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Governed by Principles and Righteous Desires

President and Sister Kusch
September 12, 2023 11:15 AM

"Despite our personal opinions, I want to remind you that every dedicated building is a house of God, and our actions inside and outside the building will reflect the level of our conversion. I believe we won’t be perfect, but God loves effort. I know He will make us capable of overcoming hard things. And when we fall, he will keep loving us, he will never stop loving us."
Brothers and sisters, good morning. It a sacred responsibility for Sister Kusch and me to speak in the opening devotional of each semester. Because we love you – and I really mean that - we labor over every word of every message, seeking the Lord’s guidance, and we strive for the assurance He approves what we have prepared. Our messages this morning are no exception. If you are to understand the principles we have prepared to teach, it will require open minds, open hearts, and the ministry of the Holy Ghost. I invite you to pray for those things as we speak, and hopefully as you listen. 

As a new missionary, serving in a small branch in the western highlands of Guatemala, my senior companion was Elder Jorge Arturo Solano, from San Jose, Costa Rica. I loved and admired Elder Solano and learned many important lessons from him. He was a great teacher of the gospel. He had a great sense of humor and was a captivating storyteller. Everyone loved him. But above all Elder Solano was deeply committed to being the best missionary he could be and took his responsibility seriously to be an obedient, worthy representative of Jesus Christ. 

I also believed I was committed to my pledge to worthily represent the Savior. But one Saturday morning Elder Solano helped me see that I didn’t yet understand what it meant to be committed to live to a higher standard, and to keep the promise I had made to represent Christ at all times, and in all places. 

Our little branch had organized an activity to hike to a beautiful area about 5 kilometers from town where we would play some games, have lunch, and then return by mid-afternoon. In my young missionary mind, I reasoned that going on a hike meant wearing hiking clothes: jeans, hiking shoes, and a T-shirt. To my surprise, Elder Solano got dressed in everyday missionary proselyting clothes: a white shirt and a tie. As I recall, we both looked at each other and said, “Why are you dressed like that?” I explained my logic and Elder Solano wasn’t convinced and I will admit I was not very happy that Elder Solano did not accept my explanation. Then he asked me a powerful, inspired question that changed my mission: “Elder Kusch, don’t you want to look like a representative and servant of Jesus Christ?” 

Now, I confess I don’t remember much about that branch activity. But what I do remember is that it’s not that bad wearing a white shirt and tie on a 10 kilometer round trip hike. And, most importantly, I gained valuable understanding that continues to bless my life today. For many reasons, I will never forget Elder Jorge Solano; and this one experience is forever etched deeply in my heart and soul. 

During his time as president of BYU-Idaho, Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan, held family home evenings with campus wards. On the Monday before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, Sister Kusch and I gladly accepted an invitation to attend a family home evening the Bednar’s were holding with one of the wards in the campus stake where we both served. 

In typical Elder Bednar fashion, the family home evening was a question and answer session. The first question came from a young man in the front row, who said with great sincerity: “President Bednar, I am planning to go on a mission, and I wonder what counsel you might have for me.” Elder Bednar walked right up to the young man and asked, “So, you’re planning to go on a mission?” “Yes, I am,” was the young man’s reply. Elder Bednar then said, “Don’t go.” 

Now, you had to be there to witness the uncomfortable silence that followed that comment from the university president, Area Seventy, and soon-to-be Apostle. After what seemed like hours, Elder Bednar said, “Let me tell you what I meant when I said, ‘don’t go.’” And for the next few minutes Elder Bednar taught him about becoming a missionary long before entering the MTC. He also shared his personal policy about activities he chose to participate in and activities he would love to participate in but avoided because of his commitment to honor his Priesthood calling. 

Just like that branch hike and what I learned from Elder Solano, the experience with Elder Bednar, and what he taught that evening, is something I won’t ever forget. 

We are now going to watch a brief video. Some of you have seen it before. It is the representation of an inspired conversation Sister Kusch had with a companionship of missionaries during our service in Mexico. Studying English was a requirement for non-native English-speaking missionaries. On the days I held interviews with our missionaries, Sister Kusch would meet with companionships to review their progress on English study. After the video we will have the privilege of hearing a message from Sister Kusch. 


