Because I didn’t marry until I was in my mid-thirties, I attended a lot of young adult activities for a dozen years, including devotionals. For the last twenty years or so, I have been married, and I haven’t had a calling with the young adults, so I’ve been missing some great devotionals, I’m sure.
This morning, I woke up to find that #ldsdevo appearing in a lot of tweets on my feed. I was glad to read that Sis. Ruth L. Renlund joined her husband Elder Dale G. Renlund at the puplit where they delivered the devotional in a tag team manner. I also learned that the topic was faith and doubt.
That was enough to goad me into watching the 33 minute devotional, which took place at BYU-Hawaii on Sunday, January 13, 2019.
I decided to neglect housework in favor of watching their devotional.
(You can find the devotional on YouTube on the Mormon Channel. Note that the Renlunds approach the podium after 1 hour and 13 minutes. Before that, the channel plays music and shares several photos from social media of attendees from around the world. For a summary of their talk with a lot of great quotes as well as screen shots and photos of the BYU-Hawaii audience, read this report by lds.org. I particularly was moved by the paraphrases of John A. Widtsoe’s remarks on faith and doubt, which are quoted in this lds.org summary.)
It was assuring and calming to my soul to hear the Renlunds talk about faith and doubt. My attention is often pulled in a dozen directions at once by paid work, volunteer work, family responsibilities, and hobbies that involve a lot of reading. And the Internet.
In fact, Sis. Renlund observed: “The blogosphere cannot replace scripture study and reading the words of living prophets and apostles.” It’s true that I could spend more time on scripture study and less time scrolling for the latest headlines on celebrity romances. This was a worthy challenge for redirecting my attention, and related to my New Year goal.
This year I’ve abandoned doing a New Year’s resolution in favor of adopting a focus word. I chose GROUNDED, and their devotional helped me to feel more grounded, not just in the content of their remarks, but in their mode. Within the first minute of their opening remarks, I was struck by the harmony the Renlunds showed in how they delivered the devotional as a team.
My heart was doing cartwheels to see Sister Renlund equally yoked with her husband during this devotional.
First, they harmonized in their appearance by wearing black suits with teal accents. They also shared the time equally, taking terms in an orderly, warm manner. I kept thinking of Marshall McLuhan’s quote, “the medium is the message.” These two were equally yoked and sharing parallel testimonies of the same principle—faith and related concepts. He frequently put his arm around her; she was confident and held her gaze into the camera in a calm, compassionate manner.
Second, they shared parables, personal stories, and scriptures about the same topic–faith and doubt. Many times, they used the pronoun “we,” which showed harmony and unity in their approach to the topic. It was evident that they wrote this talk together. The tone and style of their comments blended into one voice.
Third, they also shared equally in the “heft” of the topic. It’s not that she told stories and he expounded on doctrine. They both used a variety of genres in approaching the topic—ranging from lighthearted and personal to serious and doctrinal. I have long been annoyed that new families moving into a ward often have a division of labor in their first talk: the wife gives the personal details and the husband expounds on deep doctrine. The Renlunds did not divide up duties in limiting gender stereotypical ways.
I was the most tearful when Elder Renlund shared a story about his own aged father who had a dream about the Savior’s love. He showed a lot of tenderness and vulnerability. (This happens about the 1:39 mark.)
Finally, the Renlunds both bore strong testimonies of the role of doubt as a means to question but the necessity of choosing faith and acting in ways that bolsters faith. Yes, he is an ordained apostle, and I was particularly moved by his closing testimony with a challenge: “God will bless you as you engage in personal, private acts of devotion and serve and minister to others.” However, I was equally served by her remarks.
Part of their talk encourages people to look to others who walk in faith. She was that person for me today. Seeing a devout, knowledgeable, experienced, grounded woman speak on faith in harmony with her husband helped increase my own faith, encouraging me to do more, to be more.