Elder Joseph Anderson, who served with seven of the Church's 13 presidents and was an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, died March 13 at age 102.
During funeral services in the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake Center March 17, Elder Anderson was praised as a man without guile, as one who truly loved the Lord and lived a life worth emulating.Addressing the funeral were President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy; and J. Robert Anderson, Elder Anderson's son.
President Thomas S. Monson, who conducted the service, paid tribute to Elder Anderson, referring to him as "a man who served the Church so valiantly throughout his life."
Elder Anderson was personal secretary to President Heber J. Grant from 1922 until President Grant's death in 1945. He then was secretary to the First Presidency, serving in the administrations of Presidents George Albert Smith and David O. McKay and briefly in the administration of President Joseph Fielding Smith until he was called as an Assistant to the Twelve on April 6, 1970. He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy Oct. 1, 1976. He was an assistant and associate managing director of the Church Historical Department, 1972-75, and managing director, 1975-1977. He received General Authority emeritus status Sept. 30, 1978.
President Hinckley said he had known Elder Anderson 57 years, and not only loved but also respected him. "I think Joseph Anderson knew more and said less than any man I have ever known," he reflected. "He kept the trust that was imposed upon him. He never violated that trust. He knew more about the inner workings of the Church, the things that were discussed in confidence than any man because he was privy to those over a longer period of time."
President Hinckley said he remembered one particular experience Elder Anderson related in a meeting with the General Authorities. He said Elder Anderson visited President Grant the day before the prophet died. After they had talked a little while, President Grant asked, "Joseph, have I ever been unkind to you?" Elder Anderson said he had not been unkind. Then, President Grant, with tears streaming down his cheeks, said, "Joseph, I am glad that I've never been unkind to you."
President Hinckley said, "If ever there were needed an example before the people of this Church and before the people of the world concerning the relationships between employer and employee, between president and secretary . . . that is a shining and beautiful example."
He referred to the extensive travels Elder Anderson undertook as President Grant's secretary and later in his other duties. He noted that Elder Anderson served in one way or another seven of the 13 presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson. "He served always with faith, confidence and trust," President Hinckley observed. "He was a man who walked his own quiet way. . . . He was a man who was trusted, and it was President McKay who said, `It is a greater thing to be trusted than it is to be loved.' "
In his address, Elder Packer declared: "We will not, in our lifetime, meet another who has known the Brethren like Joseph Anderson did. Five years short of two-thirds of the history of the Church, Joseph Anderson was there. For more than a third of it he was recording the events as they occurred, for half a century he attended the meetings of the First Presidency, and the temple meetings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He has been present where over half of the men called as apostles in this dispensation were present.
"He heard what they said and knew what they thought as the events unfolded. He personally knew 150 of the General Authorities."
Elder Packer added, "Joseph knew the mind of the Brethren, and `whatsoever they [the BrethrenT have spoken when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the words of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.' " (D&C 68:4.)
"Joseph Anderson replaced George F. Gibbs as secretary to the First Presidency. George F. Gibbs had been hired by Brigham Young.
Underscoring the longevity of Elder Anderson's life and service, Elder Packer cited some facts, among which were:
- On Nov. 20, 1889, Joseph Anderson was born in the Territory of Utah. That year, Wilford Woodruff was sustained as president of the Church; Clara Decker Young, widow of Brigham Young and one of the three women in the first Pioneer company, died; and the Eiffel Tower in Paris was officially opened. There were 183,144 members of the Church.
- The year he was born, the first Relief Society general conference was held in Salt Lake City with 20 stakes represented. The day after he died, a satellite broadcast linked sisters all over the world from 1,800 stakes and 273 missions.
- He was 3 when the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated, and 6 when Utah became a state.
- He was almost 4 when the automobile was invented.
- The Spanish American War started the year after he was baptized.
- When he was almost 10, the law of tithing was revitalized by President Lorenzo Snow. For nearly 18 years, Elder Anderson worked with Arthur Winter who accompanied President Snow to St. George, Utah, and was present when the revelation on tithing was received.
- One year before his mission, the first airplane flew from Albany, N.Y., to New York City (May 29, 1910).
- Elder Anderson had returned from his mission in Switzerland and Germany and was married for two years before the United States entered World War I.
"Joseph was a treasure not so much because of what he had seen or heard, or where he had been, but because of what he was," Elder Packer said.
In his address, Elder Hanks noted: "In his early life Elder Anderson followed the pattern powerfully established in one strong verse of scripture - the only recorded verse setting forth the mortal development of Christ in His formative years. Like the Savior, Brother Anderson throughout his incredibly long life continued to grow `in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.' " (Luke 2:52.)
Elder Hanks added: "A handsome and wholesome man, meticulous and fastidious in dress and personal care, he retained strength and vigor and health far beyond the years of ordinary men. He was still swimming and walking far into his 90s."
Elder Hanks quoted a statement about Hezekiah in 2 Chron. 31:21, saying it described perfectly the labors of Joseph Anderson: "And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered."
Elder Hanks continued: "In representing the Quorums of Seventy I note the universal respect and affection held for him by his brethren. [He wasT venerable, venerated, almost legendary. . . .
"I will always remember and love Joseph Anderson and thank God for his brotherhood and friendship and the glowing example of absolute unselfish devotion that he has always been."
Elder Anderson's son, Robert, said he did not recall going on outings, playing ball or fishing with his father - the usual things a son does with his father. Instead, he said, he remembers a man who came home from many trips and spent time with his children. He described the way Elder Anderson counseled him, and spoke of the letters his father wrote to him, the blessings he gave, the long talks they had and the closeness they shared.
Brother Anderson described his father as a man who "had his own priorities," who loved the Lord, his family and the Brethren with whom he served so long and faithfully.