The real story of Mormonism in Iceland collides with fiction

For most Icelanders who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the novel "Paradise Reclaimed" by Hallidor Laxness is all they know about Mormonism.

Brigham Young University Professor Fred Woods gave the descendants of the Icelanders that settled Spanish Fork a peek behind the fiction on Sunday, June 27, at the annual Heritage Fireside, the culminating event at the yearly celebration of their heritage.

In the 1850s, Spanish Fork was the first Icelandic settlement in the United States, and for more than a century on the last weekend in June, the descendants of those 400-plus pioneers have celebrated their heritage.

Expelled from Iceland because of their conversion to the church, they were sent by Brigham Young to settle Spanish Fork along with other immigrants. However, unlike the other pioneers, the Icelanders kept their identity.

After two visits to Utah in the 1950s, Laxness, a Nobel prize-winning author, penned the book, first published in Icelandic in 1960 and English in 1962.

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