Elder Andersen’s warmth is felt by those who meet him.
On Wednesday afternoon, April 1, 2009, Elder Neil L. Andersen was unexpectedly asked to come to the office of President Thomas S. Monson. Elder Andersen was called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Commenting on this sacred experience he said, “There is no man with more love than President Thomas S. Monson. His warmth is as the sunshine at midday. Yet, as he extended to me this sacred call, you can imagine the overwhelming soberness I felt as the eyes of the prophet of God peered deeply into the chambers of my soul. Happily, you can also imagine the love I felt from the Lord and from His prophet as President Monson wrapped his long and loving arms around me.”
On Sunday, April 5, Elder Andersen addressed the Church: “My dear brothers and sisters across the world, my knees are weak and my emotions close to the surface. I express my love for you and profoundly thank you for your sustaining vote.”
Elder Andersen grew up in Pocatello, Idaho.
Hard Work Is Part of Life
Neil was five when his parents, Lyle and Kathryn Andersen, moved their family to a dairy farm in Pocatello, Idaho. On the farm he learned the principle of hard work. “I milked a lot of cows and moved a lot of irrigation pipe,” he said. “I can remember that on Christmas morning before we opened our presents, we had cows to milk. Looking back, I realize how valuable it was to learn that part of life is just hard work.”
As a freshman at Brigham Young University, Neil continued to work hard. He secured a job. His day began at 4:00 a.m. cleaning the bathrooms in the library before attending classes. During this time, Neil contemplated the challenge of a mission. “I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, ‘Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?’ As I prayed, the feeling came: ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough,” He accepted a mission call and served faithfully in the France Mission.
As a missionary in France (1970–1972), Elder Andersen worked until he wore holes through the soles of his shoes.
Returning to BYU, Neil became involved in student government. While campaigning for student body office, he met Kathy Williams. Speaking of that day Kathy commented, “I thought he was the most remarkable man I had ever met, and that holds true to this day and forever.”
Their first date was on Kathy’s birthday. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in March 1975. “Once I married her,” Elder Andersen continued, “the standards in my life went way up—being totally consistent in prayer and scripture study, keeping the commandments with precision. She has a pure and disciplined faith.”
The couple moved to Boston, where Neil studied at Harvard University. Their first child, Camey, was born the following January during his first year of graduate school, and they were expecting their second child as he completed a master’s degree in business administration in 1977.
After graduate school, the Andersens moved to Tampa, Florida, where Kathy had grown up. Brandt, Kristen, and Derek expanded the family to six. They imagined Florida to be their permanent residence, but the Lord had other plans.
Neil L. Andersen met his wife, Kathy, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in March 1975.
Don’t Live Your Life without Miracles
In 1989, while serving in a stake presidency, Neil Andersen was called as president of the France Bordeaux Mission. He owned a growing advertising agency in Tampa. “It is not a business that is easily left to others. We accepted the call not knowing how we would make the transition work,” he said.
Speaking of this time of uncertainty, Kathy said, “Neil is a man of great faith. It is one of the things I love the most about him. He believes that if we trust in God and do our part, miracles will follow.” Within weeks there was an unsolicited offer to buy the business. “It was clearly the Lord’s hand in a miraculous way,” Elder Andersen said. Neil and Kathy; Camey, age 13; Brandt, age 11; Kristen, age 9; and Derek, age 7, moved to Bordeaux, France, for the next three years.
It was a remarkable time. President Andersen counseled the missionaries: “Don’t live your life without miracles.” He lovingly encouraged the members to strengthen the Church so that the District of Bordeaux could become a stake. “We can do it now, or we can wait and let your children or your grandchildren do it,” he said. With the great faith and effort of members and missionaries the Bordeaux stake was created on May 24, 1992. Five weeks later the Andersens completed their mission in Bordeaux and returned to Florida. Neil was called as president of the Tampa Florida Stake just a few weeks later.
Elder Andersen with his wife Kathy, and their family. Photograph courtesy of Scott Breen.
Elder Andersen served as president of the France Bordeaux Mission from 1989 to 1992.
In April 1993 Elder Andersen was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, relocating the family to Salt Lake City. The Andersen family moved eight times because of Church assignments, spending many years outside of the United States.
At the time of Elder Andersen’s call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reflecting on the sacrifices his children had made he said, “Twenty years ago when our four children were young, our family was called to serve a mission in France. With this and other calls that followed, they found themselves moving from city to city, continent to continent during those years that plead for stability. The Lord has now richly blessed them with wonderful companions and choice children of their own. I want to thank them for their goodness and for their sacrifices in my behalf.”
Elder Andersen credits his wife, Kathy, with being a strength to the children through these many experiences. “Her influence upon me and our children is phenomenal,” he said, “Kathy is absolute and uncompromising in her loyalty to the Lord and to me and the family.”
Trusting in the Lord
While Elder Andersen served as Executive Director of the Church Audiovisual Department, he had almost weekly meetings with President James E. Faust (1920–2007), who was at the time the Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “One time I went to President Faust with a piercing problem I didn’t know how to solve,” Elder Andersen recalled. “He said, ‘Neil, have you prayed about it? Have you prayed all night like Enos did?’ And then he sat back in his chair and said, ‘I’ve prayed all night many times to receive the answer to difficult challenges. That is how you will get your answer as well.’ He was right.”
It was during this time period, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Twelve, that Elder Andersen oversaw the development of the movie The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, the initial launch of Mormon.org, and the installation of the audiovisual systems in the Church’s Conference Center.
Elder Andersen presents retired Brazilian soccer star Pele with a sculpture representing family unity.
In 2001 Elder Andersen was assigned to the Brazil South Area Presidency. He and Kathy moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Although he had never spoken Portuguese, at age 50 Elder Andersen began an intense study of Portuguese. As a young missionary he had learned French. While living in Europe as a General Authority he determined to study Spanish. He continues to study Spanish and Portuguese.
Kathy commented: “I have been present when Neil has taught the gospel in Spanish, Portuguese, or French without a text, beyond his own ability. I have seen his faith and great effort rewarded as the Lord has blessed him to be able to teach and bear testimony of the Savior to men, women, and children, in their own language throughout the world.”
Elder Andersen was serving as the senior President in the Presidency of the Seventy at the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On that Sunday he said, “In so many dimensions, I feel inadequate and humbled. I take solace that in one qualification for the holy apostleship where there can be no latitude extended, the Lord has deeply blessed me. I do know with perfect and certain clarity through the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, the Beloved Son of God.”
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (below).