The following is the text from an address given by Elder Neil L. Andersen at a BYU-Idaho devotional in Rexburg, Idaho, on February 14, 2017.
Thank you so much for who you are and for what you’re becoming. We love you very much. I bring you the love of President Thomas S. Monson, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve and express our deep and abiding love for you.
Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a beautiful day. I want you to meet my valentine.
Kathy, please come up here. Today is a day when we think of love and romance and kindness and friendship, right? And I would just like to say that I love her very, very much. We’ve had 43 Valentine’s Days together, 42 that we’ve been married, and I’ve never had a Valentine’s Day when I didn’t get a very beautiful card, beautiful gifts, and, more important, beautiful hugs. Kathy, would you say something?
Sister Andersen: We lived in France for a number of years, and loosely translated into English my favorite few lines from a French poem are “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.” That is how I feel about this man, whom I love so much, and I’m so thankful for him, so thankful that he is my valentine.
President Gilbert shared with you a few facts about my husband’s life, and I would like to talk just a minute about him. It’s been almost eight years since his call to the holy apostleship, and it’s been a very sacred, very humbling time in our lives. When Jesus was on the earth, He called men to be His disciples, to bear testimony of Him in all the world. I bear my testimony to you today of my husband’s sacred calling. He is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have been an eyewitness to the preparation that has come in the talk that he will give to you today. I have seen him up in the middle of night, I have seen him on his knees, and I bear testimony to you today of the words spoken in the Doctrine and Covenants: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”1
As you hear the words that he will speak today, I bear testimony to you that they are the words that the Savior would have you hear, for he is truly one of His disciples and an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Andersen: Today is Valentine’s Day. You might know about the BYU–Idaho English student who received a B-minus on an important paper. In hopes of bettering his grade, and in the spirit of the Valentine’s season, he left for his professor an extravagant heart-shaped box of chocolates with a preprinted inscription: “Be Mine.” The following day he received in return a Valentine from the teacher. It read, “Thank you, but your grade is still be mine-us.”2
A wonderful romance story was told to me by Elder Octaviano Tenorio, an emeritus General Authority from Mexico. He told me that he was getting into his late-20s, and his prospects for marriage were not improving. He met Rosa and wondered what he could do to impress her. Finally, he wrote her a long letter. Knowing that she was very devoted to the gospel, he explained: “Rosa, I know that I am not very handsome. I’m not very smooth in my conversations. And you are right to wonder about my athletic ability. But I want you to know that this is just mortality. In the Resurrection, I will be the physical equivalent of Brad Pitt.”
Actually, Octaviano is from a different generation, so his comparison was Paul Newman. Many of you probably do not know who that is. But Octaviano won Rosa’s hand.
I am the luckiest man in the world. For 43 years, my dear, precious, sweetheart, Kathy, has been my Valentine. And to quote a well-known poem:
Kathy, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. …
“I love thee with the breath,
“Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose[s],
“I shall but love thee better after death.”3
As it is Valentine’s Day, we will talk more about love and romance, but let me start by talking about your future. Every person who has ever been born into mortality and is able to live his or her life into adulthood will experience both happiness and sadness; peace and challenges; good and evil. Whatever the generation, life has its highs and lows.
Those living in Italy in the late 15th century experienced both the pain and unfairness of the Spanish Inquisition and the beauty of the opening of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
A young man or woman arriving in America on the ship Mayflower in 1620 would have been very excited as he or she stepped foot onto a new land. Later, as the settlers faced the harsh New England winters, they would have wondered if they had made the right decision to come.
Those living in 1929 experienced the amazing discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in the same year as the complete collapse of the U.S. stock market.
In recent times, 2001 brought both the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the first draft of the completed human genome, opening the door to the cures of many diseases.