For the sake of time when we made our video, we could not tell the whole story of our elder’s change of heart. His desire was not immediate. In fact the day he came into our interview and tearfully and lovingly laid his English books on the table, was some 6 weeks later.

It was after he had some time to think about our little experiment, to work, to pray and then to listen to what the Spirit was teaching him. It was after he tried the Lord and found Him to be faithful to His words and promises. Then he understood the connection between obedience and blessings. 

In our mission there were other elders and sisters who were given the same opportunity - to learn English with the same explanation that it was an outward way to show the Lord that inwardly you are trying to follow and obey. And this is what qualifies you to receive help from heaven. But some were reluctant and were not willing to put forth any effort. They were not in trouble with me, but I was so disappointed because I knew from my own experience that their decision to not even try to follow was costing them spiritual knowledge and help. 

We read in Matthew 21 that one day when Jesus was teaching in the temple, the chief priests and elders came to him asking questions about His authority. As part of their discussion, Jesus shared the following parable: 

“What think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

And he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 

Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.” (Matthew 21:28-31) 

I share a modern-day example of this parable: 

There were two Ensign College students. The first was asked, “You know the honor code and the dress and grooming standards. Will you follow them?” He answered and said, “I do not agree with anyone telling me what to wear and how to act, so no, I will not.” He brought inappropriate clothing to wear on campus and vowed he would never shave. He thought this would elevate him in the eyes of those around him. But, as he looked in his closet on the first day of classes, he repented of his rebellious attitude and wore modest and appropriate clothing to campus. 

The second was asked the same question, “You know the honor code and the dress and grooming standards. Will you follow them?” He replied, “I will.” Secretly, even though he had agreed, he thought himself to be above such a ridiculous requirement. He said inwardly, “What does it possibly matter what I wear on campus?” On the first day of class he wore torn jeans and did not shave. He felt empowered to do whatever HE wanted. 

Which of these students qualified for the help and guidance of the Holy Ghost? The one who repented and changed his rebellious attitude. He gave up something he wanted to do for something that was much better. 

We learn an important truth about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ from the apostle Paul when he was preaching in Greece. 

In Acts chapter 17 we read that the people Paul encountered while on his mission were noble and “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures, therefore many of them believed...that they would seek the Lord, if they are willing to find him, for he is not far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:11,12,27, see JST footnote in verse 27)) 

Seeking the Lord and being willing to find Him, then following what we feel in our heart is allowing God to prevail in our lives. This is what President Nelson has been teaching us for 3 years. He asked these questions: 

“Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Consider how such willingness could bless you.” And then he concluded his remarks as always with a promise; “My dear brothers and sisters, as you choose to let God prevail in your lives, you will experience for yourselves that our God is “a God of miracles.” (Let God Prevail, Nelson, October 5, 2020) 

Do you need help from Heaven?

Are there situations in your life for which you desire guidance?

Do you want to feel the Holy Ghost? 

The key to receiving help from Heavenly Father is simple - be willing to find the Savior, and you will discover that He is not far from you. 

This is the difference between missionaries who were willing to try the experiment of learning English and in the process discovered new connections to the help the Lord will give, and those who were not. 

This is the difference between Ensign College students who are willing to live according to the honor code and dress and grooming standards and in the process qualify themselves for the miracles President Nelson promised, and those who will not. 

So my friends, give this a try. Show the Lord you are willing to find Him by living what you have promised. What do you have to lose in giving the Lord a chance to help and bless you? Nothing. But you have everything to gain.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Sister Kusch’s message was pre-recorded. Yesterday she had surgery on one of her eyes and during the recovery process it is very difficult to read from notes, from printed pages, or from the teleprompter. It’s also the reason she is wearing sunglasses today. I know she would have preferred to speak to you from the podium this morning. 

As always when Sister Kusch speaks we have just heard some of the best and most inspired instruction of this entire devotional.

Three different stories, three different circumstances.

Dressing like a missionary.

Becoming a missionary before formal service begins.

Engaged and willing participation in studying English.

But these stories are not really about white shirts, missionary service, or English. Each story is different, yet they all have several things in common: they are the things Sister Kusch just taught us about.

I believe I was a better missionary because I learned an important lesson about humility and obedience. In that moment with Elder Solano I was at first neither humble nor obedient; I lacked understanding and initially I was not meek or teachable. 

