At BYU–Idaho devotional, Elder Renlund teaches how to withstand life’s seismic hits

Speaking to Brigham Young University–Idaho students a short distance from the Salt Lake Temple, Elder Dale G. Renlund explained the need for the building’s ongoing renovation: “There is a 50% chance in the next 50 years that one of the fault lines along the Wasatch Front will slip and cause an earthquake that will measure 7.2 on the Richter scale. This would cause the floors in the temple to dislodge from their inserts in the walls and pancake down.”

Should such a catastrophe occur, he said, the temple would collapse.

Because of restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, Elder Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, spoke to BYU-I students not in Rexburg, Idaho, but from Salt Lake City, Utah, in a virtual campus devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28.

A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple's base isolation system.
A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple’s base isolation system. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

To guard against the Salt Lake Temple’s demise, the current seismic upgrade includes the placement of about 150 base isolators under the foundation. They absorb shock, cushioning the building so an earthquake measuring 7.2 would feel like one measuring 5.2. The difference between 5.2 and 7.2 is a hundredfold, Elder Renlund said.

“As a result, the temple will still feel the earthquake, but the magnitude will be dampened, and the whole temple will ‘roll with the punch,’ being able to move five feet in any direction on this base isolator foundation,” he explained. “The temple will withstand the seismic hit.”

Drawing on this example, Elder Renlund spoke of the metaphorical spiritual and physical “seismic hits” that may strike individuals. 

“These hits will be major. They will be real body blows to your sense of well-being,” he said. “For each metaphorical seismic hit, I will suggest one or two metaphorical base isolators that can be put in place to help you withstand the blow.”

Anxiety for the future

When individuals do not know what will happen in the future, Elder Renlund said, they can experience a seismic hit in the form of anxiety. Young adults often worry about being accepted to academic programs, choosing the right career and finding a spouse.

“The uncertainty of not knowing can create a huge seismic hit because uncertainty can be disorienting, depressing and paralyzing.”

The base isolator that can soften the blow of anxiety is “faith in Heavenly Father and His plan and trust in His and Jesus Christ’s love,” Elder Renlund said. “This base isolator helps us maintain an eternal perspective and rely on the reality of Their goodness.”

Those experiencing clinically diagnosed anxiety should obtain professional help, he noted, clarifying that the anxiety he had in mind was that of facing an unknown future.

Abraham continued to face challenges even after he had made a covenant with God. As he and his family group traveled to their promised land, Abraham recorded, “Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation, as we journeyed from Haran by the way of Jershon, to come to the land of Canaan” (Abraham 2:16). 

“The message for us is to maintain an eternal perspective, so eternity can be our covering, our rock, our protection and our salvation because we have faith in Heavenly Father and His plan,” Elder Renlund taught.

Nephi’s response when asked, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” demonstrates the power of this “base isolator”: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16-17).

“We know our ultimate destiny. This base isolator helps us as we go through life. It does not mean that we will not feel the seismic hit of uncertainty and anxiety, but it will be dampened a hundredfold, providing us the confidence to continue because we know that that uncertainty is temporary,” Elder Renlund said.

He then posed a few questions. “First, does the fact that you experience anxiety for the future alter the reality of a kind, loving Heavenly Father, a living Christ, and the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Restoration of the Savior’s gospel? Second, do subsequent revelations through Joseph Smith and his successors provide anxiety-reducing insights about your ultimate destiny?”

Finally, he asked, “What habits can you develop today that will help you to develop and maintain deep faith in Heavenly Father and His plan and lifelong trust in His and Jesus Christ’s love?”

Burdens, challenges and difficulties

The trials of mortal life are another form of seismic hit that affect all people. 

“To some extent in the premortal existence, I suspect that we were told that this life would be difficult, filled with challenges,” Elder Renlund said. “But we probably did not know how hard these burdens were going to be, and we wouldn’t know until we experienced them. The base isolator, though, for these challenges, is to recognize the added strength, capacity and resilience God is willing to give us and the help that God inspires others to give.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Alma and his people faced persecution under the rule of Amulon, God strengthened them to be able to bear their burdens (see Mosiah 24:15). 

God also sends others to help individuals weighed down by heavy burdens. When the Israelites started complaining to Moses about the manna provided by heaven, he said to the Lord, “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? … I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight” (Numbers 11:11, 14-15).

Rather than complying with Moses’ request for his life to end, God instructed him to gather 70 elders of Israel to support him in his leadership role.

Whether He sends others to uplift or eases burdens by strengthening individuals, God provides aid to those facing seemingly unbearable challenges.

Again, Elder Renlund asked whether the challenges of mortality “alter the reality of a kind, loving Heavenly Father, a living Christ, the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Restoration of the Savior’s gospel,” inviting his listeners to consider truths that help them through struggles and to identify habits they can develop to increase their capacity to face burdens.

Unfairness

The perception of unfairness to ourselves or others constitutes a third seismic hit.

