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Elder Neil L. Andersen

Elder Neil L. Andersen

19 Nov. 2019

11:15 a.m. - Noon

Assembly Hall

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We love LDS Business College; it is such a unique and beautiful place. I will just mention this to you, this will be something that most of your speakers will not be able to say, my mother attended LDS Business College more than seventy years ago. She’s still alive. A few years ago when I spoke at graduation, I invited her and they looked into the history and records and found her records when she attended. It is wonderful to have such a rich history here at LDS Business College. Of course, we appreciate so much President and Sister Kusch. We appreciate so much Elder Johnson, who is, as you may or may not know, charged with all of Church education from the furthest school the church owns in Fiji to all the seminaries in all the universities and all the colleges. We are honored that he would be here with us.  

Of course it is wonderful for my wife, Kathy, and me to be here with you today. As I shook your hands here before we started, I felt of your goodness and the love of Heavenly Father for you. We are so very grateful for you. I bring you the love of President Nelson, who I believe is still in Vietnam. He is on his way through Asia; he started in Hanoi and then to Ho Chi Minh City. I think he goes on to Penang Penh, Cambodia and then on to Singapore, and then Jakarta, Indonesia before going, I think, for a brief visit into China. I bring you his love, the love of the First Presidency, the love, admiration, and respect of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Thank you for who you are and who you are becoming.  

I can tell that here at LDS Business College, we have a very international student body. By show of hands, how many of you have lived most of your life in the United States? How many outside the United States? Wow, that’s fantastic. As mentioned I have lived 12 years of my life outside the United States. Sister Andersen and I have lived 10 years in Europe and South America, so we love the traditions and the great goodness of people around the world. It is amazing to feel the goodness of people everywhere and to realize that each of us, wherever we are from, in whatever circumstances, we are all sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father. All that is important in life we have in common. 

Less than a month ago, the Latino cultural event, Luz de las Naciones, was held in the Conference Center. Did some of you attend? Some of you maybe even performed. I was sorry Kathy and I were not there. We saw the pictures of the beautiful costumes. This year 28,000 members and friends were in attendance. It was an amazing event loved by all who were there.  

Traditions and cultures bring wonderful experiences to our lives. A tradition that my wife, Kathy, and I have celebrated wherever we have lived, in or outside of the United States, is the beautiful American tradition of Thanksgiving. You all know about Thanksgiving? Of course you do! Thanksgiving is a time of family and friends coming together and appreciating the many blessings that we have received. Our first Thanksgiving outside of the United States together was 30 years ago in France. Kathy started preparing early, hoping to find a turkey, what the French call “une dinde.” In the meat markets in France, after plucking all the feathers from all types of poultry, the butchers display the birds by hanging them upside down from the ceiling. You can pick out the bird you prefer. Kathy would begin with the butcher, “J’ai besoin d’une dinde,” “I need a turkey.” He pointed to a bird hanging from the ceiling, “voila, une dinde,” “there’s a turkey.” She would look puzzled. It did not look like an American turkey. Its neck was much too long; its body much too small. She eventually found something that approximated what she wanted.  

When we got to Germany, the word is “truthahn.” Unfortunately, we found that most of the German turkeys came from France, and our issues started all over again. Eventually, we found a turkey in Germany, and to our great surprise, it was imported from Utah. We ate a Utah turkey in Germany.  

In Brazil, as so many in here would know, the word for turkey is “peru.” You don’t like the way I say it? Okay. They look just like American turkeys. But, while the Brazilian turkeys are delicious, they are seasoned differently. We finally settled for a smaller bird in Brazil that is called a “Chester.” You know a Chester? Yeah. It looks like a miniature American turkey and served us well for four years. 

Whether you are from the United States or not, the holiday of Thanksgiving is worthy of adoption. It is a time of gratefulness, thankfulness, and pondering the blessings we have received from heaven. I am sure that you are thankful for your opportunity to study at LDS Business College. We are grateful for warm clothes on a cold day, food on the table, and shelter at the end of the day. We are grateful for our families, our spouses if we are married, our children, our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters. Hopefully on Thanksgiving, we see beyond our challenges to the abundant blessings in our lives.  

