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I Tell You These Things That Ye May Understand

President Bruce C. Kusch and Sister Alynda Kusch
January 09, 2024 11:15 AM

"Understanding helps us know and feel the “why” of Heavenly Father’s desires for us and what He asks of us. It gives us a glimpse of who we are, of how the Savior’s Atonement can work in our lives, of how we can truly come unto Christ, with our whole souls as an offering (Omni 1:26)."
Alynda Kusch
A Full Measure of Faith

Let’s suppose that you want to bake a cake later today. Baking is a science. It is chemical reactions between the ingredients that you use, so it is essential that you are accurate in measuring. 

Flour is a key ingredient for your cake, so it is one of those elements that must be correct. Too little flour and your batter will overflow in your kitchen and trust me that is not a good thing. Too much flour and your cake will be dense and dry. That is not a good thing either. So, measuring a full and correct amount of flour will greatly increase your odds of producing a tasty cake.

In his letter to the Hebrews, after teaching about being saved and receiving a remission of our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Paul declares, “Let us draw near [to Him] with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:22) In other words, let us look to the Savior with a full measure of faith and believe what He can and will do for us. 

I understand what a correct and full measure of flour looks and tastes like in a cake, but what does a full measure of faith look like? 

In late 1883 missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began teaching in Randolph, Alabama.

My great great-grandfather, Luke Gipson Kidd, and his wife Lucy Ann hosted them in their home many times.

Their children attended these meetings while grandchildren would lay on the floor near the fireplace and listen to the elders teach. The more the Kidd family heard about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more they knew in their hearts that it was true. 

On March 13, 1884, Luke and Lucy Ann, along with several of their children and older grandchildren were baptized. 

This included their son John Thomas Kidd and his wife, Mary Ann Andrews. At the time of their baptism, John and Mary Ann had two small sons, Earl Jackson who was 7 and James Walter who was 2. 

As the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ spread through Randolph, and many people were baptized, the missionaries began being harassed and, on several occasions, attacked and beaten. Luke and Lucy Ann offered them protection and their home became a haven. Their young grandson, Earl recalled many times he would see mobs approaching and would run to warn the missionaries.

 On one such occasion the elders were staying with the Kidd family while they prepared for an upcoming conference. As Earl and James were playing outside in the yard, they saw a large mob of angry men come storming towards the house. Earl ran inside to warn the elders and Grandfather Luke came in from the field and met the mob at the gate.

 A man stepped forward warning the elders that they were not welcomed in town and that they better be gone by noon the following day, or there would be trouble.

 I quote from young Earl’s journal:

“After the mob spokesman got through giving his warning, my grandfather had his say. This is what he said, “If these Elders make up their minds to leave by tomorrow noon that will be their business. But if they want to stay here, they are welcome to stay, and I warn you men that if you come inside my gate, some of you will have to be carried away.” Well, the Elders didn’t leave the next day or the next and the mob didn’t come.”

 Mary Ann had been raised in a family where it was important to study the scriptures, in fact her grandfather was a local minister. She had hoped that because of their religious upbringing, her family would feel that what the elders were teaching was true. That is how it had been for her.

 However, this was not the case, and as strongly as the Kidd family felt that the message of the missionaries was true, the Andrews family felt it was not only false, but that Mary Ann now faced a life of misery as she joined with them. This was a hard thing for her.

Almost immediately following their baptism, the Kidd family began conversations regarding traveling west so they could associate with a larger body of saints, be closer to center of the church, and be near a temple. Sohe little family of four, John, his young wife Mary Ann, and their two little boys, began making plans to sell what they could, pack only what they needed, and travel west to Idaho. All the while Mary Ann prayed that her family would listen to the message of the elders, have a change of heart, and feel what the Spirit had confirmed to her was true.

On the day that they visited Mary Ann’s family to tell them of their plans, a heated argument ensued because her family believed she was being taken to a place where women were not treated with respect and that she would become a slave to her husband. During that confrontation, Mary Ann’s brother William, stood and growled, “I will kill John before I let him take you away to a life of degradation!”

On the day they were to leave Alabama, John rode in the wagon next to Mary Ann while she held Earl and James tightly in her arms. As they passed by the post office on main street, William stepped out of the shadows with a rifle slung over his shoulder and began following behind the wagon.

