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He nurtures spirt of exellence

by Carla Brimhall,
LDS Church News, 6 Jun 1987

Elder Lynn A. Sorensen, 68, has nurtured his children and co-workers with the kind of patience that produces people committed to excellence.

“I’ve always felt that our most important asset in any organization has been the people we had to accomplish the job,” said Elder Sorensen, father of nine, long0time Church administrator and one of eight new memberes of the First Quorum of the Seventy, sustained April 4 at general conference.

“I’ve never felt that my responsibility was just to manage a business and fill the company’s objectives. As a manager, I also had a great responsibility to build people and to help them grow.”

Elder Sorensen will continue h elping people grow spiritually when he leaves in August to serve as second counselor in the Brazil Area presidency. He will be accompanied to Brazil by his wife of 44 years, the former Janet Weech.

Brazil is not new to the General Authority. He served a mission there from 1940-42 with Elder James E. Faust, now of the Council of the Twelve, and Elder Wm. Grant Bangerter, now of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. From 1973-76, he served as president of the Brazil Porto Alegre Mission.

When Elder Sorensen first arrived in Brazil 47 years ago, the mission was just five years old, and there were less than 200 members in the entire country. Currently there are more than 200,000 members in 50 stakes in Brazil.

“With all our years of experience in Brazil, we have really come to love Brazil and the Brazilian people,” he emphasized. “It will be a great opportunity to return and work with them once again.”

Elder Sorensen recalled a train ride—indicative of the type of conditions that existed in Brazil in 1940—in which it took three days and two nights to travel about 800 miles.

“The people who laid the track must h ave been paid by the mile,” he reminisced. “I think our little wood-burning train traveled twice as many miles as it needed to between Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre. If you opened the windows and dozed off, you’d get a cinder burn in your pants. If you closed the windows, it was so hot you couldn’t stand it.”

Yet with the difficulty of the missionary experience came a new-found maturity, which he would later need during World War II, when he joined an Army Reserve Training Unit and was sent to an infantry training center in Little Rock, Ark.

“With almost three years in Brazil, living in missionary conditions, I had a degree of maturity, which most other young men my age didn’t have, along with leadership ability I gained in the mission field,” reflected Elder Sorensen.

Toward the end of his basic training, the Army Air Corps offered those who could pass a scholastic and physical examination the opportunity to transfer into that branch of service. Though the young Lynn Sorensen faced no problems with the scholastic part of the examination, the physical part presented difficulties.

“I was seven pounds under the minimum weight,” he said. “The morning before I went in for the test, I drank water and ate bananas. I just barely passed.”

He was then assigned to an advanced navigation program, so difficult that more than 30 percent of his class failed. Usually the program lasted 26 weeks, but because of the extreme need for navigators, the program had been condensed to 16 weeks of 15-hour days.

Elder Sorensen was so successful in the flight training program that he was asked to continue on as instructor. Once again, mission experience coupled with his fluent Portuguese, proved invaluable, when a group of Brazilian cadets who spoke minimal English arrived for training.

Twice during that period, orders arrived for Elder Sorensen’s overseas combat training. Twice a Brazilian general interceded and the young instructor continued teaching for a full year—a rarity during wartime.

At last, everyone who had not had an overseas assignment—regardless of circumstances—was to be sent into combat. Elder Sorensen was scheduled to leave Sept. 25, 1945, for the South Pacific. World War II ended Sept. 2, when Japan signed the surrender agreement.

Those years in the service were tense not only for Elder Sorensen, but also for his wife, who said, “We never knew when we parted—and we parted a dozen times—whether we would ever see each other again. We only spent 12 weeks together our entire first year of marriage.”

Sister Sorensen’s worries about her husband’s safety weren’t without grounds. He recalled an experience in which he was training with a crew to fly four-engine B-29 bombers. Training took place in the United States and was designed to get the eight-man crew accustomed to working together. During one such mission, the plane was over Nebraska when one of its engines “flamed out.” The pilot turned the craft around and headed for home base in Savananah, Ga. About half an hour later, the plane’s second engine died. Still, the pilot was determined to make it back to Georgia.

“Every 15 minutes, he asked me how much farther we had to go. We were 1,500 miles from home when our first engine went out and 1,200 away when the second one went,” he said. “We just barely made it back.

“After we landed, we discovered the third engine had serious troubles. If we’d had to fly another 15 minutes, we’d have lost the third engine—and one engine would never have sustained the plane. The Lord really blessed us.”

Throughout his life, Elder Sorensen said he has been blessed by the Lord—whether struggling to support his young family while earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Utah, (he graduated with honors, No. 1 in his 1947 class) or serving as stake patriarch.

And according to his children, Elder Sorensen has always sought to repay the Lord’s blessings in the only way he knew how—serving others.

One of Elder Sorensen’s twin sons, Scott, 34, first counselor in Salt Lake’s Kenwood 2nd Ward bishopric, recalled Christmas projects to help families in need.

“Sometimes we didn’t have a lot of money ourselves, but we always had a project to help others,” said Scott. “Dad would ask us what we’d really like for Christmas, and we’d get the family in need things we’d want ourselves.”

One year, they decided to help a family where the father was out of work. “The snow was deep when we drove over to their house,” said Scott. “We carried boxes of food and presents to the door, rang the bell and ran. I can still remember seeing our footprints in the snow and worrying that someone would be able to find out who left the presents.”

Both Scott and his siter, Marti Lythgoe, point out that discipline by their father was always very quiet, but very firm. “When Mother was having a hard time keeping me still in Church, all it took was one look from my father. The last thing you wanted to do was disappoint him,” said Scott.

Despite a hectic work schedule, coupled with 11 years of service in bishoprics, Elder Sorensen took every opportunity to spend time with his wife and children. Each Sunday, for example, no matter what his responsibilities were at the ward, he insisted upon doing the Sunday dinner dishes to give his wife a much-needed break, said Scott.

“He is a worker,” said Sister Sorensen, pointing out the ranch-style home her husband and father-in-law built in 5,700 free-time hours. That home, situated in Salt Lake City on two-thirds of an acre, includes a huge garden with an array of fruit trees and vegetables.

Elder Sorensen, who gardens daily, explained, “As you’re trying to develop a capable manager in an organization, you have to wait months or years to see the real results of your labors. If there’s a bunch of weeds in a row of beans, I can go weed that row of beans and come away with a great sense of accomplishment. Or I can go out, get the ground ready, plant the seeds and it’s not very many days before something is growing. You can see the fruits of your labor right away.”

Yet his enthusiasm for success has been apparent in many other professional positions—as director for temporal affairs in Brazil, as materials management manager and assistant to the general manager at Litton Industries, as the Church’s international materials management manager for Latin America, and as manager of Deseret News Press.

Kay W. Briggs, managing director of the Church Materials Management Department, summarized his longtime friend and now-retired co-worker’s outlook on life: “He’s taught me that if you’re prepared and ready—physically, mentally and spiritually—good things will happen to you.”

Owner/SourceCarla Brimhall, Church News
Date6 Jun 1987
Linked toLynn Andrew Sorensen; Janet Elaine Weech

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