I Am More Than Just a Name by Sister Alynda Kusch
This is wonderful, it wonderful to be here with you today, I am so grateful to join with you in this really historic building, it is lovely to be with you this morning.
One semester when I was teaching at BYU-Idaho, on the very first day of class there was a young woman that approach me after the class was over, and she said “I’m not registered for your course but I really want to take it, so would you add me?” So I wrote her name down and as soon as I got back to my office I looked her up and added her to the course.
Oh imagine my surprise when later that afternoon when I got an email from her that said, “who are you and why did you add me to a course that I have no intention of taking?” I was a little confused. But after some investigating, I discovered that in my haste to help the student, I had not noticed that there were 2 students with the same name, so I added the wrong one to the class.
Now, the next semester something very similar happened, but I had learned my lesson, so when the student said, “please Sister Kusch, add me to your course.” When I got back to my office, I looked her up and her name was common enough that there were 5 students at BYU-Idaho with the same name. So I sent her an email and I said, “I need an additional identifier, you gotta tell me your student ID number, or something about you that I can be sure that I did not repeat the same mistake that happened the semester before.
So using the correct name and identifier in this case was essential in being sure that I had added the correct student to the class.
Now I have a friend who works in an elementary school in Idaho, and her name is Mrs. Miller, that is also a very common name. So at the school, she is not the only Mrs. Miller, there are 2 others.
So you can imagine that the secretary cannot simply call over the loud speaker if one of them has a telephone call or is needed in the office. “Would Mrs. Miller please come to the office,” you can see that would be a problem.
So they’re identified by what they do, if one of them has a telephone call or is needed in the office, you would hear the secretary say:
Mrs. Miller, the science teacher
Or, Mrs. Miller, the school nurse
Or in the case of my friend, Mrs. Miller, the guidance counselor would you please come to the office?
So this other description, at least at school, identifies my friend.
On campus we are identified in a lot of different ways; by our names, by our student ID numbers, by our birthdates sometimes, by our nationalities, by our languages, by our majors. And especially in the first weeks of the semester, it’s how we kind of introduce ourselves to each other; tell me your name, where are you from, and what are you studying, because it help us remember who we are.
Well, I am known by a lot of different identifiers; I am a daughter, I am sister, I am wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a teacher, lots of different identifiers.
So my question to you this morning is this, who are you? What identifies you? Who do you look like? Who do you sound like? How would you be defined and how would you be identified?
So I’ve shared with you my identifiers, but I will tell you that the identification category I supposed, under which I fall that I love the most and I appreciate the most is that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father.
In the last few weeks I have been thinking about 2 questions with regard to that.
The first one is, why would it be important to come to realize and understand, and then remember who we are? Our eternal nature and identity to our Heavenly Father and if that is so important then, how is it that we come to do that?
How can we realize who we are in our Heavenly Father’s eyes and then remember how he feels about us?
So those are the two questions that have been on my mind.
Well, we can turn to the scriptures for the answer to the first question, who are we in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.
In the first chapter of Moses, for example, we can read the account of an experience that the prophet had when he saw and spoke to God face to face.
“And God spake unto Moses saying; Behold I am the Lord Almighty…..behold, thou are my son” (verse 3 & 4). And then twice more in the space of the following 3 verses God says to Moses, addresses him this way, “Moses, my son” (verses 6 &7).
It does not surprise me that almost immediately after this experience, however, Satan comes and tries to tempt Moses, to try to get him to forget what Heavenly Father has just said to him. He addresses him as not the son of God, but Satan calls Moses the much lower Moses, son of man, in his effort to have Moses forget what the Lord just taught him.
But Moses not only remembered what the Lord had taught him about his divine nature and identity but he rebuked Satan and said, don’t deceive me because God told me who I am. I am His son, I have a divine nature (verse 16).
Knowing this about ourselves then gives us the strength to overcome Satan, in the same way that Moses did. Satan would like us to believe that we are nothing – and that we are certainly are not worthy of the love that Heavenly Father has for us.
But when I know who I am and I understand my divine nature, then,
I can go forward with strength and power to serve others
I walk with faith and confidence when things are difficult because I know God loves me
I know of my worth as His child
I also know that when life weighs heavy upon me, there are times when it is difficult and disappointing. So I’m here to confess to you this morning that there are times when I forget this, and sometimes I think “Heavenly Father, are you there? Are you aware of me? Do you know me?”
I have learned over the years that there are some things that I can do that help me remember how the Lord feels about me.
