Menu

Elder Andersen calls European Latter-day Saints ‘defenders of the faith’ after visit to UK, France and Austria

Marie-Blanche and Jean Caussé stand with Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen. Brother and Sister Caussé are the parents of Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and Elder and Sister Andersen’s former branch president.
Elder Andersen with Bernard Lilaud and his family. As a young missionary, Elder Andersen stopped Brother Lilaud on the street in Angouleme and introduced him to the gospel.
Elder Andersen with Elder Caleb Wilkinson of the France Lyon Mission. Elder Wilkinson’s father, Matthew J. Wilkinson, was one of Elder Andersen’s missionaries when he presided as the president of the France Bordeaux Mission.
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen talk with a young girl after a meeting with the members in Vienna. The young girl had made a sign during the meeting that read, “I am a defender of the faith.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen talk with a young girl after a meeting with the members in Vienna. The young girl had made a sign during the meeting that read, “I am a defender of the faith.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen with Elder Helmut and Sister Julia Wondra and their sons, Samuel and Benjamin.
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Matthieu Bennasar (back row) with the current presidency of the Bordeaux France Stake (front row, from left): President Yannick C. J. Leroy, first counselor; President Julien J. P. Raveneau, stake president; and President
Elder Neil L. Andersen standing at the gravesite of Elder Sadrach Jones, a young man who emigrated to the United States and returned later to Wales as a missionary of the Church. He died while still a missionary in Wales in 1883.
Elder Neil L. Andersen met with Elder Matthieu Bennasar (front row, left) and President Paul J. Sorensen (front row, right), president of the France Paris Mission, along with the stake presidencies of the three stakes in Paris.
Elder Gary B. Sabin, General Authority Seventy; Sister Valerie Sabin; Sister Kathy Andersen; Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder K. Roy Tunnicliffe, an Area Seventy, and Sister Vanessa Tunnicliffe during Elder Andersen’s rec

Stretched across Elder Neil L. Andersen’s desk are several photos captured during his recent assignment to Western Europe.

The many images double as both personal mementos for the apostle — and as visual testaments to the multi-generational power of the Church on the Continent.

Some of the people pictured with Elder Andersen are in their latter years. Others are young or at the cusp of middle age. A few are women. A few are men. Many are children.

But all, he said, can aptly be called “defenders of the faith.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen talk with a young girl after a meeting with the members in Vienna. The young girl had made a sign during the meeting that read, “I am a defender of the faith.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen talk with a young girl after a meeting with the members in Vienna. The young girl had made a sign during the meeting that read, “I am a defender of the faith.”

• In one photo, Elder Andersen stands shoulder to shoulder with Elder Caleb Wilkinson, a young missionary from England serving in France. When Elder Andersen presided over the France Bordeaux Mission, Elder Matthew J. Wilkinson’s father was one of his missionaries.

• Another photo includes Jean and Marie-Blanche Caussé — both Church converts and the parents of the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Gérald Caussé. The senior Caussé was Elder and Sister Kathy Andersen’s branch president three decades ago.

“They have been diligent and faithful in their service,” said Elder Andersen.

• Elder Andersen is seen in another photo sharing a smile with Bernard Lilaud. Almost a half century ago, a young Elder Andersen and his missionary companion stopped Lilaud on a street in Angouleme and introduced him to the gospel.

Now the Lilauds are a multi-generational Latter-day Saint family in France.

• And in a photo snapped after a member meeting in Vienna, Austria, Elder and Sister Andersen greet a young girl who fashioned a makeshift sign during the gathering.

The sign reads simply: “I am a defender of the faith.”

An apostle’s “homecoming”

Elder Andersen grew up in Idaho, thousands of miles from Europe. But many of the key moments of his life have occurred on “the Continent.”

He served a full-time mission to France in the early 1970s, and then returned to that nation as a mission president in 1989. Later, as a General Authority Seventy, he served in the Europe West Area presidency.

His most recent European assignment (Jan. 18-Jan. 27) included a stop in Bristol, England, for a priesthood leadership conference; a first-time visit to Wales for a member meeting; a missionary meeting in Paris; a member meeting in Vienna, Austria; and time spent with local Church leaders and members in his mission “home” region in southern France.

He marvels that 30 years have passed since he, Sister Andersen and their children — Camey, Brandt, Kristen and Derek — arrived in Bordeaux to begin his three-year assignment as a mission president.

“I thought at the time that it would be our last ‘large’ service in the Church,” he said with a smile.

