PROVO, Utah — Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, were living in Tampa, Florida, more than three decades ago when they received a call to oversee missionary work in Southern France.
They did not know the leaders of the Church in Salt Lake City and wondered how the call could have come. Together they prayed for the Lord’s help and assurance.
In response, each received a sure witness that the call for Elder Andersen to lead the France Bordeaux Mission had come from the Lord. With their four children — ages 13, 11, 9 and 7 — they moved abroad.
Speaking during the 2022 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on Thursday, June 23, Elder Andersen, now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Andersen recalled the sacred moments leading up to their missionary service, the miracles they witnessed and the “principles of discipleship” that helped them.
Elder and Sister Andersen told the new leaders that they pray each will also have a strong spiritual confirmation that they were called of God. “Jesus said of His apostles: ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.’”
In addition, “President Russell M. Nelson has assured past mission leaders, ‘You have been called by prophecy and revelation,’” Elder Andersen said. “You have been foreordained to be leaders in the Lord’s Church at this time.”
Expectations and love
During his remarks, Elder Andersen encouraged the new mission leaders to set high expectations and to be generous in helping their missionaries feel “your deep love and the love of the Savior for them.”
Without both higher love and higher expectations, missionaries could fall into patterns of salesmanship, simple camaraderie or disobedience, Elder Andersen explained.
He shared examples of love from Luke 7, John 11 and John 13 where the Savior raised a boy from the dead, brought Lazarus back to life, and gave a new commandment of loving Heavenly Father and each other at the same time that Jesus faced personal betrayal.
Of the Savior’s experience with Lazarus, Elder Andersen said: “Even though He knew the end from the beginning, Jesus had enormous compassion for the sadness and the pain of others. Jesus knew Lazarus would soon be brought forth from the grave.”
“Even when you realize the challenges of your missionaries will help them become who they are to become, your love for them will help you feel as they feel and have deep compassion for their struggles.”
Sister Andersen said that sometimes even the phrase “high expectations” can make a person feel a little uncomfortable.
“That was a high expectation but given with enormous love and powerful love and powerful, life-changing promises,” she said.
Among the high expectations expressed by the Savior in the scriptures, Sister Andersen cited His call to disciples to teach all the nations. She also mentioned His call to the wealthy young man to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Him.
“He has great expectations for us because He loves us and wants us to be able to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father,” she said.
3 practical applications
Elder Andersen offered three ways to implement both higher love and higher expectations.
First, preparation is part of embarking in a new calling. For the mission leaders, he suggested they study thoroughly “Preach My Gospel” and the new Handbook for Mission Leaders.
Second, Elder Andersen taught, “learn to know each of your missionaries well.” Knowing and caring for those served within a calling is a lifelong endeavor, he said.
“Care for them like you will know them forever, because you will,” he said.
And third, keep high goals.
“Don’t be afraid of challenging them to expect miracles in their work. Building the kingdom of God is not a passive work,” Elder Andersen said. “Keep your goals expansive, expecting miracles.”
Sister Andersen said that while serving in France, Elder Andersen frequently reminded the missionaries to not live “life without miracles.”
In February 1991, the missionaries set a goal to baptize 50 people by the end of the month. Sister Andersen said Elder Andersen felt compelled to share with the missionaries that he would join them in finding someone to baptize that month, as well. They all worked with love and dedication and saw miracles across the mission. On the final day of the month, a woman the Andersens had met and taught became the 50th person baptized — completing the goal.
“God is a God of miracles yesterday, today and forever,” Sister Andersen testified.
Thirty years later, in different circumstances that also required immense faith, Elder Andersen was assigned to go to the dedication of the Praia Cape Verde Temple on June 19. The small country has been in a severe drought since 2017, with rain so sparse that food production in the country doesn’t cover 1% of the nation’s needs.
Sister Andersen shared that Elder Andersen humbly asked the Lord in the temple’s dedicatory prayer to bless the people with the rain they desperately need.
When they walked out of the temple that afternoon, she said, rain was falling and continued to fall through the following morning.
While one day of rain won’t end the drought in Cabo Verde, this was an immediate answer to an Apostle’s prayer to receive rain in June when the region typically receives less than 1 millimeter of rain in the month.
The mission president of the Cape Verde Praia Mission, President David J. Wunderli, told Elder and Sister Andersen that he had seen rain only in August and September in his two years serving there.
Elder Andersen testified of miracles, love and expectations as parts of a disciple’s life in becoming more like the Savior.