Christian John Larsen

1832 - 1915

Brief Sketch of the Life of Christian J. Larsen
Biographical Sketch of Christian J. Larsen (by Lauretta Kidman)
Personal Notes on Christian J. Larsen
Church News Article: "Converted in Jail"
Church News Article: "Convinced Behind Bars"
Autobiography of Christian John Larsen (113 pages)
Photos and Documents


I was born March 21st, 1831 in Gries, Veile County, Denmark.  I commenced
to work in the Gries Woolen Mills when I was six years old, working twelve hours
each day.  My schooling was from 7 p. m. to 9 p. m. after the days' work was done.
When fourteen years old I started to learn the tailor trade, and when I was seventeen,
on account of the war between Denmark and Germany, I went to Copenhagen.  On
August 15th, 1850 I had my conversation with Elder G. P. Dykes on the first principles
of the Gospel, and on the 19th of the same month I was baptized by Elder P. 0.
Hansen and confirmed on the 25th of August by Apostle Erastus Snow. On this
occasion the sacrament was administered for the first time in this dispensation in
the country of Denmark.  In the month of October, 1850 I was ordained a Deacon by
Elder J. P. Forsgren.  On March 12th, 1851 I was ordained a Priest by Apostle
Snow and sent with Elder Christian Christiansen to Aalborg as missionaries. We
reached our destination on March 16th.  I labored there until the latter part of July
when I was called back to Copenhagen. On August 17th I was ordained an Elder by
Apostle Snow and sent to my native village.  On the 24th of August, 1851 I preached
my first Gospel sermon in my father's house, and on the same day had the pleasure
of baptizing my Father, Mother, and eldest sister, and also a stranger.  This was
the first fruits of the Gospel in that part of Denmark.  The Lord blessed our labors
so that by the 10th day of November we had organized three branches of the Church,
namely; Fredaricia, Gries, and Store Lima.  On the 15th of November, 1851, in a
general conference held at Copenhagen, Southern Jylland and Fyne was organized
as a conference, and I was appointed its President.  In the spring of 1852 by the
request of W. Snow, I performed a short mission to Falster and Lolland after some
of the brethren had been unmercifully robbed and driven from those islands.  On the
15th of August I was appointed President over Brevig Conference in Norway and six
other brethren were called to accompany me.  We arrived in Norway the 12th day of
September and had very good success in laboring in the three branches already
organized as well as among strangers until the 15th of October when we were all
imprisoned.  I was released from prison on April 2nd 1853.  In July I was called
back to Denmark by President W. Snow and in August I was appointed President for
Copenhagen Conference.  In the latter part of November I was appointed by President
Van Cott to look after the interests of the first emigrant company and take charge of
them.  On the 22nd of December I, with 301 emigrants, left Copenhagen and in
Gloksta our company increased by 33 German Saints.  At Kansas we were joined
with the second company from Denmark when crossing the plains.  We arrived in
Salt Lake City October 5th, 1854.  I settled in what was then called Kingston's Fort
or South Weber.  In the fall of 1856 I was called as 2nd counselor to Bishop Thomas
Kingston.  In the fall of 1857 I moved to Ogden.  On the 7th day of April I was ordained
a Seventy by President John Van Cott.  Through the summer and fall I was under
arms in Colonel Chauncey West's command in what was called the Buchanan War.
In the winter of 1857 and '58 I was a Home Missionary in the Weber Stake and in the
summer of '58 I had charge of one of the three small companies left to guard the
city.  In November 1858 I moved with my family to San Pete where I lived and passed
through all the trouble and difficulties of the Black Hawk War.  On the 13th of August
1864, I and a 9 year old son of mine had a miraculous escape from an attack of about
twenty savages who emptied their guns at us when they were not more than about
twelve feet from us.  In the spring of 1867 when the grasshoppers destroyed our
crops in San Pete I went on a visit to Cache Valley and on meeting Apostle Ezra T.
Benson was persuaded by him to move to Logan.  It was over a year before I got all
my family moved. I was a Home Missionary in Cache Stake from 1872 to 1884,. and
a high counselor while Apostle Brigham Young presided in this stake.  When Moses
Thatcher became President of the stake I was ordained by him a High Priest and
set apart as 1st counselor to the Bishop of Logan Second Ward, which position I
held until 1890.  I was a missionary laborer in Logan Temple from March 1885 to
May 1887. In October 1890 I was appointed Bishop of Logan Seventh Ward and on
November 3rd was ordained and set apart to that office by Apostle Marriner W.
Merrill.  This position I yet hold - September 23rd, 1901.  May 3rd, 1908, set
apart as Patriarch.  (At his death he had 19 children, 85 grandchildren, and 47
great-grandchildren.  He led the 3rd company of emigrants from Denmark at the age
of 22.  He died at Logan, Utah, September 15, 1915 of general debility. )
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"In many instances so little has come down to us in written record or by way
of family tradition that our ancestors have been reduced to little more  than cold
dates and barren statements. " The foregoing was made by Professor A. Dean
Larsen of Brigham Young University, 3rd great nephew of Christian J. Larsen.
So it has always been, the history of our race is the record of man's
achievements in war, in statecraft, and diplomacy.  The story of man's work in
great migrations has been told only in lines and passages where it should instead
fill volumes.   Here and there we get glimpses of incidents and anecdotes which