I quote again from young Earl’s journal:

"[My father] got out and walked beside the oxen. I remember my mother crying so hard and begging him to stay in the wagon, but he thought it would be safer for mother and we children if he was outside where Uncle William could clearly see him. Uncle followed us for a mile or so past the store, then turned and went back without firing a shot.”

From the first time I read this account from the lives of my people, I thought, “Do I have faith like that?”

Would I have the faith and courage to stand before a mob of angry men and tell them that I believe so go away?

Would I have the faith and courage to declare to my brother-in-law, “Kill me if you must, but I will not turn my back on what I know to be true?

What these stalwart ancestors teach me is what it is like to live lives with a full measure of faith in Jesus Christ no matter what the future appears to hold.

So the questions we should ask of ourselves is -

How can I have that kind of faith?
How can I take the faith I have, no matter the quantity, and build upon it?

How can I have the faith and courage to act on what I know to be true?

The first thing that we can do is to say what know faith is.

A good place to start is the youth theme from 2023 – “I can do all things through Christ.”

We know that faith in Jesus Christ gives us strength and power to overcome challenges and live in a manner of happiness.

We know that faith in Christ allows us to hope for and believe in things that are true even if we can’t see far into the distance or completely understand.

We know that faith in Christ is a principle of action and power. (Faith – Gospel Topics) Understanding what faith is can help us live with a full measure.

The second thing we can do is to consider how we can increase our faith and the prophet Alma told us how to start. He said, “Yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.” (Alma 32:27) Wanting to know and believe will help us fill our cup of faith more fully.

The third thing to consider is what Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught,

“God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord….God will help you become something greater than you ever thought possible.” (It Works Wonderfully, October, 2015)

Beginning where we are at this very moment helps us see that we can live with a full measure of faith, starting now.

But, saying you want to have more faith will not make it so. We know that faith is a principle of action and so doing something to increase your faith in Jesus Christ is essential.

I would like to share with you 5 things that help me as I fill my cup of faith more fully.

The first thing is to study and ponder the scriptures. It is where you hear the voice of the Savior and you get to know him – when President Kusch presided over a YSA stake at BYU-Idaho, he made the following promise to our stake members – regardless of the time you have to read and study the scriptures (5 minutes or an hour), whatever you have is an offering of faith and if you will pray before you begin your study and ask the Lord to teach you something even in the limited time you have, He will do that. I tried it, it’s true and it works - Let the scriptures help you see the power that believing in Jesus Christ can have in your life.

The second thing is to record what you already know and believe and then add to that what you are learning now that is increasing your faith. There is great power in recording these things.

The third thing is to choose to believe in Jesus Christ – rather than focusing on what you don’t know, decide to believe Him, to begin to fully add to your faith, right now.

The fourth thing is to act in faith first and then you your miracle will happen. Even with the terrifying threat from William, John and Maryann prepared for the trip. They packed the wagon. They hooked up the oxen and John walked in open view not sure of the outcome. Live like you believe, act with faith even if you can’t see far into the distance, and as you do, you will see your faith and confidence in Christ grow.

The fifth thing is to ask the Lord to help you. If a desire to read and study is what you lack, ask for it. If it seems impossible to find a few minutes to read and to pray, ask how you can make time. If understanding is what you lack, ask for it. The Lord knows you completely so He knows perfectly what will help your faith grow. Ask Him.

Now, it is doubtful that any of us will be forced to stand before an angry mob or be threatened by a family member, but one thing I know is that our faith will be tested, and we will be tried.

I also know from my own experience that we can rely on a prophet of God. President Nelson has made this promise to us, “Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. All things are possible to them that believe.” (President Nelson, “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” Liahona, May 2021)

All things are possible to those who live and act with faith, who trust in God’s promises. May we live our lives with a full measure of faith in our Savior and Friend. In His name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

President Bruce C. Kusch
I Tell You These Things That Ye May Understand

Brothers and sisters, it is a pleasure to be with you this morning and please know how much we love you and are grateful that you are here. 

Many of us here this morning have had the experience of learning a new language. Perhaps that began in school – even in elementary school. For example, we have an eight-year-old grandson enrolled in a Mandarin immersion program. 

Over the years I’ve had numerous business colleagues fluent in multiple languages because it was a professional necessity. Some of us were required to learn a language for missionary service. Many of you here today have learned English or improved your ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend English so you could attend Ensign College. 