I hope the young man that was taught by Elder Bednar served as a powerful, committed servant of the Lord. 

I know those missionaries who were taught by Sister Kusch were never the same after they understood the connection between faith in Christ, obedience, and the Holy Ghost. 

Speaking at the Presidential Inauguration of former Ensign College President Steven Woodhouse, President Henry B. Eyring said: 

“...if we wish to learn by receiving light, we must live so that the Atonement works in our lives to make us clean, and able to receive the light.

That helps explain why a college president could care...about such personal things as to what students wear and how they and their teachers feel about keeping the commandments of God. To some those would appear as details having nothing to do with education. But they have everything to do with education…the sacrifice of students and of teachers to learn and to teach is immeasurably more likely to bear fruit if the student and the teacher are bathed in the light of Christ. And that light is either invited or turned away by the lives we lead.”

(HBE, Inaugural Address, 14 November 1992) 

As you may know, on August 24, Board of Trustees-approved updates were announced to the Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement, the Honor Code, and Dress and Grooming Standards. As you leave today, you will be given a card that with the updated Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Principles and Standards. 

The statement announcing the updates said,  

“The updates are principle-based, provide consistency across CES institutions, and better align student endorsement interviews with Church leaders’ ecclesiastical responsibilities. The changes are designed to help students grow closer to Jesus Christ and strengthen the overall student experience.” 

Let’s take a few minutes to consider the first words of the announcement: “The updates are principle-based.” There is great personal power in understanding how to identify principles and then live by them. In fact, your ability to identify and live by true principles will be the key to living in harmony with these updates. 

President Boyd K. Packer taught that a gospel principle is “…an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions” (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promise,” Liahona, May 1996, 17).

Adding to President Packer’s definition, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that, “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Liahona, Nov. 1993, 86). 

One final apostolic witness about the power of principle-based living comes from Elder David A. Bednar. He taught: 

“…a gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles derive from broader gospel truths and provide direction and standards as we press forward on the covenant path.” (The Principles of My Gospel,” April 2021 General Conference). 

These inspired statements perfectly describe the updated guidelines and standards. They are based upon truth and gospel principles and they provide inspired anchors to guide each of us in the righteous exercise of our moral agency. Because the specificity of past dress and grooming standards is gone, learning to identify true gospel principles and applying them in the righteous exercise of our moral agency is the key to living in harmony with every word that comes for from the Lord and His ordained prophets, seers, and revelators. 

So, what has been updated in the guidelines? 

The next time you are interviewed for your ecclesiastical endorsement you will find that the discussion and questions will focus on your personal spiritual development. 

With the exception of dress and grooming expectations, the Honor Code remains the same but adds language regarding same-sex romantic behavior that is consistent with Church teachings. 

Dress and grooming standards, which are part of the Honor Code, have undergone significant updating to make them consistent across all CES institutions. 

We will discuss the new dress and grooming standards in some detail in a few minutes. 

The relationship that students who attend a Church institution of higher education, along with employees and volunteers have with the school, the Church, and the Lord could best be described as a covenant relationship. 

Students are endorsed by their ecclesiastical leaders. So are employees and volunteers. 

As a condition of acceptance to study at a Church school, students agree to live by the approved Honor Code. Employee adherence to the Honor Code is a condition of employment. Volunteer adherence to the Honor Code is a condition of serving at Ensign College. 

As a condition of acceptance to study at a Church school students agree to live by the approved Dress and Grooming Standards. Employee adherence to these same standards is a condition of employment. Volunteer adherence to these same standards is a condition of their Ensign College service. 

If we view the ecclesiastical endorsement, Honor Code compliance, and adherence to dress and grooming standards as creating a covenant relationship between the individual, the institution, and the Lord, five principles taught by Elder D. Todd Christofferson may help our understanding (see “Why the Covenant Path?”, April 2021, General Conference). 

1) A commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants opens the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to every child of God.

2) Covenant keepers are intent on being obedient to God’s commandments and feel accountable to Him for our choices and actions. Covenants focus us on Jesus Christ, and we strive to be valiant in the testimony of Him.

3) The covenants we make with God are more than suggestions on how we are to live our lives. Covenants bind us to God, and because of that, we receive godly power and the ability to overcome all things.