give glimpses of fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, a hero, or heroine, angels
of goodness or kindness, but most is a blank which will never be filled.  The
warrior who wins a battle deserves a laurel no more rightfully than a pioneer who
leads his race into the wilderness and builds a new empire.
The movement which carried our pioneers from far off places across the
Atlantic to the Far West in the short space of little over a century has already
taken its place in history as one of the greatest achievements of humanity.  The
crossing of a stormy ocean, the reclamation of the soil from nature, the fighting
of savage men are mere generalities which give us an insight of true pioneer life.
An observation such as this teaches us how much we owe to our pioneers. It
should fill us with gratitude and self-congratulation - in that we are the lawful
inheritors of their work, and as Americans are partakers of their glory.
Of the thousands of devoted pioneers who came into this wilderness, not one
has done more than Christian J. Larsen.  His religion was the dominant principle
in all his thoughts and actions, as it was meant to be.  He was sorely tested in
the trying enterprise of his life.  In glimpses of his record in ward minutes and
elsewhere, we find a deep, sincere, and healthy piety, a kind of prophetic vision.
It was through this vision that he was buoyed up and soothed amid the many trials,
privations, perils, and uncertainties that surrounded him in that rugged pioneer
life.   The influence of his religion inspired him with unconquerable principle,
infused public spirit, to purify the character from frivolity and feebleness and
lifted his soul to a lofty standard of Christian excellence.  These things are not
recorded,  they can only be envisioned by his descendants.
Christian J. Larsen was born May 21, 1831 in Grejs(Greis) Vejle (Veile) amt,
Denmark, son of Lars Johansen and Anna Margrethe Sorensen. His brothers and
sisters were: Soren, Johannes (John), Christian Greis, Lauritz, Sidsel Kristine,
and Maren (Mary), also Soren and Cecel Marie (twins who died in infancy. ) They
were especially religious, very devout, honest, trustworthy, and obedient to law
and order both in Church and State, and spent their entire lives in performing
tasks assigned to them by those in authority, often at the expense of their personal
From his records we learn he went to work in the town's woolen mills at age
six, working twelve hours a day.  His schooling was obtained at night from seven
to nine o'clock.  At fourteen he learned the tailoring trade.
August 15, 1850, while in Copenhagen, he heard the Gospel for the first time
from Elder George P. Dykes, four days later he was baptized, the 31st Danish
convert to the Church, by Elder Peter Hansen.  On August 25th, he was confirmed
by Erastus Snow.  This was also the first time the Sacrament was administered
to in this dispensation in Denmark.
At age 20, he was sent with Elder Christian Christiansen to Aalborg, Denmark
as a missionary.  After laboring there he was ordained an Elder by Apostle Snow
and sent to his home town to labor as a missionary.  He preached his first sermon
in his father's home, and that same day he baptized his father, mother, oldest
sister, and a stranger   These were the first to be baptized in that part of Denmark.
Not long after, three branches of the Church were organized in Denmark;
Fredericia, Grejs, and Store Lime.  Later the southern part of Jutland and the
Island of Fyen were organized and he was appointed President.
In 1852, President Willard Snow sent him to Norway, after the elders there had
been mobbed and driven out.  He was made President of the Brevig Conference.
Six other missionaries joined him.  Two months later they were arrested and thrown
into prison.  They were released six months later.  If they were mistreated before,
one can imagine the treatment while imprisoned.
Upon his release, he was made President of the Copenhagen Conference, and
three months later President John Van Cott appointed him to take charge of a
company of three hundred and one Saints. This was to be the second company to
leave Denmark for the New World.  Later they were joined by thirty-three German
Saints and set sail for America aboard the Jesse Munn.
When they arrived at the Mouth of the Mississippi River, the water was low
and the trip up the river was slow.  Cholera struck and many died.  When they
reached Kansas he made arrangements for housing and jobs for the saints until the
following spring, when they were joined by the Hans P. Olsen Company and
together the two companies crossed the plains with Christian J. Larsen in charge.
Nothing was said of this move, but history teaches it was like all others at
that time, one of constant fear, sickness, and hardship.  Large herds of buffalo
supplied meat, but food for animals was scarce along the trail, as was water,
many unmarked graves were left along the way. This company suffered more from
cholera than any preceding them.  When one died, the company went on, leaving
the mourners with their dead and to catch up with the company by nightfall.  There
was no time to stop.  They must make time while the weather was good, or the whole
train would perish.  When going through especially hostile Indian country, they
carried their dead in their wagons, lest the few left behind to bury them might be
They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, October 5, 1854, and awaited orders from
President Brigham Young.  He sent Christian J. Larsen and his wife, Lars
Johansen and wife (his father and mother), a brother and two sisters to Kingston's
Fort or South Weber.  Here he was made a second counselor to Bishop Thomas
Kingston.  In the fall of 1856 he moved to Ogden.  Through the summer and fall he
was under arms in Colonel Chauncey W. West's command in the Echo Canyon War.
He was also in charge of three small companies that guarded the city.
