by McKay Ellis
Note: This pioneer history is one of the winning 4th-grade student essays submitted to the Cotton Mission Chapter in it’s annual Essay Contest.
My great grandpa Alten Christensen was a pioneer in the retail industry of southern Utah. He was also a pioneer with his faith.
In 1929, Alten opened Christensen’s Department store in Richfield, Utah. It took a lot of courage to open a store at the beginning of the Great Depression. Banks did not have money to loan to new businesses, so he had to finance it himself. He lived on very little; in fact, he lived on the top floor of the store in a little apartment. He put all his profits back into the store.
Initially the store sold shoes, overalls, and fabrics. It was 20 ft x 30 ft or 600 square feet. After a year and a half, they moved to a bigger location. The store still thrives in Richfield today along with a location in Cedar City and St. George. My grandpa Clark and his two brothers continue to run these stores.
Alten was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the window of Christensen’s, he would put a couple copies of the Book of Mormon. Next to those copies there was a sign that said,
“You are in Mormon Country, come inside for a free copy of the Book of Mormon.”
Through his efforts, he gave over 100,000 copies of the Book of Mormon during his lifetime! He
would give the Book of Mormon copies to hotels if allowed and put a copy in each room! In each Book of Mormon he donated to these hotels he would put a self-addressed envelope inside with a note.
The note read, “If you want to learn more about the Book of Mormon, mail this back to (my great grandpa’s) address.” Once he got his envelopes, he sent them to the Missionary Headquarters where the missionaries then taught them more.
He had a map of the United States with push pins showing where all of those people who had
responded lived. There was at least one push pin in every state.
I know my grandpa was a very kind and generous man. He worked hard to provide a better life for his family. His faith brought him so much joy that he felt it was important to share with others. I am grateful for his pioneering examples.