Ellis T. Rasmussen

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Ellis T. Rasmussen was a university administrator and professor or religion. He was born on September 21, 1915, in Redmond, Utah, and received an associates degree and elementary education certificate from Snow College. He taught fifth grade for three years then attended Utah State Agricultural College for one year.

In 1939 Rasmussen served as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the West German Mission. When the German borders were closing during the onset of World War II, he led several missionaries in their escape to Denmark, then back to the United States. He completed his missionary service in the Southern States Mission, where he served as mission secretary.[1]

After his mission, he obtained a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1942. He then taught high school and Seminary in Weston, Idaho, while he spent summers working on graduate work at BYU. In 1949, his mentor, Sidney B. Sperry, helped him become a part-time teacher at BYU. He completed his master’s degree in 1951 and began teaching full-time. He completed his PhD in 1967 and part of his doctoral studies were completed at Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

During his 30-year teaching career at BYU, he was chair of the Biblical Languages Department, chair of the Ancient Scripture Department, and Assistant Dean of Religious instruction. Rasmussen became dean of Religious Instruction and director of the Religious Studies Center in 1976. He was honored with the Division Faculty Teaching Award from the BYU Division of Continuing Education in 1980 and retired soon after.

He directed many summertime BYU scripture-lands study tours and Bible Lands Semester Abroad programs.

In addition to his work at BYU, he served on the Church’s Correlation Committee and assisted the Ensign Magazine with scriptural articles. During 1973–74, he was given leave from BYU to serve on the Church’s Scripture Publication Committee and helped produce the 1979 edition of the Bible. He also assisted with the 1981 editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. He was a contributor to and an editor of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

Rasmussen authored the Church's 1965 Sunday School manual on the Old Testament, and his best-known work is A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament was published in 1993. 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.

He and his wife, Oda, were called as special representatives to the International Mission in Israel and assisted in planning and developing the programs for the new BYU Jerusalem Center. They had five children. He died on June 6, 2011.

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