November 1858, the entire family was called to move to Sanpete County. These
Larsens were a sturdy group, used to rugged winters, and were well able to replace
those who were suffering from the cold and hardships.  They settled in Ephraim,
and later at Spring City.  It was through their efforts that Sanpete became known
as the "wheat granary" of the West.  The men fought in the Black Hawk War.
When I was a little girl, he used to tell us of the trouble with the Indians.
Whenever we came, we'd ask him to relate Indian stories. How I wish now I had
asked him about other things.  One of the stories I remember best, was when he
was freighting goods between the fort at Ephraim and Mt. Pleasant Fort. He and
his nine year old son had a miraculous escape from about 20 savages.  There was
a pass through the hills between the two forts, about eight miles south of Mt.
Pleasant; cedar trees formed a thick covering all over the hills.  The place was
known as "Pigeon Hollow". It was an excellent hiding place.  They traveled the
preceding eight miles without incident, but suddenly my uncle was alerted to
danger by the skittishness of his horses.  They could smell the Indians. At the
same time my uncle noticed a slight movement of branches. He told his son to
lie down in the bottom of the covered wagon, and just as he said this,  the savages
jumped from behind their covering.  He told his screaming son to do as bidden,
and be quiet, promising him he would come through unharmed if he would heed
his advice.  As the boy crouched on the wagon floor, his father climbed out on the
wagon tongue and crouched between the two horses.  Bullets and arrows flew thick
and fast.  They pierced the wagon cover, and ticked the harnesses.  They made their
escape, but had the Indians been on horses it may have been a different story.  But
with Christian J. Larsen's faith, there is room for doubt.
When the grasshoppers destroyed his crops in the Spring of 1867, he made a trip
to Cache Valley, where Apostle Ezra T. Benson talked him into moving his family
to Logan, which he did.  It took him over a year to move his belongings.
He again started missionary labors, as his whole life was to be one of service
in the Church.   The names of Brigham Young, Moses Thatcher, Apostle Marriner
W. Merrill, and Apostle Benson figured in the various functions he performed,
such as his stake missionary and Temple labors.  He was a counselor in the Logan
Second Ward, and High Counselor to the Stake Presidency.  November 3, 1890, he
was ordained Bishop of the Logan Seventh Ward. He held that position 18 years.
During those many years he was always advising and guiding his flock.  In the
minutes of Logan Seventh Ward, he said, "We should fast and pray and prepare for
the times that are coming.  Cherish the spirit of God and ask him to preserve us
from apostasy and help us to be faithful. The gifts and blessings are in the Church,
we can obtain these blessings through faith. "
Other places he spoke of the necessity of obtaining all the knowledge we can from
every lawful source.  He told of the great advantage the Saints have over all other
people on the earth, and how we should take advantage of all the blessings God has
so abundantly bestowed upon us, and feel grateful for the same.
He showed the advisability of keeping a journal of our lives. Another saying,
"Watch your children and know the company they keep, and where they go."
He urged the Saints to improve their homes and orchards, and by so doing, they
would show a spirit of thrift, which is pleasing in God's sight and in man's as well
as secure a better market and more profit.
He wanted all Saints to be in possession of the Holy Ghost in order to prove the
spirits that are abroad in the earth so that we may not be deceived and led astray
from the principles of the Gospel. Enhance the spirit of love and charity, discourage
the evil of fault finding.
He was a public spirited man and supported all the industries brought to the state.
He believed in sustaining home industry. He said, "When Babylon falls, we will need
our own home industries in order to sustain ourselves. "
He was also a charitable man and was always urging others to help the poor and
the sick,  to extend a helping hand and to show kindness to all, to forgive those who
did them wrong.
He urged people to pay an honest tithing, offerings, and to attend Church. He
said, "Those who seldom partake of the Sacrament are led astray. "
One Sunday morning he apologized for the boys who had to pick mulberry leaves
that Sunday Morning.  It was necessary for them to do so,  as the shipment of leaves
had not been received from Brigham City, and the silk worms had to be kept alive.
Upon his release from the position of Bishop, he was ordained a Patriarch
which position he held until his death in September, 1915, giving over 800 blessings.
My mother and I attended his funeral which was held in the Logan Seventh Ward,
September 15, 1915.  The Chapel was filled to overflowing with those who had come
to pay respect to a noble and valiant son of God.  A staunch worker in the Church;
an indefatigable missionary, ward and stake officer.  Many speakers attested to
this fact.  He was a fearless defender of the truth, few were his equal.  Because
of this he suffered untold persecutions in the Scandinavian countries.
No wonder Andrew Jensen, Church Historian, one of the speakers at the services
said, "There have been many Larsens join the Church, but none has equaled the
service and stamina of these Larsens.  The others were all on the other side of the
Larsen was a polygamist, having had three wives, with whom he had nineteen
children, and adopted two more.  I think he married a fourth wife late in life, at
Logan.  She was mentioned by relatives when my mother and I were in Logan.
I have not been able to find the facts, as I don't know where any of the relatives are

