Red Deer, Alberta, as the most decorated coach in Alberta college history.

This year he was previously inducted into the Lethbridge College Sports Hall of Fame on January 19, 2024.