Some of you may have an aptitude for learning other languages, but for most of us, learning a new language can be challenging. You’ll recall the experience of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who, as a young boy, believed his mouth was not made for the English language. For years he studied and did not find success until U.S. Air Force pilot training. Recognizing that his future as a pilot depended on mastering English, he worked, he prayed and finished at the top of his flight class ( ). 

When a new missionary first arrives in their assigned field of labor who will also be speaking a foreign language their ability to understand will be quite limited. In my case, when I arrived in Guatemala City, I couldn’t understand much Spanish and could speak even less. I remember thinking, “THIS is not the Spanish I learned in the MTC!” 

I won’t ever forget my first night in the country. We had to take a city bus from the mission home to our apartment. My companion did not help me with my luggage as we boarded a very crowded bus. I was barely on the bus when the driver slammed his foot on the accelerator and sped off. Because I was not holding on to anything, I fell face-first into the lap of a very large and very startled Guatemalan woman. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” and “Please excuse me,” in the best Spanish I knew then, I asked her permission for what I had just done and asked her if she would please move! 

While serving as mission leaders in Mexico, we knew our new missionaries arriving from the United States would struggle with the language for their first few weeks there. We wanted them to know that was to be expected and wanted to assure them it would not be long before their ability to speak and understand would increase dramatically. 

As a young boy, one of our elders from Mexico and his sister would, for fun, practice talking as fast as they could. We had Elder Zuñiga and his companion come to the mission home one day to make a video of him teaching the Plan of Salvation – in 42 seconds. We used it as a fun way to illustrate what Spanish might initially sound like to untrained North American ears, but also with the promise of rapid improvement. About two weeks after recording this, Elder Zuniga called Sister Kusch and said “I have been practicing and I can do it even faster.” 

Brother and sisters, my message this morning is about the importance of understanding – not understanding a foreign language – but of gaining a deep understanding of the things Heavenly Father wants us to understand, to know, and to learn. This kind of understanding comes as a spiritual gift and is essential for our happiness and growth. 

We are admonished in Proverbs to “…get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). This scripture should prompt all of us to ponder the question: “What exactly IS understanding?” There is a deeper answer to the question than just comprehending something. 

While serving as the Presiding Bishop of the Church, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this explanation: 

“First, we start with the intelligence with which we were born. To our intelligence we add knowledge as we search for answers, study, and educate ourselves. To our knowledge we add experience, which should lead us to a level of wisdom. In addition to our wisdom, we add the help of the Holy Ghost through our prayers of faith, asking for spiritual guidance and strength. Then, and only then, do we reach an understanding in our hearts—which motivates us to ‘do what is right; let the consequence follow.’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 237.) The feelings of an understanding heart give us the sweet spirit of assurance of not only knowing but doing what is right no matter what the circumstances. The understanding in our hearts comes from a close interdependence of study and prayer.” (Robert D. Hales, “Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 10; emphasis added).

 A careful examination of Elder Hales’ teaching helps us identify the principles associated with gaining understanding:

 1. We recognize that we came to earth with a body that includes our mind and inherent intelligence.

2. We have a responsibility to educate our minds; we study and search for answers to life’s important questions – especially those that help us develop a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

3. Applying the knowledge we obtain helps us gain experience, and that experience leads to a level of wisdom.

4. The final addition to our wisdom is the sincere seeking of the Holy Ghost through diligent prayer and seeking spiritual guidance and strength.

These four things are like the ingredients in a recipe. Following the recipe and adding the correct ingredients assures a desired and delicious outcome. When we do not follow it correctly, the results will be disappointing.

So it is with understanding. When we carefully add each of these “ingredients,” the result will be an understanding heart – but more than that, we will be motivated to do what is right, to obey God’s commandments. When we have obtained understanding, we will not only KNOW what is right, but we will also want to DO what is right, regardless of the circumstances or the consequences.

Exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, obedience to God’s commandments, sincere prayer, and diligent seeking of the companionship of the Holy Ghost precede and are essential in obtaining the gift of understanding. As our understanding deepens, so does our faith in the Savior, and our desire to obey increases. The Scriptures teach there is a clear connection between the condition of our hearts, sincere prayer, obedience, and our ability to understand important things.

In the 15th chapter of 1st Nephi, Nephi had a conversation with his brothers – all described as hard-hearted – regarding the “many great things” (1 Nephi 15:3) their father, Lehi, had taught them. The account in the Book of Mormon describes “disputations” among them (1 Nephi 15:6). When Nephi stepped into the argument to find the cause, they told him they could not understand what they had been taught. He then asked, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” Demonstrating a clear lack of understanding, the brothers replied, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:9).