The year 2017 is now upon us. Your days, these days in which you live are some of the most amazing that this world has ever seen. The appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in 1820 brought the Restoration of the gospel and the dispensation of the fulness of times. You know why you are here and what the Lord expects of you. You have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the priesthood of God is upon the earth. The Lord indicated to the Prophet Joseph Smith that it would not be just a time of spiritual revelations but also a time of understanding and progress in all areas. The Lord promised knowledge “that [had] not been revealed since the world was.”4
These wonders would include remarkable achievements in science, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and communication.
William J. Bernstein, a noted financial theorist and neurologist by training (not a member of the Church), wrote about what he saw in the world’s economic history: “When we look at the [facts], it becomes crystal clear that something happened … in the early nineteenth century. … [Up] until approximately 1820, per capita world economic growth [the single best way of measuring human material progress] registered near zero. … Then, not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever-increasing torrent; with each successive generation, the life of the [child] became observably more comfortable, informed, and predictable than that of the father.”5
I hold in my hand an example of the amazing blessing of technology—my iPhone. This small device is a mobile phone, a planner, a GPS, and a digital camera. It includes videoconferencing, books and newspapers, a video and music player, and so much more. There are apps for banking, word processing, social media, video games, and a thousand other purposes. Just the other day I was skiing with my son-in-law. As we started up the chairlift for the last run of the day, he said to me, “Dad, I’m going to go ahead and warm up the car.” He pulled out his iPhone, and with the touch of his finger, his car more than a mile away started its heater, melted the snow off its windows, and prepared itself for our travel home.
Advances in science, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and communication will continue throughout your lifetime. There will be variety in entertainment and innovation never imagined. These are your days, and it’s a beautiful time to be alive.
However, in this time of prosperity and advancement, there are also real challenges. You live in a world that is sometimes divisive and contentious. Information is everywhere, and with it, a host of enticing voices attempts to pull you one way and then another. There is confusion and commotion, with many moving away from God and His commandments and away from the Savior. Think about these U.S. statistics:
Believe in God: my generation—81 percent; your generation—64 percent6
Believe Jesus is God or the Son of God: my generation—74 percent; your generation—58 percent
Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: my generation—72 percent; your generation—55 percent
You hear and read on your mobile devices the exact words of those who shot the arrows at Samuel: “It is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come”7—or that an angel would deliver the Book of Mormon to the Prophet Joseph.
You hear and read on your mobile devices modern-day Korihors saying or texting, “[You] that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things?”8
Your days are a time of sifting in the Church. It will be very important for your eternal welfare that, as the Apostle Paul said, you are grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things.9
There are great privileges, possibilities, and opportunities in this wonderful time of life. I admire you and respect you for your worthiness and preparations in being here at BYU–Idaho.
Be wise in what you are learning. In today’s environment, you need to know how to think, adjust, and mold yourself to a changing world. Be disciplined in planning your courses to ensure a timely graduation. Whether you are a young man or a young woman, you should be sharpening your professional skills, strengthening your ability to work on a team, exercising your mind so it is adept at many subjects, disciplining your commitment to work, and fortifying your character so you can be trusted with responsibility. I would advise my own sons and daughters to prepare professionally. Women in this audience may be in a position to choose to use your unlimited intelligence, talents, and capacities full-time in strengthening your own children in your home, but in the event that is not your situation, you need to prepare to compete in the world should it be necessary.
Even more important than your professional preparation is your spiritual preparation: prayer; the word of God; the importance of honesty, purity, and faith.
As you seek to be grounded and settled, I repeat the advice given to you just one month ago by President Russell M. Nelson in his worldwide devotional for young adults. You will remember when he said this:
“How can you increase in your discipleship? I have an invitation for you that will help—it’s an assignment, actually—if you choose to accept it. Commence tonight to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did. …
“This may seem like a large assignment, but I encourage you to accept it.” Now, listen to his promise. President Nelson continues: “If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God’s laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ.”10
I add my witness to this counsel and promise given to you by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve—a man whom we sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Follow his counsel and you will see the realization of the blessings he promised you.