References of part of this history were taken from Jensen's "History of the
Scandinavian Mission", Prominent Pioneers of Utah, and from minutes of Logan
Seventh Ward.  History was written by Lauretta Larsen Kidman, daughter of
Lauritz and Ottomine Christensen Jensen Larsen.
I am proud of my heritage, and of Christian J. Larsen, my father's brother.
(July 16, 1969)
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He was short, of stature, about 5 feet 2 inches, rather slender; Weighing
about 130 pounds. He always stood erect, wore a goatee beard that he kept well
trimmed and wore and admired exceptionally nice clothes.  He had a kind and
affectionate nature, and always embraced members of his family, male or fe-
male, with a hug and a kiss.
In "the spring of 1867 when grasshoppers destroyed their crops in San
Pete County, Ezra T. Benson advised him to move to Logan, Utah.  He was al-
ways known as "Sanpete Larsen" in Logan,
When Moses Thatcher became President of Cache Stake, Grandfather was or-
dained a High Priest and made First Counselor to the Bishop of Logan Second
Ward.  He served thirteen years.  In his history he tells of already being
on the High Counsel to Stake President Brigham Young, Jr. and upon his re-
lease, Moses Thatcher was named to replace him,  C.J. Larsen was next in line
and thus became Senior High Counselor to M. Thatcher.  When asked to become
a Counselor in the Bishopric he was given a choice, and chose to be First C.
to Bishop Ballard. This was this first time that bishoprics with two counselors
were organized Church wide - according to the History - at least for Logan.
He was also a missionary all this time.
When called to officiate in the Logan Temple from March 1805 to May 1887,
he disguised himself as a workman, in work clothes, carrying a grubbing hoe
over his shoulder. Many times he passed the U.S.Deputy Marshall, who didn't
recognize him.  See page 190 for more on this.
Note - He had learned the English language well enough to do missionary
work In both the English as well as the Scandinavian tongue. The Danish and
Norwegian, as well as the Sweden's use of words were similar enough to be
understood by one another.
Note*-- Mrs. Clara (Fenton) Larsen was a daughter-in-law to Almartin
Larsen. He was a son of Christian J. and Inger Margretta - third wife
Christian J. Larsen owned a fine two story brick home on the Logan
River In the Seventh Ward.  The lawn was spacious and well kept. In the fall
it was a beautiful sight, as it was landscaped with mountain ash trees,
covered with red berries.  In the spring the banks of the river were golden
with blooming tame buttercups.  His later years were spent tending his gar-
den and strawberry patch.
He was a lover of fish and any kind of rich foods.  He was known to
drink a pint of cream, as it came from the cream separator, and enjoy it,
In a polygamist family the first wife was called Grandmother Larsen
and the other wives were called by their first name.
After his first two wives passed away, he and Grandmother Margretta (Fenton
A. Larsen 'a Grandmother) would drive around Cache Valley visiting his child-
ren and grandchildren.  It took over a week to make the rounds with a horse
and buggy. Everyone was delighted to have them come, but got quite tired
when he was called on to lead In the family prayer, as he could pray longer
than anyone they had ever heard.
He was a man of great faith in the ordinances of the Gospel.  He went
about praying for and giving comfort to the sick and afflicted all through
his life. He was a natural missionary, and loved to preach and sing the songs
of Zion.
All of his wives died before him.  When he was eighty-one years of age
he married Augusta Anderson on the 18th of September 1912.  This marriage
didn't turn out so well as they were not suited to one another.  After a very
short illness he died on the 15th of September 1918 at the age of 84 1/2  years.
(Somewhere in a history of Christian John Larsen I have read that he at one
time owned all of the land that is now occupied by Utah State University,
clear up to the mouth of Logan Canyon. It was at the mouth of the Canyon
where his third wife Inger Margretta lived and kept a toll gate. This Is
told in her life story.) 
Received from Mrs. Fenton Larsen of Preston, Ida.