Now, I am going to take some license here in imagining how Nephi might have responded. Maybe he said something like: “Come on, you guys, are you kidding me? You’re ignoring God’s commandments? And your hard hearts? Keep it up, and there’s not a bright future for any of you! The Lord has told the lot of you before – lose the hard hearts, pray with just a little faith, believe, be diligently obedient, and you’ll understand exactly what our father was trying to teach you. Now, knock it off and get with it - we’re going to have a ship to build in two more chapters!” It probably wasn’t exactly like that.

The record indicates they asked several inspired questions after this encounter, but we know that while Nephi’s replies were delivered UNTO the hearts Laman and Lemuel, they never made it INTO their hearts. We know from their actions that they never fully followed the recipe for gaining lasting understanding.

Other scriptural examples include King Benjamin’s invitation when he began teaching his people to open their hearts so they might understand (Mosiah 2:9). As Abinadi attempted to teach the wicked king Noah and his false priests, he spoke these condemning words: “…ye have perverted the ways of the Lord…Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:26-27).

As you carefully study the doctrine of understanding in the Scriptures, you will find many references and examples in harmony with what I have mentioned.

Now, for the next few minutes, let's liken these principles unto ourselves.

When living prophets – especially the President of the Church - speak “many great things,” we can seek understanding. In fact, I would suggest we have the responsibility to seek understanding so that we may wholeheartedly embrace the teaching and counsel that comes from them. The words of living prophets are best understood when we inquire of the Lord, seeking wisdom and understanding with a sincere heart, real intent, and by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:4-5). We do not have to be like Nephi’s hard-hearted brothers who never thought to ask; rather, we can seek the Lord’s gift of understanding through prayer, pondering, study, and worthy living. And if you have questions and if there is something you don’t fully understand, please be careful with the sources you rely on for answers. Reliable sources do not include self-appointed online experts who claim to know the truth or anyone who represents themselves as an authority on gospel topics when they have none. Do not be led astray by people whose motives are simply to destroy your faith in Jesus Christ. They must be avoided at all times and in all places.

Brothers and sisters, a testimony of what President Russell M. Nelson teaches us comes as we apply what he teaches us, not by doubting, questioning, or dismissing his prophetic counsel.

Elder David A. Bednar shared his personal pattern for understanding and applying the teachings of living prophets:

“The basic pattern is to identify the fundamental doctrine or principle that is being taught, find invitations to act related to that doctrine or principle, and then also recognize the promised blessings that will come as we act in accordance with that invitation” ( ).

Three simple steps:

1. Identify the fundamental doctrine or principles that are being taught.

2. Find invitations to act.

3. Recognize the promised blessings that will come as we act in accordance with the invitation.

Now let’s apply this pattern to some recent teachings of President Russell M. Nelson.

In his April 2023 General Conference address entitled, “Peacemakers Needed,” President Nelson taught:

“I am greatly concerned that so many people seem to believe that it is completely acceptable to condemn, malign, and vilify anyone who does not agree with them. . . . Anger never persuades. Hostility builds no one. Contention never leads to inspired solutions. Regrettably, we sometimes see contentious behavior even within our own ranks. We hear of those who belittle their spouses and children, of those who use angry outbursts to control others, and of those who punish family members with the “silent treatment.” We hear of youth and children who bully and of employees who defame their colleagues.

My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.

Make no mistake about it: contention is evil.”

Here is the invitation: “Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way. Please listen carefully. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” 10 that we can say about another person—whether to his face or behind her back—that should be our standard of communication.

Contention drives away the Spirit—every time. Contention reinforces the false notion that confrontation is the way to resolve differences; but it never is. Contention is a choice. Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always. 11

I invite you to remember Jesus Christ. Pray to have the courage and wisdom to say or do what He would. As we follow the Prince of Peace, we will become His peacemakers.

And the promised blessing: “I bless you to make any adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is ennobling, respectful, and representative of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

I bless you to replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding, and contention with peace.”

In May of 2022 President Nelson gave a landmark address to Young Adults in a Worldwide Devotional. You will recall the title: “Choices for Eternity.”

