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What Elder Renlund learned from a stethoscope about seeking and relying on the Holy Ghost

‘Preach My Gospel’ chapter 4: Seeking the Holy Ghost takes spiritual work, followed by consistent and diligent practice to unlock continued guidance, Elder Dale G. Renlund taught

PROVO, Utah — As a physician, Elder Dale G. Renlund learned how to use and rely on his stethoscope, a medical instrument used for listening to a patient’s internal sounds, such as the heart and lungs. 

“Through the years, my stethoscope became not just an invaluable tool but a trusty companion as well,” he said.

When called as a General Authority Seventy in 2009, Elder Renlund parted ways with his other physician’s instruments, but not his reliable stethoscope, which he placed in storage. 

Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on June 24, 2023.  | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Years later, Elder Renlund was astonished to learn his wife had placed his beloved stethoscope in a framed glass case for his birthday. He tried to smile and express gratitude for her thoughtfulness, but all that came out of his mouth was, “What good is this? What good does this do hanging on a wall?” 

Speaking on June 24 during the 2023 Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center, Elder Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, likened his stethoscope experience to receiving, seeking and relying on the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism. 

“Just as physicians need to use a stethoscope competently to help their patients, we need to competently seek and rely on the Holy Ghost for ourselves and for those we are called to teach,” he said, referencing the title of Chapter 4 of “Preach My Gospel.”

The Apostle taught that seeking guidance from the Holy Ghost requires consistent and diligent spiritual work, including the following principles:

  • “Acts of personal [and] private devotion.”
  • “Praying fervently to the Father with faith in Jesus Christ. … Gratitude, not entitlement, opens hearts and minds to inspiration.”
  • “Consistent and focused scripture study.”
  • “Keeping God’s commandments because the gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as we are worthy.”
  • “Honoring covenants we have made with God.”
  • “Eliminating distractions.”

Be worthy

Returning to his stethoscope experience, Elder Renlund said a stethoscope’s tubing must be in good condition to function properly. The earpieces need to be flexible and the other components need to be intact. 

Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on June 24, 2023. | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Months after hanging his stethoscope on their wall, Sister Ruth Renlund developed a breathing problem. Her doctor instructed Elder Renlund to get his stethoscope and listen to her lungs. Embarrassed that he didn’t have another one handy, Elder Renlund retrieved the framed stethoscope only to find that holes had been drilled into it, rendering it useless. 

The spiritual work of seeking the Spirit requires daily repentance and worthiness, Elder Renlund taught.

“To receive revelation from the Holy Ghost, we need to be in ‘good spiritual repair.’ That implies worthiness,” Elder Renlund said. “That means we try our best to keep God’s commandments and do not rationalize sinful behavior. When we stumble, we repent.”

Practice

Even with a high-quality stethoscope, it takes time to learn to distinguish the array of heart sounds and what they mean. Elder Renlund said it takes constant practice to learn and maintain the skill.

With a solid foundation of spiritual work to seek the Spirit also comes the need to learn to recognize the voice of the Holy Ghost. 

Attendees listen at the Seminar for New Mission Leaders at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on June 24, 2023.  | Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Consistent and diligent work is necessary to unlock continued guidance from the Holy Ghost,” he said. “The Holy Ghost communicates in different ways to different people at different times.”

Eliminating distractions

When Elder Renlund used a stethoscope, he made sure the room was quiet. He shut the door, turned off devices and asked visitors or patients to refrain from talking so he could focus on what he was hearing.

“Revelation requires similar concentration and elimination of distractions,” he said. “To receive personal revelation, we need to walk away from worldly noise. We do not receive revelation when we are angry, agitated or frustrated, or even simply preoccupied. Rather we create an environment that fosters feeling and recognizing the Spirit.”

Relying on the Spirit

All the spiritual work to seek the Spirit is preparation for the main goal — “to rely on the Spirit as we do the Savior’s work,” Elder Renlund said.

“Relying on the Spirit means that we act in faith, trusting that God will lead and direct us and that the Holy Ghost will magnify our efforts,” the Apostle said. “We need to learn to rely on the Spirit, just as we learn to seek the Spirit. … Learning to rely on the Holy Ghost means that we put our confidence and faith in Jesus Christ.”

Conversion by the Holy Ghost

Elder Renlund taught mission leaders the importance of recognizing — and helping missionaries to recognize — that conversion occurs through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle offered four keys to help “foster this conversion.”

  1. Teach by the Spirit and always tie teaching to the Savior and the Restoration.
  2. Testify that we know by the power of the Holy Ghost that what we teach is true.
  3. Invite people to act and then support them in keeping their commitment to act.
  4. Work with people to help them recognize the Spirit — a skill and spiritual work that continues to develop over a lifetime.

“Learning to seek and rely on the Spirit is a life skill, not just a temporary way to get through a mission or a crisis,” Elder Renlund said. “As we seek the Holy Ghost, He will be a trustworthy, reliable and beloved companion.”

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