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Elder Ryan K. Olsen knows blessings await those who trust in the Lord


Elder Ryan K. Olsen and his wife, Sister Julie Olsen, moved to Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood while still newlyweds finishing up their college studies. 

The young couple had no intention of staying long. 

Ryan Olsen had landed a job in Provo, Utah, about 45 minutes away. The logical, convenient choice was to leave Sugar House, relocate closer to work and raise their family in a home that was a bit roomier.

But a Church calling changed their immediate plans — and placed them on a personal, professional and ecclesiastical trajectory that changed their lives.

After a wise stake president discovered that both of the Olsens had served missions in South America, he called them to be stake missionaries in the historic Spanish-language Lucero Ward.

“We tried to put the Lord first,” Elder Olsen told the Church News shortly after he was called last month to be a General Authority Seventy. “So we decided to stay in Sugar House, and it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. It changed our lives in every aspect.”

Elder Olsen was only 25 when he was called to be a bishop in their Sugar House ward. Two years later, he was presiding over the Salt Lake Sugar House Stake.

The Olsens’ choice to trust in the Lord, serve in their local congregations, live frugally and, yes, hone their mission-acquired Spanish skills would eventually allow them — temporally and spiritually — to take on even more service opportunities when, in 2016, they were called to lead the Uruguay Montevideo West Mission.

Elder Ryan K. Olsen of the Seventy

Elder Ryan K. Olsen of the Seventy

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

With their four children, the Olsens returned to an area of the world they already knew and loved. Again, their decision to serve and trust the Lord was not convenient — but it was the right decision.

Now, once again, the Olsens are being asked to change their plans to best serve the Lord.

Like Latter-day Saints worldwide, “we are just doing what was asked of us,” said Sister Olsen. “With hindsight, we can always see how much we have been blessed.”

“God’s plan,” added Elder Olsen, “is always so much better than our plan. We may have made other decisions along the way, but He had a better plan.”

Remember who you are’

The Olsens are quick to note that they have been blessed since the first days of their lives.

Julie Darrington Olsen grew up in Northern California and raised by parents — Bruce and Wendy Darrington — “who were the epitome of service and dedication to the gospel. They were tremendous examples.”

Elder Olsen, meanwhile, was raised in Sandy, Utah, in a similar Latter-day Saint household. “Hard-working stock,” he said, “runs deep in both of our families.”

Young Ryan’s parents, Kirk and Cathy Olsen, never let him leave the house without this defining reminder: “Remember who you are.”

“It used to drive me crazy when I was a young man,” he said with a laugh. “But those words helped me remember my divine identity. It helped me remember that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and that the Savior is my best friend.

“Everything that we can hope to do or accomplish is only through Him.”

Given their fortunate upbringings, they each felt a commitment to serve the Lord and His children. Following high school, each served full-time missions. Sister Olsen answered a call to the Uruguay Montevideo Mission. Elder Olsen left home for the Argentina Resistencia Mission.

Dedicating themselves full time to sharing the gospel in Latin America changed them both forever. They each served under wise, spiritually sensitive mission leaders who would teach them lessons that are serving them to this day.

Missionary service “created in us both a great love for the people of the world,” said Elder Olsen. “We learned that there are amazing people everywhere. Our missions have helped us frame the way we see the world.”

Added Sister Olsen: “The things I learned on my mission have made me a better mom, a better wife and a better Young Women leader.”

Later, the two returned missionaries met on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. They married in the Salt Lake Temple, started a young family and served in their Sugar House ward and stake while Elder Olsen established his professional career in the insurance industry.

New General Authority Seventies called during the Saturday afternoon session of the 192nd Annual General Conference take their seats on the stand in the Conference Center on April 2, 2022. Elder Ryan K. Olsen is in the center of the front row.

New General Authority Seventies called during the Saturday afternoon session of the 192nd Annual General Conference take their seats on the stand in the Conference Center on April 2, 2022. Elder Ryan K. Olsen is in the center of the front row.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A return to missionary work in South America

When the Olsens were called to serve as one another’s missionary companions and lead the Uruguay Montevideo West Mission, they felt both humbled and overjoyed.