He spoke of attending the inauguration of a new university president and commented on the important work of educators around the world. And then he said, “There is a major difference, however, between the responsibilities of secular educators and my responsibility as the senior Apostle on earth. Their job is to educate and prepare you for your mortal experience—meaning, how to succeed in your life’s work. My responsibility is to educate and prepare you also for your immortal experience—meaning, how to gain eternal life.” This statement ought to get our attention.

In his message, President Nelson taught absolute truths that should form the foundation of your spiritual education. He taught about your true identity as a child of God, a child of the covenant, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. He taught you not to replace these three identifiers with any other labels. He taught three fundamental truths that should help you prepare for your future course in life.

The last of the three was to know the truth related to your conversion. And then he extended these invitations.

“Do you want to feel peace about concerns that presently plague you? Do you want to know Jesus Christ better? Do you want to learn how His divine power can heal your wounds and weaknesses? Do you want to experience the sweet, soothing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ working in your life?

Seeking answers to these questions will require effort—much effort. I plead with you to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with the false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.

Engage in daily, earnest, humble prayer. Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better. Spend more time in the temple and in family history work.”

As he always does, President Nelson promised powerful blessings for obedience. I counted ten. As you listen to these promises, please consider how many of them answer questions or concerns you may be dealing with even now.

1. As you make your testimony your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.

2. If you have questions—and I hope you do—seek answers with the fervent desire to believe. Learn all you can about the gospel and be sure to turn to truth-filled sources for guidance. We live in the dispensation when “nothing shall be withheld.” Thus, in time, the Lord will answer all our questions.

3. …immerse yourself in the rich reservoir of revelation we have at our fingertips. I promise that doing so will strengthen your testimony, even if some of your questions are not yet answered. Your sincere questions, asked in faith, will always lead to greater faith and more knowledge.

4. As you take charge of your testimony and cause it to grow, you will become a more potent instrument in the hands of the Lord.

5. As the Lord’s prophet, I bless you to know the truth about who you are and to treasure the truth about what your glorious potential really is.

6. I bless you to take charge of your own testimony.

7. I bless you to have the desire and strength to keep your covenants.

8. As you do, I promise that you will experience spiritual growth, freedom from fear, and a confidence that you can scarcely imagine now.

9. You will have the strength to have a positive influence far beyond your natural capacity.

10. And I promise that your future will be more exhilarating than anything you can presently believe.

I ask again, if these 10 promises were fulfilled in your life, how many of your concerns would be resolved?

My message today has been about seeking and obtaining the spiritual gift of understanding. It requires the heart and a willing mind (D&C 64:34). It requires the exercise of faith in the Savior, diligence, prayer, obedience, and seeking to be tutored by the Holy Ghost.

But why is obtaining this gift so important?

We learn in Proverbs that “…a man of understanding walketh uprightly” (Proverbs 15:21).

Understanding goes beyond simply knowing something. It also involves feeling something deep in our souls because of the witness of the Holy Ghost. Someone bearing a testimony may express what they know. But someone with understanding will also feel what they know in the deepest reaches of their soul. Someone with understanding not only says what they know, but they act upon what they know. They go, and they do. Understanding helps us know and feel the “why” of Heavenly Father’s desires for us and what He asks of us. It gives us a glimpse of who we are, of how the Savior’s Atonement can work in our lives, of how we can truly come unto Christ, with our whole souls as an offering (Omni 1:26).

It is my prayer you will seek this gift. It is what capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ do. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

About the Speaker

President Bruce C. Kusch and Sister Alynda Kusch

President Bruce C. Kusch became the 13th president of Ensign College on April 17, 2017. At the time of his appointment he had been serving as the Chief Academic Officer.

President Kusch began his academic career at BYU-Idaho in August 2002 as a member of the faculty of the Business Management department. In July 2008 he was appointed Associate Academic Vice President for Curriculum, serving in that role until June 2012 when he and Sister Kusch were called to preside over the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission.

Prior to joining the BYU-Idaho faculty, President Kusch worked in the high technology industry in Silicon Valley, CA in various sales, marketing, general management, and consulting roles. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, and a PhD in instructional design from Idaho State University.

Sister Alynda Kusch is a graduate of BYU-Idaho. Following her graduation, she taught Culinary Arts until she and President Kusch left for their missionary service in Mexico. If you know Sister Kusch at all, you know she is a master teacher, and master designer and creator of textile art.

Both born and raised in Southern California, President and Sister Kusch were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1974. They are the parents of four children, and 15 grandchildren.
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