Mormons celebrated the naming of a new apostle at the April 2009 General Conference. This vacancy occurred at the death of Joseph B. Wirthlin the previous December.

The new apostle is Neil L. Andersen, who had been serving as the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy, where he had been serving since 1993. He has spent ten of the last twenty years outside of the United States and has traveled extensively for the Church, which is excellent preparation for his new calling (church job) as an apostle. He lived in France as a young adult serving a mission, and returned to spend three years as the mission president. He was released from that assignment nine months before becoming a General Authority in 1993.

Elder AndersonElder Andersen led the church’s work in Brazil, Europe, and various parts of the United States. He speaks four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

He was born in Utah, but was raised in Idaho on a farm. Many of his childhood experiences helped prepare him for a life of church service. When he was three, his family lived in Wyoming and had to drive 90 miles to attend church each week. The fact that they did so helped him develop an attitude that church was worth that sort of sacrifice. At about the age of seven, he had the opportunity to shake hands with Spencer W. Kimball, who would later become a prophet. When he was nine years old, he went to General Conference, but was unable to get a seat inside. He stayed outside listening, and afterwards, went to the exit, where he was able to be close to many of the church’s leaders. These two experiences gave him a testimony that the leaders of the church were called of God.

He raised his children in Tampa, Florida when they weren’t living elsewhere on church assignments.

Elder Andersen is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Harvard University. He currently has four children and twelve grandchildren.

Many who follow the church’s semi-annual General Conference will be familiar with Elder Andersen through the talks he’s given. One popular talk, currently featured on Mormon Messages, is “You Know Enough.”

“Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts-these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

Through the years we take these important spiritual steps over and over again. We begin to see that “he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew.” (Neil L. Andersen, “You Know Enough,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 13-14)

In 2008, Elder Andersen told the story of a Christmas Eve when he and his family were living in France. He had taken his family to visit each city in the mission, where they presented a special message to the missionaries serving in each place over the course of a week. They were happy and fulfilled as they began the long drive home in a large van containing Elder Andersen, his wife, their four children, and four  missionaries.

The children were excited about the Christmas Eve dinner being prepared for them by a missionary couple back home, and the gifts that awaited them. However, they began to have serious car trouble when they were still a good distance from home. After failing to find a train station or rental place open in the small towns they were in, his wife Kathy suggested they pray. They did so and continued on. When the van finally stopped running, they found themselves outside a lovely inn. They went inside, hoping to find a meal in the pleasant restaurant and rooms in the inn until businesses reopened. However, the innkeeper, seeing the tired and sad faces of the children, instead offered to drive them ten miles to his farm, where he would loan them a large van they could use, so they could be in their own home for Christmas. He refused money and simply told them to return the van when they could. They arrived home in the borrowed van shortly after midnight, through the power of prayer and the kindness and trust of a complete stranger. (Neil L. Andersen, “Room in the Inn,” Liahona, Dec 2008, 8-11)

Elder Andersen comes to his new assignment as an apostle with a deep understanding of other cultures and a powerful testimony of the gospel.

About Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.

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