Sarah Jane Weaver: Why the 3 questions Elder Andersen answered for new mission leaders matter to them — and us

During the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, Elder Neil L. Andersen felt inspired to ask and answer 3 questions for new mission leaders

As Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began his prepared remarks at the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, he noted that he felt impressed to address three important questions.

I was immediately struck by the fact that the questions were for new mission leaders but felt relevant to me — or anyone who accepts a call to serve in any capacity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The questions not only dealt with why a person is asked to set aside business, educational, community and extended-family obligations, but also detailed an individual’s capacity to succeed in the Lord’s service and the deep friendship and lasting love that occurs when God’s children serve together.

After his address, Elder Andersen was kind enough to share his notes with me. The page was titled “Notes for Seminar.” The notes had been typed at 3 a.m that day.  

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks with religious leaders in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
After a devotional address, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks with religious leaders in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. | Adam Fondren, for the Deseret News

Following are the questions he shared:

Why have we been called as mission leaders?

Elder Andersen said a sacred calling “of this magnitude, with the accompanying spiritual responsibility you will carry, is tied, first of all, to who you are.” The calling follows the spiritual pattern recorded in Alma 13:3: They “being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling.”

The mission leaders, he said, have also shown by their desires, choices and sacrifices that they are true disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Whatever they are, “your sacrifices are acceptable to the Lord, and He has called you to His holy work,” said Elder Andersen.

Can I do this? Will my efforts be acceptable to the Lord?

The answer, he said, “is a resounding yes.”

“In the eyes of the world we are weak and simple,” said Elder Andersen. “Every one of us. But the Lord has promised: ‘And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. ... [And] the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not ... trust in the arm of flesh’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:4, 19).”

Elder Andersen said: “The Lord, through the marvelous gift of His enabling power ... will expand your talents and lift your capabilities. The gift of revelation will bless you every day.”

Why do mission leaders and their missionaries have a special connection?

Referencing a presentation given at the mission leadership seminar by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Andersen told the new mission leaders during his remarks that as they serve, scores of missionaries “will open their hearts to you and to the Lord. You will teach them of Jesus Christ and His incomparable gifts. They will embrace these teachings and lead many to the Savior. The things they learn from you both as they watch you and listen to you will never leave them. ... They will love you. You will love them. That love will expand and grow as they see its effect on their lives and the lives of their families.”

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Elder Andersen’s story

Elder Andersen’s teachings are reflected in his own missionary story.

Raised on a farm in Idaho, Elder Andersen was called as a missionary to France — where he served from 1970 to 1972. There is a photograph of Elder Andersen’s time in France; he is sitting on a bike with his feet on the handle bars. There are holes in both shoes.

Elder Neil L. Andersen shows his worn out shoes during his mission to France from 1970-1972.
During his mission in France from 1970 to 1972, Elder Neil L. Andersen literally wore out his shoes in the Lord’s service. | Provided by Elder Neil L. Andersen

Years later, from 1989 to 1992, Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, returned to France with their young family. Elder Andersen presided over the France Bordeaux Mission, the mission where he served as a young missionary. He was just 37.

He would later serve in the Church’s Europe Area presidency and participate in the dedication of the Paris France Temple.

One of the Bordeaux missionaries, Kurt Christensen, spoke of Elder Andersen’s influence on his own life during the mission leadership seminar. “I can only explain my relationship with President and Sister Andersen as deep spiritual feelings,” he said. Besides his own father, “no other man has had a better influence or a greater influence for good upon my faith and upon my life than President Andersen.”

Most likely Elder Andersen experienced the answers to the inspired questions that he shared at the mission leadership seminar when he was a missionary and then mission leader himself.

After receiving his mission call at age 19, Elder Andersen prayed: “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” The answer he received from Heaven is one for all of us contemplating service in the Lord’s Church.

 “You don’t know everything, but you know enough.”

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