When conversing about his recent call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder
Ian S. Ardern is apt to make an allusion to the prophet Nephi.
Assigned by his father Lehi to return with his brothers to Jerusalem to obtain the
brass plates, Nephi responded, "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded" (1 Nephi
That, in effect, has been Elder Ardern's response when asked to serve in the
Lord's kingdom in any respect, such as when called at age 19 to serve in the France Belgium Mission.
From age 13, he had been attending the LDS boarding school in his homeland, the
Church College of New Zealand, where he had received the positive influence of teachers and friends.
Even before that, his goodness of character had been nurtured by his father and
mother, Harry and Gwladys Ardern, whom he described as "goodly parents," like those of Nephi, though
they themselves didn't join the Church until after his sister, brothers and he did.
The missionaries who found the Ardern family while tracting were also a good
influence. And missionaries were at the home often. "My mother always had the cake pans full, and the
missionaries all seemed to come around," Elder Ardern remembered.
In fact, Mike Taysom, the missionary who baptized an 8-year-old Ian and who today
lives in Idaho, sent him an e-mail upon hearing of his recent call as a General Authority at the
recently concluded general conference. "He said my mother would be pleased," Elder Ardern said.
"I had a good bishop, Les Rose, who encouraged me to go and serve a mission as
well," he said. Also giving encouragement to him was the member of his stake presidency over missionary
work, Bruce Judd.
President Judd was the father of Paula Judd,
Elder Ardern's classmate at the Church College of New Zealand. They got to know each other in their
last year at school. After his return from France, they would be married in the Hamilton New Zealand
"It has been my blessing to have married my best friend," Elder Ardern said.
She, too, encouraged his missionary service.
"So, I went and did," he said, alluding to the passage in 1 Nephi. "It is important
that our young women encourage our young men to be the missionaries God intends them to be."
It was never their understanding that they would wait for each other while he
served a mission, though they did exchange letters.
"When I came home, I had grown spiritually, and Paula had grown spiritually," he
reflected. "We'd kept pace with each other, and we just carried on from where we had left off."
A couple of experiences while on his mission would have a lasting impact on Elder
One was meeting President Spencer W. Kimball, then
serving as the president of the Quorum of the Twelve. It was in 1973, at the time of the Church's Area
Conference in Munich, Germany. Visiting Brussels, Belgium, President Kimball was greeting missionaries
"We were to say our name, where we were from and how long we had been serving,"
Elder Ardern recalled. "He got to me and shook my hand. I said, 'I'm Elder Ardern from Te Aroha, New
Zealand.' He pulled me back and asked, 'Where did you say you were from?' I thought he must have been
struggling with the name, so I said the nearest big city, which was Hamilton. And then he asked, '
Elder, do you know why you are here?'
"With a bit of anxiety, I said, 'To serve a mission.' But here's the important part
of the story. He pulled me down [President Kimball was short in stature], and he whispered in my ear,
'Elder, you're here because the Lord wanted you here.'"
He has found that to be true repeatedly. "The Lord puts us where he needs us," he
said. "Sister Ardern and I have been asked to do a lot of different callings in the Church. As Sunday
School teacher, institute director, family history specialist, mission president, whatever the calling
is, I've come to understand you're there because the Lord wants you there. And so we've tried not to
say no, because we know where the call comes from."
It helps, he said, to have a supportive family. "We've been blessed in our lives
that no matter what we've been called to do, we have a family that says, 'Go and do.'?"
The other influential mission experience Elder Ardern had would set the pattern for
his life's work. He and his companion were at a self-service dry cleaners. "I'd never seen such a thing
in New Zealand," he said. "I was somewhat taken by it, and I stood back and watched what happened."
Customers would come in and be given a sheet of instructions on how to find their
cleaned clothes and bring them to the front counter to pay for the service. His voice choking with
emotion he recalled, "I watched a man come in. This French lady said to him, 'Monsieur, go get your
clothes; it's written on the form how to do it.' He said, 'Madame, je ne sais pas lire' ('I don't know
how to read').
"I think that was a motivating moment for me to be a teacher. I wanted to be a
teacher of English. And I wanted to be sure no student of mine would ever say, 'I don't know how to
Sister Ardern recalls a defining moment when she came to her husband's classroom
one day to obtain some car keys. There, she saw the students gazing at him enthralled as he read to
them from Shakespeare.
But Elder Ardern's intent was to teach more than just subjects. "I've tried to
always approach teaching with that as my philosophy," he said. "The scriptures speak of Christ as a
teacher sent of God. I think that teachers can be a significant influence for good in the lives of
others, and though I've not always been successful, I've tried to be that sort of teacher."
As he began service as a General Authority, Elder Ardern had a wider
scope than ever to influence others for good and to be "a teacher sent of God."