So I’m gonna share 4 things with you today that are my keys to remember, that I am a daughter of God, I love him and He loves me and I offer these to you this morning, they may be different for you, but these are the things that helped me in the event that there’s ever been a time that you taught: does Heavenly Father know that I am there? Is he aware of me?
So the first thing that helps me is:
Reading the scriptures, because when I read the scripture, it helps me see how Heavenly Father has blessed His other children and that if He has done that for them, then wouldn’t not make sense that He would do that also for me?
In the 18th section of the Doctrine Covenants I like to read about the value of a soul in His eyes. I read there and remember that He suffered pain and death for me, for my sins, so that I have the opportunity to repent, and change, and be happy and know that He is my loving Father. That to me is everything.
I like to read in 3rd Nephi when the Savior appears to the valiant Nephites that are there waiting for Him at the temple. And at that time he invites them to come forward one by one to see His hands, to feel them and His feet, that they have their own personal testimony of who He is, so that then they can bear record of who He is.
I love to read and remember that when God the Father and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, Heavenly Father called Joseph by his name.
And so the scriptures help me if I forget who I am in the Lord’s eyes.
The second thing that is really important for me is:
My Patriarchal blessing, it is a little glimpse of the way Heavenly Father sees me and not only who I am but who I can become. So if you had not received your patriarchal blessing, I’d invite you to do that and then read it often, because for me it is a real help as I read those words, my personal scripture for me that helps me see that I am valued in the eyes of God.
The third thing is:
I love to sing the Sacrament hymns, I like that time on Sunday during Sacrament meeting, when I am singing hymns about the Savior, and as I let those words go through my mind, I think “He did this for me, He did this for me,” and I stand all amazed at the love that He has for me.
And then the fourth thing is:
Prayer, for me it is essential. It is powerful and it is portable. At any time and in any place I can beseech the Lord, “Heavenly Father help me know that you’re there. Help me feel thy love and help me know that I am a beloved daughter of yours.”
So one thing that I’m gonna share with you, that I’ve had learned about prayer is that – the times when I have really poured my heart to the Lord and have needed His help, I’ve never had an angel that has come and sat on my bed, and told me what to do. Very often the answers to prayers I had received had been by way of an earthly being – you. We have the opportunity to bless each other’s lives and to answer prayers. So I would invite you that when you feel prompted by the Holy Ghost to do something for someone, do it, because very often it is an answer to a prayer.
So when I forget my value to the Lord, these are the four things that I do to help me remember.
So, who am I? How am I identified? I am a daughter of God. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a member of His restored Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that is who I am.
So, now I have an invitation for you. If you have wonder about your value to the Lord, then I would ask you, do something about it today.
For a class that I was taking as I was finishing my degree, I received an assignment from the teacher that was kind of an interesting one for me. What she asked us to do, was to contact 5 people that we trusted and then ask them to think about us, to consider who we are and then to send us a list of 10 of our qualities. It was really an interesting and amazing experience for me because the 5 people that I asked, who I trusted, saw me in a way that was different than I saw myself.
So you might try that, choose 5 people that you trust, ask them to think about you and then send you a list of 10 of your qualities, it may help you see how Heavenly Father feel about you.
Another suggestions that I mentioned before is to received and then read your patriarchal blessing because is personal scripture for you, and you can see how Heavenly Father feels about you by reading those words and personal verses of scripture.
And the last thing that occurs me, and I thought: “I think this is a really good idea,” is this time, conference is coming in a couple of weeks. Let’s look at conference in a different way, listen to the talk, listen to the things that are described about all of the things that Heavenly Father offers to us, because He loves us. Let’s look for all the ways and all of the evidences that He loves you.
I have a friend who grew up in a large family. Every day when she and her siblings left home, as a child, as a teenager and as a young adult, her mother would call her, “Connie, remember who you are.”
Let’s do the same – remembering who we really are, as sons and daughters of God, will help us move through life with faith and confidence and joy. We have a Heavenly Father who knows us, and loves us, and wants to bless us. So let’s remember who we are and allow Him to do so. You are so much more than just a name – may you discover, and feel, and remember who you really are. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
“I’m Trying to be Like Jesus”
President Bruce C. Kusch Devotional Address
That was beautiful, thank you very, very much. I think that as we all listened to that hymn, there are many things that we ponder and think about in the life of the Savior, and I’m grateful for that. And I am grateful for the things that Sister Kusch thought us, I’m grateful to be here with her today. She is more amazing than words can describe, and I’m grateful that we have the blessing of sharing this life and eternities together.