The Lord has said, Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.”i He said, “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.”ii The Lord has added this beautiful statement, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”iii The Savior, always our example, constantly prayed, “Father, I thank thee.”iv  

Today, I would like to speak of three beautiful blessings that have been given to each of us.  

Before all else, we should thank our Heavenly Father for our very lives—that we breathe, that we have the amazing experiences of mortality, the privilege of growing our faith, learning to love within a family, and the joys of friendship that surround us. I love these words from a Primary song: “He gave me my eyes that I might see the color of butterfly wings. He gave me my ears that I might hear the magical sound of things. He gave me my life, my mind, my heart: I thank him reverently, for all his creations, of which I’m a part. Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.”v 

The greatest of God’s gifts are given to almost everyone. I might just insert here; to feel God’s love, I have found that if we are attentive, every human being who has ever lived, has felt our Heavenly Father’s love. Some of us feel it more often than others maybe, but we have all felt it and we need to remember that, reflect upon it, think about it, and seek it. The fact that the gift comes to all, does not diminish the magnificence of the gift — quite the contrary.  

King Benjamin taught it this way: “If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, …and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that you may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another – I say, if you should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”vi  

I am not sure how old I was, but sometime before I was your age, I realized that these magnificent gifts had been given to me, not from anything I had done, but simply as a gift from God. I could move my fingers. I could walk. I could think. I could love. God had given me life. Independent of our challenges, difficulties, stresses, temptations, tests at LDS Business College, and pains, the very fact that you and I have life is a gift beyond price.  

Next, one of our greatest blessings is our ability to choose, to decide, to shape our desires, and determine those things we will love and those things we will discard. Our ability to choose, started long before we came upon this earth. In the premortal world, the Father’s plan was presented. One who was known as Lucifer, came forward saying, “Here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.”vii 

Lucifer did not desire to give us a mortal experience where we could learn and grow; choose right over wrong; and develop faith in God. His chief aim was his own honor and glory. How thankful we are for He whom the Father called, “my Beloved Son,” who said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”viii “Here am I, send me.”ix 

We are agents unto ourselves,x with the freedom to think and grow and choose – even realizing that at times we will make mistakes.  

I had an experience that influenced my feelings about the importance of choosing what is right. Several years ago, a friend of mine had a young daughter die in a tragic accident. Hopes and dreams were shattered. My friend felt unbearable sorrow. He began to question what he believed. The mother of my friend wrote me a letter and asked if I would talk to him and give him a blessing. As I laid my hands upon his head, I felt to tell him something that I had not thought about in exactly the same way before. The impression that came to me was this: Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision. He would need to choose faith. 

My friend chose the road of faith and obedience. He got on his knees. His spiritual balance returned. 

Now just to keep you all the way alert, I am going to ask Sister Andersen to come give us a little bit of a humorous story about one of her grandsons who was choosing the right. Do you know what I am talking about? Okay. I didn’t warn her, but I just thought how sad it would be that I’d bring her and you would not have the magnificence of her spirit come upon you. This is kind of a humorous story, but you’ll appreciate it.  

Sister Andersen: I’m so happy to be here today with you all. A number of years ago, I was just babysitting two of our young grandchildren one evening while their parents were away. I thought I had been a really good grandmother and everything had gone terrifically well. Then I stepped out of the room for a minute, and then all of a sudden there was this loud cry. So I rushed back into the room and our, at that time, two-year-old grandson was just sobbing and sobbing. I said, “Christian, what is wrong with you?” and he said, “My brother hit me!” So, I comforted Christian and tried to get him calm and settled and feeling loved. Then I went to Clayton, the four-year-old and I said, “Clayton, why would you hit your little brother?” And that fast he said to me, “Mimi, I lost my CTR ring, and I cannot choose the right.” 

Elder Andersen: Now, you’re not permitted to say that. You know that don’t you? 

The ability to seek within ourselves the gift of faith is an enormous spiritual blessing. 

