Four years ago, Mattias Krekula made a life-altering mistake: he sent a friend request to the wrong person.
Facebook being what it is, clicking the "Add Friend" button on the wrong profile isn't a big deal. It's not even an uncommon mistake. What was uncommon was that Lina Persson accepted the errant friend request.
With those two clicks, the sending and accepting of a friend request on Facebook, Krekula and Persson began a journey that would lead them to each other and help spread the gospel to others around the world.
Lessons in the Gospel
While growing up in southern Sweden, Persson never knew The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints existed.
However, in Persson's late teens, her neighbor invited her to an English lesson. As it so happened, the people teaching the English lessons were Latter-day Saint missionaries, though Persson didn't know it at the time.
"I asked them, 'Why do you have name tags?'" Persson remembers. "They told me, 'We talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ; do you want to know more?'"
Persson eagerly accepted their invitation.
A few days later, Persson says she vividly remembers the pain from a headache plaguing her throughout the day until she met the missionaries for a discussion.
"I didn't have any pain while the missionaries were close to me," she says. "I think I was with them for maybe two hours, and I didn't have any pain in my head. And then when we drove them to the train station and they left the car, I got my pain back. So I knew it was the Holy Ghost."
As small and simple as that experience was, Persson would soon need it. That's because, initially, Persson's mother was set against her daughter investigating the Church. In fact, Persson says her mother was convinced the Church was a bad religion and told Persson it was Satan's church.
"She took my Book of Mormon and said, 'You're not allowed to have this in our home because it's not God's work,'" Persson remembers.
Persson disagreed but, while living at home, there was not much she could do. But she couldn't deny the testimony that had begun to grow within her, either. So by day, Persson would hide her Book of Mormon. By night, when no one was awake, Persson would study its words.
This continued until the day Persson's branch president showed up at her mother's doorstep.
"She [Persson's mother] was really angry," Persson remembers of the encounter. "She told him, 'My daughter is not allowed to be in this church of yours.'" Rather than retaliate, the branch president did something that stunned Persson's mother. "And he answered, 'Hi. Are those your children? They are so beautiful,'" Persson remembers. "And my mom was quiet and said, 'What?'"
During the conversation that ensued, Persson says her mother softened toward the branch president. After that first visit, Persson's mother allowed the missionaries to come into their home.
As time went on, Persson's mother saw the Church as a good thing in her daughter's life and saw how it helped make Persson a happier person.
And so, on January 20, 2013, almost three weeks after meeting the missionaries, Persson was baptized.
But, as with every member, Persson's conversion didn't end with baptism. For months, Persson worked hard studying the gospel. From the Book of Mormon to gospel principles to children's hymns, she worked to gain a solid foundation of the truths she had come to love. As her knowledge grew, she would record testimonies of the things she had learned. "One day, I just realized how big the gospel is and how everything connects," Persson says. "It's perfect, like a big puzzle, and every part has its own thing to do. And I could suddenly see the world in a more forgiving and understanding perspective."
Persson says she began thinking in a way she never had before. Whenever she tried to explain the gospel to others, she could feel the Holy Ghost aiding her, helping her say the perfect things. "I could feel so much love," she says. "It was a really strong feeling of peace."
At around this time, when Persson's testimony was expanding and her desire to share the gospel was growing, she received a friend request from a man she didn't know: Krekula.
"Who Is This Guy?"
"I was like, 'Hmm, who is this guy?'" Persson remembers thinking when the friend request from Krekula popped up in her notifications.
At the time, Persson had no way of knowing how fate had brought the two, who had never met and lived 17 hours apart from each other by car, together. It almost seemed like a fluke. In fact, Krekula says he has no memory of sending Persson a friend request and was surprised to see Persson messaging him, asking him who he was.
And once the two began messaging each other, Persson inevitably asked Krekula what he knew about the Church. In a country of about 10 million, only 9,000 people belong to the Chruch, according to ChurchofJesusChrist.org, meaning only about one in a thousand people in Sweden are baptized members. Knowing this, Persson frequently shared her testimony with others in the hopes of spreading the gospel.
Religion was the last thing on Krekula's mind. Having grown up atheist, he saw no need for God in his life. And so communication between the two fell silent for several months. It seemed the strange encounter had run its course and the two were not destined to be more than Facebook friends.
Then, one day, Persson had the distinct thought to send Krekula a message.
"I was like, 'No way,'" Persson remembers about the prompting. "And then, some days after, I got this feeling again, and I didn't listen. Then, the day before Christmas Eve, I had this feeling again: 'Lina, you should write to Mattias and tell him Merry Christmas.'"
Feeling a mixture of exasperation at the persistent prompting and nervousness at approaching Krekula again, Persson messaged Krekula.
"I was like, 'What? I had this feeling a long, long time, and he doesn't even answer?'" Persson says with a laugh. "So I was like, 'Hi. Are you there?'"
The next day, Krekula wrote her back and, despite the initial social media silence, the two hit it off. Though Krekula says Persson thought he was crazy, Krekula bought plane tickets to visit her the night they began messaging each other again.
This was totally out of character for Krekula, who says he's very shy and has never been to the southern part of Sweden where Persson lived at the time.
