“Long ago I promised the Lord that I stood ready to give or to do anything and all things which he would ask of me through his servants. I have tried to do that.”
That statement, made in October 1951 when he was sustained as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, personified the life and service of Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, who died December 2, 1975, following a heart attack. He was 78.
Elder Christiansen is survived by his wife, the former Lewella Rees, three children, fifteen grandchildren, two great-grand children, and a sister.
His family was a source of strength to him as he fulfilled the responsibilities of his callings in the Church. Speaking in the October 1951 conference, Elder Christiansen said:
“I have never yet been up against a task that was difficult for me but what I have found the immediate and sustaining support of my wonderful wife, and along with that, the encouragement of my children. That support has been one of the most helpful, strengthening influences that has come to me in my life. With their help, and with the help of the Lord, we have gone along and done our best.” (Improvement Era, December 1951, p. 897.)
Born at Mayfield, Utah, Elder Christiansen was a descendant of early Church and Utah colonizers. His father was a farmer and a forest ranger, areas of interest that were to influence the life of the young man who studied at Utah State Agricultural College. Graduate work was to follow at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Specializing in education, Elder Christiansen was both a teacher and a school administrator, and was to serve as principal of the school then sponsored by the Church at Kelsey, Texas.
Prior to holding that position, Elder Christiansen, with his new bride, was called to serve a full-time mission in the Central States Mission. Later, in 1937, he was called to serve as president of the Texas-Louisiana Mission, a position he held for more than four years.
In other Church callings, Elder Christiansen served as a bishop, stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, stake high councilor, seminary teacher, and in a YMMIA presidency. From 1943 until his calling as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, he served as president of the Logan Temple, and from 1954 through 1961 he was president of the Salt Lake Temple. In 1964 he was appointed coordinator of temples throughout the world.
In community endeavors he was the Logan, Utah, president of Rotary International, actively interested in the Boy Scouts of America, and, as a talented cellist, he performed in string ensembles and, for a while, played with the Utah Symphony Orchestra.
Elder Christiansen leaves a great legacy of service and the memory of a man devoted to temple work, a man who constantly and lovingly encouraged the Saints to reap the benefits that come with attending the House of the Lord.