On Sunday, September 11, Elder Dale G. Renlund and Sister Ruth L. Renlund hosted a worldwide devotional for young adults from the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Seated in front of a beautiful, digitized background featuring some of the cover art for the Saints books, the Renlunds shared some of the topics and stories found in the newest volume of Saints, released earlier this year. They shared personal experiences and related the stories to our own lives today.
“This narrative history includes stories of faithful Latter-day Saints of the past,” Elder Renlund said before explaining why this should matter to us. “It gives us real-life examples of people who loved the gospel of Jesus Christ, made covenants, and moved along the covenant path to come to know our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
What made the devotional extra special, however, was the handful of special Church artifacts relating to some of the stories in Saints that accompanied the Renlunds’ message. While the Saints books carefully document sources for all of the stories and information found in them, it can be easy to forget that the sources are not just digital writings found on computer archives—they are physical items such as books and papers. It is just one more way to bring Church history to life. Here are all the items Elder and Sister Renlund showed during the devotional, along with a brief summary of the story behind each. Listen to the full devotional for additional stories and information or to see some of the historic photos that were displayed on the screen behind them.
President Joseph F. Smith’s Bible and a copy of his revelation about the spirit world
Elder Renlund recounted a particularly challenging time in President Joseph F. Smith’s life when he was “surrounded” by death, losing two family members close together, being bedridden himself for an extended amount of time, and witnessing the massive number of deaths globally due to World War II and a flu pandemic. He then held up a Bible that belonged to President Joseph F. Smith and shared that “[President Joseph F. Smith] may have used this one or another like it to prompt a key revelation.”
The revelation came after President Smith read in 1 Peter about the Savior preaching to spirits in the spirit world. A vision opened up for him and he had a revelation about missionary work in the spirit world and the redemption of the dead.
President Smith dictated the revelation to his son, Joseph Fielding Smith, not long after. Sister Renlund showed the audience one of the copies of the revelation—a copy that he signed and submitted to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for their endorsement before it was canonized as section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
A tithing strong box from Austria
Addressing the topic of tithing, Elder and Sister Renlund explained that it was in the late 1890s that President Lorenzo Snow was inspired to reemphasize the principle of tithing and make it a requirement for temple attendance. Since then, tithing has become an important and sacred responsibility for members around the world, as is shown by several stories in the third volume.
They shared one of these stories about an Austrian branch president named Alois Cziep who used a simple strong box to house branch tithing and records during World War II. Cziep chose to make sure these important Church funds and documents were safe during air raids, even before any of his family’s personal possessions were protected. The strong box was displayed on a table between Elder and Sister Renlund.
Inez Knight’s diary
Sister missionary work was another area of focus during the devotional. Sister Renlund shared the history of full-time sister missionaries, starting from Elizabeth McCune being asked to speak at a meeting in England to the calling of the first two young single sisters. One of these young single sisters was Inez Knight. Sister Knight’s journal, which was shown at the devotional by Sister Renlund, reveals some of her fears and experiences as a pioneering sister missionary in England.
An 1890 Latter-day Saint hymnal in German
After sharing a few additional stories of remarkable Latter-day Saints from around the world, Elder Renlund mentioned the hymn “Hark All Ye Nations,” which he considers to be the theme of volume three of Saints.
Written by German convert Louis F. Mönch, “Hark All Ye Nations” was first published in 1890 and was one of the favorite songs of German-speaking saints. When it was translated for use in the current hymnbook, the third verse was left out, but Elder Renlund held up a beautiful 1890 copy of that hymnal that still contains that original verse.