The Savior taught us how to choose the right even when it is not easy. Just prior to Gethsemane, He said, “Father, save me from this hour,” and then, perhaps pausing, He added, “but for this cause came I unto this hour.”xi 

The prophet Abinadi said, “the will of the Son [was] swallowed up in the will of [His] Father.”xii  

You don’t know exactly what is ahead of you in life. There will be joys and happiness but there will also be trials and disappointments. Jesus declared, that we are to “settle this in [our] hearts”xiii that we will do as our Father has taught us. President Brigham Young said, “to submit to the hand of the Lord, … and acknowledge his hand in all things, … then you will be exactly right; and until you come to that point, you cannot be entirely right. That is what we have to come to.”xiv President Joseph F. Smith added that we must “[educate] our desires.”xv Very, very powerful term to think about, “educate our desires.” 

When we determine to choose the right, to keep the commandments, to be unafraid of letting our will be swallowed up in the will of our Heavenly Father, we are giving to Him one of the few things that is truly ours to give.  

Finally, let us ever be forever thankful for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.xvi 

For me, there are no words in any language to truly describe the majesty, the power, the glory, or the love of the Son of God. 

As we consider our utter dependence upon Jesus Christ for our eternal redemption, our gratefulness and love for God blossoms.  

Jesus came to earth in the meridian of time in the most humble of conditions. His virgin mother Mary was a pure and virtuous woman. Because His Father was God Himself, Jesus was able to experience the trials and temptations of mortality, without being subject to the full effects of the Fall,xvii with the power to take upon Himself “more than [any mortal] man [could] suffer.”xviii 

With compassion and mercy, He taught the truth, healed the sick, and invited us all to repent and come unto Him. After three years, in His final week, Jesus came into Jerusalem. Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead, was with Him. Do you remember that in the streets of Bethany, as Lazarus laid in his tomb, Jesus said to Lazarus’s sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”xix  

Jesus’s popularity frightened the chief priests, and they determined that they would “put [Jesus and] Lazarus also to death.”xx Jesus said to His disciples, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.”xxi 

As Thursday evening came, Christ was with the Twelve Apostles in the upper room.xxii He instituted the sacrament in remembrance of the sacrifice He was preparing to offer.xxiii He washed their feet, and explained, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done.”xxiv He bid them to “love one another.”xxv He prayed, sang a hymn, and led them outside the city walls to Gethsemane.xxvi  

Arriving at Gethsemane, at the base of the Mount of Olives, He left eight of His disciples and took Peter, James, and John with Him.xxvii Matthew, who was with Jesus that night, recorded this sacred event: “And he . . . began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed.”xxviii Luke, who was not present but had interviewed eyewitnesses, added, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”xxix In the olive orchard, on the Mount of Olives, near the olive press (Gethsemane), all the sins, sadness, sorrows, sickness, and suffering of all who had lived or would live upon the earth came upon Him, and He bled from “every pore.”xxx Alma said that He bore our sicknesses “that He may know according to the flesh how to succor [us in the midst of our] infirmities.”xxxi The Savior Himself said that “He descended below all things, in that He comprehended all things.”xxxii 

In the terrible suffering in Gethsemane, Mark said that Jesus was “sore amazed.”xxxiii “Sore amazed” in Greek means astonished, awestruck. Jesus had known since our premortal life that He would take upon Himself the sins of all, but He had never experienced the Atonement. The agony, the pain, was immeasurable.xxxiv In our days He described His experience as “the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God,”xxxv “which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit.”xxxvi  

The all-encompassing agony that caused Him to sweat great drops of blood would have left His body weakened beyond mortal comprehension, but His agony continued. The betrayal by one who walked with Him, His face slapped and spit upon as He stood before the Jewish rulers, His body scourged and a crown of thorns pressed into His head by His Roman captors, all came in the ensuing hours.xxxvii Finally, the heavy beam was thrust upon the torn flesh of His back as He moved toward Golgotha.xxxviii  

Pontius Pilate, after declaring that he found “no fault in [Jesus],”xxxix cowardly capitulated to the cries of the mob, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”xl At 9 a.m., at Golgotha, meaning the “place of burial,”xli Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. On the cross, the agonies of Gethsemane would “recur, intensified beyond human power to endure.”xlii 

After six hours on the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished, Thy will is done.”xliii The Savior turned the final page of His mortality. His sacrifice for us was accomplished.  

