His parents’ deep testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ influenced Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the time he was young. Because they knew Jesus was the Son of God, Elder Renlund said he embarked on the covenant path with a desire to “know it, too.”
Elder Renlund shared his parents’ testimonies and traditions during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 5. He said their Christmas traditions were heavily influenced by Sweden and Finland, where they grew up. His mother would bake “a fabulous smorgasbord” of traditional delicacies including meatballs, rice pudding, breads, cakes and cookies.
Their Christmas tree was decorated with handmade ornaments, and the Christmas Eve festivities ended with the arrival of Jultomten — Santa Claus — who brought gifts for all the children.
Before Jultomten came, Elder Renlund said his mother would gather the children together to listen as his father read the Christmas story from the New Testament. He read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. He would continue and read the account of Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem:
“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon … and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when [Mary and Joseph] brought the child Jesus … then [Simeon took Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou has prepared before the face of all people.”
At that point in the reading of Luke, after he read about Simeon, his father always paused, and bore his testimony.
“Always in the same brief way, he declared — in heavily accented English — ‘I may not be able to hold that little baby Jesus in my arms, but I know, just as well as Simeon knew, that that baby was the Son of God, my Savior and Redeemer. He is real and He lives,’” said Elder Renlund. “After this powerful declaration, he looked at each of us with his piercing light blue eyes and said with an emphatic nod, ‘And you can know it, too.’”
“My father and mother knew who that babe in Bethlehem was and what He would grow up to accomplish. This knowledge transformed them. They desired not only that we children would believe on their words but that we would come to know for ourselves, so that we could be transformed, too,” said Elder Renlund.
Acting on an invitation
Elder Renlund wanted to “know it, too.” He said when he was 11 years old, the family was living in Göteborg, Sweden. The mission president invited all the youth to read the Book of Mormon. Elder Renlund’s brother was a deacon at the time, and he accepted the challenge. Elder Renlund wanted to be like his brother and do what he did, so he joined in. He began reading the scriptures each evening.
“Some months later, President Gösta Malm, a counselor in the mission presidency, the father of the late General Authority, Elder Per G. Malm, encouraged the youth who were reading the Book of Mormon to ask God about its truthfulness. I decided I would do just that,” said Elder Renlund.
“That night, I waited until my brother had fallen asleep,” Elder Renlund said. “I climbed out of bed, knelt on the cold floor, and began to pray. I soon felt as if I were being told, ‘I have been telling you all along that it is true.’ And with that, an indescribable peace came over me. I knew, for myself by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true.”
“I knew, for myself by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true.”
He said he also came to know more truths, just as promised in the introduction to the Book of Mormon, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, Joseph Smith is a prophet, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth.
“That knowledge, combined with subsequent witnesses, transformed me, just as it had my parents,” Elder Renlund said.
This knowledge of Jesus Christ is also a spiritual gift, said Elder Renlund, and it is available to all who qualify for it.
“We are not asked to bring the Savior gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to qualify for this beautiful spiritual gift. We are asked to give of ourselves,” he said.
A father’s message
Elder Renlund said as he grew older, he saw his parents love and serve others, keep covenants, minister to others, go to the temple and accept Church callings. And each year, on Christmas Eve, his father testified with Simeon of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Over the years, his father extended his invitation to “know it, too” to in-laws and grandchildren.
Elder Renlund’s father was 92-years-old when Elder Renlund spoke for the first time in October 2009 general conference. He said his sisters made sure his father could watch the conference and his talk. Afterward, he went over to their home.
“I asked, ‘Dad, did you watch conference?’ He responded, ‘Ja.’ I asked, ‘Did you hear me speak?’ He responded, ‘Ja.’ With some exasperation, I blurted out, ‘Well, Dad, what did you think?’ He replied, ‘Oh, it was alright. I was almost proud.’”
Elder Renlund then realized that while he was fishing for a compliment, his father was preoccupied. He told his son he had something he needed to tell him.
“Last night I had a dream,” Elder Renlund’s father said to him. “I dreamed I died, and I saw the Savior. He took me in His arms and told me my sins were forgiven. And it felt so good.”
“That was all he said out loud,” said Elder Renlund. “But the look on his face spoke volumes; he knew Jesus Christ. He knew that the babe in Bethlehem, who had ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man,’ was his salvation, that the Son of God had grown up, and atoned for his sins. And my father knew it long before this dream.”
Elder Renlund said the dream was a tender mercy — a gift — from a loving Heavenly Father to a man who died two months later.
The most treasured gift
Of all the Christmas gifts Elder Renlund ever received, he said he treasures most the gift of testimony and faith exemplified by his father and mother.
“This Christmas, ask your Heavenly Father for the spiritual gift of knowing of the living reality of the Savior of the world,” he said.
Elder Renlund said this gift is better and longer lasting than any other gift you will receive.
“The Christmas season is a natural and beautiful time to study His life and to strive to emulate His character and attributes. As you do, you can know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He atoned for your sins. This knowledge is a gift greater than any Jultomten could ever bring you,” said Elder Renlund.