See journal entry: December 17, 1852


Converted in jail

Soon after the introduction of the gospel to Norway, Latter-day Saints there were deprived of constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion. This was based on a ruling that Mormonism was not a Christian movement. While the status of Mormonism was reviewed by the courts and by government councils, the town jail in Fredrikstad, Norway, was home for four missionaries from Denmark and a Norwegian convert. Two of them, charged with the "illegal practice of religion," were imprisoned there for 6 1/2 months in 1852-53. Swedish-born Carl Widerborg, a former school teacher and now a merchant, became interested in these young men, whose hymns could be heard through the windows of the jail. His visits to them became frequent and extended. He was able to arrange for the tolerant jailkeeper to lock him in with the missionaries while he learned of the gospel, then to let him out when he knocked on the floor. After nearly four months of investigation, Carl requested baptism. The missionaries sent for a priesthood bearer in the local branch and authorized him to perform the ordinance. Then, during his next visit to Fredrikstad Jail, Carl was confirmed a member by the missionaries and ordained to the priesthood. Because of his educational background, Brother Widerborg was able to give the brethren legal advice. He also traveled to Christiania (now Oslo) to appeal on their behalf to the Norwegian government. Meantime, the depth of his conversion and his mild-mannered approach helped bring other converts. The local congregation doubled in size while the missionaries were imprisoned. Moreover, the jailer's three daughters, one of the missionaries' fellow prisoners, and other visitors to the jail also joined the Church. Carl Widerborg became a strength to the entire Scandinavian Mission, serving as its mission president in 1858-60, when all American missionaries were temporarily called home, and again in 1864-68. He became known as the most effective speaker of any Scandinavian Latter-day Saint convert of his time. Richard L. Jensen ' (Part of a series produced by the Church Historical Department.)

September 22, 1985


Convinced behind bars

When Elder Johan Dorius was thrown in jail in Frederikstad, Norway, it was like a reunion. Inside the cell were two of his brethren, Elders Christian and Svend Larsen. A few hours later, they were joined by Elder Peter Beckstrom. In Norway, it was legal to preach a doctrine differing from the state religion if it was classed as a "Christian dissenter." But bitter opposition voiced by most of the nation's clergy, who professed that Mormons were not Christians, led to the arrest of all eight LDS missionaries in the country during a three-day period in October 1852. The jailer, a man named Fjeldstad, treated the elders well. Through reading, singing, and praying together, the missionaries' faith and determination increased. Two men arrested for preaching shared the cell with the Mormons. One, a Mr. Jacobsen, opposed the elders. He was soon removed to another cell. The other man, Johan Andreas Jensen, tolerated their views. At age 5, Jensen had gone to sea as a cabin boy. Over the next 30 years he worked his way up to become captain of a large ship. In 1849 he gave most of his possessions to the poor and began to preach repentance to his countrymen. He was thrown in jail for rebuking the king and the Lutheran religion. At first, the elders' efforts to teach Jensen the gospel were rejected. But on Sunday, Oct. 24, he joined in a gospel discussion with the missionaries and Fjeldstad. "Elder Christian Larsen in particular testified to the truth of the gospel under the influence of the Holy Ghost and made a lasting impression on them [Jensen and Fjeldstad]," according to the History of the Scandinavian Mission. "After Mr. Fjeldstad left the cell, the brethren continued to converse with Mr. Jensen until they were all brought under a most pleasant and divine influence." Jensen burst into tears, declaring he knew what they were saying was true. "His face literally shone with joy," the history states. Jensen was baptized Feb. 25, 1854, immigrated to America in 1863, and pulled a handcart to Utah. He settled in Ephraim, where one of his daughters married Andrew C. Nelson. The Nelsons' grandson, Elder Russell M. Nelson, was called to the Council of the Twelve April 7,1984. Kevin Stoker (Another in a series of "Missionary Moments." Source: History of the Scandinavian Mission.)

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