You are a beautiful sight, it is wonderful to see all of you here this morning. It’s an exciting time, the beginning of a semester, there’s always something very special about that, and somehow especially the Fall semester. The leaves are starting to change, the temperature soon will cool, and we now know there might even be hope for BYU football! So it’s a great time of the year. For many, this is your first LDS Business College Devotional. For others, you are continuing the holy habit of making Devotional a part of your weekly personal worship. Something powerful happens when a body of saints gather together with a desire to be taught, and to learn, and to be reminded of the important doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I do promise that if you will attend devotional each week, and come prepared with a prayer in your heart, your prayers will be answered, may be not in that very moment but your prayers will be answered, and you will be taught something, and you will be strengthened in ways this semester that you cannot yet imagine.
I am a recreational runner. I ran a little cross country in high school – and hated it, I might add. But about 30 thirty years ago I started running again after succumbing to a significant amount of peer pressure, and I was hooked. I’ve run races in six different states and try to run when I am on business trips. I’ve run in Switzerland, in France, in Japan, in Taiwan, in Guatemala, in Mexico, and even in Cuba, and lived to tell the tell of going for a run in downtown Havana, Cuba.
Mostly, my runs are uneventful. They generally consist of me huffing and puffing my way along a street, path or trail for anywhere between 3 and 10 miles. During the week, I am usually out by 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning, I was out this morning just a little before 5:30 and on Saturdays I sleep in and don’t start a run until about 6:30 – in the morning, now I know for many of you that’s not sleeping in, but for me it is.
Now, it’s not my intent to talk about running today, but to share with you two experiences that I had this summer following my long Saturday morning runs.
I had finished a run and noticed a man and woman on bicycles were resting in the same area where I was stretching and cooling down. We said hello and I went about my stretching while they continued a conversation. After a few minutes they got back on their bikes and headed north on the bike path.
It was then I noticed another man who was loading his bike on a bike rack, on the back of his car. I noticed him, because the couple started berating him. They used foul language, they hurled racial insults at the man, and suggested he had no right to be living in the United States, and that he just go back to wherever he was from. The recipient of this vile display said nothing – and finally the man and the woman continued on.
I was appalled at what I witnessed. I had never in my life seen anything like this. My heart went out to this stranger, who was obviously hurt by this distasteful behavior. I walked over to him and expressed how sorry I was for him that he had been treated in such an ugly way. I learned that his name was Francisco, I learned that he was a chemical engineer. I learned that Mexico was his native country, I learned that he had been a resident of the United States for over 25 years and was a citizen of this country. We visited for a few more minutes, and we said our goodbyes. Francisco was clearly hurt but he also seemed to hold no grudge for what he had experienced. He explained that he had seen this couple on the bike trail and he had stopped to let them pass, and somehow, they’ve taken offense at that. We went our separate ways but I hope his acceptance of the way he was treated was not because he’d been treated like that before by someone who judged this good man in a way to suggest he wasn’t worthy of living in this country and he should just go back to wherever he was from.
Now, a few weeks before this experience, I witnessed something that is almost more tender and more powerful than I can adequately express.
The circumstances were similar to the first experience that I described. Saturday morning, I had just finished a long run, and back at the very same place where I would stretch and cool down.
Initially, I did not fully grasp to what was unfolding before me, but once I did I wanted to capture what I was happening with my cellphone camera, but the scene before my eyes was too sacred to do so, I felt that I was standing in holy ground.
I saw a man sitting in the seat of a 3-wheeled bicycle very low to the ground, one of those that you pedal with your hands. At his side was a very large man – I would guess like the stature of Brother Vaughn, really tall, and REALLY buffed – about the size of an NFL linebacker, if you can imagine someone like that. At first, I thought they were just getting ready to ride together and then I realized that the man sitting on the bike was a quadriplegic. I glanced to my right and I saw his empty wheelchair. I next noticed a minivan with the side door open where the bike and wheelchair had been stored and transported. And then I realized that this very large man was helping his friend get ready to hit this bike path on his bike, probably for the very first time. I saw him make sure that every strap was tight and secure, to make sure that his friend did not tumble off the bike and onto the bike path. I saw him carefully and quietly and ever so gently, describe to him – almost in whispers, what he was doing, step by step. I saw him gently, and lovingly and carefully lather sunscreen on his hands, his arms, and his face, and his legs. I saw him place his friend’s hands on the pedals to instruct him what to do to make sure he could turned those pedals. All of this took about 10 minutes. Through it all, I tried not to stare at them, but I was riveted by what I saw. I took an extra-long time to stretch and to cool down because I wanted to capture in my mind and in my heart every single minute of what was unfolding before my eyes.
