“Come Unto Christ”

September 26, 2017

Elder and Sister Dale G. Renlund

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Dale G. Renlund was named an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 3, 2015.

Elder Renlund had served as a General Authority Seventy since April 2009 prior to being named to the Quorum of the Twelve. He previously served in the presidency of the Africa Southeast Area.  

After receiving B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Utah, Elder Renlund received further medical and research training at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was a Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah and the Medical Director of the Utah Transplantation Affiliated Hospitals (UTAH) Cardiac Transplant Program.  

Elder Renlund has served in numerous church callings including full-time missionary in Sweden, stake president, bishop, and Area Seventy.  

Elder Renlund was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 1952. He married Ruth Lybbert in 1977. They are the parents of one daughter.

Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is one of six children born to Merlin and Nola Lybbert. She married Elder Dale G. Renlund in 1977 in the Salt Lake Temple. She and Elder Renlund are the parents of one daughter, Ashley.

Sister Renlund graduated from the University of Utah in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in history. She graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law with her Juris doctorate in 1986. She practiced law at the Utah Attorney General's office for three years and then joined the firm of Dewsnup, King, and Olsen, where she practiced plaintiff's civil litigation for twenty years. She was serving as the president of the firm at the time of Elder Renlund's call as a General Authority. She served on the board of directors for Deseret News and Workers Compensation Fund of Utah and as chair of the Judicial Conduct Commission for the state of Utah. She was also the first female president of the Utah Trial Lawyers Association.

Sister Renlund has served in multiple church callings including gospel doctrine teacher, Young Women president, Relief Society president, and in a stake Young Women presidency.


   

Elder Renlund:
Brothers and sisters, we are here to witness that "He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold."[1] I am here by assignment. My wife is here because I twisted her arm. I have found that people like me better if they've met her first.   

The first time I met President James E. Faust, who served in the First Presidency, he came up to me and he hit me very hard in the shoulder. Now, his wife was Ruth Wright Faust. After he hit me hard in the shoulder, he said, "You and I have something in common."  

I said, "What?"  

He said, "When our wives are away, we're both 'ruthless.'"  

Sister Renlund:
So, I am here to ensure that he is not "ruthless" today.  

Elder Renlund:
Last week we were just so thrilled to be here for the installation of President Henry J. Eyring. We traveled up in a van, and we had Elder and Sister Oaks there, but importantly for what I'll share now is we were seated right in between Elder Kim Clark and his wife, and Elder Bednar and his wife. The whole trip up and the whole trip back was probably a total of eight hours. For seven and a half hours of that, they extolled the value of BYU-Idaho. They told us over and over again what a unique place it was. After three and a half hours, I said, "Okay, all right, I'm converted. You can stop selling."  

They said, "No," and they kept talking.  

Sister Renlund:
There's more to say!  

Elder Renlund:
There was more to say.

After a total of seven and a half hours out of eight hours, I finally said, "Okay, I get it. If I were young, why would I go anyplace besides BYU-Idaho?" and one of them said, "Well, you wouldn't." They recognized then that I had understood the lesson they were teaching me, and with this very pleased countenance we talked about something else for thirty minutes.  

Sister Renlund and I are just so grateful to be with you today. Please know of our love and confidence in you. We appreciate your efforts to seek an education and your desire to be here at BYU-Idaho. We are grateful to the faculty and administration here.  

But we also recognize something else. No matter how wonderful the faculty is, no matter how terrific the administration is, no matter how much they plan and organize, it really is generations of students who have learned at Ricks College and then BYU-Idaho who have gone about making a difference. It really is up to you, as you go out, whether you will face the withering fire of those fiery darts of the adversary and stay true or whether you will cower behind shields. I am confident, based on what I've been taught, that this is a unique place that helps disciples of Christ go forward. Thank you all for taking the time to be with us today.  

As was mentioned, I was sustained as the most junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve on October 3, 2015, in the Saturday afternoon session of general conference.  

Just after the session concluded, at 4:05 p.m., I received a text message from my scary-smart sister; she is an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist. She had not known of my call to the Twelve until she heard it announced at the beginning of the session.  

