If there is a scripture that Elder Nielsen has tried to pattern his life
after, it is Matthew 5:14-16. "Ye are the light of the world. . Let your light so shine before
men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." Elder
Nielsen said, "The Lord opens His arms to us. We love Him by living the gospel."
Elder Nielsen was called to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy
announced in the afternoon session of the 183rd Annual General Conference on April 6, 2013.
Born of "goodly parents," Stan and Lois Nielsen, in Provo, Utah, Elder
Nielsen was taught a strong concept of right and wrong. Those teachings became a blessing in his
life and instilled in him a strong system of values and the importance of family, all of which,
"served as a powerful foundation that has guided me throughout my life," said Elder Nielsen.
As he grew up, he developed a great
love of sports and the outdoors. His father played basketball at BYU and taught his children to
enjoy athletics. "If you could hit it, throw it, kick it, catch it or shoot it, we did," said
Elder Nielsen. Playing sports in high school and continuing on to college as quarterback for
the BYU Cougars, Elder Nielsen was blessed with great athletic success. It was at BYU that he
married his wife, Wendy Kay Olson, in the Provo Utah Temple in April of 1975.
Even though he loved sports, Elder Nielsen realized they were not the most
important thing in his life. "One of the greatest lessons I have learned occurred during my senior
year in college," he said. "I was coming off an All-American year. BYU's football program was
lighting it up and there were rumblings that I might be the Heisman trophy winner. I had everything
in the palm of my hand."
At a game early in the 1976 football season against Oregon State, he suffered
a serious knee injury. "Dr. Robert Metcalfe examined my knee and looked grim," said Elder Nielsen.
"He told me, 'Giff, your college football playing days are over.' I was suddenly faced with reality.
How would I go from tremendous success, giving weekly firesides and gaining national attention to
lying in a hospital bed with a cast up to my waist? Going through an experience like that and be
forced to work through the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of it helps define your life,"
said Elder Nielsen. "If football had been the most important thing in my world, I would have been
Eventually his knee healed, he graduated from college and in 1978 he was drafted
by the Houston Oilers to play quarterback in the NFL. He played for a total of six years. The NFL had
its share of ups and downs. "The first three years were awesome," said Elder Nielsen. "The success was
incredible. Then things just fell apart. I received two shoulder injuries. We went 2 and 14 my final
season in the league, and I was the target of the fans' disappointment. I was called names, had beer
poured on my head, got knocked around and didn't even want to leave my house."
During this challenging period, he did a lot of self evaluation. "Through life's
experiences we are molded to become something," said Elder Nielsen. "I learned that the Lord never
leaves you and what it takes to get back up when you get knocked down. These experiences reaffirm what
has lasting value."
While employed by the NFL, he had an inspiring experience with the law of
tithing. It was during the 1982 NFL strike. "In the NFL, players get paid after every game but
received nothing during a strike." With finances extremely tight, he and his wife attended tithing
settlement. "He was hesitant to write out a check when he had no idea how to pay all the bills," said
Sister Nielsen. "I was raised in a family that just paid it no matter what." Encouraged by his wife,
he reluctantly signed the check.
The strike soon ended with only two games left in the season. In order to make
enough to pay the year's bills after tithing, he needed to play almost all of the last two games to
receive a much needed bonus, but quarterback Archie Manning was the starter. "Archie suffered a minor
injury at the end of the first quarter of our first game back, and I was put in. I played that game and
the entire next game fulfilling the requirements of my contract to get paid extra money. It was
remarkable, but I found out you can never out give the Lord."
After his NFL career, Elder Nielsen went to work as sports director for KHOU
television in Houston. He retired in 2009 and became a partner in a local bank. In the community he
has served with the Boy Scouts, Ronald McDonald House, United Way and in the creation of the Won
Heart Foundation with his wife and children.
One of the highlights of his Church service was as a bishop working with a group
of more than 90 mostly active youth. Sister Nielsen said he wanted to help the young people realize
how blessed they would be if they lived the gospel so he taught them a catch phrase: "Good choices
equal happiness ... eternally." Sister Nielsen said, "Some of them repeat it back to him to this day."
Raising six children, the Nielsens feel strongly about the importance of family.
Sister Nielsen said, "Eternal families create places of security and love. Regardless of our
circumstances we are never alone in the family of God. There is safety in the Lord's kingdom."
Elder Nielsen added, "There is power in the family. Love your children! Listen
to them and teach them to obey. Stick together and help each other no matter what! Sometimes people
get down on their luck and bail on the very thing that will help them, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, we know some who have decided to dive out instead of diving in when facing life's obstacles.
Work through your issues. Husbands and wives need to be strong. We are all trying to overcome the
challenges of this world."