ELLIS THEO RASMUSSEN
Ellis Theo Rasmussen, 95, died peacefully at his home in Orem, Utah, on Monday, June 6, 2011. Ellis was born on September 21, 1915, to Wilford and Katie Johanna Nelson Rasmussen, in Redmond, Utah. His dear mother Katie died when he was almost twelve, and five years later, in 1932, he welcomed into his life a beloved stepmother, Myrtle Jeffery Blackburn Rasmussen. Importantly, she strongly encouraged his getting a full education.
He married Oda Fonnesbeck, of Weston, Idaho, on May 20, 1943, in the Logan, Utah, LDS Temple. They are the parents of five children: Ann (J.D.) Hancock, currently LDS temple missionaries in Kyiv, Ukraine; Paula (David) Thomas of Orem, Utah; Mignon (Gary) Mills, of Brighton, Utah; David (Sue) Rasmussen, of Marysville, Washington; and Leslie (Paul) Williams, of Lehi, Utah. Ellis and Oda have 28 grandchildren and 47 great grandchildren.
After completing his elementary schooling at Redmond Elementary School Ellis attended high school at North Sevier High School in Salina, Utah, where he was student body president. Ellis attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, obtaining his elementary education certificate and serving in student government. For three years thereafter he taught fifth grade at Redmond Elementary School. Then he attended the Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah, for one year before departing on an LDS mission to Germany and Austria in June, 1938. Late in August, 1939, he was instructed to leave the country as World War II was about to break out, and was one of the missionaries whose harrowing escape experience was enabled by a series of miraculous events. He completed his mission service in the Southern States Mission in the U.S.
Early in 1941 he resumed his higher education at BYU, completing work for his BA degree and secondary teaching certificate. His first professional position was teaching high school and LDS seminary students in Weston, Idaho. There he met, courted and married his wife Oda, who was teaching elementary school in Weston. In 1951 he completed his master's degree and was invited to join the BYU faculty in the Division of Religion. After graduate studies in Hebrew and Old Testament he earned his Ph.D. degree in 1967. In 1963 he began a 24-year period during which he directed many summer-time BYU scripture-lands study tours and Bible Lands Semester Abroad programs.
In 1966-67 he served as a member of the Orem City Council.
In 1972 he was called to be a member of the special committee assigned to prepare a new LDS edition of the King James Bible, and ultimately a new edition of other LDS scriptures, to which projects he made profoundly important contributions. In the 1960s and 1970s he chaired departments in the college of religious instruction and in 1976 he was appointed Dean of Religious Instruction at BYU, a position he held until his retirement in 1981. In 1985, Ellis and Oda were called by the LDS Church as special representatives to the International Mission in Israel and to assist in planning and developing the programs for the new BYU Jerusalem Center. He served on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism board of editors and authored A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament, published by Deseret Book in 1993. During his long career, he published dozens of articles in church magazines and scholarly publications, and his course syllabi and other study materials were used in religious instruction for decades.
During all his life, Ellis served faithfully in LDS church positions, including bishop in two wards, high councilor, counselor in the first West Sharon stake presidency, temple ordinance worker, patriarch in the Cherry Hill Stake, and service on the Church's Correlation Committee.
He is survived by his wife Oda, his children, his brother Kay Rasmussen, and his sister Camille Humphrey of Washington, Utah.
The funeral will be held at the Cherry Hill 9th Ward Chapel, 135 East 2000 South, Orem, Utah, on Saturday, June 11, at 1 p.m. A viewing will be held Friday, June 10, from 6-8 p.m., at Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State Street, Orem, and at the Cherry Hill 9th Ward prior to the service from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the LDS Perpetual Education Fund. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.sundbergolpinmortuary.com