Jesus Christ was the first in all human history to rise from the grave. On the first day of the week, the women came to the tomb bringing the spices that they had prepared for His burial. The stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. They found two men clothed in shining garments. As the women fell to the earth, the angels asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”xliv Soon after He appeared to His Apostles with a personal witness of His own resurrection, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”xlv Later, “he was seen [by more than] five hundred brethren at once.”xlvi Following His resurrection, He appeared and ministered to twenty-five hundred men, women, and children in the Americas. Because He lives and rose from the tomb, all mankind will be resurrected.  

Let us be forever filled with the awe, gratitude, and wonder of the Savior’s sacred Atonement. 

Many times, we gain the courage we need when we meet someone who has been given unusual difficulties and yet remains inspiringly grateful. I met such a person a few years ago. Her name is Lora McPherson, and I met her in the hospital. As I tell you her story, note her gratefulness for life itself, her willingness to yield without resentment her will to her Heavenly Father, and finally her love for the Savior. 

Lora’s family first learned of her genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis, when she was three-years old. This genetic mutation can result in the growth of nerve tumors anywhere in the body. Most people with this disorder live fairly normal lives, but some have very difficult complications. Lora is one of those. At age 7 she had tumors on her spinal cord. At age 12, she developed a brain tumor, and at age 17 a brain stem tumor that would not allow surgery, but required immense radiation. At age 21 a tumor grew on her forearm. At age 25, she had abdominal tumor surgery, removing tumors from her stomach. And finally, as I met her in the hospital, a tumor on her spinal cord requiring more surgery and radiation. Her very life had been challenged throughout her 26 years, yet she was remarkably grateful for the goodness of God. She wrote to me shortly after we met:  

“I trust that the Lord knows what is best for me. I can pray for cures, but I know that if I am not cured, He can still give blessings of strength and healing. I am thankful for my understanding of the bigger picture; that there is life after this life, when our trials will be put into proper perspective and we will comprehend the wisdom and love of God. I have developed gratitude for the small and simple things of life. I have more empathy for and less judgment of others who are going through trials. I have learned how to ask for help and receive it gratefully. I have a testimony that God still loves me and blesses me even when the trials are not taken away. …  

“Whether God’s healing comes in this life or the next, I know He’s watching over me and is giving me and those around me experiences that will help us best fill our purpose on earth and be able to prepare ourselves to come back to him.”xlvii 

Less than two years following my first meeting with Lora McPherson, her tumors overcame her body. She no longer had any movement below her neck. As I visited her for the final time in this life, I thought about the opportunities that had been given me that she had never had. I had lived a life mostly free of pain. She had not. I had been able to marry someone that I loved and would hold dear for eternity. She had not. I had been given children and all the experiences of raising a family. She would have none of these experiences, on this earth. Yet, there was no pity, no feeling that she had been mistreated, only faith and courage. We talked about what her experience would be as she moved through the veil; who might be there to meet her; the happiness she would feel; and her satisfaction at having kept the commandments. We talked about the glorious gifts of our Savior Jesus Christ. I gave her a blessing and told her goodbye. The next Sunday the family held a fast on her behalf, and that afternoon she quietly slipped away through the veil. 

Her example blessed me greatly. How thankful I am for my life, my breath. How thankful I am for my moral agency, my ability to choose, to choose right over wrong, to choose to keep the commandments. How grateful I am for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who, through His Resurrection, has rescued us from death. And who, through His pure life and willingness to take upon Himself our sins as we repent, has rescued us from the chains of the adversary, and given us a way back into the Father’s presence.  

My dear young friends, my brothers and sisters, your life is before you, and I congratulate you on the choices you have made. I congratulate you on being at LDS Business College. I thank you for desiring to follow Jesus Christ. I give you my sure and certain witness born of the Spirit, but also of my holy ordination that has brought me feelings, events, experiences (personal and sacred) that I could never deny, I know He lives. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith. He is resurrected. He has restored His gospel to the earth.  

