When Sharon Greene Larsen's family and friends do something praiseworthy, she literally rolls out the red carpet for them.
The welcome mat - which measures 3 feet wide, 50 feet long - has been used to honor returning missionaries, newborn babies, and Eagle Scouts. It is Sister Larsen's enthusiastic way of letting others know they deserve to be treated special.She purchased the carpet when her daughter, Shelly, returned from a mission in New Zealand. "We thought, `What do you do to show a child how you feel about what she has done?' " asked Sister Larsen.
Since then the carpet has found a role in some of the Larsens' happiest moments. Sister Larsen, a member of the Farmington 9th Ward, Farmington Utah South Stake, plans to use the carpet again next year when her son, Kent, leaves on a mission and in November when her second grandchild is born. The baby, like his older brother, will be welcomed home from the hospital with a treatment historically reserved for kings and queens.
But the best part about the carpet is Sister Larsen's desire to share it with others - anyone who has a need for it. She can't talk about it without smiling, as if remembering some of the many times it has made others happy.
Sister Larsen, who was sustained Oct. 4 as the second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, now wishes she could roll out that red carpet for every young woman in the Church.
She wants them to know that they deserve this royal treatment because of who they are - children of their Heavenly Father.
Sister Larsen's husband, Ralph, said making people feel good about themselves is one of the things his wife does best. "Sharon has always been the greatest people person," explained Brother Larsen, a Bountiful, Utah, dentist.
Born in Glenwood, Alberta, Sharon Greene was the fourth of Ted and June Greene's five children (the first died in infancy).
There were only 250 people in her small town - 10 in her graduating class. Glenwood, she said, was a wonderful place in which to grow up.
Sister Larsen recalled working in the country store that her mother ran and in the fields with her father. From each parent she learned valuable lessons.
"I think it was from Mom that I learned to meet and love people," she said, explaining that everyone who came in her mother's store was treated with respect. "Mom served them all."
Her father, Sister Larsen explained, taught her to think. She loved lunch time while she and her father were working together. "We would sit out in the hay fields and talk and talk," she said.
Another influence in Sister Larsen's early life was her "wonderful big sister." Ardeth Greene - today Ardeth Greene Kapp, Young Women general president of the Church from 1984 to 1992 - watched out for her younger sisters, Sharon and Shirley.
"While Mom was in the store, Ardie tended us. But we never really thought that she was tending us; we thought we were going with her all the time because she wanted us to be with her."
Sister Larsen left Glenwood after graduating from high school and attended school for a year at the University of Alberta before transferring to BYU - where she met her future husband.
A romance did not blossom immediately, but they rekindled their friendship while Sharon was student teaching. After Ralph served a mission, the couple were married in the Alberta Temple July 2, 1964.
"Ralph was a sophomore
as an undergraduateT who wanted to go to dental school," so Sister Larsen taught fourth grade to support the family. One year into their marriage, Sister Larsen auditioned and became the teacher on the PBS telvision series called "This Is Utah."
For this job she traveled around Utah, writing, producing and acting in a weekly 20-minute program designed to teach social studies on a fourth-grade level. At the same time, the then 25-year-old was also stake Young Women president.
When her husband was accepted to dental school, the couple moved to St. Louis, Mo. She taught school until their daughter, Shelly, was born. It was almost 10 years before their second child, Kent, arrived.
"We always wanted a larger family and it didn't happen," Sister Larsen said, "so we decided to take advantage of our smaller family." They did this by traveling together, snow and water skiing, boating and riding in their convertible.
Every Christmas the family takes a few of the single parents, and their children, in their ward to Temple Square. "We put down the top, wrap up in blankets, turn on the heater and drive around looking at the Christmas lights," Brother Larsen said.
Sister Larsen enjoys sharing her spare time with people she cares for - her family and their friends. Even simple things - such as baking a pie for a member of her ward or serving ice cream to her children and their peers - make her happy.
"I love to sit by the fire and visit with people I love," she said.
She also likes to read, listen to music, sing, and walk in the rain.
"When Shelly was a little girl I made a deal with her that every rainy day I would walk her to school," she said. "It was so fun. I love to hear the rain on the umbrella and recall those sweet memories of a wonderful tradition."
Growing up, Shelly would share happy moments with her mother, and then remark: "Nothing could be better than this."
Sister Larsen would listen to her daughter and reply that one thing would be better - motherhood.
"Nothing can compare to raising a child and teaching them and preparing them to serve the Lord and build the kingdom," she said. "My happiest days and my saddest days have been raising my children."
Sister Larsen remembered the arrival of her son. Her daughter was almost 10, and she had a lot of spare time for Church work, recreation and other things she enjoyed. But when she held her son, she knew raising children was the most "significant thing you can do with your time."
Not having a big family was hard for Sister Larsen. Health problems and concern for family members' spiritual well-being have also proved to be challenges in her life.
But an unshakable testimony of the gospel has helped her through those times. "Sharon is one of the most spiritual persons I have ever met," said Brother Larsen. "She lives close to the Lord and can listen and hear the promptings of the Spirit."
Sister Larsen vividly remembers the first time she knew, without a doubt, that Jesus Christ was her Savior.
After graduating from BYU, she sang the Messiah with the Salt Lake Oratorio Society. "I remember standing on one of the back rows of the choir seats in the Tabernacle singing, `Surely He hath born our grief and carried our sorrows.' And I knew that He had done that for me."
Sister Larsen has held numerous Church callings - even as a teenager when she played the pump organ in Glenwood. As an adult she has served on two Young Women general boards and as president of numerous ward and stake auxiliary organizations.
All of these opportunities have strengthened her testimony and have prepared her for her new calling. "I come to this calling," she said, "having been blessed with great opportunities and knowing the Lord expect a lot from me in helping to prepare Young Women for their sacred mission."
Sister Sharon G. Larsen
Family: Born Feb. 6, 1939, in Glenwood, Alberta, to Edwin (Ted) Kent and Julia (June) Leavitt Greene. Married Ralph T. Larsen July 2, 1964, in the Alberta Temple. Parents of two children: Shelly Colvin and Kent; one grandson.
Education: Bachelors degree in elementary education, music minor, from BYU, 1961.
Community service/profession: Elementary school teacher in Davis County, Utah, and in St. Louis, Mo., 1961 to 1969; PTA president, 1989 to 1990.
Church service: National vice president and president of Lambda Delta Sigma (women's Church sorority), January 1997 to October 1997; member of Young Women General Board, 1993 to 1996 and 1974 to 1978; member of the general Church writing committee, 1979 to 1982; stake Relief Society president and counselor; stake Young Women president and counselor; ward Relief Society president and counselor; gospel doctrine teacher; early morning seminary teacher; volunteer institute instructor; Young Women advisor; organist; Sunday School chorister.