Anderson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory in 1889, the same year that Wilford Woodruff was sustained as President of the Church. Anderson graduated from the Weber Stake Academy (now Weber State University) in 1905. A few years later, he served as a missionary in Germany and Switzerland.
Anderson became secretary to the First Presidency of the Church in 1922. On 6 April 1970, church president Joseph Fielding Smith released Anderson from his secretarial duties and called him to serve as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When that calling was abolished in 1976, Anderson was ordained a Seventy and became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. In 1978, Anderson became an emeritus general authority and was relieved of his day-to-day duties as a Seventy. Anderson died in Salt Lake City at the age of 102.
Elder Anderson married Norma Ettie Peterson in 1915. The couple had five children.
- Lawrence R. Flake, "Joseph Anderson" in Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, ed. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000) p. 25.