Elder Neil L. Andersen Shares Lessons Learned from a Butterfly

Contributed by  By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer

  • 16 January 2013

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks to seminary students in the Bountiful, Utah, area on Sunday, January 6, 2012.  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke to a group of seminary students in Bountiful, Utah, on January 6.
  • Consistently and sincerely reading the Book of Mormon can help us build a strong spiritual foundation.
  • We are children of God, and He has a plan for us to reach our potential.

“You are a child of God with eternal possibilities available to you, and one of the greatest things you can do with your life is to accept who you are, where you came from, and where you are going.” —Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles

Spiritual lessons can be learned from the life of a monarch butterfly, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve said during a devotional held in the Bountiful Regional Center on January 6.

Introduced by his grandson, Clayton Hadlock, a junior at Bountiful High School, Elder Andersen spoke to a capacity crowd including more than 2,000 seminary students from the Bountiful, Utah, area.

Recognizing the new year, Elder Andersen invited all of the students to read the Book of Mormon.

“If I could convince you, persuade you, implore you to on your own read the Book of Mormon—not just with your family, not just in seminary, not because someone asks you to do it but because you want to, something you don’t report to anyone—it could be a year you would always remember and would set a foundation for you forever.”

Elder Andersen invited his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, to share her experience of reading the Book of Mormon six times in one academic year as a sophomore in high school, and what impact that action has had upon her life.

“I have read this book many, many times since then and bear testimony that this book is true,” she said.

Elder Andersen also invited Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard business professor and a well-known expert on innovation and growth, to share his personal experience of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon while attending Oxford University in England. Brother Christensen spoke of his desire to know if the Book of Mormon was true, so he devoted time and effort to figure out his beliefs.

“If the book was true, I would commit my life to the gospel, and if it was not true, I was going to commit my life to finding what was true,” he said.

It was in England, he said, that he gained the “most tangible, useful knowledge” he has—to know the Book of Mormon is true. 

Elder Andersen added his witness, saying that although there are many purposes of the Book of Mormon, the greatest purpose is to teach individuals that Jesus is the Christ.

“In your lifetime … you will better understand why this sacred book testifies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

Elder Andersen encouraged all to kneel by their beds, alone when no one is looking, and to put to practice Moroni’s promise.

“That manifestation comes usually line upon line,” he said. “My understanding of the Book of Mormon is clear; it is a physical manifestation of God’s love for us and that He knows us. Jesus is the Christ, and He has restored this gospel.”

After inviting the youth to read the Book of Mormon, Elder Andersen held up a glass jar with a fake butterfly fluttering around in it. He shared four spiritual lessons individuals can learn from the monarch butterfly.

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks to seminary students in the Bountiful, Utah, area on Sunday, January 6, 2012. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred.

You are a child of God with eternal possibilities available to you.

“You are a child of God with eternal possibilities available to you, and one of the greatest things you can do with your life is to accept who you are, where you came from, and where you are going,” he said. “Now, with a monarch butterfly it is very innate. We as sons and daughters of God feel this is true, but we must confirm it and believe it.”

Sharing a story of his young grandson singing the Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” Elder Andersen said that youth today need to believe those sacred words.

“Come to believe it,” he said. “Sometimes when you feel like you are a caterpillar and say to yourself: ‘I’m not smart, I’m not very coordinated, I’m different, I don’t have this, I don’t have that’—keep in mind who you are. We don’t all have to be the same. We come in different sizes, different shapes, different colors. Some have some talents, some have others; we don’t have to be exactly like someone else.”

Quoting from the First Presidency in For the Strength of Youth, he said: “We have great confidence in you. You are beloved sons and daughters of God, and He is mindful of you. You have come to earth at a time of great opportunities and also of great challenges.”

Individuals must look on their potential and think, “One day I will fly,” Elder Andersen taught.

To become who God would have you become, you will need the gifts of the Savior and your own correct choices.

Elder Andersen explained the process a caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly. He showed a time-lapse video showing the metamorphosis of a caterpillar weaving the chrysalis and finally emerging as a butterfly.

“Isn’t that amazing that our Heavenly Father would create a beautiful, beautiful insect that can do that,” Elder Andersen said.

Much like the caterpillar, individuals have the potential to become something beautiful. In one’s youth, they make decisions that set the stage for the rest of their life.

“Inside each of you, there is a development going on,” he said. “Help that development move toward what you want to become. What happens inside of you is very important, and it is important when you are young.”

It is through making right decisions and relying on the Atonement for course corrections when needed that people are able to stay close to Heavenly Father and help others to do the same.

“When we do things that are wrong, there must be a way to be forgiven,” Elder Andersen said. “And only He can do that. But there are things we do that make it possible.”

Brigham Young encouraged all to be “righteous in the dark.” Elder Andersen encouraged youth to be true to who they are and a person others can look to for help.

“We have times we have to repent, we have to change. But let us be the ones who are true and faithful that others can come to us, and let us help them.”

Elder Andersen, quoting from For the Strength of Youth, said: “The Lord will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself. He will increase your opportunities, expand your vision, and strengthen you. He will give you the help you need to meet your trials and challenges. You will … come to know your Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, and feel Their love for you.”

Your spiritual senses are refined and delicate and are protected by honesty and obedience.

A butterfly’s wings are very delicate and refined, and so are spiritual gifts and powers, Elder Andersen said.

“The Holy Ghost is like that,” Elder Andersen declared. “You can’t just go one night and do whatever you want and forget what you know to be true and think in a day or two, or a week or two, everything is going to be fine.”

It is through taking responsibility and doing those things that will bring individuals closer to Heavenly Father that will help their delicate and refined testimony.

Quoting from For the Strength of Youth: “You are responsible for the choices you make. … Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will even if you have to stand alone.”

As you see beyond yourself, you begin to see who the Lord would have you become.

“Somehow, somewhere in your life, you have to see your life bigger than you,” he said.

Elder Andersen shared the southern migration pattern of butterflies. Four generations of butterflies are needed to complete the cycle and find their way home in the north.

Just like the butterflies, each individual has an important role in helping the next generation return home.

Drawing from his wife, Sister Andersen’s family, Elder Andersen spoke of her relative who joined the Church in 1898 in Florida and now, five generations later, how their family is full of Church members.

Elder Andersen showed a picture of his two grandsons Clayton and Christian Hadlock, who also participated that evening, and spoke of how they fit into the generations that came before.

“They are part of what all of these generations brought into their lives, and they have a responsibility,” he said.

Speaking to all the youth, Elder Andersen said, “We love you. We are counting on you. We know who you are.

“Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. I am His witness. He loves you, and He will help you become what you need to become.”