‘Defenders of the faith’ in Europe

Some might argue that Europe enjoyed its Latter-day Saint “moment” in the 19th century when legions across the continent joined the Church and immigrated to the United States, providing an essential role in the growth of the young Church.

But Elder Andersen challenges any suggestion that Europe’s most pivotal contributions belong to Church history. Today’s European members continue to play an essential role in the growth and stability of the Church.

There is a power that is solid and real.

During his recent assignment, Elder Andersen repeatedly felt an impression of European Latter-day Saints: defenders of the faith.

In recent decades, regions of the world such as Latin America and Africa have enjoyed prolific Church growth.

Meanwhile, in Europe observant Christians are becoming minorities in many countries. “Because of that, they have become true defenders of the faith,” said Elder Andersen.

The Lord, he added, has revealed “there would be righteous people to receive Him at His coming,” in all areas of the globe.

Latter-day Saints in Europe answer a sacred charge. “They defend the faith and keep the restored gospel firmly implanted with strong generations that come one after another,” he said.

Evidence of deep-rooted, gospel-centered homes abounds across many European countries. Elder Andersen was presiding over the Bordeaux mission in 1992 when then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the Bordeaux France Stake. All three members of the original Bordeaux stake presidency were Church converts.

“Today, all the members of the Bordeaux stake presidency — and all of their wives — grew up in the Church,” he said. “It’s an amazing difference. There is a power that is solid and real.”

Elder Andersen with Bernard Lilaud and his family. As a young missionary, Elder Andersen stopped Brother Lilaud on the street in Angouleme and introduced him to the gospel.
Elder Andersen with Bernard Lilaud and his family. As a young missionary, Elder Andersen stopped Brother Lilaud on the street in Angouleme and introduced him to the gospel.

Elder Helmut D. Wondra is an Area Seventy in Vienna. He grew up in the Church and is now raising his own children. The Wondras are emblematic of the many multi-generational chains “holding the line” across Europe.

Those family chains of faith were fortified by a visit from a latter-day Apostle.

“During his visit to Vienna, Elder Andersen encouraged us to be defenders of the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote Elder Wondra. “In order to be able to do that I feel that we need to always remember our Savior and pray daily with real intent to have His Spirit with us at all times. We must search the scriptures and the words of our living prophets to find Him, to better understand Him and His doctrine and what He did for us.

“And then we need to try to follow His example by doing small acts of kindness and faith. The more we do that the more we will be filled with His light and then it will come natural for us to share it with our families, to teach our children about it and to speak of the joy that we feel because of Him to our friends and people we meet.”

As Latter-day Saints worldwide strive for “home-centered, Church-supported” families, they “can look to the long established examples of many in Europe,” added Elder Andersen.

Through the testimony of goodly parents, daily prayer and regular study of the Book of Mormon, many European children have found protection in their lives because they understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The temple: evidence of God’s love

Almost two years ago, France’s first temple was dedicated in Paris. Three new temples in Europe will be dedicated in the near future in Rome, Italy; Lisbon, Portugal; and Frankfurt, Germany.

Continued temple building across Europe is comforting to the European Latter-day Saints, said Elder Andersen. It reminds them that God loves them and their relatives, on both sides of veil. They are never alone.

One of the central opportunities of the restored gospel is to strengthen families through the temple, added Elder Andersen, citing a quote from President Russell M. Nelson at last October’s General Conference Leadership Meeting:

“We are uniquely able to strengthen families because we have temples,” said the Church president. “The ordinances, covenants, and blessings of the holy temple are only offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The noblest yearning of the human heart is for a happy marriage that can endure beyond death. Fidelity to covenants made in a temple sealing will lead to just that.”

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed

"I would go anywhere in the world to be with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," said President Holland of his desire to do the work of the Lord.

Marcos Efrén Zariñana’s ability to crawl into places that others couldn’t reach earned him the nickname la Pulga, “the Flea.” His story is of being in the right place at the right time, Lloyd Newell observes in this week’s “Music & the Spoken Word” with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Learn about recent donations from the Church to hospitals and health care organizations in Cambodia, Guam, Mongolia and the Philippines.

At the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra’s first concert of its Philippine tour, Elder Neil L. Andersen noted talents and dedication of audience and performers.

See how YSAs have gathered around the world from Cambodia to Africa.

Speaking to more than 100 gathered in the Church History Museum auditorium, Elder Kyle S. McKay, a General Authority Seventy, explored several key historic events of Church history to show a pattern of continued revelation in the restoration of the gospel.