“Unfairness is all around us, and it is troubling. If we are not careful, the appearance of unfairness may cause us to reject the favorable along with the unfavorable — to use the idiomatic expression, to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ ”

The scriptures contain many examples of seemingly unfair situations, Elder Renlund said. “Was it fair that Abraham’s first child, Ishmael, did not receive the Abrahamic Covenant but that Isaac did? If it was unfair, did that unfairness invalidate the Abrahamic Covenant that God had made with Abraham and renewed with Isaac?”

Was it fair that descendants of Levi held the priesthood while other tribes of Israel did not? Did this unfairness invalidate the priesthood that the Levites held?

“Was it fair that Jesus Christ came to the House of Israel and not to the Gentiles? Does that unfairness negate His divine Sonship and His infinite Atonement?” Elder Renlund asked.

“Despite the apparent unfairness, the Abrahamic Covenant is valid, the authority of the priesthood is real, and Christ’s atoning sacrifice is authentic,” he continued.

“The base isolator for unfairness is to develop faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and understand how His Atonement is applied to us. Faith and understanding help us recognize that all are alike unto Heavenly Father and the Savior, that They love all Heavenly Father’s children, and that They desire that all return to their heavenly home. Additionally, Jesus Christ understands perfectly what it is like to suffer innocently because of the world’s inherent unfairness or the inappropriate application of someone else’s agency, evilly intended or not. We cannot teach Jesus Christ anything He does not already know about unfairness. He was treated the most unfairly of any of Heavenly Father’s children.”

Because of Jesus Christ’s perfect understanding of each person’s mortal experience, He can restore, heal and compensate for the effects of unfairness.

Eventually, God has promised to wipe away all tears, Elder Renlund said. Again, he asked whether life’s unfairness alters “the reality of a kind, loving Heavenly Father, a living Christ, and the truthfulness of the First Vision and the Restoration of the Savior’s gospel.” Again, he invited his remote audience to consider latter-day truths that can help them continue despite unfairness.

The “base isolator” of faith in the Savior and His Atonement will allow individuals to move forward despite the unfairness they face, Elder Renlund said. But demanding to know how God accomplishes this is misguided — rather, mortals’ task is to develop trust and faith in His higher ways.

“What personal habits can you develop that will help you develop and maintain strong faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement?” Elder Renlund asked.

Commandments provide protection

To illustrate the importance of keeping God’s commandments, Sister Renlund shared an experience from their time serving in the Africa Southeast Area of the Church. After a few months of living in the area, they had the opportunity to go on a wildlife safari.

Sister Ruth Renlund shares an illustration of her experience on a wildlife safari during a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sister Ruth Renlund shares an illustration of her experience on a wildlife safari during a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The safari guide explained that they would be safe from the wild animals as long as they stayed in the vehicle and did not stand up. While predators generally saw the safari vehicle like any regular bush, standing up would break up the vehicle’s outline, alerting animals to the presence of potential prey.

By obeying the guide’s instructions, the Renlunds were able to safely enjoy their first wildlife safari.

A few months later, the Renlunds’ daughter came to visit them for Christmas. They decided to go on a self-drive safari in a local animal park. Though they had heard of park visitors dying every year, they knew they could stay safe by following the rules and remaining in the vehicle with windows rolled up.

During their self-guided safari, some other visitors pointed them toward a field where a pride of lions lay. The Renlunds couldn’t see the lions, but Sister Renlund wanted a photo of them.

“I began to rationalize why the safari rules I knew didn’t apply to me,” Sister Renlund recounted. “I thought, ‘These are special circumstances because I really want a picture. We’re in a car with a hard roof on it, and how fast can those lions really be? Maybe those rules are more like guidelines and don’t apply if I’m careful. Maybe I could just get a picture quickly, and the lions wouldn’t even know.’”

Sister Ruth Renlund shares an illustration of her experience on a wildlife safari during a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sister Ruth Renlund shares an illustration of her experience on a wildlife safari during a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The devotional was broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah, with no attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When she carefully opened the door and stood up for a moment to take a photo — against the warnings of her husband and daughter — Sister Renlund saw eight lions immediately sit up and look right at her. She slammed the door shut, feeling foolish about risking her family’s lives for a single photograph.

“Maybe you can relate,” Sister Renlund said. “Perhaps you have a bit of a rebellious streak, like I do, and can rationalize and justify why the rules don’t apply to you.”

Because humans don’t share God’s perspective, they can fall into the trap of rationalizing why His commandments don’t apply to them. However, those commandments are in place to guide individuals safely home to heaven, Sister Renlund taught.

“Keeping the commandments guides you around life’s potholes and pitfalls. You effectively steer around spiritual lions, the wiles of the devil that would derail and waylay you from your divine destiny,” she said. “We have a God-given gift called agency, the opportunity to choose. Use your agency to choose obedience as Jesus did. He chose to obey the will of the Father.”