1926 Biography of Elder Oluf Christian Larsen
Biography of Elder Oluf Christian Larsen
[Transcribed Oct. 24, 1998 from typewritten manuscript in the possession of Scott E. Tarbet, given into his care on the passing of Carol Cornia Haskell. A more detailed and considerably longer account of the life of O.C. Larsen, "A Biographical Sketch Of the Life Of Oluf Christian Larsen, Dictated By Himself and Written By His Son Oluf Larsen, Dedicated To His Posterity Who Might Desire To Read It."]
There are not many left of the old stalwarts, but here and there we find one or two of these noble veterans, who have endured the burden and the heat of the day. Many of these have interesting life histories that should serve as an inspiration and sober thoughts for the young people of our day. We are now enjoying the fruits of the struggle and hard labor of these pioneers. They planted, and we are reaping the fruits. They paid with their sweat and blood so that we could have a better and more comfortable life. Some of these dear old people have a gold mine of wisdom and experiences, and many of them (especially those of Scandinavian origin) are so timid and retiring that they feel that they are bragging if they talk about themselves. The author of this article has been requested by the editor of "Bikuben" to write a short biography of Oluf C. Larsen, but had a difficult time getting him to talk about himself. His answer was: "Wait 'till I am dead."
Oluf Christian Larsen was born April 8, 1836 in Drammen, Norway. (He will be 90 in April). Born and raised in poor circumstances, he had to go to work in a factory in his hometown at the age of 8. When 14 years old he was confirmed in the Lutheran church in Drammen. He left home and signed a contract to work for two years for Coachman Tollefsen in Drammen. This was not an easy job for a young lad, but his parents needed help, and young Oluf felt it was his responsibility and obligation to help them. When the two years were up, he got another job as a servant. This was in 1854, a year the Latter Day Saints won't forget very easily, and for Oluf this was the year that brought a great change in his life. When Bro. Larsen told me how the light of the gospel came into his life, I could see in his blue-grey eyes a joy and happiness brought there by the fond memories of the past. "I was living with a young miller apprentice for a short time", he said. "One evening, he came home and told me that he had heard from another man that some young men had come to our town who were called Mormons. I asked him if he knew what they were preaching, and he said that the man who told him about them had been to a Mormon meeting and the words that had impressed him most were: "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and receive the Holy Ghost." These words spoken by the young miller also made deep impression on my soul, and from that moment I had no peace. I read in the Bible in bed every night 'till I fell asleep.
"The next year I started working for Tollefsen again. The Mormons were preaching throughout the surrounding district and were spreading the gospel. Tollefsen's daughter and her husband had joined the Church, and this had an influence on me. I had already come to the conclusion by reading the Bible that the Lutheran Church as not teaching the true principles of the gospel. At this time there arrived in Drammen a young girl by the name of Anne Kristine Brekke (she later became the mother of Senator Reed Smoot). She had been thrown out of her home for having accepted the gospel, and at every opportunity would preach to me and others. Several times she invited me to their meetings. I remember well once she brought me a Bible Almanac which had a scripture for every day of the year. She asked me excitedly, "Oluf, on which date were you born?" I was a little surprised and said, "April 8th." She thumbed through the book, yes, there it was and the scripture read, "He who testifies these things says, Yes, I am coming soon, Amen." We both wondered about the words in the scripture, because she had been testifying to me of the truth, and this seemed to refer to that. It took three years before I finally decided to take the important step to join the Church. I had by then thoroughly investigated Mormonism and was satisfied that it was the work of the Lord. I was baptized April 16, 1857 by Elder Lars Larsen. A young man like me was of great importance in the little branch in those days, because the field was large and the workers few. I was ordained a priest right after my baptism, and as I had preached a lot to my friends I had the joy of baptizing several of them, and for this I was sent to prison. I was jailed on four different occasions those days. One day while in prison, President Magleby came to visit me and told me that I was called to go on a mission as soon as I got out of Jail. I was ordained an Elder, quit my job and went on a mission to the city of Kongsberg and surrounding districts. On this my first mission I experienced some remarkable things that I'll never forget. That people slammed doors in my face and sent fierce dogs after me were only small annoyances that were expected. But one day, in my wandering through a forest, something happened that can never be erased from my mind. I felt like the armies of Satan surrounded me, and thick darkness covered me, and I lost all my physical and spiritual powers. I was lying helpless on the ground while someone whispered in my ear, "You are a big fool, leaving your father and mother and quitting your job to be a missionary." But then I heard another voice say, "Pray! Pray! And with what little strength I had left I pleaded with the Lord to release me from the evil power that was trying to destroy me and my future as his servant. When I walked out of the forest I was relieved of the horrible feeling and happy and joyfully continued on my way to Kongsberg. When I arrived there, everything seemed to be prepared for me, and I met with good success.