I leave you a blessing as one of His apostles, that you may appreciate to some small degree, if you choose, your life, the very life he has given you. That in your prayers you may have a greater desire to mold your will to His and be swallowed up, as our Savior was, in the will of the Father. That as you continue along your path of mortality, your sureness and certainty of the gospel and of Jesus Christ will grow and develop. That you may have a firm and certain witness yourself that He is our Savior and Redeemer. That in that day when we kneel before Him, it will be a day of great joy and happiness, not of surprise. For we knew that day would come. But a day we realize, that all our choices in mortality have prepared us to live with Him. I give you this blessing along with my humble witness that He lives. I am His witness. And I so declare it, in His sacred name, the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1]Doctrine and Covenants 59:7

[2]D&C 59:21

[3] D&C 78:19

[4]John 11:41

[5]“My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” Clara W. McMaster, Children’s Songbook, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 228.

[6]Mosiah 2:19-21

[7] Moses 4:1

[8] Moses 4:2

[9] Abraham 3:27

[10] See Doctrine and Covenants 58:28

[11] John 12:27

[12] Mosiah 15:7

[13] JST Luke 14:28

[14] Journal of Discourses, 5:352

[15] (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 297).

[16] Much of this section on being grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ, comes from Neil L. Andersen, The Divine Gift of Forgiveness, Chapter 8

[17] See Mosiah 3:8; Alma 7:10-12; Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:27-38.

[18] Mosiah 3:7.

[19] John 11:25-26

[20] John 12:10.

[21] John 12:23.

[22] See Mark 14:17-25.

[23] See Matthew 26:26-28.

[24] John 13:15.

[25] John 13:34.

[26] See Matthew 26:30, 36.

[27] See Matthew 26:36-38.

[28] Matthew 26:37-39.

[29] JST Luke 22:43-44.

[30] Mosiah 3:7; see also Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.

[31] Alma 7:11-12.

[32] Doctrine and Covenants 88:6.

[33] Mark 14:33; see also JST Mark 14:36-38.

[34] See Neal A. Maxwell, “Jesus of Nazareth, Lord of Loving Kindness and Lord of the Far-flung Vineyard,” October 8, 1991.

[35] Doctrine and Covenants 76:107.

[36] Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.

[37] See John 18:12; Mark 14:65; 15:16–20.

[38] See John 19:16-17.

[39] John 19:4.

[40] See Matthew 27:22.

[41] See JST Matthew 27:35.

[42] See Jeffrey R. Holland, “None Were with Him,” Ensign, May 2009.

[43] JST Matthew 27:54; see also John 19:30.

[44] Luke 24:1-6.

[45] Luke 24:39.

[46] 1 Corinthians 15:6.

[47] Letter from Lora McPherson, October 25, 2006


Bio

Elder Neil Linden Andersen was named an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 4, 2009.

Elder Andersen was serving as the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy prior to his calling to the Quorum of the Twelve. He was named a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1993, at age 41. He previously led the work of the Church in southern Brazil and, again as a member of an area presidency, oversaw the Church in western Europe. He has also assisted in supervising the work of the Church in Mexico and Central America. In addition, he supervised Church audiovisual production, including the filming of The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd and managed construction of the broadcast facilities in the Conference Center as the executive director of the Church Audiovisual Department. He speaks French, Portuguese and Spanish in addition to his native English.

Prior to his call as a General Authority, Elder Andersen served as a mission president in the France Bordeaux Mission and as president of the Tampa Florida Stake.

Elder Andersen was born in Logan, Utah, and raised in Pocatello, Idaho, on a dairy farm where he remembers doing “typical Idaho farm work, from morning to night.”

He graduated from Brigham Young University, where he was a Hinckley Scholar, and earned a masters of business administration from Harvard University. After completing his education, he settled in Tampa, Florida, where his business interests included advertising, real estate development and health care.

Elder Andersen and his wife, Kathy Williams Andersen, are the parents of four children.