Helping with the Real Issues

Elder Paul V. Johnson

Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

An Evening with Elder Neil L. Andersen Address to CES Religious Educators • February 28, 2014 • Salt Lake Tabernacle


It is always exciting to be with you at these important broadcasts. The first of these talks I was able to hear was in 1978 as a new seminary teacher. Back then Jill and I had one little girl and were in the young-parent phase of our lives. I have listened to every talk given at these events since 1978, and they have been a great resource to me as a teacher and as a person. The years have gone by quickly, and now Jill and I find ourselves in a very different phase of life. We are grandparents of 22 grandchildren. Twenty of them are boys. I am surprised how many interesting things you can learn from what grandchildren say.

For example, they are the source of little-known facts. One grandson told his mother, “Ants taste good.” His mother asked, “Did you eat an ant?” He answered, “No, I licked it, and it tasted good.”

Young children can help us see the world through different eyes. One grandson told his mother, “Mom, if you were a boy and were scaring girls, you would love it.”

We have learned about animal linguistics. When a dog was growling at one of our grandchildren, another grandchild explained to him that the dog was saying, “I am aware of you, but I hate you.”

We have also gained gospel insights. For example, one mother asked one of the grandsons, “What’s another name for Father in Heaven?” He answered, “Heavenly Father, or Thee.”

I heard about one exchange that got me thinking about students and teachers.

We have a four-year-old grandson who is petrified about getting water on his face. It is an ordeal every time they wash his hair. Because of this fear he told his mother one day, “I’m not getting baptized.”

His six-year-old brother heard this and quickly pointed out, “Then you can’t get to heaven.”

The four year old became very upset and said, “Well, then our family can’t be together forever.”

His mother tried to soothe him by saying that his baptism was four years away and by then he would want to get baptized and would be able to. The older brother chimed in again, making sure the younger brother understood that he couldn’t get to heaven without being baptized and that he, the older brother, was going to be baptized, which prompted the four year old to cry even harder. My son described it as the older brother clubbing his younger brother with the doctrine. I wondered how many times as a teacher I resembled that older brother and was less than helpful because I missed the real issue.

This young boy’s problem with baptism wasn’t that he didn’t believe the doctrine or even understand consequences. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be baptized. He just feared being submerged. Because of his fears he couldn’t imagine a way that he could keep this commandment.

We may have students who believe, but a personal weakness or challenge looms so large as to obscure the view of their path to obedience. While it was easy to see the issue with my grandson, it isn’t always so clear with our students. A paragraph from Preach My Gospel touches on these types of challenges: “Sometimes people’s concerns are like an iceberg. Only a small portion is visible above the surface. These concerns can be complex and difficult to resolve. … Pray for the gift of discernment and follow your impressions. Heavenly Father knows the hearts and experiences of all people … and will help you know what is best for each person.1

As we focus on individual students, we can receive inspiration about how best to help them learn and grow. Our son and daughter-in-law love our little grandson and clearly understand his situation. Over the next few years, they will lovingly help him overcome his fears and be prepared for baptism.

We can help our students strengthen their testimonies of and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ as a power to help them overcome individual challenges. “[His] grace is sufficient for all … that humble themselves,”2 and “by his grace [we] may be perfect in Christ.”3

I know this is true for our students and is also true as we face our own difficulties. As we are able to overcome difficulties by having the grace of God work in our lives, we can more powerfully help our students gain the faith necessary for their progress.

It is now my privilege to introduce our speaker tonight, Elder Neil L. Andersen.

He was first called as a member of the Seventy at age 41. He and his wife, Kathy, have lived 10 years outside of the United States, serving in Europe and South America. They are the parents of 4 children and 15 grandchildren.

Elder Andersen has dedicated his life to the Lord’s work and brings powerful gifts and talents, along with a consecrated heart, to the building of the kingdom. I recently observed Elder Andersen as he played a vital role in the development of Come, Follow Me, the new youth curriculum. He helped those of us in the committee from the different youth organizations work together more closely than ever before to bring forth the united proposal, and he was then instrumental in expediting the rollout of that curriculum.

We are so pleased to have him speak to us this evening. May we open our ears and our hearts to his message, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

© 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 2/14. Helping with the Real Issues. English. PD10050909 000

Show References



    1. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 187.


    2. Ether 12:27.


    3. Moroni 10:32.