Elder David E. Sorensen, former executive director of LDS temple department, dies at 81

By Tad Walch, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 28, 2014, 9:45 p.m. MDT

 Elder David E. Sorensen, who served as a general authority of the LDS Church for 13 years, died Thursday at 81. He served in the Presidency of the Seventy and with the temple department during its \

Elder David E. Sorensen, who served as a general authority of the LDS Church for 13 years, died Thursday at 81. He served in the Presidency of the Seventy and with the temple department during its "most committed era of temple building."

(Courtesy of BYU)

SALT LAKE CITY — Elder David E. Sorensen, who served as the executive director of the LDS Church's temple department during a period of remarkable temple building, died Tuesday in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Elder Sorensen was 81.

He was part of a dramatic building boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when at one point church leaders dedicated 61 temples in four years.

Elder Sorensen himself called it the "most committed era of temple building" in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1990-95, the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1995-2005, and the Presidency of the Seventy from 1998-2005.

He was granted emeritus status in 2005 and served as president of the San Diego California Temple from 2005-08.

Elder Sorensen also served as president of the Canada Halifax Mission from 1985-88 and in several area presidencies.

While a member of the Seventy, he was called to be the executive director of the temple department by late church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who had played a role in his life many years earlier. In the early 1950s, President Hinckley negotiated an agreement with the U.S. government to permit one young man from each LDS congregation to defer military service and serve an LDS mission.

Elder Sorensen served in the Central States Mission. He then spent two years in the military.

He married Verla Anderson, and they had seven children, 35 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

Elder Sorensen was a businessman who also served on the Deseret Management Company's audit committee for many years. DMC owns and operates the Deseret News.

Funeral services will be held Saturday in California. A graveside service will be held in connection with the interment at the Salt Lake City Cemetery on Tuesday.

In a 2006 devotional at BYU-Idaho, Elder Sorensen told the story, calling it a miracle, of how the church regained the original plans for the exterior of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, which was destroyed after the Mormons were driven out of Illinois in 1846.

The plans were used to build a new temple on the same site, with a replica exterior, in 2002. It is the church's 113th operating temple, out of what today is a total of 143.

"It almost brings you to tears to think of the tremendous sadness and suffering our people experienced," Elder Sorensen told the Church News in 2002. "Now to come back and to see this temple (again) overlooking the Mississippi River. . . is one of the great spiritual experiences of this life."

He gave a number of general conference talks. During one in April 2005, he told the story of how President Hinckley's efforts made it possible for him to go on a mission.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

1. ulvegaard
Medical Lake, Washington,
Aug. 29, 2014

That's quite a legacy. No doubt he'll be missed by many, his family especially, but to be able to leave this estate and head into the next with such a track record of selfless service, well, I'm sure we're all envious.

2. dalefarr
South Jordan, Utah,
Aug. 29, 2014

Nice obituary.

3. Wiscougarfan
River Falls, WI,
Aug. 29, 2014

I met Pres. Sorenson once back in 2003 and was very impressed with both he and his wife. My fiance was working at Aspen Grove up Provo canyon that summer and I'd go up every day to see her. During one particular week we both noticed early on in the week that many people at the camp were unusually courteous and conscientious. Every time someone did something especially nice we started asking them what family they were part of and the answer was always "the Sorensons." Later in the week we sought out Elder and Sister Sorenson and were able to spend lunch with them. We asked them to tell us about their family and how they got to be so awesome, kind, conscientious, etc. They were a little taken aback by our observations and could only say that they love each other, try to spend time together, etc.--the normal things that strengthen families. I would have loved more time to ask questions but didn't want to overburden them. Since that time we have tried to emulate the Sorensons in our own home and hope our kids turn out as great as their's did.

4. chinookdoctor
Aug. 29, 2014

President Sorensen sealed me and my husband. His kindness and sage counsel have been important our marriage. He will be missed.

5. Gnt
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 30, 2014

When my husband and I were first married, Elder Sorenson was our Bishop in South Pasadena. He was a great bishop and we just loved him. We would tend Bro and Sis Sorenson's children from time to time when they would go out of town. They had a wonderful family.