The 2015 November Ensign is shooting towards homes across Mormondom and inside there are the normal makings of a conference issue, which is mostly made up of the talks. What deviates, of course, is the inclusion of the leadership changes and with that one finds handy biographies starting on page 135 of the three new apostles as well as six additional biographies (including the presidency of the seventy changes, presiding bishopric changes and the new counselor in the Sunday School).
Why does this matter? It’s interesting to meet these new leaders, see what they’ve been up to in their lives, and for the most part, eight of those biographies follow the formula of most one-page biographies we’ve read in the magazines for years: a short testimony or a testimony-building anecdote about their lives to catch interest, followed by basic biographical information of where they were born and raised and educated, then marriage and sometimes an extra sentence about their wives, and church service throughout the world that prepared them for their calling today.
There is one amazing exception. One that made me say “whoa, I didn’t know I was craving this type of biography.” And that is Elder Dale G. Renlund’s biography. Because you not only get a biographical glimpse into his life, but his wife Ruth is in the very first paragraph and pretty much by his side, metaphorically (and from what I read, in actuality) throughout the biography. It’s a wonderful rhetorical use of bringing these women into spotlight along with their husbands. It matches what needs to happen as these women are just as invested as their husbands into these callings if not as visible. Sister Ruth Renlund is portrayed as a real and active partner by his side. I just love it.
I was one who was disappointed to learn through both Elder Gary E. Stevenson’s talk outlining his call to become an apostle and Elder Renlund’s description at the news media event after conference that their wives are not in the room when they are called and they accept the apostleship. This does not square with what I understand as normal protocol for most all other leadership callings in the church. Maybe once at the general level, things are done differently for reasons that I just don’t understand. But reading Elder Renlund’s biography, it jumps right and explains that soon after the call “Elder Dale G. Renlund knelt in prayer with his wife, Ruth, seeking the witness that ‘God directed this course.'” This collaborates with his additional explanation in the above video that while they “implicitly trusted President Monson, we recognized that we had a right and an obligation to personally know down to our very bones that this call was from God. During the ensuing hours as we have prayed, we have come to receive that assurance.” That is just such a beautiful example to me of personal/spousal revelatory collaboration, even if it was after the actual call/acceptance.
So more of these types of biographies please instead of the ones where the women are just listed as, well, a check-off on a the biographical list.