Persson says it was also not in her nature to invite a person she had barely met online to visit her. In fact, more than three years after they first met, neither Krekula or Persson is exactly sure why they agreed to meet each other in person so quickly. It could be that more than fate was involved in their blossoming relationship.
"I remember now that I prayed a lot before Christmas that I wanted both a boyfriend and someone to teach," Persson says. "And then Heavenly Father gave me both in one person."
On that first visit, Krekula met with the missionaries and began investigating the Church. After returning home, Krekula felt a strong desire to continue studying the gospel.
"My life before, I lived because I had to live," Krekula says. "And then when I met Lina and she told me about the Church, I felt a new feeling I never had before. I can't describe the feeling; it was just wonderful."
Before and after the first visit, the two continued to talk to each other through messaging and eventually Skype, getting to know each other while reading the Book of Mormon together, sometimes spending up to eight hours chatting.
A few weeks later, Krekula made the long journey again to Persson's home and stayed for 10 days, though he only had work off for three.
"I called my boss and said, 'I'm sick so I can't come into work,'" Krekula says sheepishly. "And I live in a small place in north Sweden where everyone knows each other. So my boss called my mom and asked, 'How's Mattias?' And my mom said, 'Oh, he's in the south of Sweden with a friend.' So, my boss, he called me and he was very angry."
"He fired him," Persson adds.
As it turns out, being unemployed left Krekula free to move to southern Sweden where he could continue to date Persson without making long and expensive trips. Leaving his entire family and his friends in northern Sweden, Krekula moved into his own apartment at the beginning of March 2016 in the same town as Persson.
For Krekula, the move wasn't much of a sacrifice.
"I had never felt so much love toward anyone before," Krekula says. "It was a special feeling."
While they dated, Krekula continued investigating the Church and by March 12, 2016, he was baptized.
In a few short months, Krekula had gone from an atheist to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—from believing there was no God to believing in a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, from fearing the black void of death to embracing the plan of happiness.
None of this was easy.
In fact, as Krekula and Persson are apt to admit, they had to build testimonies along the way, sometimes taking a step of faith into the dark before they could see the light.
"The first time I really felt the Church was true was during my baptism," Krekula says. "I almost started to cry because I felt like, 'Yeah, this is where I want to be.'"
Three months after Krekula was baptized, in June 2016, he and Persson were civilly married. And in August that same year, the couple went on their honeymoon to Palmyra, New York, visiting Church history sites along the way.
"And that was a strong testimony [builder] for me to visit Palmyra and walk where Joseph Smith walked," Krekula says. "I think that was the first time I got a strong testimony. . . . From that moment, I started to love my life in a new way."
And Krekula's testimony continued to grow. On December 16, 2017, the couple was sealed in the Denmark Copenhagen Temple.
Wanting to share his happiness with his family, Krekula began posting about his life as a convert in Sweden.
Like Persson's mother, Krekula's mother was not pleased that her child was investigating the Church. Krekula says she thought it was a cult he had joined because of Persson. After Krekula was baptized, his mother didn't speak with him.
After she visited the couple in their apartment in Sweden, however, Krekula says she couldn't miss how much his life had changed and how happy he now was with Persson and the gospel in his life.
"She called me one time and she asked, 'Are you really happy in the Church?'" Krekula remembers. "I said, 'Yes.' Then she said, 'Yeah, then be a part of the Church. I am happy for you.'"
Sharing the Gospel Through Social Media
Wanting to share that same message of happiness with others in Sweden, the couple began the Instagram and Facebook page Swedish Latter-day Saints. But what began as a few hundred followers from Sweden grew into more than 13,000 followers, including people from Spain, Brazil, the United States, and other countries. And it isn't just Latter-day Saints who were following Krekula and Persson. The couple says that members of other faiths, including Jehovah Witnesses, follow them on Instagram and ask them questions about the Church.
Though Krekula and Persson were afraid that negativity would follow such spontaneous growth, so far their interactions with their followers have been mostly positive.
"I was a little afraid some bad people would follow us, but even now, it's just love," Krekula says. "All the messages we get are just love."
Beside their Instagram and Facebook pages, the couple has also started a YouTube channel where they post videos of Latter-day Saint songs in English and Swedish.
Both Persson and Krekula say that songs were one of the ways they loved learning about the gospel, but it was difficult to find some in Swedish. And so the couple began creating videos of hymns with Swedish parts and translations to help others learn about the gospel as they did.
"You teach a lot of people with hymns because they are so easy to understand," Persson says. "They teach about everything, you know: 'I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus.'"
By using the thing that brought them together, social media, Krekula and Persson have helped share the gospel with thousands of people, spending hours doing so and asking for nothing in exchange.
"We do it all for free," Krekula says.
"We don't want to earn anything on it because it's the Church and it's free and it's love," Persson adds.
For now, the couple's goal is to continue spreading the gospel through their social media pages, hoping to bring the same light and love into others' lives that they now enjoy as members of the Church.
"I know that the Church has changed my life because I am a better person," Persson says. "I have a really huge happiness feeling inside of me and I realize that that feeling of happiness became even bigger when I tried to make others happy."
"The gospel has changed my life totally," Krekula adds. "I'm not afraid [of death] anymore because I know I can be with Lina forever. . . . My life is so wonderful right now because Lina and I have the gospel and that's everything I need."