Latter-day Saint Life

The Prayer That Changed Elder Renlund's Life While His Wife Battled Cancer


Did you know Elder Dale G. Renlund grew up praying in Swedish and spent much of his childhood in Finland and Sweden? Did you also know his middle name is Gunnar or that he and his brother served in the same mission (the Swedish Mission) at the same time?

To celebrate Elder Renlund's birthday on November 13, 1952, we wanted to share a few inspiring stories from his life, excerpted from an article written by Elder Quentin L. Cook.

In October 1981, Sister Renlund was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent two surgeries and nine months of chemotherapy. Elder Renlund recalls struggling as he took care of Ruth and their daughter. “I was hurting, and it seemed as if my prayers wouldn’t go heavenward.”

When he brought Ruth home from the hospital, she was weak, but they wanted to pray together. He asked Sister Renlund if she would pray. “Her first words were, ‘Our Father in Heaven, we thank Thee for priesthood power that makes it so that no matter what happens, we can be together forever.’”

In that moment, he felt a special closeness to his wife and to God. “What I’d previously understood about eternal families in my mind, I now understood in my heart,” Elder Renlund says. “Ruth’s illness changed the course of our lives.”

To take her mind off the illness, Sister Renlund decided to attend law school. “I just thought, ‘This will only be a bad experience unless we make something good of it,’” Sister Renlund says. “It wasn’t in our plan for me to have cancer as a young woman and have only one child. And my survival was in doubt. But we felt like law school was the right thing.”

She pursued her studies even as she continued treatment for her illness and her husband continued his residency.

Both Elder and Sister Renlund went on to have highly successful careers in medicine and law as he went on to become the medical director of the Utah Transplantation Affiliated Hospitals Cardiac Transplant Program and she became president of her law firm.

Despite his growing career, Elder Renlund still found time to watch over his patients one by one. In fact, if a patient couldn't find a ride to an appointment with Dr. Renlund, "he would drive significant distances to the patient’s home, lift him or her into his car, and then drive the patient back to the hospital."

When Elder Renlund's call to the General Authority Seventy in 2009 took him and Ruth to Africa, the two stepped away at the peak of their careers to serve the Lord. But while serving as a general authority, Elder Renlund learned many profound lessons:

One Sunday in central Congo he asked the members what challenges they were facing, but they couldn’t think of any challenges. He asked again. Finally, an old gentleman in the back of the room stood and said, “Elder Renlund, how can we have any challenges? We have the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Reflecting on that experience, Elder Renlund explains: “I want to be like these Congolese Saints, who pray for food every day, are grateful every day for food, are grateful for their families. They have nothing, but they have everything.”

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