The journey ahead will be a joyful journey if you will ground yourself spiritually and be diligent in your professional preparations. Oh, there will be challenges, but there will be tremendous happiness and beautiful satisfactions. There is no better time, no better place, no better conditions to live out your mortality than now.
I realize that you come from many countries and many different situations. What I have said applies to all here today.
Now, because it’s Valentine’s Day, I want to speak about love and marriage. Some of you are already married, and some of you will yet marry. My hope for you is that your marriage will be strong and loving, committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of you may not marry during the course of your mortality. But for all, regardless of marital status, there can be great happiness if we keep the commandments of God. Look forward with hope, and don’t be fearful of what lies ahead. If you prepare yourself and are spiritually grounded, your future will be bright.
The Savior said:
“If a man [loves] me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. . . .
“. . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”11
I know this is true.
I would now like to share a few thoughts with those of you who are not married but are in the exciting, thrilling, wonderful, and sometimes frightening and intimidating process of finding the person with whom you will ultimately spend the rest of your mortality and all of eternity. This can be a very sacred and deeply satisfying experience in your life.
My first advice to you is to be courageous. Push yourself to develop one-on-one friendships—young men with young women, and young women with young men. You don’t need to think every friendship will necessarily develop into romance, but much will be discovered in the one-on-one interaction.
There are many traditions that need to be expanded. For example, in our culture it is still the norm that the young men generally invite young women to spend time together, one-on-one. Young women, you may need to step forward and not be afraid of forming a friendship with someone in a classroom or in a ward without pushing it to become more than that. There are many young men who have little history in meeting and forming close friendships with young women one-on-one.
You young men may need to push yourselves through uncomfortable feelings to form these friendships. You have to be willing to speak, interact, and enjoy activities, one young woman with one young man. Group activities are not sufficient. Some years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks made this comment: “We counsel you to channel your associations with the opposite sex into dating patterns that have the potential to mature into marriage, not hanging-out patterns that only have the prospect to mature into team sports like touch football. Marriage is not a group activity—at least not until the children come along in goodly numbers.”12
Elder Robert D. Hales later added: “Dating is the opportunity for lengthy conversations. When you date, learn everything you can about each other. Get to know each other’s families when possible. Are your goals compatible? Do you share the same feelings about the commandments, the Savior, the priesthood, the temple, parenting, callings in the Church, and serving others? Have you observed one another under stress, responding to success and failure, resisting anger, and dealing with setbacks? Does the person you are dating tear others down or build them up? Is his or her attitude and language and conduct what you would like to live with every day?”13
When you desire to expand a relationship beyond friendship into romance, it is so important that the laws of purity, discipline, and chastity are obeyed. Three weeks ago, a mother and her daughter came to my office. The young woman had been a freshman at BYU–Idaho. She came to Rexburg with all the hopes and dreams of every Latter-day Saint, but somehow she and a returned missionary had gotten too involved with one another and now both have been dismissed from school and she was on her way home with her mother. How could it happen?
You know that you have strong physical emotions and passions that must be controlled and carefully governed to avoid excessive kissing or any kind of inappropriate touching. I assure you as an Apostle of the Lord that excusing yourself because you feel you care so much for one another, and moving inappropriately close to breaking the law of chastity, will not help you in the very important spiritual choice you are hoping to make. Your mind, your heart, and your spiritual senses will be clouded. Set your limits. Plant those limits deep into all you do together, so that they cannot be run over or moved aside as you feel strong emotion for each other.
Next, don’t be afraid to take a chance with someone who might not be an obvious choice. When Kathy and I began to know one another, to me she was not only a person of very deep faith and intelligence, but she was also a Florida princess. She wore nice clothes and had a certain sophistication. I was an Idaho farm boy. I came from a small dairy farm just north of Pocatello, in the little community of Tyhee.
I have told young audiences before that one of my few advantages was that I had served my mission in France and young women liked to be spoken to in French. But I realized, as I got to know Kathy, that I had not learned the romantic words of love on my mission. So I would just start with “Ma chère,” and then in a romantic cadence, I would recite the missionary discussion: “Je voudrais vous inviter a venir à l’église s’il vous plaît.” A person must use the advantages he has.
