For Elder Brent H. Nielson, family and Church come first

Four days before being released as a stake president, Elder Brent H. Nielson joined President Gordon B. Hinckley to scout out land for a temple to be built in Twin Falls, Idaho. A few years later, with a beautiful temple now dedicated to the Lord, Elder and Sister Nielson have enjoyed being a part of the temple from its beginnings.

"We love the temple," said Elder Nielson. "Ever since the temple opened we set a goal that we would go every week. . . . It is right in our backyard now, and we have no excuse not to."

The Nielsons have spent their days enjoying the blessings of a nearby temple. Sister Nielson works on the grounds crew, and together they attend as often as they can. They have made the House of the Lord their home.

Elder Brent H. Nielson is a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Although Elder Nielson's new call to the First Quorum of the Seventy will take them away from Twin Falls, they are excited about a new opportunity. Elder Brent Hatch Nielson was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy during general conference April 4. Elder Nielson, 54, was serving in the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy at the time of his call.

For the Nielsons this new call means a chance to continue serving the Lord.

Elder Nielson was born and spent his childhood in Burley, Idaho, where he enjoyed the small-town life and learned from many great mentors. He loved sports as a young boy and was constantly involved in many school activities, including serving as student body president his senior year of high school.

With strong examples of serving in the Church, he saw at a young age what it meant to "seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33).

"I had faithful parents," he said. "My father was my bishop as a young man growing up. He was a great influence in my life."

After high school he packed his bags to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. There he began his collegiate education and participated in a performing group on campus called the Sounds of Freedom. After completing a year of college, Elder Nielson was called to serve a full-time mission in Finland.

"It changed my life," Elder Nielson said. "It helped me realize what is most important. I came home realizing I wanted to serve the Lord, and that has been the pattern for me for my life."

From his mission, Elder Nielson said, he gained a greater understanding of the gospel and learned how to be a dedicated member of the Church.

After returning home from his mission, he returned to BYU to finish his undergraduate degree. Two months after he was home his cousin introduced him to Marcia Ann Bradford at a social gathering. A few months later, in December of 1976, they realized they had a class together and began dating.

"After that we knew it was over," Sister Nielson said. "Not that our relationship was over — dating other people was over!"

Just after Elder Nielson finished his bachelor's degree, and after dating for a year and a half, the Nielsons were married on June 26, 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple. They then moved to Salt Lake City so Elder Nielson could attend the University of Utah's law school and Sister Nielson could finish her degree in home economics at the BYU Salt Lake Center.

Not long after they moved to Salt Lake City, Elder Nielson was called to serve on a stake high council at the age of 24. During this busy time they were going to school, involved in Church and having children.

"We had two babies before we got out of law school," Elder Nielson said. "I'd go to law school and then come home and she'd go to school at night."

Education was very important to the Nielsons so, in an effort so both could finish school, they made sacrifices and helped encourage each other.

"It was really important to him that we accomplish my graduation," Sister Nielson said. "His family was very well educated and he wanted that for me too."

In addition to having a family, Church callings and school, the Nielsons managed a 10-story condominium complex to help pay the bills. Their responsibilities included cleaning and running the complex.

"We each had a baby in a backpack and would vacuum the complex," Sister Nielson said. "He'd start on the bottom and I'd start on the top. We'd meet in the middle. It was hard, but we did it."

Even though it was tough juggling a family, Church, school and work, the Nielsons said that as they served the Lord first, He always provided a way for everything to work out.

"You are tempted to say no, that's way too much, but when you get a calling from the Lord, whatever your life looks like you just shift it, you adjust," Sister Nielson said. "I actually remember that as a really great time in our life. The Lord always picks up the difference and blesses your effort with wonderful things."

The Nielsons' sacrifices and hard work continued as they finished school and their family grew. After graduating from law school they moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, where Elder Nielson practiced law and the rest of their six children were born. There Elder Nielson continued his service in the Church by spending time as a bishop, a counselor in the stake presidency and as stake president.

Just as both Elder and Sister Nielson were taught to work hard as children, they tried to instill the same work ethic in their offspring.

Just as important as teaching their children how to work hard, the Nielsons felt that strengthening family relationships through fun time together is crucial to keeping family relationships strong.

They would often spend part of the day working in the garden together and then take some time to have fun together as well.

Most important, for the Nielsons, their family and the Lord always come first.

"He's a great father," Sister Nielson said. "I think our children feel like he made a serious effort to be a part of their lives on every level that he could."

Whether serving the people in Finland, his family or the members of his own stake, Elder Nielson has made serving the Lord his lifelong pursuit. As he approaches his new call, he hopes to continue doing the same.

“I am very humbled and overwhelmed, but excited about the opportunity,” Elder Nielson said. “I am determined to serve the Lord in a good way. So, wherever I go, or whatever I do, I am delighted to help build the Church.”

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