Elder John R. Lasater, Emeritus General Authority Seventy, Dies at Age 85

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 16 June 2017

Elder John R. Lasater speaks during the April 1988 general conference. He died June 14, 2017.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Lasater’s funeral is Monday, June 19, at 11 a.m. in North Ogden.

The Church’s first retired Air Force general and F-4 fighter pilot by profession to serve as a General Authority has died at the age of 85.

Elder John Roger Lasater, retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General and emeritus General Authority Seventy, died in Ogden, Utah, on June 14.

Sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 4, 1987, at age 55, Elder Lasater served in that capacity for five years until his release on October 3, 1992. He was called by President Ezra Taft Benson and served in various assignments in that calling.

“My military and Church assignments have just blended over the years,” he told the Church News in an article published on April 25, 1987, not long after his call to serve as a General Authority. “They seem to have gone hand in hand. In fact, I can truthfully say that my Church activity and assignments have enhanced my success in my chosen profession. I enjoyed my military career, but I felt there was something else I should be doing so I voluntarily retired. I never dreamed of anything like this calling. However, as Nephi said to his brothers, ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.’”

Elder John Roger Lasater, emeritus General Authority Seventy and retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General.

Whether it be in a Church assignment or in his impressive military career, Elder Lasater tried to apply honor, integrity, loyalty, service, and fidelity—the qualities represented by the five points on the stars worn by generals in the military—to all of his assignments.

“In the military and in my own personal life, my challenge has been to replace the strong voice of command with the soft voice of reason,” he said in the Church News article.

As a General Authority Seventy, Elder Lasater served as Second Counselor in the Europe Area, as Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department, as President of the North America Southeast Area, and as Assistant Executive Director of the Curriculum Department.

Elder Lasater spent his career in the U.S. Air Force, where he retired as a U.S. Air Force Brigadier General.

He was born on December 8, 1931, in Farmington, Utah, to Rowena Saunders and Robert B. Lasater and spent his youth in the Ogden, Utah, area. He graduated from Weber County High School in Ogden, Utah, and married Marilyn Jones, from Samaria, Idaho, on July 21, 1950. They are the parents of five children.

In March 1952, he enlisted in the US. Air Force and was an ROTC staff sergeant while he attended Brigham Young University. His “life changed” when he was encouraged to apply for Officer Candidate School and flight training, and although he needed only 14 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, Elder Lasater decided to leave BYU to obtain an Air Force commission.

He became one of 162 accepted for Officer Candidate School and one of 33 accepted for pilot training.

In March 1957, he received his commission as a second lieutenant through the Air Force Officer Candidate School at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. From there he received his first flying assignment in 1958 and later accepted assignments that took him to California, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, and Europe.

While stationed in Laon, France, in 1966 (at the time he was serving as branch president), Elder Lasater enrolled in a program through the University of Maryland to qualify for Operation Bootstrap, a program that enabled him to attend Omaha University (later known as the University of Nebraska Omaha) for six months to complete his bachelor’s degree in political science.

Later, while stationed in England, he enrolled in an overseas program offered through the University of Southern California—combined with the London School of Economics and Oxford and Cambridge Universities—and obtained a master’s degree.

According to the U.S. Air Force website, he completed Squadron Officer School in 1966 and graduated from the National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1974.

During his military career he held many responsibilities and assignments, which included serving as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization policy. He was also the principal director for European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization policy, and he worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, Washington, D.C.

Prior to his retirement, he served as the senior military adviser to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency of the State Department and was U.S. commissioner to the Standing Consultative Committee at Geneva SALT talks XIX and XX, as commander of the SAC 4th Air Division (responsible for B-52 bombers, ICBMs, and 28,000 men). He also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense under Caspar Weinberger.

Elder Lasater and his wife moved more than 33 times over the course of his career.

During one of the family’s stays in Germany, Elder Lasater served as a regional representative assigned to the Servicemen’s Stake in Europe—the same stake he had previously presided over—which, at the time, covered 65,000 square miles.

“At the time of the call, Major Lasater thought himself an unlikely man for the job, since he was required to spend nearly all his time flying to various U.S. bases throughout Europe, training and evaluating pilot performance,” according to an Ensign magazine article from May 1987. “But President Lee set him apart, promising him that he would be able to preside over and conduct the affairs of the stake without interference from his work. President Lee further blessed him that his advancement in the military ranks would be extraordinary.”

The next day, as Elder Lasater was preparing to leave on a routine flight evaluation visit to bases in Europe, he was called in by his commanding general and told his assignment had been changed. He would no longer travel and instead joined that general’s office as his executive assistant.

Elder Lasater retired after more than 30 years in the military. He accepted the call to preside over the New Zealand Aukland Mission from 1984 to 1987 and was called to serve as a General Authority Seventy in 1987.

“I think the great challenge in life is to teach not only our children but also ourselves to make the transition from institutional discipline to self-discipline,” he said in a Church News article printed on April 25, 1987. “As a commanding officer or as a mission president, I can’t command or order airmen, members, or missionaries to be loyal, to be honest, or to be loving. Those are characteristics that come from within us and that we have to give freely.”

His wife, their five children, 26 grandchildren, and 60 great-grandchildren survive him.

A funeral is scheduled for Monday, June 19, at 11 a.m. in the North Ogden 7th Ward meetinghouse located at 205 E. Elberta Dr., North Ogden, Utah. A public viewing is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 18, at Myers Mortuary, 845 Washington Boulevard, Ogden, and at the meetinghouse prior to the funeral from 10 to 10:45 a.m.