So Kathy took a chance on me. I am sure my background was different from what she thought her potential husband would have. We don’t have to meet only those who come from backgrounds just like our own. We look deeper and further into who they are and who they will become.
I love this quote by President David O. McKay, who was the Lord’s prophet upon the earth when I entered my first year at the university. Speaking to the men, he said:
“If you meet a girl in whose presence you feel a desire to achieve, who inspires you to do your best, and to make the most of yourself, such a young woman is worthy of your love. …
“. . . In her presence you do not attempt to take advantage of her; in her presence you feel that you would like to be everything that [you] should become, for she will inspire you to that ideal.”14
There are four words I want you to remember: complete honesty, unselfish humility.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”15
As you progress in your dating to seriously considering sharing your lives together, you share your most private thoughts, your dreams, and your fears. You share who you are, who you have been, and who you want to become. Complete honesty and unselfish humility. If you struggle with pornography or have struggled in the past, a person considering you as an eternal companion deserves to know about your challenge and how you have faced it. If you have had difficulty with other addictions, keeping the law of chastity, lying or stealing, humility and honesty urges that you give to the person you love the opportunity to spiritually and prayerfully weigh the choices of going forward, before a proposal is accepted and announced.
Here is a fair question: to be completely honest, does everything that has ever happened have to be said? You use your wisdom and good judgment. If you took Nancy’s bubblegum out of her desk in the sixth grade without her permission, the subject can probably be forgotten. But if you had a two-year struggle with pornography, then that is more important. A thoughtful approach is to ask yourself what you would want to know if you were in the place of your companion, prayerfully preparing to spend your life with someone you love.
Something from years in the past might be quickly understood and create no obstacle at all. If the problem or weakness or sin is more recent, it may cause the other to slow down the relationship and allow for more time and more experience in judging whether he or she is ready to move forward. It may require more prayer, discussions with parents or trusted leaders, and more experience with the person you hope to have with you forever.
We should remember that no one is perfect. All of us have made mistakes. As the person you love speaks honestly to you, respect the courage that he or she is showing. If something is clearly in the past, keep this scripture in your heart: “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”16
I quote once again from Elder Holland: “No serious courtship or engagement or marriage is worth the name if we do not fully invest all that we have in it and in so doing trust ourselves totally to the one we love. You cannot succeed in love if you keep one foot out on the bank for safety’s sake. The very nature of the endeavor requires that you hold on to each other as tightly as you can and jump in the pool together. In that spirit, . . . I want to impress upon you the vulnerability and delicacy of your partner’s future as it is placed in your hands for safekeeping—male and female, it works both ways.”17
Complete honesty, unselfish humility.
I have addressed a serious topic. I want to end with a very happy story.
Kathy Williams has been my valentine for 43 years. Next month we will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. President Gilbert said we have 4 children, 16 grandchildren. At your age, we became grounded, rooted, and settled. Whatever came, we would face it together. Our life has not been without challenges that sometimes seemed as big as mountains. But through these many years, we have loved our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and we have loved one another. She has been a perfect angel. I have been far less.
The thought of having Kathy by my side forever stirs and illuminates my soul. I love her more than words can say. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” There are too many to count. She is my valentine today, tomorrow, and always.
I give you my sure witness that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Son of God, and that His gospel is the way to happiness.
I promise you happiness and peace as you keep the commandments. I bless you that as you follow the counsel you have heard from this pulpit and felt from on high today, heaven will bless you in your decisions and in your eternal associations. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
2. Adapted from a joke at rd.com/jokes/valentines-day-jokes/.
3. “How Do I Love Thee?” in Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1904), 108.
5. William J. Bernstein, The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created (2004), 3–4.
6. See “Americans’ Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines,” Dec. 16, 2013, theharrispoll.com. Information is based on surveys of approximately 2,200 adults in the United States.
14. David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals (1954), 459–60.