Her text message began, "Dear Dale: Congratulations on being the 100th individual appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve in this dispensation." It is true; I am number 100. Elder Rasband is 98, Elder Stevenson is number 99, and I am number 100. My sister continued, "You are the only living binary Apostle." That means there are only zeros and ones in the number. But then she included a summary of prior binary Apostles: "#001, Thomas B. Marsh, excommunicated 1839. #010, Orson Pratt, excommunicated 1842."  

Sister Renlund:
Bad trend!  

Elder Renlund:
"#011, John F. Boynton, excommunicated 1837." And then "#100, Dale G. Renlund, ??."  

Sister Renlund:
We have faith in you, dear.  

Elder Renlund:
Thank you.  

Sister Renlund:
Much has happened in the two years since that call, and in April of this year, we had the opportunity to help with the open house at the Paris France Temple before it was dedicated by President Henry B. Eyring on Sunday, May 21. The temple is spectacular, every detail beautiful, and assisting on the tours was a treat. The temple is located between the cities of Le Chesnay and Versailles, outside of Paris.  

For a variety of cultural and practical reasons, there is neither an angel Moroni on the temple, nor are there any spires. However, located on the temple grounds is this beautiful Christus statue. You'll recognize it.

Statue of Christ in Paris

It is a copy of the 1838 original masterpiece by the Danish sculptor Bertil Thorvaldsen. This statue provides a focal point in the gardens and declares, to all who come, our belief in Jesus Christ. The majesty, size, and setting are captivating. Visitors are drawn to this portrayal of the risen Lord and frequently want to stand there to get their pictures taken.  

Elder Renlund:
The statue is frequently referred to as Christus Consolator. A consolator is one who consoles.[2] To console means to comfort another at a time of grief or disappointment, to give solace, sympathize with, commiserate with, or show compassion for another.[3] For us, the Christus statue conveys these divine attributes of the Savior.

Christus Consolator

The original Christus Consolator is located in Vor Frue Kirke, the Church of Our Lady, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Surrounded by statues of the Twelve Apostles, the Christus is in a columned alcove. Above and below the statue are inscriptions of well-known verses from the Bible.  

Inscribed at the top, in the panel above the two columns, are these words, in Danish: "DENNE ER MIN SØN DEN ELSKELIGE HØRER HAM." In English: "This is my beloved Son: hear him."  

Sister Renlund:
These words were spoken by God, our Heavenly Father, as Jesus was transfigured on a mountain in front of Peter, James, and John. The complete verse, taken from Mark, says, "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son: hear him."[4]  

Elder Renlund:
On the pedestal on which the Christus Consolator stands are these words, in Danish: "KOMMER TIL MIG." In English: "Come unto me." Of all the words that the Savior spoke, nothing is more pleading and important for us than "Come unto Christ."  

Sister Renlund:
The complete verse, as recorded in Matthew says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."[5]  

With this original statue of Christus Consolator, we have both the Father's invitation to hear His Only Begotten Son and the Son's invitation to come unto Him. In perfect unity, They invite all to hear and to come.

Elder Renlund:
This is our way back to our heavenly home. "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."[6] Each person can only come unto Christ by receiving the restored gospel. We "receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."[7]

Sister Renlund:
This is the unified message of the Father and the Son. They want all Heavenly Father's children to follow the doctrine of Christ. Now, just so there is no confusion, when we use the phrase "the doctrine of Christ," it means the same as the gospel of Christ.  

Elder Renlund:
To emphasize the unity of the Father and the Son in Their message regarding the doctrine of Christ, let's look at this chart.

Scripture Chart

We know that the chapters noted here (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 9, 3 Nephi 11, and 3 Nephi 27) contain the doctrine of Christ. These chapters frequently mention faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. The number of times each element is mentioned is tabulated. As you can see, faith is mentioned 8 times; repentance, 13 times; baptism, 25 times; Holy Ghost, 16 times; and enduring to the end, 7 times.

Scripture Chart 

*Includes unambiguous Him/He/His and one Father unambiguously speaking; does not include 1 ambiguous He.  