In February 1859 I was transferred to Fredrikstad and Fredrickshald. While there I was called into military training for six months but continued my missionary labors. I could attend meetings every Sunday. When I finished my military training, I could again spend all my time spreading the gospel. I had many wonderful experiences in Fredrikstad which strengthened my faith and testimony of the truth. The sick were healed under our hands, and many miraculous manifestations were received by the power and influence of the priesthood. Many were baptized, and ministers and police put their heads together and put me behind bars for ten days on bread and water. The old prison Warden Fjeldsted treated me very friendly, as also did his youngest daughter, who let me out of prison on occasions. In one place named Solberg in Onso, I baptized seventeen persons. In 1862 I was released from my mission in my native land which lasted five years and had the privilege of emigrating to Zion." [sic - Ed]
(During his mission in Norway, Bro. Larsen wrote several poems and some of them became the most popular among the Saints, and many of the older generation are still singing them. The above poem is one of the first that Bro. Larsen wrote. It was written New Year's morning 1862.) [Editor's note: the poem mentioned was not included with the typewritten manuscript handed down to Scott Tarbet by Carol Cornia Haskell.]
After spending some time traveling around among the Saints, saying goodbye to them and to my family and friends, I started on my journey to Zion in the Spring of 1862. I traveled by steamship from Kristiania (now Oslo). It stopped at the harbor in Moss, where sister Emilie Kristine Solberg came on board to travel along as a fellow passenger. Sister Wilberg was also at the harbor to say goodbye. We then went to Copenhagen where we took lodging at the LDS Chapel in Regnegaten. Here we met several Swedish Saints, and after all the arrangements were made, we took the train to Korsor, and from there to Kiel, Germany, and from there to Hamburg where we boarded the sailship "Electric". There were more than 350 passengers on board. I was chosen to be the captain of the emigrants to be responsible for their order and conduct. On April 12 President Van Cott came on board and married twelve young couples. One of these couples was sister Emilie Solberg and myself. The anchor was raised and we set sail out on the storm-whipped ocean. For seven weeks we were tossed on the waves of the ocean till we reached New York City. Here we were examined and checked, and from there we went by train to Chicago where we changed trains. Then the trip went to Quincy, Ill. and from there by steamship down the Mississippi River to Humboldt and St. Joseph, and then by up the Missouri River to Florence. Here we were met with a big disappointment, as we had to wait three whole weeks for transportation facilities that were to arrive from Utah. Because of flooding rivers, the drivers were delayed. It was a happy day for the Saints when they finally arrived with their ox teams. It was a difficult task to get the Saints divided into companies of 15 for each tent or wagon. But happily we started on our journey across the long desert that we now had to cross before we could reach the Rocky Mountains. This journey was long and hard for the older people in the company who had to endure many hardships. For us young people it was more like a pleasure trip. When evening came after a day of walking, we danced before turning in for the night. We didn't have much variety in our food which consisted of flour and smoked pork, but if we had had enough of that, we would have been satisfied. Towards the end of our journey the food ran out, and we had to go without. We arrived in Salt Lake City April 28, 1862 and pitched our tents on the lot of the 8th Ward, where now the City and County Building stands. I met many people that I knew there, among others Bro. Magleby who brought us home with him. We stayed there for a while, and as Bro. Magleby had a carpenter shop in partnership with a Bro. Larsen, I was permitted to work there. My goal was to get hold of some land where I could raise our own food and be independent. After Fall Conference that year we decided to go to Sanpete County. We got a man from Ephraim to take our baggage, and my wife and I started out on foot on the 130 mile trip. We were treated friendly wherever we stopped on our way. When they found out that we were emigrants in search of a home where we could settle down they showed us their warmest hospitality. When we reached Salt Creek Canyon we met several people from Sanpete, among them a man named Christian Larsen who was the first missionary in Norway. He was so happy to see emigrants from Norway. And his joy was multiplied when I could tell him that I had baptized his brother-in-law in Fredrikstad. A warm friendship soon developed between us, and we had to go with him to his home in Spring City. We enjoyed a delightful time in his home and met many old acquaintances from Norway in this little town. My first decision had been to go to Ephraim, but Bro. Larsen wouldn't hear of us leaving Spring City. To tempt me to to stay he gave me five acres of his land, and the result was that we stayed there for some time. In this town there was lots of work but no money. The pay for a day's work was a bushel of wheat and sometimes some pork and a pound of butter. In the Spring of 1863 I planted my five acres in oats, but couldn't get water for irrigation. The city had a law that if anyone sold part of their land, the could not sell water rights with it. Being that I didn't have any steady work, the people in town elected me to take care of their livestock during the summer. The contract was for so many pounds of wheat for each animal. To do this job I needed a horse. I went to my bishop and bough from him an old horse and saddle for 120 bushels of wheat, which I was to pay in the Fall. By then I felt that a change would be good for us. My friends in Ephraim had several times asked me to move down there, and I finally decided to do so. We arrived there in October, and I was now to face the greatest trial that a man can face, because my beloved wife took sick and died. The people showed me their sympathy and goodness in every way that they could, but my great sorrow no one could erase.
