General John Larsson, who served as The Salvation Army’s 17th international leader from 2002 to 2006, was promoted to glory from his home in Bromley, London, England, on March 18, 2022.

General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson visit Bangladesh

Born in Sweden on April 2, 1938, the son of officer-parents, John spent his early years in Sweden, Denmark, Chile and Argentina, and by the age of 12 he was fluent in the use of the Swedish, Danish, English and Spanish languages. Following the family’s return to the United Kingdom from service in South America, he entered the International Training College in London from his home corps of Upper Norwood as a cadet in the Faithful Session and was commissioned a Salvation Army officer in 1957.

His first appointment as a corps officer was at Sunderland Southwick with Washington in England, where he served for one year before his appointment to the staff at the International Training College. He received the rank of captain in 1960.

The future General returned to corps leadership in 1966, serving at Hillingdon and then at Ealing, and married Captain Freda Turner in 1969. They were appointed to Bromley Temple Corps in 1970 and promoted to the rank of major in 1971.

In 1974, the couple were appointed to the former Scotland Territory, where Major John served as territorial youth secretary. They returned to the British Territory in 1976, where he ministered first as assistant national youth secretary and then national youth secretary.

A Worldwide Legacy and Influence

A term of overseas service commenced in 1980 with Lt-Colonel John’s appointment as chief secretary in the South America West Territory. In 1984, Colonel John was appointed principal of the International Training College, which was followed by a move to International Headquarters in London in 1988, where he served as assistant to the Chief of the Staff for United Kingdom administrative planning. This role involved the complex task of researching and planning for the separation of The Salvation Army’s international and national administrations in the United Kingdom, which led to the establishment of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland (now the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory) in 1990.

General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson meet Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to Rome

Commissioner John was appointed as the first territorial commander of this new territory, a position he subsequently held in the then New Zealand and Fiji Territory (1993-1996) and the Sweden and Latvia Territory (1996-1999). He was appointed as a member of the Advisory Council to the General in 1997, becoming its chairman the following year.

In 1999, General John Gowans appointed Commissioner John as his Chief of the Staff. In 2002, he was elected by the High Council to serve as The Salvation Army’s 17th General, an appointment he carried out with distinction until his retirement in 2006.

Faithful and Humble Servant of God

General John Larsson shared his God-given gifts of writing and music throughout the Army world. He was the author of Doctrine Without Tears, The Man Perfectly Filled With the Spirit, Spiritual Breakthrough, 1929 and Those Incredible Booths, among other literary works.

From left, Comrs Marilyn and William Francis, former territorial leaders in Canada and Bermuda, share a moment with General John Larsson during a book-signing event at the Boundless international congress in London, England

Known extensively throughout the Salvation Army world and beyond for his collaboration with General John Gowans in the writing and production of 10 full-length musicals, the impact of General Larsson’s contribution to Salvation Army heritage cannot be underestimated. His music, both in the context of the musicals and his composition of words and music for many other songs, has had a significant spiritual impact on people of all ages. The influence of his character, gentle and unassuming nature, and depth of spirituality remains an integral part of his legacy to The Salvation Army.

In giving thanks to God for the gift that was General John Larsson, we offer our condolences and assurance of our prayers to Commissioner Freda Larsson, their sons, Karl and Kevin, and their wider families. To them we offer these words, set to beautiful music by General Larsson himself, and based on Philippians 4:6-7.

The Lord is near; have no anxiety,
Make your requests known to God in prayer.
Then the peace of God,
Which is beyond our understanding,
Will keep guard o’er your hearts and thoughts.

The Service of Thanksgiving will take place at the William Booth College on Friday April 8, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. (UK time), led by Commissioner Keith Banks and Major Valerie Mylechreest.

Report and photos courtesy of IHQ Communications


On Friday, April 1, 2022, JOAN HASELL said:

A wonderful legacy.

On Friday, March 18, 2022, Ira Barrow said:

Amy and I were blessed to have been officer soldiers at Catford Corps, London, England, where the then Captain and Mrs. Larsson were faithful soldiers. On Sunday mornings, during open-air meetings, Captain Larsson would tuck his cornet under his arm and go along the street, meeting residents on the doorsteps and talking to them about the Lord. Occasionally, John and I rode the British Rail together, from Catford to International Headquarters .Our chats were always edifying, thanks yo John's insights into the Army's distinct mission. During our last Christmas in London, on Christmas Day, John and Freda invited us to their home because they knew we would be somewhat lonely for our families back in Canada. Unfortunately, my wife was very unwell and was not able to go along with me and our 9 year old son, Dwight. We were treated so kindly and while my son, and the Larsson's two boys played together we, the adults, had opportunity for a pleasant, relevant conversation. Our memories of John, the soldier, who later became our devoted General, are many and wonderful. We respectfully offer to Freda, the boys, and the extended family, our deepest sympathy and the assurance of our prayers on their behalf. God bless them all! Major Ira Barrow, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

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