“I think we have the ability to dream together, and to sacrifice to achieve the things we dream of,” reflects Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander. That ability to see the end result and to enjoy whatever activity they have been involved in has been vital for Elder Neuenschwander and his wife, LeAnn. They will continue to call on those talents as he fulfills his new assignment as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
Born in Salt Lake City 6 October 1939, Dennis was the second of George Henry and Genevieve Bramwell Neuenschwander’s four children. His family later moved to Ogden. In 1959, after six months of active duty in the air force reserves, he accepted a mission call to Finland. Since there was no Missionary Training Center at the time, missionaries went through a language course once they arrived in the country. After eleven months of proselyting, Brother Neuenschwander spent much of the rest of his mission teaching other elders Finnish.
His interest in language continued when he returned home. He studied Russian, receiving an associate degree from Weber State College (1964), a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University (1966), and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University (1974).
In the meantime, Brother Neuenschwander had met LeAnn Clement. When his reserve unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he went to be fitted for contact lenses. LeAnn was the optometrist’s assistant. Married 13 June 1963 in the Salt Lake Temple, the Neuenschwanders have four sons—Jeffery, Michael, Bradley, and Stephen.
After graduation, Brother Neuenschwander taught Russian at the University of Utah and at Brigham Young University, then took a job with the Church’s Genealogical Department. His family accompanied him to Frankfurt, Germany, where he began microfilming projects in eastern Europe. Then he returned to Church headquarters as manager of the department’s international area of the Acquisitions Division.
During these years, Brother Neuenschwander served the Church as a Sunday School teacher, ward mission leader, and high councilor. “He has a great love for people,” says his wife. “He’s quiet but strong. He accepts challenges and he works hard—no matter what he’s doing.”
In 1987, Brother Neuenschwander was called to preside over the Austria Vienna East Mission, which included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and later Egypt, Turkey, and Cyprus. “We used to joke that other mission presidents had to get permission to leave their missions,” he says, “but we had to get permission to go into ours.”
In that position, he worked closely with Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Hans B. Ringger to gain recognition for the Church in eastern-bloc countries, and later to place missionaries and organize branches. “It’s been incredible to see how the people have embraced the gospel,” says Elder Neuenschwander. “The decades of atheism could not eradicate what lies at the deepest part of our souls—the desire to believe, to serve, to be happy and productive.”
As the Neuenschwanders’ mission drew to a close, the First Presidency asked them to stay another year and—since four new missions had been created from theirs—direct the work in Bulgaria, Romania, and parts of the USSR, as well as continuing to oversee Yugoslavia.
Years of living far from extended family have helped the Neuenschwanders develop close relationships with each other and with people from many nations. “Our home has always been open,” says Elder Neuenschwander. “It’s been a great education for us and our boys. We’ve tried to use our time and resources on experiences rather than on things.”
At the heart of Elder Neuenschwander’s success is his conviction of the Savior’s divinity and the gospel’s restoration. “I’ve seen it expressed magnificently,” he says. “It changes lives, attitudes, values—all for the best. You can’t be around that kind of power without appreciating its strength.”