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Lars Levi Læstadius
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Lars Levi Laestadius (1800-1861)
Lars Levi Læstadius (October 1, 1800 - February 21, 1861) was a Swedish Lutheran pastor of partly Sami ancestry. From the mid 1840's and onward he became the leader of the Laestadian movement. He was also an author, teetotaller (geheelonthouider> JGF) and botanist.
Laestadius was born in Swedish Lapland, near Arjeplog in the western mountainous parts of Norrbotten County, the most northerly county in Sweden. His father provided for the family by hunting, fishing, and tar-making (fabricage van 'teer', JGF. The family lived in poverty, but with help from a half-brother who was a pastor at Kvikkjokk, Lars Levi was able to enter Uppsala University in 1820, where he proved to be a brilliant student. Because of his interest in botany he was made assistant in the Botany Department while pursuing studies in theology. He was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1825 by the bishop of Härnösand, Erik Abraham Almquist.
His first parish was at Arjeplog in Lapland, where he became regional missionary for the Pite district. From 1826 to 1849 he was vicar in Karesuando parish in Lapland, and subsequently served at Pajala parish in Norrbotten from 1849 until his death. Before moving to Karesuando, he married a local Sami woman, Brita Cajsa Alstadius, and together they raised a family of twelve children.
In addition to his pastoral duties he continued his interest in botany, and authored a number of articles on plant life in Lapland. He also served as botanist to a French research expedition to Samiland (1838-40). On the request from the expedition, he also wrote a lengthy piece on Sami mythology. This was not published in the expedition papers, and for many years his manuscript was lost. The final part of the manuscript was discovered as late as in 2001.
At the time of Laestadius's arrival, Karesuando was a place with widespread misery and alcoholism. Laestadius's mother tongue was Swedish but he also spoke Lule Sami. After a year in Karesuando he spoke both Finnish and Northern Sami. He usually held his sermons in Finnish since it was the most widespread language in the area, but on occasions also preached in the Northern Sami and Swedish languages.
Around 1833 he suffered from a complaint which the doctors first thought was pneumonia. He did however recover.
He applied for the position of dean in Pajala. In order to get the position he needed to complement his exams in Härnösand, which he did and in 1849 he became dean in Pajala and inspector of the Lapland parishes.
The resistance to Laestadius's radical Christian ethics and morale, together with his way to confront the parishioners with their sins was harder in Pajala and the bishop decided in 1853 that two church services should be held in Pajala, one for the Laestadians and one for the others. This could be said to be the moment when Laestadianism became a movement in its own right, although it remained within and never separated from the Church of Sweden. Laestadius died in 1861 and was succeeded by Johan Raattamaa as the leader of the Laestadian movement.
Laestadianism was named after Pastor Lars Levi Laestadius. The movement was born in Swedish Lapland. Laestadius met a Sami woman named Milla Clementsdotter of Föllinge in the municipality of Krokom in Jämtland during an 1844 inspection tour of Åsele in Lapland. She belonged to a revival movement marked by pietistic and Moravian influences and led by pastor Pehr Brandell of the parish of Nora in the municipality of Kramfors in Ångermanland. She told Laestadius about her experiences on her journey to a living faith. This was an important meeting for Laestadius, because after it, he first understood the secret of living faith. He had an experience of receiving forgiveness for his sins and of at last seeing the path that leads to eternal life. His sermons acquired, in his own words, "a new kind of colour" to which people began to respond. The movement spread quickly from Sweden to Finland and Norway. Laestadius based his sermons on the Bible.