– I have been reading many criticisms about the three new LDS Church apostles for being the “typical upper-middle class white guys born in Utah” with no racial or socioeconomic diversity. While I cannot personally comment on the background of the other two new apostles, I can comment a bit more on the background of my uncle, Dale G. Renlund, the now 12th member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Yes, Dale was born in Utah, but there is so much more to his story that I think people should know:
- Dale was born to full Scandinavian immigrants who spoke no English when they first came to the U.S. in 1948/1950. All four children, including Dale, spoke Swedish as their first language. Their father, my grandfather, was a construction worker, and they were very poor.
- The entire family moved back to Scandinavia when Dale was about 10 to 13ish, where they spent time in Helsinki, Finland and Gothenbirg, Sweden. They were fully immersed in Swedish culture there and went to Swedish speaking public schools. I have heard many stories about the meager resources they were living on there.
- When the family came back to Utah, the children spoke no English and had little to no understanding of U.S. culture. They went through a great deal of adjustment.
- When Dale was 19, he went on a full-time mission to Sweden for 25 months where he was again completely immersed in Swedish culture.
- In his late 20s, Dale was called to be the bishop of a newly-formed, inner-city, multi-cultural ward in Baltimore. (During this time he was also doing his medical residency and trying to support his wife who was in law school and going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer).
- For those who like to see strong women sharing their perspective, Dale’s wife Ruth, is the real deal. In addition to raising an amazing daughter and excelling in her own dedicated church work, she rose to become a highly respected attorney and president of her law firm. In my family, it was understood that if something needed to be done in the world, just put Ruth on it and she will work miracles. She has been and will continue to be an amazing speaker, editor, supporter, and (if I know Ruth) a “not-so-subtle suggester” who will make Dale exponentially better in his work, and he knows it.
- Dale and his wife have spent five of their last six years in Africa, where he served in the Africa Southeast Area Church presidency. He traveled extensively throughout his vast territory from Angola to Ethiopia to visit with people in extremely impoverished areas and circumstances. I have heard and read many stories about this time in their lives and the way Dale and Ruth fought to help people and grow the church there. Dale is not afraid to make bold decisions as he advocates for the needs of those he serves. And while most Church authorities in the area operate using only English, he was determined to learn French (the most predominant language in the area) so that he could effectively communicate with the people he served.
- The Renlund family, of which both Dale and I are a part, is profoundly Swedish to its core. Our Swedish heritage is a prominent part of our family culture, from the stories that are told at our family home evenings to the traditional Swedish food served at Christmas each year.
So on first appearance, yes, Elder Dale G. Renlund is a white guy born in Utah. But as you can see, he brings with him a very unique international perspective that I hope others will appreciate. From his Swedish background to his service in Southeast Africa, I believe God has been preparing Dale for his entire life for this apostleship and to be an effective advocate for people of all diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
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