When Elder Neil L. Andersen was ordained a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy 16 years ago at the age of 41, he had a firm and true testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.
"I remember thinking, 'How could my testimony of the Savior be greater than it is today?' But yet it has grown to be much more," said Elder Andersen, sustained at general conference April 4 as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
"Our understanding becomes more real," he added, "more totally encompassing to our soul. You understand not just that He is the Savior, but what it means for Him to be the Savior. You realize the power of His atoning sacrifice. You sense His love for each person individually in a way I sense I didn't appreciate to its fullest 16 years ago. I am very humbled and overwhelmed that I will have the privilege to bear witness of Him throughout the rest of my life."
Elder Andersen and his wife Kathy, whom he met when they were students at BYU in the mid-1970s, are very noticeably in love with each other. Elder Andersen explained: "Kathy is pure in every dimension of her life. She has brought me and our family a greater commitment to being obedient and treasuring the Lord's spirit. She, along with our children, have been willing to sacrifice in any way to fulfill the assignments given us."
And speaking of Elder Andersen, Sister Andersen responded: "He is a man of deep faith in the Savior and loyalty to the Brethren. He is a man with unquestionable belief in the destiny of the Church being established throughout the world. We have seen the miracles of God in the lives of others and in our own family."
They have felt in some measure the love the Savior feels for His children throughout the world.
"We've lived 10 of the last 20 years outside of the United States," said Elder Andersen, who was the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy at the time of his call to the apostleship. That includes his three years spent as president of the France Bordeaux Mission, 1989-92. As a Seventy, he was president of the Brazil South Area Presidency and served in the Europe West Area Presidency.
"In the last four years, we have been with faithful members of the Church on almost every continent, and impressions, experiences and friendships have been created across the world."
As an expression of the love they feel, Elder and Sister Andersen have endeavored, wherever they have served, to communicate with Latter-day Saints in their own languages. Elder Andersen mentioned that his wife learned to speak good Portuguese when they were in Brazil and that elsewhere, she learned the talks she delivered in languages such as Chinese, Korean, Spanish and even Greek.
Elder Andersen, who already knew French from his days as a young missionary in France, has learned Portuguese and Spanish as a General Authority.
When Elder Andersen had been in Brazil for a year, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the area to meet with stake presidents. Elder Andersen asked for and received a blessing from Elder Nelson prior to the meeting, enabling him to move to a different level with his language.
These experiences have taught them about receiving the Lord's help.
Elder Andersen commented, "We must seek after spiritual gifts. As we do with the intent to build the Lord's kingdom, with no motive but to accomplish the Lord's will, then the Lord blesses us."
At the same time, he emphasized, one must realize his total dependence upon the Lord, because the miracles and blessings occur as He chooses to give them.
"I've learned so much from the senior Brethren of the Church," Elder Andersen said, "and one thing I've observed in President Thomas S. Monson is his attention to individuals and reaching out to the one. On some occasions, I've been able to assist him in helping someone in need."
In the first year after Elder Andersen was called, President Monson learned of a young man who was seriously injured in a gunshot accident. President Monson asked Elder Andersen and Elder D. Todd Christofferson, then another member of the Seventy, to visit the young man and give a priesthood blessing. Elder Andersen was voice for the blessing.
"I was surprised at some of the promises made in the blessing; medical wisdom would not have thought them possible, but all have been fulfilled," President Monson. Elder Christofferson and Elder Andersen have followed the life of the young man, who has since served a mission and married in the temple.
Elder Andersen has also seen the need for reliance on the Lord in administrative aspects of his calling. As executive director of the Church's audiovisual department, he oversaw the production of the large-screen motion picture "The Testaments of One Lord and One Shepherd."
"We were looking for someone who could play the role of the Savior," he recalled. "We had considered people who were in the acting field as well as others, and we took three suggestions to the First Presidency. They studied them; they liked them. They said, 'These are good people, but you don't have the right person.' With prayer and fasting, not knowing where to look, we found ourselves completely dependent on the Lord.
The answer came in the form of an e-mail from a member of the Church in Denmark. Subsequently, a video was made and a worthy Danish high priest was presented to the First Presidency. "They said, 'You have the right one.' That was quite dramatic," Elder Andersen said.
Such experiences have deepened Elder Andersen's testimony of the Savior. "My faith is that in the future I can anticipate an even greater understanding of these eternal truths," he said. "I do know with a perfect and certain clarity that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world."
Family: Born Aug. 9, 1951, in Logan, Utah, to Lyle P. and Kathryn Andersen; reared in Pocatello, Idaho, the third of five children. Married Kathy Sue Williams in the Salt Lake Temple on March 20, 1975. Parents of four married children: Camey (Kevin Hadlock), Brandt (Katie Kennedy), Kristen (Mark Ebert), Derek (Erica Wible); 12 grandchildren with one expected.
Education: Bachelor's degree in economics from BYU, 1975; master of business administration degree from Harvard Graduate School of Business, 1977.
Employment: Business interests in advertising, real estate development and health care.
Church service: Senior member of Presidency of the Seventy; member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 1993 with assignments in southern Brazil, western Europe, Mexico and Central America; supervisory role for various areas in the United States, Mexico and Central America; and as executive director of Church Audiovisual Department; President of France Bordeaux Mission, 1989-92; former stake president and counselor in stake presidency, high councilor, elders quorum president, served in the Paris France Mission, 1970-72.