“Serving with the missionaries in Uruguay was the greatest privilege of our lives,” said Sister Olsen. “The scriptures talk about the ‘noble and great one’ — and we saw that in the missionaries as we served with them, loved them, taught them and grew with them.”

Elder Olsen added that he was fortified “by the obedience and goodness” of the hundreds of missionaries they served with in Uruguay.

Leaving home for three years with growing children in tow was not always easy. But again, hindsight is revealing to the Olsens the blessings that follow sacrifices for the Lord’s work.

While serving together in Uruguay, the Olsens and their children found joy in the mission field by exercising their faith and relying upon one another — and trusting in the Lord and His work.

A new call to serve

Now, once again, the Olsens are placing their trust in the Lord as they take their maiden steps together with Elder Olsen’s new calling in the Seventy.

“We don’t really know what to expect — but we are again honored to serve,” said Elder Olsen. “As President [Russell M.] Nelson has taught, there has never been a time in the world where the gospel truths are more needed to combat the challenges of the day.

“It is daunting, but also incredibly exciting.”

Sister Olsen is lifted by the optimism shared by President Nelson and his fellow Church leaders, even during troubling times in the world.

“There is hope and pure optimism,” she said. “The Savior is the answer to everything — and now to have the Savior at the center of our lives, and to share that with others, is something very meaningful.” 

In his new calling as a General Authority Seventy, Elder Olsen is humbled that he will be able to share with a wide audience many key gospel principles that can uplift lives and foster hope. The recent April general conference, he said, included inspired teachings on the principle of repentance. They were reminders of the Savior’s love and His Atonement.

“Historically, the principle of repentance has sometimes had a hard or a negative connotation — but I love the thought that repentance means change,” said Elder Olsen. “With change comes hope. I love the thought that we can all change. We can all be a little better and do a little better.”

Repentance and change, he emphasized, is made possible through Christ. 

“So I’m sure we will frame much of our service on [inviting others] to focus on the Savior; putting Him first and letting Him prevail. We can keep Him at the center in our lives.

“Everything comes back to Him.” 

Trust in the Lord, he repeated. And, yes, “Remember who you are.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” counseled Elder Olsen. “Don’t beat yourself up. Go forward with great optimism. You are so much better than you think you are. We all need to hear that we are doing OK.”

Find safety and “great comfort” in following the Prophet, he added.

The enthusiasm of working shoulder to shoulder with the full-time missionaries has not left the Olsens since their release as mission leaders in Uruguay. They are honored knowing that their new service assignments will again offer them opportunities to work with young people.

“I am so inspired by the rising generation,” said Sister Olsen. “It is a privilege to serve with them and be around them. I feel like they are the ones that we learn from.

“And now I love the idea of being able to help young people learn to recognize the Spirit in their lives and to help them move forward along the covenant path in ways that will make a huge difference.”

There is joy, she said, in living the gospel. “The world sometimes tries to pull us away from the Lord and offer happiness in different ways. But true joy comes from living the gospel of Jesus.”

Most important, Elder and Sister Olsen want their fellow Latter-day Saints and others to know that they love the Savior.

“Now to be able to bear a special witness of Him and to testify of Him is a tremendous responsibility,” said Elder Olsen. “But it is something that we feel very, very blessed and grateful to be able to do.”

Read more: Learn more about the 6 General Authority Seventies sustained during the April 2022 general conference

Biographical information for Elder Olsen

Family: Born Oct. 11, 1974, in Salt Lake City to Kirk and Cathy Olsen. He and Julie Darrington married Nov. 20, 1998, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have four children.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in mass communication-public relations from the University of Utah.

Employment: Has worked in a variety of business fields. An area president of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., a global insurance firm, until his call as a mission president. Later, an area senior vice president of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 

Church service: Prior to serving as a General Authority Seventy, he served as an Area Seventy, Uruguay Montevideo West Mission president (2016-2019), stake president, high councilor, stake mission president, bishop, bishopric counselor, ward Young Men presidency counselor and full-time missionary in the Argentina Resistencia Mission.

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