When Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Kathy, were newlyweds striving to adhere to a tight budget, she decided to create a meaningful, though inexpensive, Christmas present for him: a scrapbook representing his life up to that point.
In correspondence with his mother, she learned of an incident in his youth that she feels represents his character in a figurative way. As she relates the story, he was about 12 when his family lived on a small farm in the central Utah community of Lindon. His father, a veterinarian, was in Chicago on a business trip.
As fate would have it, in the midst of an early spring blizzard, lambs were born to 13 ewes on the farm.
“His father called home the next day, after hearing there had been a blizzard and said, ‘So how many lambs did we lose?”‘ Sister Christofferson recalled. Rather than responding directly, the mother put Todd on the phone to report, “Dad, we didn’t lose any lambs.”
It had been an all-night vigil for the young man, whose grandfather had come over to show him how to rub the lambs with gunny sacks to keep them warm and how to get their mothers to care for them so they would survive. But against the odds, and despite the inclement conditions, he had been totally successful.
To Sister Christofferson, the incident illustrates the faithfulness and tenacity that characterizes her husband’s watch care over the Savior’s lambs that have come under his stewardship over the years.
It is a trait she has observed since the two met as students at BYU, where she was a Cougarette at a football game and he was helping with crowd control. Within a year, they were married, and she has been by his side as he has served in various leadership positions in the Church over the years, including the past 15 as a member of the Seventy, most recently in the Presidency of the Seventy.
Thus steeped in many years of service, Elder Christofferson became the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as announced during the solemn assembly at general conference on April 5.
Alert Church members might have noticed that the March edition of the Ensign , the special issue on the Savior, contained an article by Elder Christofferson on “Becoming a Witness of Christ” (pp. 58-63). An apostle, of course, has a special charge to be a witness of Christ in all the world (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:23).
As it happened, Elder Christofferson began writing the article several months ago to meet the magazine’s deadline, he said in a recent interview, and noted that he had no idea what would transpire barely a month after the article was published.
And though he mentioned the commission that apostles bear, he remarked in the article: “Yet the Apostles must not and do not stand alone. All of us who are baptized and confirmed have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ with a commitment ‘to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places’ (Mosiah 18:9). It is within the capacity of each of us to become His witness.”
Quietly, though energetically, Elder Christofferson has gone about doing just that, reflecting Christ’s teachings in dealings with those both inside and outside of the Church.
“He’s always been a person who is concerned about everybody,” Sister Christofferson said. “He’s worked diligently with some people who have had real spiritual needs or other needs to try to bring them back or keep them steady and give them some reason to hope.”
At age 31, while working as a law clerk in Washington, D.C., he was called as a bishop. There he had occasion to experience the importance of seeking and receiving forgiveness from one who had been offended.
While heading out of the driveway for a family vacation, he was called by a member of the ward whose mother had just died. The man, a convert of a few years, seemed to expect that Bishop Christofferson would attend the funeral with the ward member. He expressed his sympathies, explained the situation and departed on the planned vacation.
On his return, he found that the man had been deeply hurt by his bishop having declined to attend the funeral. The family had ceased attending Church meetings. “My initial reaction was to justify myself that his expectation was not reasonable,” Elder Christofferson reflected. “But the Spirit worked on me.”
He went to the man’s home, was initially met with a cold reception, but through an hour or so of conversation, asked for and received the man’s forgiveness. They parted as friends. Less than six months later, the man died.
“If I hadn’t acted on that impression of the Spirit, (the ill will) might have gone on until he died, and the family would have been out of the Church,” he said. “This way, when he died, I could help the family, because we were close again. So I learned how crucial it is, whether you think you’re right or wrong, where there’s been an offense, take the initiative to resolve it. Don’t worry about where the blame lies. And do it as soon as possible.”
Undergirding Elder Christofferson’s love for people is his love and reverence for the Lord. This was expressed in November 2004 during a Church Educational System fireside in an address he titled: “A Sense of the Sacred.”
“The importance of having a sense of the sacred,” he said in that discourse, “is simply this: If one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them.”
A sense of the sacred throughout his life has given him what he characterizes as “great admiration and respect for those who serve as apostles.”
Now, to be one with them is “unquestionably an honor,” he said. “But the purpose is not to sit around and feel honored. The purpose is to accomplish something good.” He added that any of his brethren in the Seventy “could serve in this kind of a calling just as well or better. So you say, ‘Why me?’ And there’s no answer, just ‘Go and do.”‘
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