What may be surprising, however, is that we also find the Father referenced many times in these chapters. In fact, He is specifically mentioned 62 times, more than the number of times baptism is mentioned. From this we can know that the doctrine of Christ is the doctrine of both the Father and the Son.  

Sister Renlund:
Let's take a closer look at a couple of references to the Father. "And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.  

"And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do....  

"And I [Nephi] heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."[8]  

The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost testify this is the only way.  

Elder Renlund:
Echoing the words from Matthew, the Father and the Son tell us that we should come unto Christ, take His yoke on us because the burdens we bear can be made light, and we can find rest. We all carry burdens. We may be burdened with sin, sorrow, addiction, sickness, guilt, or shame. In these difficulties, looking to Christ brings healing and hope and consolation. "He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold."  

The doctrine of Christ--faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost--is not intended to be experienced as a one-time event. Our theology teaches us that we become perfected by repeatedly and iteratively "relying wholly upon" the doctrine of Christ.[9] This means that we repeat the steps in the doctrine of Christ throughout our lives. Each step builds on the preceding step, and the sequence is intended to be experienced over and over again.  

Sister Renlund:
As we exercise faith, it grows stronger. As we continually seek to repent, we improve. We can, through our own efforts, progress from having occasional experiences with the Holy Ghost to having Him as a constant companion. In addition, as we go through life, we can learn of Christ's attributes and develop these same qualities.[10] As we become more and more like Christ, our hearts are changed, and we are able to endure to the end.[11]  

It is easy to see how all the steps in the doctrine of Christ can be repeated and built on throughout life. But what about baptism? We are, after all, baptized for ourselves just once.  

Elder Renlund:
To answer this question, we should consider a theological masterpiece written by Elder James E. Talmage titled The Articles of Faith.[12] It was first published in 1899 and has answered questions about the Church and its foundational teachings for subsequent generations who have read and studied it.

The Articles of Faith     

In the table of contents,[13] we see that each chapter, aside from the introductory one, is associated with one of the thirteen articles of faith. Some articles of faith are covered in more than one chapter, but each chapter is associated with one article of faith.

Content page      

Interestingly, chapter 9,[14] titled "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," appears right after the chapter about the Holy Ghost. As you can see, Elder Talmage associates it with article of faith number four.

Chapter 9

At the beginning of chapter 9, Elder Talmage wrote, "In the course of our study of the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, as specified in the fourth of the Articles of Faith, the subject of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper very properly claims attention, the observance of this ordinance being required of all who have become members of the Church of Christ through compliance with the requirements of faith, repentance, and baptism by water and of the Holy Ghost."[15]  

Sister Renlund:
With those words in mind, we can see why Talmage associates the sacrament with the fourth article of faith. The sacrament is the next ordinance everyone needs after being confirmed a member of the Church.  

Elder Renlund:
The sacrament is the next ordinance a man needs after receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood.  

Sister Renlund:
The sacrament is the next ordinance individuals need after being endowed in the temple.   Elder Renlund: The sacrament is the next ordinance a couple needs after being sealed.  

Sister Renlund:
The sacrament is the next ordinance you need. The sacrament is key to our faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin and feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives. It is the mechanism by which we renew the covenants and blessings of baptism.   

Elder Renlund:
The Church handbook says this: "Church members are commanded to gather together often to partake of the sacrament to remember the Savior always and to renew the covenants and blessings of baptism."[16] You may ask, "What blessings?" Certainly, a continuing endowment of the Holy Spirit is a blessing of baptism. But is the cleansing effect of baptism, one of its most wonderful blessings, also renewed?  

Sister Renlund:
I think the answer is yes.  

Elder Renlund:
I do too. Consider this statement made by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 2010. "We are commanded to repent of our sins and come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Then we partake of the sacrament in compliance with its covenants.... [W]e witness that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him and keep His commandments. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. In this way, we are made clean and receive the promise that we can always have His spirit to be with us."[17]  

Let me caution, though, that "the sacrament has not been established as a specific means of securing remission of sins."[18] In other words, you cannot willfully sin Saturday night and expect to be miraculously forgiven by taking a piece of bread and drinking a little water on Sunday. Repentance is a more involved process requiring remorse and forsaking of sin. And pre-planned repentance is repugnant to the Savior.  

