Lauritz Larsen was born on November 28, 1882, in Decorah, Iowa. Upon receiving a theological degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1907, Larsen was ordained by the Synod for the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He served churches in Plaza, North Dakota (1907-8), Cresco, Iowa (1908-13), and Brooklyn, New York (1913-18).
Larsen became active in national Lutheran affairs as secretary of the National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welfare (NLCSSW), an organization founded in 1917 by American Lutheran church bodies to spiritually care for Lutheran soldiers in World War I. As head of its Washington office, Larsen negotiated with the government in regard to chaplaincies, camp pastors, and the temporary ban of foreign languages, and secured passports for NLCSSW commissioners to France. He continued his service to the Commission until its demise in 1922.
Larsen’s participation in the NLCSSW led to his involvement in the National Lutheran Council (NLC). When the NLC was organized in 1918, Larsen’s accomplishments as the Commission’s Washington representative made him a logical choice for NLC executive secretary. Stationed in Washington and later in New York City, Larsen served both the Commission and the Council simultaneously.
As NLC executive secretary, Larsen guided the body through “tricky” beginnings. Polemic views on cooperation and theology caused tension and dissension among members. Larsen worked to smooth these cooperative and theological differences among Council body members and publicly defended the NLC against attacks by conservative Council members and other Lutheran lay people and pastors. The Council’s involvement in inter-religious programs to coordinate overseas relief, such as those of the Federal Council of Churches, were downplayed as conservative members didn’t approve. In Washington, Larsen kept in constant contact with officials and agencies to help forward Lutheran beliefs and rights.
This collection contains two photocopied transcriptions of Lauritz Larsen’s diary of a European trip taken in 1920 to assist the ailing John A. Morehead, NLC European Commissioner, in his work overseas. The diary specifically documents Larsen’s meetings with government officials, Lutheran church leaders and other European Commissioners and outlines his impression of needs and problems of the Lutheran church and its people in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, France, and Hungary. The collection is also available on microfilm.