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How playing fetch with the family dog taught Elder Renlund an important lesson

At age 27, Sister Ruth Renlund, wife of Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, felt inspired to go to law school despite it being a busy time of life. Her husband was in his medical training and serving as bishop of their ward in Baltimore, Maryland, and the couple had a 3-year-old daughter. Sister Renlund was also recovering from a serious illness.

“Ruth and I both received confirmation from the Holy Ghost that this was the right course to follow,” Elder Renlund told BYU-Pathway Worldwide students around the globe tuning in to a devotional streamed online on Tuesday, April 2. “With faith and inspiration, Ruth developed a plan to carve out the necessary time for her studies.”

Her solution: simplify life and trust in God’s ability to help.

“She simplified our lives,” he said. “She made a list of things she would not let fall through the cracks and things that became optional. She carefully considered her available time and decided what was mission-critical and what was not.”

Sister Renlund decided that the essential activities she needed to prioritize included things like personal, daily acts of devotion, spending time with her daughter each day and attending church.

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“Then, she chose not to feel guilty about not doing those optional things and cheerfully gave a reasonable effort to the critical things,” Elder Renlund recalled. “We saw God’s arm revealed in every aspect of our lives.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, and their daughter, Ashley, on the day Sister Renlund graduated from law school.
Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, and their daughter, Ashley, on the day Sister Renlund graduated from law school. Photo: Photo courtesy of Elder Dale G. Renlund

Sister Renlund did very well in law school and went on to a remarkable career as a wife, mother and attorney.

“Reduction and simplification became the means by which she achieved her inspired goals,” he said.

Just as his wife was able to accomplish what she felt inspired to do, so can students, the Church leader taught. To those who feel overwhelmed with balancing many aspects of life, Elder Renlund offered encouragement and counselled them to focus and expend a reasonable effort on things that are important.

“To know what things are most important, though, you need the help of the Holy Ghost,” he said. “Once you know your path is inspired, commit to make the reasonable, Spirit-directed effort. As you do, you can count on God’s help.”

To simplify and balance the demands of life requires that a person focuses on the most important responsibilities they are juggling, he said.

To illustrate, Elder Renlund shared about the time when his daughter wanted a puppy.

“I thought we should get a German shepherd, Labrador or pit bull and give it a name like Spike,” he said. “That way, when I walked the dog people would say, ‘There goes Dale with that masculine dog.’”

Sister Renlund thought the family should get a more petite dog and wanted to give it a more feminine name.

Ashley Renlund holds Lady, the family dog.
Ashley Renlund holds Lady, the family dog. Photo: Photo courtesy of Elder Dale G. Renlund

“When these kinds of differences in opinion occur in marriage, you learn that you rationally discuss the situation, evaluate advantages and disadvantages and resolve the conflict. In this case, we did so and eventually came up with a compromise. We got a toy poodle and named her Lady.”

From the perspective of achieving his “manly goals,” Lady the toy poodle was worthless. But, Elder Renlund told BYU-Pathway students, she was good at fetching a ball.

“I could throw a ball and she would bring it back to me,” he said. “She was willing to do this any time, any place and for as long as anyone was willing to throw the ball.”

One day, Elder Renlund decided to throw two balls for Lady. At first, Lady ran to the first ball, picked it up and started running back until she saw the second ball. She then dropped the first ball, ran to the second ball, picked it up and began running back again. She again thought of the first ball and dropped the second ball. After this happened a few times, she decided to give up and left both the balls and walked away.

“Two balls were one too many for our puppy and it is the same for you,” Elder Renlund reminded students. “Keep your eye on the mission-critical balls that will bring you the greatest happiness — the gospel of Jesus Christ and your family. Do not neglect your personal, private, daily acts of devotion — prayer, studying the scriptures and attending Church services. These actions will help you have the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help you succeed in your other goals.”

For BYU-Pathway Worldwide students, the short devotionals that are streamed live via Facebook are one way to stay connected as a worldwide campus.

One listener, Britney Hedin, shared this response: “Excellent!! Thank you for the reminder to keep a healthy perspective without feeling guilty about what we aren’t able to do.”

Another listener, LeGrand Redd, said, “Really needed this today! I really loved Elder Renlund’s counsel.”

To see the entire devotional visit the BYU-Pathway Worldwide website or visit the BYU-Pathway Worldwide Facebook page.

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