Elder Neil L. Andersen: Advice and encouragement regarding marriage

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Elder Neil L. Andersen, shakes hands with BYU-Idaho students. Photo by Ryan Chase. Credit: Ryan Chase
Elder Neil L Anderson speaks to BYU-Idaho students at Devotional. Credit: Emily Gottfredson

Changes to campus at BYU-Idaho


“Complete honesty, unselfish humility.”

Those are the four words Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wants Brigham Young University–Idaho students to remember.

Only a few hours after dedicating three new buildings — the Central Energy Facility, the Science and Technology Center, and the Agricultural Science Center — on the BYU–Idaho campus, Elder Andersen addressed students and faculty in the BYU–Idaho Center during their weekly campus devotional on Feb. 14.

“As it is Valentine’s Day, we will talk more about love and romance, but let me start by talking about your future,” Elder Andersen said. “Every person who has ever been born into mortality and is able to live his or her life into adulthood will experience both happiness and sadness, peace and challenges, good and evil. Whatever the generation, life has its highs and lows.”

Elder Andersen spoke of today, and how “these days in which you live are some of the most amazing that this world has ever seen.”

“However, in this time of prosperity and advancement, there are also real challenges,” he said. “You live in a world that is sometimes divisive and contentious. Information is everywhere, and with it a host of enticing voices attempting to pull you one way and then another. There is confusion and commotion, with many moving away from God and His commandments and away from the Savior.”

Sharing statistics of beliefs about God and Jesus in the United States, Elder Andersen said that of his generation 81 percent believe in God, compared to a current 64 percent for millennials. Of Elder Andersen’s generation, 74 percent believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God compared to millennials at 58 percent. He said that 72 percent of his generation believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, while only 55 percent of millennials believe in that doctrine.

“Your days are a time of sifting in the Church,” Elder Andersen said. “It will be very important for your eternal welfare that as the Apostle Paul said, you are grounded, rooted, established and settled in spiritual things.”

Elder Andersen encouraged men and women to prepare spiritually and professionally.

“The journey ahead will be a joyful journey if you will ground yourself spiritually and be diligent in your professional preparations,” he said. “Oh, there will be challenges, but there will be tremendous happiness and beautiful satisfactions. There is no better time, no better place, no better conditions to live out your mortality than right now.”

Elder Andersen encouraged those who are not married to be courageous in their process of finding their spouse.

“Push yourself to develop one-on-one friendships — young men with young women, and young women with young men,” he said. “You don’t need to think every friendship will necessarily develop into romance, but much will be discovered in the one-on-one interaction. … Group activities are not sufficient.”

Learning about the other person — how they think, act, and feel — is an important part of dating.

“When you desire to expand a relationship beyond friendship into romance, it is so important that the laws of purity, discipline and chastity are obeyed. … You know that you have strong, physical emotions and passions that must be controlled and carefully governed, whether to avoid excessive kissing or any kind of inappropriate touching,” he said. “I assure you as an Apostle of the Lord that excusing yourself because you feel you care so much for one another, and moving inappropriately close to breaking the law of chastity, will not help you in the very important spiritual choice you are hoping to make.

“Your mind, your heart and your spiritual senses will be clouded. Set your limits. Plant those limits deep into all you do together, so that they cannot be run over or moved aside as you feel strong emotion for each other.”

Elder Andersen encouraged listeners to not be afraid to “take a chance with someone who might not be an obvious choice.”

Sharing his own experience, Elder Andersen spoke of his wife, Sister Kathy Williams Andersen, whom he noticed for being a person of very deep faith and intelligence, but also for her “certain sophistication.” He is grateful she took a chance on an “Idaho farm boy.”

“We don’t have to only meet those who come from backgrounds just like our own,” he said. “We look deeper and farther into who they are and who they will become.”

Key to a good relationship is complete honesty, unselfish humility, the apostle taught.

“As you progress in your dating to seriously considering sharing your lives together, you share your most private thoughts, your dreams and your fears,” he said. “You share who you are, who you have been and who you want to become. Complete honesty and unselfish humility.

“If you struggle with pornography or have struggled in the past, a person considering you as an eternal companion deserves to know about your challenge and how you have faced it. If you have had difficulty with other addictions, keeping the law of chastity, lying or stealing, humility and honesty urges that you give to the person you love the opportunity to spiritually and prayerfully weigh the choices going forward, before a proposal is accepted and announced.”

Elder Andersen asked if being completely honest means a person has to disclose everything that has ever happened.

“You use your wisdom and good judgment,” he said. “If you took Nancy’s bubblegum out of her desk in sixth grade without her permission, the subject can probably be forgotten. But if you had a two-year struggle with pornography, then that is more important.”

A thoughtful approach is for an individual to ask themselves what he or she would want to know if they were in the place of their companion.

“Something from years in the past might be quickly understood and create no obstacle at all,” he said. “If the problem or weakness or sin is more recent, it may cause the other to slow down the relationship and allow for more time and more experience in judging whether he or she is ready to move forward. It may require more prayer, discussions with parents or trusted leaders and more experience with the person you hope to have with you forever.”

Elder Andersen reminded listeners that no one is perfect, and that all have made mistakes.

“As the person you love speaks honestly to you, respect the courage that he or she is showing you,” he said. “If something is clearly in the past, keep this scripture in your heart: ‘He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.’ ”

Elder Andersen closed by mentioning his wife of almost 42 years.

“At your age, we became grounded, rooted and settled,” he said. “Whatever came, we would face it together. Our life has not been without challenges that sometimes seemed as big as mountains. But through these many years we have loved our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and we have loved one another.” @marianne_holman

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