Elder Andersen shares 3 things each person can be grateful for

No matter where they have lived, Elder Neil L. Andersen and his family have always made sure to celebrate Thanksgiving. When living abroad, however, preparing to do so presented some difficulties, particularly in acquiring the requisite turkey. 

In France, the butchers presented Sister Kathy Andersen with “une dinde”: a plucked bird with a long neck and a small body — not quite the turkey she was expecting.

In Germany, they found that most “Truthähne” — or turkeys sold there — actually came from France. They then found a turkey, which to their surprise had been imported from Utah, to eat in Germany for Thanksgiving.

In Brazil, they found a “peru,” which is quite similar to an American turkey, but, while delicious, is seasoned differently. They eventually settled on a smaller bird called a “Chester,” a species that served the Andersen family well for four years.

Audience members listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
Audience members listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Thanksgiving is “a time of gratefulness, thankfulness and pondering the blessings we have received from heaven,” Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during a LDS Business College devotional held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Nov. 19.

“Hopefully on Thanksgiving, we see beyond our challenges to the abundant blessings in our lives.”

Elder Andersen focused his remarks on three blessings each person has been given.

Life

“Before all else, we should thank our Heavenly Father for our very lives — that we breathe, that we have the amazing experiences of mortality, the privilege of growing our faith, learning to love within a family, and the joys of friendship that surround us,” Elder Andersen said.

The fact that this gift comes to all does not diminish the magnificence of the gift, he said.

“Independent of our challenges, difficulties, stresses, temptations and pains, the very fact that you and I have life is a gift beyond price.”

Ability to choose

Each person is an agent unto himself or herself, with the freedom to think, grow and choose, Elder Andersen taught.

The ability to make decisions and shape desires began in the premortal world, where Heavenly Father’s plan was presented. Lucifer had his own plan where mortal experience would be without the opportunities to learn and grow, choose right over wrong and develop faith in God.

“How thankful we are for He whom the Father called ‘my Beloved Son,’ who said, ‘Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.’ ‘Here am I, send me’” (Moses 4:2, Abraham 3:27).

Elder Andersen shared the experience of a friend whose young daughter died in an accident. This friend felt unbearable sorrow and began to question what he believed. The mother of his friend asked if Elder Andersen would talk to him and give him a blessing.

“As I laid my hands upon his head, I felt to tell him something that I had not thought about in exactly the same way before,” Elder Andersen said. He was impressed to tell him that faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision. “He would need to choose faith.”

Students listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
Students listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

His friend chose faith and obedience, and soon his spiritual balance returned.

Elder Andersen invited his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, to share a story from a time when she was babysitting two of her grandchildren. She left the room for a moment when suddenly she heard sobbing from the 2-year-old. As she comforted him, he told her that his older brother had hit him.

So Sister Andersen asked the 4-year-old why he’d hit his brother. “He said to me, ‘Mimi, I lost my CTR ring, and I cannot choose the right.’”

Even when it’s not easy, it’s important to choose the right and submit to the hand of the Lord, Elder Andersen said.

“When we determine to choose the right, to keep the commandments, to be unafraid of letting our will be swallowed up in the will of our Heavenly Father, we are giving to Him one of the few things that is truly ours to give.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God

“For me, there are no words in any language to truly describe the majesty, the power, the glory or the love of the Son of God,” Elder Andersen said.

Students listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
Students listen as Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Christ came to the earth in the meridian of time and was able to experience the trials and temptations of mortality. He taught truth, healed the sick and invited all to repent and come unto Him.

In the last week of His life, He gathered His Apostles and instituted the sacrament in remembrance of the sacrifice He was preparing to offer.

That night, Christ went to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives. Here in that olive orchard, “all the sins, sadness, sorrows, sickness and suffering of all who had lived or would live upon the earth came upon Him, and He bled from every pore,” Elder Andersen said.

In this terrible suffering, Jesus was “sore amazed” (Mark 14:33), meaning he was astonished or awestruck. “Jesus had known since our premortal life that He would take upon Himself the sins of all, but He had never experienced the Atonement,” Elder Andersen explained. “The agony, the pain, was immeasurable.”

“Let us be forever filled with the awe, gratitude and wonder of the Savior’s sacred Atonement.”

Even after the agony of Gethsemane, that pain continued. He was betrayed by one who walked with Him, He was slapped and spit upon by Jewish rulers, and He was scourged and crowned with thorns by Roman captors.

In the morning at Golgotha, Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross where the agonies of Gethsemane would recur.

“After six hours on the cross, Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished …’ (John 19:30). The Savior turned the final page of His mortality. His sacrifice for us was accomplished.”

Three days later, Jesus Christ became the first in all of history to be resurrected. He appeared to women who came to His tomb bringing spices for His burial, to His Apostles, to more than 500 men in Jerusalem, and to more than 2,500 men, women and children in the Americas.

“Because He lives and rose from the tomb, all mankind, including you and me, will be resurrected,” Elder Andersen said.

“Let us be forever filled with the awe, gratitude and wonder of the Savior’s sacred Atonement.”

An example of gratitude

Elder Andersen shared the story of a woman whose inspiringly grateful example in the midst of unusual difficulties touched his life.

Lora McPherson was diagnosed at 3 years old with neurofibromatosis, which causes nerve tumors to grow anywhere in the body. Some with this diagnosis can live fairly normal lives, but McPherson suffered difficult complications. She developed tumors on her spinal cord, brain, brain stem, forearm and stomach over the course of her life. Some could be removed through surgery, while others required extensive radiation.

Elder Andersen met McPherson when she was 26 years old and in the hospital due to another tumor on her spinal cord requiring surgery and radiation.

“Her very life had been challenged throughout her 26 years, yet she was remarkably grateful for the goodness of God,” he said.

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at an LDS Business College devotional at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Shortly after they met, McPherson wrote to Elder Andersen. He quoted from the letter she sent him: “Whether God’s healing comes in this life or the next, I know He’s watching over me and is giving me and those around me experiences that will help us best fill our purpose on earth and be able to prepare ourselves to come back to Him.”

Elder Andersen met with her just before her death less than two years later. He described how she felt no pity or feeling of mistreatment by God despite not getting to experience a life mostly free of pain, being able to marry or have children. She felt “only faith and courage.”

“Her example blessed me greatly,” he said.

In closing, Elder Andersen said, “How thankful I am for my life, my breath. How thankful I am for my moral agency, my ability to choose, to choose right over wrong, to choose to keep the commandments. How grateful I am for our Savior, Jesus Christ, Who, through His Resurrection, has rescued us from death. And Who, through His pure life and willingness to take upon Himself our sins as we repent, has rescued us from the chains of the adversary and given us a way back into the Father’s presence.”