Elder, Sister Renlund: Charity an integral part of one’s nature

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Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, concluded BYU’s 2016 Women’s Conference by speaking about two different interpretations of the phrase “one in charity.”

Women gather in the Marriott center to listen to speakers at a previous Women's Conference. (Maddi Dayton)
Women gather in the Marriott center to listen to speakers at the 2016 Women’s Conference. (Maddi Dayton)

Elder Renlund shared an experience about speaking to a Utah State Prison inmate he called “Bob.”

A little over a year previous to Elder Renlund’s visit, Bob had attacked a prison guard because he blamed the guard for taking some of his privileges away. Two other inmates, both of which were former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had restrained Bob.

After leaving solitary confinement, Bob began meeting with an LDS bishop. The two inmates remained kind and charitable to Bob, and the experience led to good.

“The lesson is the Lord can use us wherever we are, if we allow him, to bless the lives of others,” Elder Renlund said.

Elder and Sister Renlund continued by speaking about Paul’s teachings on spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12:31. They discussed the meaning of Paul’s phrase, “a more excellent way.”

According to Sister Renlund, the “more excellent way” is developing charity. The word charity, she continued to say, was an interpretation of the Greek verb agape.

“In the Greek, agape means open, or agape, tolerance, fairness and kindness,” Sister Renlund said. She and Elder Renlund continued to say that 1 Corinthians 13 was like a dictionary definition of agape. They also referred to the spiritual definition of charity, “the pure love of Christ,” given in Moroni 7.

The Renlunds continued to speak about the phrase in whole, explaining that “one in charity” can be used as an exhortation.

“We, as individuals, are strongly encouraged to voluntarily join together to help those in need,” Sister Renlund said. “Our desire is to be charitable, but we want to do so in a unified effort.”

Elder Renlund said that when a group is unified, greater tasks can be accomplished. Sister Renlund added that service is key to that unity.

Elder Renlund then shared a story from the Finnish author and poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, a story his father had told him.

Runeberg’s poem about a couple who struggles to have a successful crop harvest because of weather and other adversity. After many years of struggling and mixing bark into their rye for bread, they finally had a successful harvest. However, the husband told the wife to continue to mix half of their flour with bark because their neighbor’s fields had frosted over.

“I think that my father was teaching us that charitable giving is something we do because of our humanity,” Elder Renlund said. “It is something we do because we care about our fellow human beings.”

Service, they continued to explain, is key to being one in charity, specifically when the phrase is viewed as an exhortation.

“Another way to look at one in charity is that being one is actually a prerequisite to being charitable in the way the Lord wants us to be,” Sister Renlund said.

The couple talked about how being one with God leads to charitable actions, which lead to unity in an endless cycle. They explained that a person who gains charity will also begin to gain other Christlike attributes.

“It’s pretty clear that the pure love of Christ is a prerequisite for the Lord’s work,” Sister Renlund said. “It is in fact the foundation on which unity is built.”

Elder Renlund continued to speak about how those who have charity will be recognized as a disciples of Christ.

“Charity is an attitude, a state of heart and mind that accompanies one’s actions,” Elder Renlund said. “It is to be an integral part of one’s nature.”

Sister Renlund added that the key to developing charity is conversion to Jesus Christ and his Atonement.

Elder Renlund concluded the address by reminding those listening that “the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have stressed that the way to increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and his Atonement is to improve our Sabbath Day observance at home and at church.”

He promised the women that if the Sabbath Day was made a priority, their ability to feel charity will increase and that they “will become more unified with husbands, children, family — all of (their) loved ones, and with those (they) are called to serve.”

Elder Renlund concluded the address with a blessing on the women present that they would be “protected and watched over” and have knowledge that God watches and loves them.

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