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How Elder Renlund helped youth at FSY feel the Savior’s love, one by one


As youth at a For the Strength of Youth conference in Salt Lake City filed into their morning devotional on Wednesday, July 20, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood by the door to greet them — one by one. 

He shook their hands, looking them in the eyes. He asked some where they are from and what they are learning. During lunch, Elder Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, personally visited with as many youth as wanted to speak with them. 

“I think this is what the Savior would do,” Elder Renlund told the Church News while visiting the FSY conference at the University of Utah. “If He were here, He would take the time with individuals. I’m sure He could give a wonderful speech over a pulpit. But I think He’d recognize that it’s being with those that He wants to love and influence that makes a difference.”

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Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Ruth L. Renlund pose for a group photo with those attending the For the Strength of Youth conference at the Institute of Religion located adjacent to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

It was an unforgettable experience for many of the youth as they felt the Savior’s love through one of His Apostles. 

“The Lord was with him,” said 14-year-old Alayna Thomas from Grantsville, Utah. “When I shook his hand, my spirit just lifted, and I started crying happy tears. It was so strong. I could just feel the love.”

Andy Kadomtsev, 16, from Spanish Fork, Utah, said he felt special knowing that, though he was one of hundreds of youth, Elder Renlund wanted to greet him individually. “And his wife, I could tell when I shook her hand, the look in her eyes was like she really wanted to come and be there.”

Elder and Sister Renlund were accompanied by Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, and Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency. The Renlunds also visited an FSY session at the University of Utah the week before with Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon and Young Men General President Steven J. Lund

What is FSY?

FSY is a five-day conference for youth ages 14 to 18 modeled after Brigham Young University’s Especially for Youth program that includes devotionals, classes, dances, a variety show and other activities. Though FSY has been held internationally for several years, this is the first year it has been offered to youth in the United States and Canada. A total of 212 sessions will be held in the U.S. and Canada this summer. 

“We hope that they will develop a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a commitment to following Him,” Elder Renlund said of youth who attend FSY. “God’s purpose in parenting isn’t to have His children be obedient but to have His children choose to be obedient. And FSY creates an environment and a milieu in which they can make these decisions under the influence of the Spirit.”

At a critical time in the lives of youth, Sister Renlund added, “FSY gives them an opportunity to really solidify in their minds and hearts who they are, who they want to be, and who they want to be with.” 

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Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, greet youth at a For the Strength of Youth conference at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Sydney Walker

Brother Wilcox said he has heard many stories that start with these words: “I didn’t want to come but … ." Those phrases are always followed by the youth talking about the positive experience they had. And it’s not just because they made new friends or had fun at a dance.

“They’re drawing closer to the Savior,” Brother Wilcox said. “They’re feeling the Spirit and recognizing that they are feeling the Spirit. They’re seeing role models in the counselors, and in the teachers, and in some of the other youth. And those role models are helping them understand that they can be close to the Church, they can be strong in the Church, and they can still be cool.”

As Sister Craven has asked youth about their favorite parts of FSY, they often mention personal scripture study time. “They have learned to love the scriptures,” she said. “They can’t wait to continue their new habits of praying more often and studying the scriptures, not just reading them.”

There is a strengthening power at FSY that helps youth better understand who they are, Sister Craven said. “When they leave FSY, we hope they go home with more courage to actually live what they know.”

Impact on the counselors

At FSY, youth are organized into companies — or groups — overseen by young adult counselors. One counselor, Taylor Bills, told Sister Renlund, “I love what FSY is doing for the kids, but I love what it has done for me.”

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Taylor Bills, left, a counselor at a For the Strength of Youth conference at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City poses for a photo with Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

Ruth Renlund

Such is also true for Emily Cannon, a 19-year-old counselor from Tupelo, Mississippi, who is trying to transfer colleges to be in a social environment where she can better live her standards. 

“Having to learn to trust in the Lord along with the kids as they are trying to do that in their own lives — it’s been cool to see the parallels and be able to share that with them, so they know that I’m also a person who’s struggling and trying to trust the Lord just like they are,” she said. 

Fellow counselor Brad Salvador, 22, from Fresno, California, said he can see a change in the youth from Monday to Saturday. They grow spiritually and socially. And when Saturday comes, they don’t want to leave. Each week he is changing too. 

“Being a counselor and serving the youth and seeing their testimonies grow has helped me and really brought that Spirit back, which I so love and desire,” he said. “And it just reminds me of how much I need the gospel in my life and how much happiness it brings.”

An Apostle’s testimony

While Elder and Sister Renlund were eating lunch with the youth, a tearful young woman spoke to them about a personal concern. She explained that the plan of salvation gives her anxiety because she doesn't feel like she is good enough to live with God and her family forever.

The answer, Elder Renlund told her, is Jesus Christ and His Atonement. 

“All that He expects her to do is try. And that’s the message they need to hear,” Elder Renlund said of the youth. “The answer is always going to be Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, His love for them that will change them. And it’s with His help that the anxiety about what is going to happen goes away.”

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Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to youth attending the For the Strength of Youth conference at the Institute of Religion located adjacent to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

At the end of the morning devotional, Elder Renlund testified to the youth that living God’s commandments and staying on the covenant path is liberating — not restricting. 

“Jesus Christ is the answer to every question,” he said. “And as we focus and center ourselves on Him, we end up with the greatest freedom that we can ever have, because we become heirs along with Jesus Christ of everything that Heavenly Father has. 

“I know that Jesus Christ is your and my kind, wise, heavenly friend. And as I’ve come to know Him, I know that He loves to restore what you cannot restore. He loves to heal what you cannot heal. He loves to fix things that are irreparably broken, and He will compensate you for any unfairness you experience in this life.”

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