Carl Oskar Carlsson was born on April 15, 1880 in Odensjö, Halland Province, Sweden. He began evangelistic work in 1906 and was ordained as a pastor in 1911. He served as the first superintendent in the South Swedish Mission (1912-1914),1 as president of the Finland Conference (1914-1917),2 and principal at Nyhyttan Mission School from 1921-1929. He was the first president of the Finland Swedish Conference (1929-1932)3 and chaplain at Hultafors Sanitarium (1932-1937). He also served as pastor in Halmstad in 1937 and Malmö from 1939-1940. He retired in 1941.
Carl married Dagmar Tavaststjerna, of Swedish-Baltic nobility, in Finland in 1917. Dagmar was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 29, 1875. She died in April 1957. Upon their marriage they combined their family names to Carlstjerna.
Carlstjerna came from humble origins in rural south Sweden. His home region had been hit by the great nineteenth century revival, led by a woman teacher who conducted Bible studies in the vicinity of Carlstjerna’s home. A Baptist preacher later convinced large numbers of people in the area of the biblical teaching on baptism. One of them, Birger Anderson, left for America where he became a Seventh-day Adventist. Anderson sent Adventist publications to his fellow Baptists back in Sweden. People gathered in homes to study and when Anderson eventually returned, an Adventist Church was founded. It was not uncommon for the advent message to come to Scandinavia in this way.
Colporteurs became an important link in spreading present truth, something Carlstjerna greatly admired. Yet as a young man he had a hard time deciding to be baptized. He recalled his inner struggle well. The decisive moment came when, as a 19-year old at a colporteur meeting close to his home, a colporteur took the bewildered young man and said, “We will pray for you.” Thus it was that Carlstjerna finally gave in to the Holy Spirit and was relieved from his doubts.4 Birger Anderson baptized him in 1899.5 Thus began a new for Carlstjerna. Instead of helping out at the small family farm Carlstjerna set off to the new mission school in Nyhyttan, three cumbersome days travel from home. His mother cried when he left for fear that her son’s involvement in the new revival groups would lead him away from God.
In 1906 Carlstjerna commenced work as assistant to Birger Anderson. Traveling around south Sweden they visited many small towns and often held meetings in the homes of those who were interested and had read Adventist publications or pamphlets. “We have during these travels walked many a mile on foot, visited homes, held meetings that then and now were well attended. We have experienced the working of the Holy Spirit through God’s word and we have reason to believe that through the grace of God it will bring fruition in due time.”6
Carlstjerna was a diligent gospel worker who did not seek positions for himself. In the first quarter of 1914 he reported 45 sermons, 27 Bible studies, and 15 other meetings plus 88 mission visits. Days worked during these three months amounted to 90, most in the vicinity of Halmstad. Travel was by train or by foot. At the end of June, the same year, 12 people had “accepted the truth” as a result of his efforts and were baptized. 7
His theology was marked by the great revival, with a committed soul-searching spirituality. Salvation by grace and the love of Christ were central to his life and teaching. Carlstjerna’s theological legacy is primarily tied to his years as principal of Nyhyttan Mission School, where his wife also taught.
The Carlstjernas acted as parents for their students and the concept of a school family would last for a long time. They led all the students in farm work, showing by example how it was done. 8 Poor students had a certain place in Carlstjerna’s heart, as he had also been poor and had had to work himself through school.9 Yet rules were strict, with a very puritan view on relationships between men and women. No short hair was allowed for women students, nor too colorful dresses, etc. This was common in all free churches of the time but in the late 1920’s it was not always administered in all fairness to the young adult students.10
Carlstjerna’s last years in service were spent in the city of Malmö, about the time of the outbreak of World War II. He did not have a Bible worker or car and had to walk long distances on city streets to make his home visits. He found walking quite painful due to arthritis. The now elderly couple feared for their young Finnish lodgers when the war and Nazi occupation were just across the water. Carlstjerna requested early retirement and the couple returned to their beloved home of Haga outside of Halmstad.11 Here they organized the first ever children’s camp in 1943, which is remembered with great affection by those still living in 2019. This marked the commencement of camps for children in Sweden, another legacy of this couple.
Carl Oskar Carlsson died on June 10, 1953 and was buried in Snötorp, Halland near his birthplace.
Carlstjerna, C.O. “E pionjär berättar.” Ungdomens Budbärare, (Messages to Young People) No. 8, 1943.
Carlsson, Carl Oskar, “Rapport for Missionsarbejdere,” 31 March 31, 1914. Halmstad: Ragnar Svenson Collection, HASDA. Adventist archive at Ekebyholm, Rimbo, Sweden.
Carlstjerna to South Swedish Conference President Adolf Blomstedt, letter, 1940, the author’s private collection.
Carlsson, David. Memories. Unpublished, private family collection kept at home of daughter, Kerstin Christiansen, Ystad, Sweden.
Ingrid Albiner to Sundquist, Paul: Letter 1992, unpublished. HASDA, Adventist archive at Ekebyholm, Rimbo, Sweden.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
Wiklander, Gösta. “I vår Herres tjänst.” Adventistsamfundet, Stockholm, 2000.
“Scandinavian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 116 (listed as C.O. Carlsson).↩
Scandinavian Union Conference, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1915-1917 (listed as C.O. Carlsson).↩
Scandinavian Union Conference, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1930 (listed as C.O. Carlstjerna).↩
C. O. Carlstjerna, “E pionjär berättar,” Ungdomens Budbärare, No. 8. p. 8-11, 1943.↩
Gösta Wiklander, “I vår Herres tjänst,” Adventistsamfundet, Stockholm, 2000, 22.↩
Anderson, B. Missionären 1906, 83.↩
Carl Oskar Carlsson, “Rapport for Missionsarbejdere,” March 31, 1914, Halmstad: Ragnar Svenson Collection, HASDA (Adventist archive at Ekebyholm, Rimbo, Sweden).↩
Photo, Nyhyttan 1923, potato harvest, HASDA.↩
David Carlsson, Memories, unpublished, private family collection kept at home of daughter, Kerstin Christiansen, Ystad, Sweden.↩
Ingrid Albiner to Sundquist, Paul: Letter 1992, unpublished, HASDA.↩
Carlstjerna to South Swedish Conference President Adolf Blomstedt, letter, 1940, the author’s private collection.↩