Elder Andersen addresses ‘compensatory blessings’ amid COVID-19

Editor’s note: This is part seven in a series of counsel from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read counsel from President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to face the ongoing obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will humbly get on their knees and turn to the Lord and their covenants, said Elder Neil L. Andersen.  

“Once we settle ourselves with our concerns about the health of our family, employment, and the disruptions right before us, we know we need to pray: ‘What am I to do? What am I to learn? How am I to grow in this unusual time?’”

Each who seeks with sincerity will be blessed with the same sure resolve: “All the world is in the hands of the Lord,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “All things are in His control.”

Speaking to the Church News via video-conferencing as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to cause illness and death, stifle economies and alter daily routines, Elder Andersen reflected on humility, hope and compensatory blessings from the Lord during times of challenge and trial.

“You can never find yourself in a time that the Lord won’t teach you if you are righteous,” he said. “This life is a time for becoming, not just for experiencing. It is a time of being taught from on high. As we are righteous, compensatory blessings always come — even in the most difficult times of our lives.”

‘A time of great learning’

COVID-19 did not surprise the Lord, and He will use it to accomplish His purposes, said Elder Andersen, then quoting Doctrine and Covenants 59:21: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”

This time, when society has paused, can be a time of great learning, a time to shift one’s focus from a temporal perspective to an eternal perspective, he said. “When these things come to us, of course there are worries — there are financial worries, there are health worries, there are emotions, and all kinds of pressures and things that are not comfortable.” 

Elder Neil L. Andersen greets Church members during a member meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 12, 2020.
Elder Neil L. Andersen greets Church members during a member meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 12, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Church members have an opportunity to “stand back and say, ‘There is something about this that will be important for me.’”

Perhaps, above all else, he said, “it brings to each of us humility.”

During these moments, God’s children are praying more often and more fervently.

“Stay on your knees longer and see what the Lord will teach you,” he encouraged. “There are always compensatory blessings in these times.” 

Slow down

One such compensatory blessing has been that the often-rushed pace of life for so many in the world has slowed down, Elder Andersen said.

He recalled an experience several years ago, when his son bought a wood carving of the Savior. The piece was about three feet tall, and the artist had carved the Savior with right hand outstretched in front — as if signaling or addressing others.

Elder Andersen’s son took the carving home and placed it on his desk. When his 3-year-old daughter saw the carving, she turned to her father, and stretching out her arm like that of the wood carving, she said very seriously, “Daddy, Jesus says, ‘Slow down.’”

Elder Neil L. Andersen asks questions of several of his grandsons during a Thanksgiving Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Nov. 28, 2019, in Provo, Utah.
Elder Neil L. Andersen asks questions of several of his grandsons during a Thanksgiving Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Nov. 28, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Credit: Scott Taylor

Elder Andersen said the spiritual nourishment sought by faithful, humble followers of the Savior will come when they are peaceful, quiet and contemplative.

He recalled as a boy living on a farm, where he would go on a horse to watch cattle or to work on irrigation for hours. That slowness and solitude gave him a lot of time to ponder and contemplate.

“I had to think through what I was doing, think through who I wanted to become, think through the things I needed to work on in my life,” he said. “That was a very strong blessing.”

Soon Latter-day Saints will be able to again find that solitude in the temple, he said.

The experiences of the past few months have caused many to yearn for the temple, for the sacred place of “stillness and quiet where we can be taught from on high,” he added.

Personal lessons

Elder Andersen said he has personally learned many lessons as he has “sheltered in place” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First is a renewed appreciation for his wife, Kathy. Her sense of giving and service has “made me think that I need to be more appreciative with my verbal expressions of how grateful I am for all she does for me,” he said.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to members before applying mortar at the cornerstone ceremony of the Lisbon Portugal Temple dedication on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. He is joined by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to members before applying mortar at the cornerstone ceremony of the Lisbon Portugal Temple dedication on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. He is joined by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen. Credit: Scott Taylor

Second is the need to testify of the Savior to his own family. “I have traveled the world and been able to speak about my love for and sure witness of Christ,” he said.

In recent weeks, “I realized I need to speak more directly to those who are closest to me — to my children, to my grandchildren — about the things I speak to the world about all the time.” He said opportunities to do that have come during Sunday family devotionals held via video conferencing.  

Latter-day Saints find ‘compensatory blessings’ amid coronavirus pandemic

Third is an appreciation for those who live with daily physical or emotional challenges. Elder Andersen had surgery March 10 on his rotator cuff, and in the weeks that followed, he found himself thinking with new empathy about those who deal with daily, lifelong challenges.

Fourth, Elder Andersen said he has new appreciation for his Brethren in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Although they are connected by technology, he misses being “shoulder to shoulder” with others in the quorum. “I have a great appreciation for the unbelievable blessing of sharing my life with people of enormous testimony, faith and personal character,” he said.

‘We should come out stronger and better’

The work of the Lord will not stop, Elder Andersen promised. “We are not going to suddenly be in a world that we don’t recognize,” he said of the return to normalcy and regular routines. 

“We will be back in the temples. Missionaries will be in their assignments. We will be back together as congregations enjoying each other’s fellowship. We can know that these events that we are experiencing are temporary.”

The Savior admonishes His followers to be as a child, submissive and willing, Elder Andersen said.

The apostle said he hopes that as Latter-day Saints look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, they will realize they came out of it better than when they started. 

“There are always compensatory blessings in these times.” 

“Hopefully, it has made us more prayerful, and given us the hope that the sacrament will mean more to us when we again receive the sacrament together.

“Hopefully, we will be more sensitive to the person who is not there with us — and we will reach out in ministering. 

“Hopefully, we will think about what it means to be lonely or to be isolated. And we will care more for others.

“Hopefully, it will mean that some of the superfluous things in our life fall away.

“And hopefully in the Church, we will realize that central to all that we are doing is the Savior Jesus Christ. Our focus is on the Savior and what He has done for us, what He has offered to us, allowing us to be with Him forever.

“We will exit this difficulty better, stronger and more devoted to Jesus Christ and His eternal work.”