Sister Renlund:
We qualify for the cleansing power of Jesus Christ when we partake of the sacrament worthily.[19] This is the way that we keep ourselves "unspotted from the world."[20] The sacrament of the Lord's Supper rightfully substitutes for baptism in the repeated and iterative application of the doctrine of Christ in the progression of Latter-day Saints toward perfection.  

We are to follow this path, "substituting" the ordinance of the sacrament for the step of baptism. Preparation for the sacrament requires forethought and attention. You cannot expect the sacrament to be a spiritual experience if you are scurrying about, texting on your phones, or otherwise distracted.  

So come early to Church. As the sacrament hymn begins, make sure your thoughts are focused on the Savior, His Atonement, His love, and His compassion. Pray that you will be renewed as you partake of the sacrament and remember Him.  

Elder Renlund:
I would like to share what we learned about the sacrament from members of the Church in Kigali, Rwanda. The background to the story is that in 1994 there was a horrific genocide in Rwanda. Between 600,000 and 900,000 people were killed in a matter of 60 to 90 days.  

Eventually, the Church established a branch in the capital city of Kigali. The branch was doing well, without full-time missionaries. In 2011, Ruth and I were serving in that Africa Southeast Area when we learned, sadly, that our registration as a church with the country of Rwanda was invalid, which meant that we were functioning illegally as a church. We also learned that our meetinghouse, a converted two-story home, was not appropriately zoned to hold church meetings. For these reasons, the Area Presidency, in consultation with our first contact in the Quorum of the Twelve, made the agonizing decision to close the branch. Our members were no longer able to meet for church meetings.  

Lawyers in Kigali, Johannesburg, and Salt Lake City began working fervently and feverishly and hopefully to resolve the problems. Nothing seemed to work. Brick walls were hit at every turn. All the while, the Saints kept asking when they could meet together again. Months went by without resolution or progress.  

After 9 to 10 months, Ruth and I decided to fly to Kigali to visit those Saints and try to buoy up their spirits. Before we did, I asked that the matter be placed on the temple prayer roll of the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  

The Tuesday before our scheduled trip from Johannesburg to Kigali, we were notified that, in a surprising move, the government had granted the Church provisional registration in the city of Kigali. Then, on Thursday of the same week, in another surprising move, the Zoning Commission granted an exemption from the zoning ordinance. The Kigali Saints could once again meet in our building without violating the law.  

This was miraculous! Members were quickly notified that the branch would be meeting on Sunday. Ruth and I arrived on Friday and invited members to come to church. The members cleaned and prepared the building enthusiastically. When Sunday came, all the members--all of them--and many of their friends came to church. They arrived early, eager to be together again. As the sacrament was blessed and passed, we all experienced an extraordinary renewing, refreshing, and cleansing spirit.  

I remember, in the meeting, wondering why I did not feel this same spirit every week as I partook of the sacrament. I looked around at the Saints, and I realized that they had come hungering and thirsting for the sacrament. Their faith, diligence, and patience brought all of us blessings. I pledged to myself that whenever I again partook of the sacrament, I would remember this experience with the Kigali Saints. I committed that I too would hunger for the blessings of partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Kigali Saints

Sister Renlund:
I remember that sacrament meeting so well. The Kigali Saints had anticipated for months the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. They brought a remarkable spirit that inspired me.  

You will recall that after the Savior instituted the sacrament among the Nephites, He told them that the sacrament was the key to establishing themselves on His rock. He said, "And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things [partake of the sacrament]. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.  

"But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall."[21]  

The sacrament is a beautiful gift we receive each Sunday that helps us in our earthly progression. Through the sacrament, we experience an important element of the doctrine of Christ, bringing us closer to our Savior and experiencing His love and forgiveness in our lives. I am grateful for these moments each week, which help me stay focused on my Savior.  

