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Giants in the Earth

O.E. Rölvaag

Book II, Chapter III—"The Glory of the Lord"

Book II, Chapter II—"The Power of Evil in High Places"

Book II, Chapter III—"The Glory of the Lord", page 2

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Several years pass, and the settlement grows. One day in June, an itinerant minister arrives at Tonseten's home. Tonseten and Kjersti give their distinguished visitor the best food they have and invite him to spend the night. Throughout the evening, the minister asks them questions about the settlement.

Later, Tonseten talks privately to the minister about an issue that troubles him. For several years, Tonseten's responsibility as the settlement's elected justice of the peace has occasionally demanded that he perform marriage ceremonies. Tonseten feels that the ceremonies he performed are not legal in God's eyes, and he feels that he has committed an act of sacrilege. However, the minister reassures him that the marriages are indeed legitimate in God's eyes. The minister then tells Tonseten that he wants to conduct divine services and baptisms in the home of Per Hansa that afternoon. Tonseten and Kjersti tell him that Per's wife, Beret, is not well, so the minister decides to speak to Per and Beret.

The minister holds a service at Per's house, where the whole community gathers. The minister preaches about the coming of the Israelites into Canaan, and he applies it as a parable for the settlers. He warns them not to forsake their God, and he tells them that they are founding a kingdom like the Jews. Next, the minister baptizes several children. When the minister baptizes Per and Beret's youngest son, Peder Victorious, Beret breaks down and cries, saying that no child should be given the name Victorious. Per finally calms his wife, and the service ends.

After the service, the minister stays to talk to Per and Beret. Per relates the tragic story of Beret to the minister, saying that he sees now that some people should never emigrate. Per admits that he was the one who wanted to go to the West, against Beret's wishes. Now he feels that his wife has lost her mind because she cannot endure life on the prairie. Per relates how strange Beret has acted since the first plague of locusts arrived years ago, how she sometimes talks to her dead mother, and how he even fears that she may someday unintentionally harm their youngest child. Per says that Beret objects to the name Victorious because she considers the name a sacrilege. The minister tells Per that Victorious is a fine name and that he cannot understand why Beret objects to it. The minister then asks for a chance to talk to Beret alone.

The minister enters the house where Beret and Sorine are busy preparing supper. Beret feels somewhat bashful and uneasy in the minister's presence. He begins praying, and the others join him. The next day, the minister talks with Beret about holding a communion service in her house on Sunday. He recognizes that she wants to feel the joy of salvation. When the minister leaves, Beret caresses Peder Victorious.

Many people from the area arrive for communion on Sunday, and Beret's emigrant chest serves as the altar. The minister begins the sermon, but feels he is incompetent preaching about the glory of God. He then relates a common story about a mother's love, rather than delivering his sermon. He holds communion, absolving the people of their sins. When he finishes, he feels like an utter failure.

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