On October 28, 2022, Lawrence Read Flake completed his mortal journey of discipleship and service. He had extraordinary vision and carried it out with tireless energy, deep devotion to his family, and faith in Jesus Christ. The fruits of his exemplary life and ministry will thrive forever.
Lawrence was born in a tent on a cattle ranch in the shadow of Greylock Mountain, in Atlanta, Idaho on the first day of summer, 1941. His parents Dennis and Carol Flake cultivated a family with an unshakable faith and love that formed the foundation for Lawrence’s life. He was the second of ten children (Dennis, Carolee [decd. 2022], Joel, Layne, Lucy, Forrest, Claudia, Bryan, Lova). His siblings were his very best friends to the end.
During World War II, they moved to Boise and settled on a small ranch where Lawrence and his siblings were raised riding horses, milking cows, branding calves, irrigating fields, and bucking bales of hay. In grade school, Lawrence was such a notorious comedian that his teacher asked him to end class each day by telling a joke. He loved church and kept a promise to himself to achieve 100% attendance between the ages of 12 and 19. In 1960, his family’s home burned to the ground. Ever resilient, they rebuilt on the same spot and saved enough to send their sons on missions.
Lawrence was called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Eastern States Mission. His deep love for sharing the gospel defined him, and he served 4 more missions, including as president of the Missouri, Independence Mission, from 1979-1982. Lawrence dedicated his educational and professional endeavors to building up the Kingdom of God. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from BYU and jokingly referred to them as his “three degrees of glory.”
During his studies, he met fellow student Elaine McMeen. In 1968 they married in the Salt Lake Temple. Inseparable companions for 54 years, they welcomed eight children—Read (VaNae), Cannon (Amanda), Lorraine (David Windsor), Melinda (Marc McLaughlin), Adam (Jess), Jordan, Tyler (Shantelle), Troy (Brooke), 41 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
With Elaine by his side, Lawrence spent more than two decades working in the Church Education System in the eastern United States and at the University of Montana. In 1993, he became a professor in BYU’s religion department, retiring after 25 years. He said many times that he never once felt reluctant to wake up in the morning and head into his office to work. He shared his passion for missionary work with thousands of students in his Missionary Preparation classes and taught at BYU’s Jerusalem Center in Israel. He authored and published many books including biographies of Church leaders. He especially loved teaching “Introduction to Mormonism” to non-LDS students attending BYU and BYU-Hawaii. Because some of these students lived in parts of the world closed off to missionary work, he saw his association with them as partial fulfillment of the prophecy that the gospel would be preached to every nation. His love for his students extended beyond the classroom as he and Elaine invited many of them to their mountain home for horse riding, bonfires, and meals.
Lawrence embraced countless opportunities to teach. These included Know Your Religion lectures throughout the United States and Canada, BYU Devotionals, packed houses at BYU Education Weeks, commencement speeches, and youth firesides. He served in many callings in the Church, including as a Regional Representative of the Twelve where he was blessed to associate closely with many of the General Authorities of the Church. He had a powerful testimony of the prophets and apostles of the last dispensation, which he shared at every opportunity, but he insisted that his favorite calling was assistant nursery leader.
He was most at home on ranches and rode horses into his 80s. He and Elaine raised their family on stunning properties outside of Missoula, Montana, and later in Hobble Creek Canyon near Springville, Utah. Most days he left the office and traded his suit and tie for a cowboy hat and boots and labored until after dark. He taught hard work by example, and gave his family a magical childhood with horses, cows, hayfields, firewood, barns, tree forts, rope swings, ziplines, creeks, and numerous other means of adventure. He and Elaine welcomed thousands of people to their home, hosting hundreds of wedding receptions, ward activities, campouts, family reunions, holiday parties, and dinners.
He regularly echoed his father in saying, “Great experiences are the result of great appreciation.” He was passionate about nature, classical music, poetry, and travel. On long car trips, he taught his kids poems and engaged them in meaningful conversations. He took his children and grandchildren to plays, symphonies, and ballets to kindle their own love for beauty. He and Elaine traveled to more than 90 countries across all seven continents. He went on more than three dozen cruises—including two voyages with more than 50 of his children and grandchildren as guests.
Lawrence used his unmatched sense of humor in every lesson he taught. He had an encyclopedic repertoire of jokes, stories, quotes, and scriptures, which he recalled for every conceivable situation. He was welcoming, consistent, and friendly towards everyone he met and eschewed grudges or interpersonal strife. Many sought his advice, and his children are frequently approached by people who ask, “Are you related to Lawrence Flake?” and then describe how he steadied their faith or helped them with a challenge such as deciding to serve a mission.
Famous for loving babies, Lawrence believed they came “trailing clouds of glory” from heaven. He never missed a chance to hold his own grandchildren, infants in his ward, or even the babies of complete strangers, surprised by his request. He recognized the divine in little children, and his love for them reflected his discernment and certainty about our Heavenly Father’s plan.
He was a noble father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Just five months before his passing, he gathered all his posterity to the same ranch at the base of Greylock Mountain where he was born 81 years earlier. This reunion was a celebration of Lawrence’s incredible life. He bore his powerful testimony of the truths he taught and lived. His family was the motivation for and beneficiaries of their beloved patriarch’s visionary faith. Now they are his living legacy.
The colors of the autumn leaves burned brightly for Lawrence, as he spent his last weeks surrounded by family in Hobble Creek Canyon. He expressed appreciation for the kindnesses of so many who reached out in support during his illness and shared memories of his impact on their lives. As the colors faded in the final days, Lawrence trusted in his Savior and was borne away expressing reverence, gratitude, and love for his eternal companion Elaine with whom he crafted his miraculous life.
A viewing will be held Saturday, November 5, 2022 at Spring Creek Utah County Mortuary, 737 North Main Street, Springville, Utah from 10:30am – 12:30pm. A procession will follow to the Utah Hobble Creek LDS Stake Center, 495 South Canyon Road, Springville, Utah for a 1:30pm funeral service. Live-streaming is available on Spring Creek Utah County Mortuary Facebook page. It will go live at 1:15pm. Interment will follow in the Provo City Cemetery.
Condolences can be offered at www.springcreekmortuary.com.