For much of his service as a young missionary in the Swedish Mission, Elder Dale G. Renlund had many assignments that took him to the mission home. The home, located approximately ten miles outside of downtown Stockholm, became a familiar place.
More than four decades later, on assignment as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Renlund again returned to that familiar mission home.
“The mission home is the one that existed when I was a missionary,” Elder Renlund said. “Going through the guestbook was a trip down memory lane. Interestingly, in the guest book was the dedicatory prayer for Sweden, offered by then-Elder Thomas S. Monson on July 7, 1977. In it he said that the combination of multigenerational families and the enthusiasm of new converts would bring a strength that neither group would accomplish in and of themselves. I certainly found that to be true. The faithful conviction and strength I felt from those members was as strong as I have felt anywhere in the world.”
Having been in Italy for speaking engagements at a conference regarding religion and health, Elder Renlund knew he had an unassigned Sunday on April 29. He checked with the Europe Area President, Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy, to see where he could help.
Aware of Elder Renlund’s Swedish roots, Elder Johnson suggested Elder Renlund visit Sweden where he could speak to the members in their own language — Swedish.
“Elder and Sister Renlund’s visit to Sweden was historic,” said Elder Johnson. “This is the first time a Swedish-speaking apostle has been to Sweden and spoken in Swedish. In fact, one person told me that many were very impressed with his ‘magnificent Swedish.’ ”
Although Elder Renlund was born in Salt Lake City, he grew up speaking Swedish in his home. His mother, Mariana Andersson, was from Sweden and his father, Åke Renlund, was from a Swedish-speaking town in western Finland. The couple met and fell in love in Sweden, and was committed to marrying in the temple so they emigrated from Sweden to Utah, his mother in 1948 and his father in 1950.
As a boy, Elder Renlund’s first language was Swedish, but as his siblings and he began elementary school his parents made a conscious decision to speak English in their home. So both Swedish and English are his “native” languages. While in his early teen years, Elder Renlund’s family moved to Sweden when his father was called to serve as a building missionary for the Church. Elder Renlund later served in Sweden as a young missionary.
Although his recent visit to his “other homeland” was short, it was one of personal significance.
“I met individuals who had been, or their parents had been, introduced to the gospel by my grandparents or parents,” Elder Renlund said. “In Stockholm, I experienced the most thrilling thing that can happen to a missionary — I was reacquainted with a man who I had the privilege of baptizing while I was a young missionary. Pablo Bensige is currently serving as the ward mission leader in his ward.”
Elder Renlund said he felt the same emotions as the Book of Mormon prophet Alma, when he said, “And what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2).
In addition to meeting with Church members and missionaries, Elder Renlund also met with many of his own family members.
“Elder Renlund had informed us that they were going to have a meeting with the missionaries in Stockholm the next morning and that they would like to spend the rest of the day with our family,” said Inger Höglund, who is married to Elder Renlund’s cousin, Bengt Höglund. “We told Bengt’s sister Birgith Wirén and our family about the pleasant visit and they came, from England, from Denmark, southern Sweden and the archipelago. All children and grandchildren who could came.”
At one point during the visit, 32 family members from four generations were together.
“Elder and Sister Renlund and all the sixteen grandchildren present (ages 13-30) were asked to go over to our son’s house (our neighbor),” she said. “There the Renlunds talked to the young people and answered questions. It was a very special family home evening.”
The Renlunds’ visit was a thrill for the members. To hear an apostle — with deep Swedish roots — speak to members in their own language was something they will never forget.
“It was a very dear moment to all of us,” said President Tony E. Mikael Clark, of the Malmö Sweden Stake. “I would think even for the first time in history, that we were able to hear an apostle of the Lord give a speech in our native language.” It was an “uplifting, edifying and dear moment to us all.”
Elder Renlund’s talk was broadcast to all of the Swedish members and has been published in Swedish on the country page on LDS.org. Leaders and Church members are happy to have access to it.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts and testimony here in Sweden!” wrote Helena Österlund in a Facebook post. “It was really what our country needs. Sister Renlund’s talk was amazing. Please tell her thank you. And thank you for taking the time to greet everyone afterwards. You have given us, and especially our children, an unforgettable memory. ‘The day an apostle of the Lord gave a talk in Swedish and I got to shake his and his wife’s hand.’ ”
Samuel Höglund made the comment, “Thank you for being a powerful witness in a world of confusion.”