Friend to Friend


Elder Dean L. Larsen

“The house where I grew up in Hyrum, Utah, was an old home that had started as a single-room log cabin. Later more rooms and a second floor were added. I was the fifth child, and I have three brothers and three sisters. My father was a biology teacher at the local high school, and we did some farming in the summers to help supplement his income.

“We were a close-knit family and worked together. We had cows and horses and pigs and chickens to care for on the farm. We raised beans and tomatoes and sold them to canneries and packing plants in Hyrum.

“We had a large patch of raspberries. I disliked raspberries. When the raspberries came on, they always seemed to interfere with the Fourth of July and Twenty-fourth of July celebrations.

“Each spring we would have to go through the raspberry patch and clean out the deadwood. After the canes bore fruit for a year, they would dry up and die. It was a distasteful task to go through the patch and cut out all those prickly, dead canes. We would get wagonfuls of them each year. Usually we would stack the canes out in the street beside our property and build big bonfires with them. All the children in the neighborhood would come, and we would bake apples and potatoes and play games.

“I remember sticking some of those old canes in pairs into the road that ran by our lot and then putting other canes across the tops of them. I’d run and jump like I was a hurdler. It was just a game to play at the time, but when I attended high school and college, I became a hurdler on the track and field teams.

“We all had friends among the neighborhood children, but my closest friends were my brothers and sisters. The things that we enjoyed doing best we did with brothers and sisters. We were fiercely loyal to each other and still are.”

Recalling more about his childhood home, Elder Larsen said, “We lived very close to the Hyrum Reservoir, which still exists. Nearly every summer day after we had finished working, we would go swimming there.

“My father was a great outdoorsman. Fishing and hunting were a regular pastime for us. From the time that I was very small, I remember going hunting and fishing. Even before I was old enough to carry a gun or to get a hunting license, I used to go on deer and elk hunts in the fall. Those were great experiences.

“We didn’t have money for commercial entertainment, so we made our own. Yet we didn’t feel in the least bit deprived. There were always enjoyable things for us to do.

“From the time that I was a boy,” Elder Larsen stated, “I enjoyed horses very much. I had a colt from one of our mares. It was born on my birthday, so my father said that it was mine and that it was my responsibility to raise it and train it. That colt and I became very attached to each other. When it was mature enough to ride, I could do anything with it. It trusted me, and I trusted it. It was never broken in the sense that it was handled roughly to subdue its spirit. We just did things together by mutual agreement.”

Reading was another enjoyable activity for Elder Larsen. “We had a room in our house that we referred to as the north room,” he remembered. “It was a big room on the main floor. During my boyhood, we had no central heating, so to conserve on heat and fuel, we used to close up the north room in the winter except for special occasions like Christmas. It held a library of books that my father had collected over the years. I used to enjoy putting on a winter coat and going in there to pore over those books.

“Christmastime was always a great time for our family. Dad’s folks were Danish, and we carried on a lot of the old Danish traditions. One Christmas Eve tradition was the exchanging of gifts we children had bought for each other, and that was followed by a wonderful dinner. Mother used to prepare things for days, and we used to help her.

“Mother and Dad taught us the fundamental principles of honesty, morality, hard work, and integrity. They saw that we developed good work habits on the farm and at school.

“The longer I live and the more I observe those things that contribute most to individual happiness and a stable society,” Elder Larsen declared, “the more profound appreciation I have for the family and for the maintenance of close family ties. So often when we talk about strengthening families and building strong families, we seem to imply that it’s the exclusive responsibility of the parents. They do have this responsibility, of course, but I think that children also share in the responsibility to establish and display loyalty to their mother and father and to their brothers and sisters, to foster that feeling of solidarity in a family unit.”