4) Faithful covenant makers and covenant keepers qualify for one of the greatest gifts God could bestow upon His children: the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

5) Those who valiantly pursue the covenant path are those who ultimately inherit all the blessings of salvation and exaltation promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

None of these three covenant relationships of the endorsement, the Honor Code, and the Dress and Grooming Standards should be taken lightly. When your bishop asks the endorsement questions he represents the Savior in doing so. Before any student ever arrives on our campus they make a promise to live by the Honor Code and to follow the approved dress and grooming standards. Keeping our promises is an indication of our personal honor, integrity, and desire to have greater light and the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives. 

President Russell M. Nelson has said the following about making and keeping covenants: 

Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. He has high hopes for us.”

(Source: “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, October 2022.)

Brothers and sisters, I bear my testimony of the truths taught by Elder Christofferson and President Nelson. I bear my personal witness that President Nelson is God’s appointed Watchman on the Tower. There is and always will be safety and protection in following his counsel. Knowing how to apply the principles taught by Elder Christofferson, and President Nelson will allow you to embrace the ecclesiastical endorsement, the Honor Code and the dress and grooming standards as an integral part of your efforts to be a striving covenant-keeping capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ. 

We will now share with you the updated CES Dress and Grooming Principles and Standards. As a reminder, you will receive a copy of them, along with the Honor Code, as you leave devotional today.

I’ve asked Joshua Sommer and Barbara Alves to help me.

CES Dress and Grooming Principles and Expectations are part of the CES Honor Code and part of each student’s, employee’s, and volunteer’s commitment.

When considering Honor Code and dress and grooming decisions, the teachings of the prophets and apostles, as well as Church instruction, such as For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices can be helpful.


CES Dress and Grooming Principles

Each student, employee, and volunteer commit to:

1. Represent the Savior Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Church Educational System.

2. Preserve an inspiring environment, without distraction or disruption, where covenants are kept in a spirit of unity so the Holy Ghost can teach truth.

3. Promote modesty, cleanliness, neatness, and restraint in dress and grooming.

4. Maintain an elevated standard distinctive to educational institutions of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Dress and grooming expectations as in the examples below should align with these principles. However, application of these principles is not limited to the expectations listed. Members of the college community are expected to apply these principles to dress and grooming questions as they arise.

CES Dress and Grooming Expectations

1. Dress for men and women should:

a. Be modest in fit and style. Dressing in a way that would cover the temple garment is a good guideline, whether or not one has been endowed. Accommodation may be made for athletic participation.

b. Be neat and clean. Sloppy, overly casual, ragged, or extreme clothing is not acceptable.

2. Grooming

a. Hair should be clean, neat, modest, and avoid extremes in styles and colors.

b. Men’s hair should be neatly trimmed. Men should be clean shaven. If men choose to grow mustaches, the mustaches should be neatly trimmed.


Thank you. Now, don’t go away. I have a question I would like for each of you to answer.

Joshua, this one is for you: The first principle of the dress and grooming standards is to represent the Savior Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Church Educational System. How can you apply that principle every day when you prepare to come to campus?


A way I apply this principle is to strive through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting daily, and focusing on the “small and simple things” (Alma 37:6-7) Alma spoke of in The Book of Mormon to represent the Savior.

Representing the Savior Jesus Christ, His Church, and CES doesn’t mean we have to go to extremes. It is about focusing on simple and specific ways we can better represent and progress each day towards becoming more “capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Ensign College Mission)

A question we could ask ourselves as we prepare to come to campus is: Are my decisions about dress and grooming, my attitude, and my desires helping me to represent Jesus Christ? Or to represent the world?

Our honest answers to these questions and how we respond to the direction of the Spirit, is an important way to prepare to come to campus and help us all increasingly invite the Spirit into our hearts and onto this campus.

Sometimes this means making what at times may seem like difficult decisions, such as getting rid of clothing which we may have previously enjoyed wearing and even paid quite a bit of money for, but which isn’t consistent with the Honor Code and who we are striving to become as “capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Ensign College Mission)

From my own experience and as directed by the Spirit, I have gotten rid of clothing which I felt wasn’t consistent with who I’m striving to become and the standards I’m seeking to live by.

Want to know what I’ve learned?

The cost of giving up that clothing (and the money I paid for it) is insignificant compared to the personal blessings I’ve received. God has taught me, tutored me, and strengthened me through His Spirit in ways, I believe, are directly tied to these simple decisions and a genuine desire to intentionally become more like Jesus Christ.