After some time Apostle Orson Hyde told me that it would be wisdom for me to look for another companion who could give me comfort and encouragement. The next year I married Anna Marie Pedersen, and we lived happily together for forty years and celebrated our golden anniversary in Salt Lake City, in 1913.
In 1864 people were asked to settle and build up Circleville in Piute County. It had been my wish for a long time to own my own farm, and I went there with that hope. But here we had some fierce fights with the Indians who finally drove us away, and disappointed we returned to Ephraim in the summer of 1866. In 1868, I was called to take my ox team and meet the emigrants on the prairie and bring them in to Salt Lake. This was one of those years when the rivers were so high we had great difficulty crossing them. Four men in our company drowned in their efforts to get their teams across.
In 1880 I was called on a mission to Norway. It was with great joy that I saw my native country again. I visited the jails where I as a young, inexperienced missionary had been locked up. This time I visited my beloved homeland with more experience and a stronger testimony of the "Glad Tidings" than when I as a young man had wandered among the people there. I labored in Bergen for six months and had the privilege of organizing the branch in that city, which now is one of the largest conferences in Norway. I labored in Hedemarken for six months and in my hometown Drammen I stayed for over a year. Arrived back in Utah in the spring of 1883 after completing my mission and with a stronger testimony than ever before. That this was the work of the Lord which will never through all the eternities pass away. During my mission in Norway I enjoyed good health, but as soon as I returned to Utah, I became ill. I found that the high climate was not good for my health, so in 1890 I moved from Ephraim to Salt Lake City. Here I started a small grocery store which I operated for a period of 15 years.
In closing let me say a word about this our timid, but stalwart "Giant of Zion", like so many of his best friends here in Zion, he didn't know how to worship both God and mammon, so he chose the first, to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. The treasures that Bro. Larsen has gathered are of the kind that moth and rust will not corrupt. In our materialistic time these kind of people are not appreciated as they should be, but those who know Bro. Larsen best and have felt the greatness of his spirit, have to admit that he is an inspiration to all those he comes in contact with. While I was writing down the things he told me, he showed me a New Year's card which he treasured more than if it had been for a thousand dollars. Among other things it said, "Next to God I can thank you for the light and truth of the gospel that I have received." Signed, Kathinka Andersen. (Wife of Oluf J. Andersen.)
Bro. Larsen has been a member of the High Priest Quorum in Granite Stake for many years. Up until a couple of years ago he was a faithful temple worker, but because of failing health he had to give up this work that was so dear to his heart. Bro. Larsen is a member of the Black Hawk Indian War Veterans. He has endured as many trials and sorrows as anyone. His faith and testimony have been tested many times. But through it all he as proved to be an "Israelite in whom there was found no deceit."
In the year 1889 he was, along with many of his brothers in the faith, thrown into prison because he wanted to obey God more than man and would not give up what was rightfully his. Bro. Larsen has a large posterity who all love and respect him for his honesty and uprightness. There are few men at 90 years of age who are blessed with such a sound mind and a clear memory, and may he enjoy this for years to come as the Lord permits him to remain with us. And when his time has run out, and his wanderer's staff is laid down, may he hear these heavenly words ring in his ears, "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, and I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of thy Lord."
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