Elder Dale G. Renlund was 11 years old when he received a spiritual testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon. At that time he lived with his family in Sweden. “The mission president, President Alvin Fletcher, challenged all the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood,” Elder Renlund recalled. His brother Gary, an Aaronic Priesthood holder, accepted the mission president's challenge to read the Book of Mormon. Although not yet a deacon, young Dale followed his brother's example and accepted the challenge.
"I remember praying and asking if it was true and getting a clear impression, 'I told you all along it was true.' And that was an amazing experience."
This experience shaped a pattern in Elder Renlund's life: He sought and then followed personal revelation. Elder Renlund was sustained October 3 in general conference as one of the three newest members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was born on November 13, 1952, the second of four children to Mats Åke and Ranghild Mariana Andersson Renlund. His father was born in the Swedish-speaking town of Larsmo in western Finland. Elder Renlund's grandparents joined the Church in 1912. Larsmo members lost contact with the Church for many years in 1914 due to World War I.
By the time contact with the Church was restored, “my grandmother had lost seven of her ten children and her husband to tuberculosis, leaving her with only three surviving children,” Elder Renlund said. "My father was the youngest and was born two months after his own father died."
Elder Renlund's father later went to Sweden, where he met his future wife. “Her parents were also introduced to the Church in 1912 on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. Then that same year, on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia, my grandparents heard the gospel and were immediately converted. said Elder Renlund.
Elder Renlund's mother, who worked in Stockholm, met his father at church. She was determined to marry only in the temple. Since there was no temple in Europe at that time, they came to Salt Lake City. She arrived in 1948 and he in 1950. The couple were married in May 1950 in the Salt Lake Temple.
The investiture ceremony had not yet been translated into Swedish. “So they walked through the temple not understanding a word and thinking themselves eternally blessed,” said Elder Renlund.
Elder Renlund's father was a skilled and successful carpenter and contractor. In the early 1960s he was called as a Church-building missionary.
“So our family traveled with him, and I experienced seven of the coldest months of my life in Helsinki, Finland,” said Elder Renlund. “Then we went to Gothenburg, Sweden, and I went to Swedish schools with my brothers.” Three years later, the family returned to Utah. Elder Renlund's mother died in 1994 and his father in 2009.
Elder Renlund served as an Area Seventy from 2002 to 2009. In April 2009 he was called to be a General Authority Seventy and assigned to the Africa Southeast Area. "One of the first thoughts I had when I called was that if my father died, I would not be there. Unfortunately that was the case.”
But Elder Renlund's father lived long enough to hear his son speak at general conference in October 2009. His father was not well enough to attend the meeting at the conference center, but he turned on the broadcast.
"I remember going up to him after that session on Sunday and asking, 'Dad, did you see the talk?'
"'Did you hear my speech?'
"'Well, dad, what were you thinking?'
"'Oh, that was good. I was almost proud.
“That is the reserved attitude of the Finns. And that's the best I have. Now, when I was sustained in the last general conference, my sister Anita texted me and said, "I think dad's probably proud." It's likely he left out the "almost."
As a young man, Elder Renlund returned to Sweden as a full-time missionary, serving under President Herbert B. Spencer and later President L. Ronald Folkersen from 1972 to 1974. "My mission was what you would expect: a lot of work, but just a wonderful experience," he said, "life-changing in terms of commitment and the decision to do my best to be a disciple of Christ."
He returned home, pursued medical training, and eventually became a successful cardiologist.
Along the way, his attention was drawn to a young woman, Ruth Lybbert, in her hometown of Valley View 1st Ward in Salt Lake City. She was the daughter of Merlin R. Lybbert, stake president, who would eventually serve the Lord and the Church as a member of the Seventy.
As a single young adult who described himself as an "awful date," he plucked up the courage to ask her out. He was told “no” at first, but overcame the perceived rejection and asked again a few months later.
They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 16, 1977, and "apart from the decision to be active in the Church, marrying Ruth was the most beautiful thing in my life," he said.
They have navigated life's adventures together, both striving to seek and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sister Renlund earned a bachelor's degree in history and was certified as a high school teacher. He taught a high school in Salt Lake City for three years while Elder Renlund received his medical degree. At this time their daughter Ashley was born.
From 1980 to 1986, the Renlunds lived in Baltimore, Maryland. During these years, Elder Renlund received further medical and scientific training at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital. But in 1981 her life was turned upside down. Sister Renlund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent two surgeries and a year of chemotherapy.
“Early on in her illness, Sister Renlund decided she needed to do something to take her mind off her illness,” Elder Renlund said, “and that's when she was inspired to go to law school.”
“I just thought this is going to be a bad experience if we don't make something good out of it,” Sister Renlund said. "It wasn't our plan that I got cancer as a kid and only had one kid. And my survival was in doubt. We felt that law school was the right thing to do, and I felt really inspired that it was the right thing.
During the last three years that the Renlunds lived in Baltimore, Sister Renlund attended law school at the University of Maryland and Elder Renlund served as bishop of the Baltimore Ward.
Sister Renlund said her doctors told her, "If you're alive in five years, you're cured."
"So today it's evident that I'm healed."
She became extremely successful in her chosen profession. When Elder Renlund was called as a General Authority in 2009, she was president of his law firm, a member of the board of directors of the Deseret News and Worker's Compensation Fund, chair of the Utah Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the first woman president of the Utah Trial Lawyers Association.
“And when they called me and sent us to Africa, she just walked away and cast out the nets and came over,” Elder Renlund said, alluding to the example of the original Apostles whom Christ called during His mortal ministry.
Based on his experiences, Elder Renlund said his message to Latter-day Saints would encourage them to seek personal revelation. “Our choices, paths, and direction have been shaped by seeking and obeying the promptings of the Holy Ghost as we earnestly seek personal revelation,” he said. “It is important to use the sky as a guide rather than turning to a neighbor or friend for guidance. We are all so different. So we all need personal help.”
- Elder Dale G. Renlund: “An Unwavering Commitment of Jesus Christ”
- 15 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Elder Renlund On His Birthday
- Elder Renlund's three steps to becoming more spiritually receptive
- Elder Dale G. Renlund: “Consider the Goodness and Greatness of God”