by Maggie Boyle Judi
On May 16, 2002, when Lloyd Larsen found himself in Washington, D.C., providing testimony to members of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, he asked himself, “Well this is just weird. What am I doing here?”
The tale of how he got there, of course for us dear readers, begins in Monticello, where Lloyd Larsen was born in 1957, to Lowell and Gatha Larsen.
It begins with the people of Monticello that Larsen remembers best. It begins with Joe Slade.
“When I was in High School, I was a… well, being a nonconformist might be the best way of putting it. I just loved to raise hell. We lived in a small town and a lot of the people I ran around with, we liked to have fun, not with… malice intended, but at the same time we were mischievous.”
The same, I think, can be said for most teenagers who lived out their formative years in a small town. But Lloyd Larsen was no ordinary teenager. He was president of the Monticello High School student body, captain of the football team, a charismatic leader, and one of the most fun-loving kids Monticello has ever seen.
“In Monticello, one of the complaints of the teenagers is that everyone knows what you’re doing.”
Larsen goes on to say that it used to “drive me nuts” that all the adults seemed to know what he and his friends were up to.
“When I would go into the old Motor Parts store, Harry Randall and Joe Slade would always make sure and ask me what I was doing, you know, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’”
“I thought those old guys like Harry were just a pain in the neck!” he jokes, “ I would just bristle up when they would ask me those questions.”
It wasn’t until many years later, when visiting Monticello for his 20-year class reunion, that Lloyd realized what was really going on.
He was in church and all the visitors in a small Sunday school class stood up and introduced themselves.
Present at the meeting were many of those “old guys,” including Harold Muhlstein, Harry Randall, Earl Randall, Buckley Christenson, and Sherril Hollingsworth.
Lloyd explains, “They were all sitting around the table, about half asleep, and I stood up and I said, ‘I am Lloyd Larsen, and I used to live here.’
“It was like Lazurus being raised from the dead. All of their heads lifted up and they all looked at me and they just smiled. What I realized then was during my formative years, when I thought all of those guys were my enemies, in reality they were the strongest allies that I had.
“In a small community, sometimes when you are young and you’re a non-conformative little rascal, like I was, you think that anybody that thinks differently than you is your enemy. In reality, in Monticello there is such a sense of community that people are just trying to steer you in the right direction. And fortunately those guys didn’t give up on me.”
Larsen was a dynamic leader and these folks in Monticello were just trying to steer his boundless energy and talents toward a useful purpose. They eventually succeeded, probably beyond anyone’s expectations.
After graduation, Lloyd Larsen left Monticello and headed to trade school in Chillicothe, Missouri. After serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he met and married Becky Holliday. Together, they raised four sons and two daughters and are the grandparents of six grandsons.
In 1982, he started Triple L Inc., a service and construction company that served the oil and gas industry in Wyoming. Working with his dad Lowell and big brother John, they ran the business for 32 years until this past November, when they sold it.
Larsen also happens to be a member of the Wyoming State Legislature. One day, upon finding out there was a vacancy in House District 54, Lloyd’s brother John told him he should run for it and so he did, “basically,” he recalls, “because my brother told me too.” And so he ran and won the position he has held since being elected in 2012.
He has also found himself spending many of his adult years in the opposite situation he found himself as a teenage “rascal” in Monticello. He has served as an LDS Bishop and Stake President and finds himself in the role of “old guy” asking teenagers what they are doing this weekend.
He says of the role reversal, “I think I can relate to them.” And surely when he does, in the back of his mind he remembers, in his words, “a personal hero of mine, Joe Slade.”
Or another hero, his deacon’s quorum advisor Buckley Christenson, described in Larsen’s words, “Wherever he saw us, he knew us. He didn’t just know us on Sunday.” Christenson was always interested in what they were doing in school and activities outside of church.
And like Joe Slade, “they made an impact,” always asking and reminding him of where he should be going and what he should be doing.
So when as an LDS Stake President in 2002 and finding himself in the midst of bit of a national controversy, Lloyd Larsen was asked to testify before a subcommittee about the LDS Church and their efforts to buy Martin’s Cove from the federal government.
The effort became a national story, with articles regarding the possible sale of federal land to the LDS Church. The controversy over Martin’s Cove continued even after the church secured a long-term lease, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit.
As the local LDS Stake President, Larsen had organized a huge amount of volunteer work to fix up the visitors center located at Martin’s Cove on land that the church leased from the Bureau of Land Management.
In addition, Larsen said that members of the stake had researched the names of those pioneers, and had done their temple work. At Martin’s Cove, they put in a new bridge, toilet facilities, and made it a destination for 50,000 people a summer to come and honor those that had died there.
Because of the remarkable story of Martin’s Cove, and the development work that was completed there, it has become a historic vacation destination for people from all walks of life who want to know more about the great migration and settling of the American West.
Because of Larsen’s involvement in the building of Martin’s Cove, the church asked the stake president to be a spokesman of sorts and represent the interests of Mormons from Wyoming who supported the church efforts to own a piece of history.
This is how he found himself testifying before Congress in Washington DC, alongside Presiding Bishop David F. Burton. After much debate and controversy, the government and the church agreed to a 16-year lease with the BLM.
Of his life these days, Larsen says, “I am doing a lot of the things that I am doing because of the rearing I had in San Juan County. I have very hardworking parents. We were never well to do, but they were honest.”
The hard work of running a successful company for 30+ years has it’s roots in the first jobs he ever had in Monticello. He speaks of working for Clem Washburn and Vernon Schafer. Larsen adds that Schafer, “is one of the greatest examples of trying to help people that I’ve ever known.” He says he holds Vernon and his wife Nyla in the highest regard.
Larsen also had jobs driving tractor when he was, “a little guy, between fourth and fifth grade,” for Silas Barton and Noble Trueblood, plowing a field in the spring.
Buckley Christensen gave him a fast offering route with widows Ila Robson, Arvilla Warren, Mary Evans, and Maxcene Allred, all of whom he did odd jobs for when he came by to pick up their fast offering. He gathered fallen branches and even killed pesky skunks for them!
Ila Robson shared her cherries with the boy and his pals, telling them that they could have a few branches if they’d save the rest for her. All of these people combined to give Larsen a childhood that provided him the lessons he would need to get him to where he is now. The most important thing he learned from all of them, he says, is hard work.
So how did he get there? How did Lloyd Larsen from Monticello, find himself with leaders of the LDS church, speaking before the leaders of the free world? How did he get to be a state legislator, and a successful businessman?
He got there with the help of his wife and children, he got there via Joe Slade’s arm around his shoulder, Ila Robson’s cherries, Buckley Christensen’s example of service, Vernon Schafer’s lessons in giving people a chance to succeed, and Harold Muhlstein’s smile.
He credits countless people from Aneth and Bluff and Monticello and Blanding with shaping his life and teaching him how to be. He got there on the hard work he learned from countless examples from his life in Monticello and Lander, Wyoming.
It is the theme of his life, the theme that still keeps the state legislator from District 54 in Wyoming plugging right along today.