A friend of ours in South Africa shared how she came to this realization. When Diane was a new convert, she attended a branch outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Diane

One Sunday, as she sat in the congregation, the layout of the chapel made it so that the deacon did not see her as the sacrament was passed. Diane was disappointed but said nothing. Another member noted the omission and mentioned it to the branch president after the meeting. As Sunday School began, Diane was invited to an empty classroom.  

A priesthood holder came in. He knelt down, blessed some bread, and handed her a piece. She ate it. He knelt down again and blessed some water and handed her a small cup. She drank it. Diane had two thoughts in rapid succession: first, "Oh, he [the priesthood holder] did this just for me," and then, "Oh, He [the Savior] did this just for me." Through the sacrament, Diane felt Heavenly Father's love just for her.   

Elder Renlund:
Her realization that the Savior's sacrifice was just for her helped her feel close to Him and fueled an overwhelming desire to keep that feeling in her heart--not just on Sunday but every day. She realized that although she sat in a congregation to partake of the sacrament, the covenants she made anew each Sunday were individually hers. The sacrament helped--and continues to help--Diane feel the power of godly love, recognize the Lord's hand in her life, and draw closer to the Savior.[22]  

Our invitation is the same as Moroni's: "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God."[23]  

Sister Renlund:
"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."[24]  

This happens as we apply the doctrine of Christ, viewing the sacrament as the substitute for baptism. In this way we can "[rely] wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save."[25]  

I am so grateful for the sacrament, how it teaches me each week, reminds me each week, of what my Savior did for me. I am so grateful to Him because I know He atoned just for me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.  

Elder Renlund:
When the Savior spoke to the Nephites, he said when rain, wind, and floods come. He didn't say if, and in fact rain, winds, and floods come to everyone. But He told us that the way that we are established on His rock is to look to Him as we partake of the sacrament.[26] The time will come, in each of your lives, when there will be a hesitation to go to church and partake of the sacrament. If it hasn't happened yet, it will. But know this: if you follow the Savior's direction and go and partake of the sacrament, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, blessings will pour upon you that will keep you firm, that will keep you solid, that will keep you established on that firm foundation that is Jesus Christ. Your decision to do so will affect eternity. You will establish yourself upon Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.  

I know that He lives. I know it. I know that Joseph saw what he said he saw in 1820, and I know that priesthood keys are on earth today that enable the ordinance of the sacrament to be carried out and enable saving and exalting ordinances. It is my prayer that God will watch over and bless you, that you choose to follow Him, that you choose to partake of the sacrament after preparing for it and partaking of it worthily. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



 


[1] "Consider the Lilies" was sung just before Elder and Sister Renlund spoke. [2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary. [3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary. [4] Mark 9:7. [5] Matthew 11:28. [6] Articles of Faith 1:3. [7] Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 1. [8] 2 Nephi 31:11-12, 15. [9] 2 Nephi 31:19. [10] See Preach My Gospel, chapter 6. [11] See, for instance, 2 Nephi 31:2-21; 3 Nephi 11:23-31; 27:13-21; Moroni 6:6; Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79; 59:8-9. [12] James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith: Being a Consideration of the Principal Doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1967). [13] Talmage, v. [14] Talmage, vi. [15] Talmage, 171. [16] Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 2.1.2. [17] Dallin H. Oaks, "The Only True and Living Church," seminar for new mission presidents, 2010. [18] Talmage, Articles of Faith, 175. [19] Oaks, "Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament," Ensign, Nov. 2008. [20] Doctrine and Covenants 59:9. [21] 3 Nephi 18:12. [22] See Dale G. Renlund, "That I Might Draw All Men unto Me," Ensign, May 2016. [23] Moroni 10:32. [24] Moroni 10:33. [25] 2 Nephi 31:19. [26] See 3 Nephi 18:13.

“Come Unto Christ”

Audio of Elder and Sister Dale G. Renlund's BYU-Idaho devotional address Fall 2017


Interview with BYU-Idaho Radio

Audio of Elder and Sister Dale G. Renlund's BYU-Idaho Radio interview about their Fall 2017 devotional address