Mikael Rinne: Massachusetts, USA
June 2017

“Mikael Rinne: Massachusetts, USA,” Ensign, June 2017

Portraits of Faith

Mikael Rinne

Massachusetts, USA

Mikael Rinne

Mikael is a physician-scientist. His clinical specialty is in neuro-oncology, and he has a PhD in molecular biology. He sees patients with brain tumors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University’s cancer hospital, and he does research in the development of cancer drugs.

Leslie Nilsson, photographer

Faith is a peculiarity in my field. The people I work with think of religious belief as a curiosity—quaint and old-fashioned, the way we might view superstition.

One of the ways my colleagues identify me is as a “peculiar” person of faith. For example, I don’t swear. When something bad happens, I say, “Oh, curses!” That’s a really big joke around the clinic, but it has changed the atmosphere. And I get to talk about the Church all the time.

If you live gospel principles and are patient and kind, that can spark more interest in the gospel than any theological discussion. My co-workers really admire the way Latter-day Saints live and the way we behave and relate.

Almost all of our patients have life-threatening brain tumors. We have to cope with tragedy every day. Some people ask, “How do you handle that field?” One of my answers is, “I feel that my faith helps me to face death and to relate to those who are dying. And I believe in life after death.”

Taking care of people who are dying puts other challenges into perspective. “You could always have a glioblastoma,” I tell people. That’s the worst tumor you can get. It’s what I see mostly.

A lot of my patients will talk about their belief in God and in miracles. I have to be delicate, but I will add my testimony to the truths they share. “I believe in that too,” I say. “I believe that miracles happen, so let’s hope for one.”

There’s a myth that faith and science are in conflict. We’re given the impression that science has all the answers, that we’ve “figured it all out.” But there’s far more that we don’t know than we do know.

I feel that realizing how complicated things are—how elegantly things are designed—actually builds faith. We cannot understand the true nature of our existence without faith. The truth is, the more I learn through science, the more I come to know that an intelligent and divine Creator must have directed our creation.

As a bishop, I see members with crises of faith. They come to me and say, “I think more scientifically, so I have a really hard time with faith.” It helps some of them who have doubts to know that their bishop is a Harvard scientist who believes in God. That helps them realize, “I can believe but also be intellectual.”

A father helps his son with his homework. A daughter also works on her own computer.

Bishop Mikael Rinne helps his son, Kai, with his homework. In the Rinne home, there’s room for both faith and science.

A father reads a book to his children

Bishop Rinne shares an evening devotional thought with his family, including Nea (left), Aila (right), and Kai (back).

A mother holds and plays with her daughter.

“There’s not a lot of faith here in Harvard [University] land,” says Bishop Rinne, but he and his wife, Tiffany, make time to instill faith in their children.

A mother reads with her daughters at night in bed.

Tiffany Rinne, here reading a scripture story to daughters Sólia and Aila, says members of her family are the only Latter-day Saints most of their nonmember friends know.

A father brushes his daughter's teeth.

Bishop Rinne helps Sólia get ready for bedtime.

A father and mother spend time with their children.

“At the end of the day, faith is a choice,” says Mikael Rinne. “As a bishop, I can’t give people faith; they have to choose to believe.”