I invite you to seek the direction of the Spirit in how you personally can and will prepare to better represent the Savior, His Church, and the Institutions of Higher Learning which He has endorsed. I testify of the personal power, progression, and perspective this simple choice will bring into your lives, as it has in mine. 


Thank you, Josh. Ok, Barbara, this one is for you: These four principles are intended to help us in the righteous exercise of moral agency. How will applying them help you become a more capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ?

Living by these four principles - being a good representative of Jesus Christ and the Church, creating a respectful and focused environment, promoting modesty and cleanliness, and sticking to high moral standards - helps you stay on the right path, build strong connections with others, and be a standout example of your faith. When you live by these principles, you not only grow in your faith but also earn the trust and respect of those around you. Trust and respect often reflect qualities associated with Christ's teachings, enabling individuals to lead by example, serve selflessly, and connect with others in a manner consistent with Christ's own life and message. Also, these four principles serve as a demonstration of gratitude towards God. When you represent Jesus, the Church, and the educational system associated with it, you are essentially acknowledging the guidance and blessings you have received and expressing your gratitude and love for him through your actions. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).

Creating a focused and harmonious environment where covenants are honored allows you to show reverence and appreciation for the spiritual truths imparted with the assistance of the Holy Ghost. It also has great benefits to all of us, as promised in the Book of Mormon: “Moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." (Mosiah 2:41).

Despite our personal opinions, I want to remind you that every dedicated building is a house of God, and our actions inside and outside the building will reflect the level of our conversion. I believe we won’t be perfect, but God loves effort. I know He will make us capable of overcoming hard things. And when we fall, he will keep loving us, he will never stop loving us. This is the truth that drives me to be better every day.

Thank you both so much. This is excellent counsel for all of us.

If there is anything at all that you remember from today’s devotional it is this: the intent of these updates is to bring us all closer to Christ. As you and I willingly allow God to prevail in our lives, we will see miracles as promised by President Nelson. Speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith in an April 1834 revelation the Savior said, “…inasmuch as they are faithful, behold I will bless them, and multiply blessings upon them…even a multiplicity of blessings” (D&C 104:31, 33). I testify this will be true.

Brothers and sisters, I promise each of you that if this invitation is accepted and applied each day, you will see an outpouring of the Holy Ghost that will accelerate and deepen your learning and will bring an increase of godly power into your life, that will increase your faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

As a young, inexperienced Elder Kusch, serving in that little branch so many years ago, at first I thought it was no big deal to wear hiking clothes on a hike. And I suppose there’s a logical argument for doing so. But it was a big deal – a really big deal. Elder Solano set the example of one willing to live to a higher standard; he had promised to represent Jesus Christ and His Church at all times and in all places and that meant he would always look like a missionary should look, and he would always act like a missionary should act. That experience changed me – forever.

Let us be a college community of covenant keepers, capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ, anxious and willing to righteously exercise our moral agency as we strive to live to a higher standard, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

About the Speaker

President and Sister Kusch

President Bruce C. Kusch became the 13th president of Ensign College on April 17, 2017. He previously served as the Chief Academic Officer from March 2016 until assuming his current role. 

President Kusch began his Church Educational System tenure in August 2002, joining the Business Management Faculty at Brigham Young University-Idaho. While there, he also served as the Associate Academic Vice President for Curriculum, and as Associate Dean for Online Programs. 

Prior to joining the BYU-Idaho faculty, President Kusch worked in the high technology industry in Silicon Valley, CA. 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. 

President Kusch has served the Church as a full-time missionary in the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission, as an elders quorum president, bishop, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency, and stake president. From June 2012 to June 2015 President and Sister Kusch served together as mission leaders of the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission.

Sister Alynda Kusch is a graduate of BYU-Idaho. Following her graduation she taught for the BYU-I Culinary Arts department until she and President Kusch left for their missionary service in Mexico. Sister Kusch has served the Church as an early-morning seminary teacher and coordinator, Church Service Missionary, gospel doctrine and Relief Society teacher, Primary President, counselor in stake and ward Relief Society and Young Women presidencies. 

President and Sister Kusch currently serve as Family History Consultants in their ward. 

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