On a humbling and overwhelming day, Elder Neil L. Andersen stood before reporters and spoke about being sustained as the Church’s newest apostle April 4.
“I’m very humbled by this day, very overwhelmed at what is ahead of me, and the great honor and responsibility that has come to me,” he said. “I would express my appreciation to the members of the Church who voted to sustain me, and I pray that I can become what I must become in the years ahead.”
Elder Andersen’s call was announced by President Thomas S. Monson to 21,000 people seated in the Conference Center, and millions more across the globe, during the opening session of the Church’s 179th Annual General Conference. Elder Andersen — who was serving as the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy prior to his call — will fill the vacancy left in the Quorum of Twelve by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, who died last December.
“In one way it’s no different from any other calling in the Church,” he told members of the media gathered in the Church Office Building lobby after the Saturday morning session. “We neither seek callings nor do we refuse them. As members of the Church, throughout our lives we receive callings that are unexpected; we’re shocked and don’t quite know how to react to them. . . .
“In this case it is far more daunting and you feel a heaviness, a weightiness, a humbleness as you contemplate what you’re expected to be.”
Elder Andersen, 57, was named to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1993 at the age of 41. Since then his Church assignments have given him responsibilities in Brazil, Western Europe, Mexico and Central America. Before his call to the Seventy he served as president of the France Bordeaux Mission.
He and his wife, Kathy, have spent 10 of the last 20 years living abroad. Elder Andersen speaks French, Portuguese and Spanish, in addition to English.
“We’ve come to love people around the world and to seek the Lord’s hand in the work of the spreading of the restored gospel among every nation, kindred tongue and people,” he said. “We love people everywhere and are grateful for our family and those who have influenced us so much.”
Elder Andersen then took questions from reporters on various subjects. Following are excerpts from his answers:
Experience with the international Church and Church growth:
“No one who has a perspective like I have been able to have could not see the hand of the Lord at work. It’s amazing to behold. I spent four years in Brazil. Last year in Brazil there were more than 40,000 convert baptisms. There are new stakes nearly each month created in Brazil. There is a desire in the Brazilians to accept the gospel.”
Lessons learned from growing up on a farm:
“I learned how to work hard. There is something about people whose hands are in the soil. There’s a common touch, a thing we can learn. I spent part of my life trying to get off the farm, and the second half trying to get back on the farm. We learned how to live with very little and appreciate the things that we had.”
Discussions with his wife about the new calling:
“Kathy and I have known of this call since late Wednesday afternoon and so it’s been a little time where we have not been able to share that with anyone else. . . . We’ve had a lot of time to talk about this experience and what it means. We don’t have any answers. We just move ahead and try to be responsive to President Monson and the Twelve. . . .
“I’m not sure how it will change our lives, except that it will make us more contemplative and ponderous. Our own spiritual development must increase, which we are hoping it can do.”
Church in the national spotlight during the last six months:
“The Church is going to be larger, better known, more influential everywhere. It’s something that’s going to happen. . . . I hope we will always be seen as thoughtful, tolerant, people of good will, people of nice expressions, peace.”
What the titles apostle, prophet, seer, revelator mean to him after having been called to the Twelve:
“In the Church, we honor, we revere those 15 men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. Those terms are terms that fall off our lips easily. Almost since we were children we say them. But as the term becomes ingrained into our very soul, our DNA, then it lifts the purposes and lifts the feelings of those words.
“First of all, it means that I know that Jesus is the Christ with a sure and certain witness. This I do. I had that solace wthat perhaps in that one category that must be fulfilled, I can say that I fulfill that part.”
Challenges for the Church as it grows rapidly:
“The nature of the governance of the Church is expanding as the needs are expanding. The greatest challenges are, of course, to remain righteous in a secular society, to be obedient to our Heavenly Father’s commandments and to help with the governance and growth of the Church as it goes across to nations that we hardly know the name of at this time.”