I saw this very strong lift the very weak and helpless. I saw assurance given to one that was very unsure. I saw this man do something for his friend, that this friend could not do for himself ever. It was the most Christlike act of service and ministering that I have ever witnessed, and I had never witnessed anything like that, so profound in real time. There were so many lessons, and so many reminders, such admiration for this humble giant. It was as if I was seeing the Savior himself minister to this man. And then the Savior very own words recorded in Matthew 25 echoed in my mind...”inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The Savior’s strength and grace lift us in our weakness. He assures us with His love given as a gift by the Holy Ghost. His infinite and eternal Atonement makes repentance and resurrection possible; something we could never achieve on our own. We rely wholly and completely on the “merits, mercy and grace of Christ” just as the man on the bicycle was relying on his friend.
Nephi testified that he heard the Savior’s voice, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, who admonished him, “...follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.”
We have all sung the Primary song “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus:”
I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,
“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”
I have reflected on these two contrasting experiences time and time again. I don’t know anything about the man and the woman who treated Francisco with such contempt. I likewise know nothing about the two men in the second experience that I related, I have not seen since. But I do know the man in the second experience was following the Savior, doing what He would have done, being kind, gentle and loving, just like Jesus taught.
But more than just following Jesus, both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, give us the charge to be perfect, even as the Father and the Son are perfect.
And, if this last admonition seems a little bit overwhelming, consider what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught in the October 2017 General Conference:
“The scriptures were written to bless and encourage us, and surely they do that. We thank heaven for every chapter and verse we have ever been given. But have you noticed that every now and then a passage will appear that reminds us we are falling a little short? For example, the Sermon on the Mount begins with soothing, gentle beatitudes, but in the verses that follow, we are told—among other things—not only not to kill but also not even to be angry. We are told not only not to commit adultery but also not even to have impure thoughts. To those who ask for it, we are to give our coat and then give our cloak also. We are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and do good to them who hate us.
If that is your morning scripture study, and after reading just that far you are pretty certain you are not going to get good marks on your gospel report card, then the final commandment in the chain is sure to finish the job: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … in heaven is perfect.” With that concluding imperative, we want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head. Such celestial goals seem beyond our reach. Yet surely the Lord would never give us a commandment He knew we could not keep.”
I want to share a principle with you that I would teach our new missionaries on their very first day in the mission. Now, 3 of them are here today, I don’t that they will remember this, and I’m not gonna ask them to raise their hands if they do or they don’t, we’ll talk later. I wish I would’ve been more effective at this, because I found myself regularly repeating this with some missionaries that had difficulty applying the principle.
Every missionary arrives in the mission field wanting and desiring to do more than they are capable of doing. If you are a returned missionary, I want you to think about your very first day in the mission field. There is a very very large gap between what a missionary can do when they arrive – a brand new missionary, compared to a missionary that has even a few more weeks or a few more months of service in the mission field. A new missionary generally is not a very good teacher. And if a new missionary is arriving from the United States and speaking a foreign language, they cannot speak it very well at all. And, even if they think they could, and even if the missionaries that we received thought that they were pretty proficient with the language, they soon found out that Spanish in Mexico didn’t resemble anything like the Spanish they learned in the MTC.
But there were several areas where a brand-new missionary was every bit the equal of the most experienced missionary. They could work hard. They could study diligently. They could pray with their whole heart and soul. They could give their whole soul as an offering to the Savior. They could love the people. They could be obedient, without rebellion. And, they were just as entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost as any other missionary who was almost on their way home.
But here is the principle that I tried to teach them: as a new missionary, you must give yourself permission to be new missionary, fully confident that as you work and serve with your whole heart and soul, that capability gap would quickly close, and their desires and their capabilities would soon be a perfect match.
Now, just as it is for a new missionary, there is an enormous gap between being perfect, our desire to be perfect, and the perfection of the Father and the Son. Because this is so, we need to give ourselves permission to be a work in progress. Now, that doesn’t mean that we throw our hands in the air, claim the pursuit of godly perfection is beyond our grasp and impossible task and we give up, nor am I suggesting that just with cheer will and hard work, we will achieve this state of perfection in this life, but I do know that there are things we can and must do to narrow the gap, as we strive to develop Christlike character and attributes during our time here in mortality.
Just last Saturday, speaking to nearly 50,000 people in Safeco Field in Seattle – President Nelson said, “As a Church we need to be doing what the Savior wishes us to do. And as a people we need to be looking and acting like true followers of Jesus Christ.”
Last Wednesday, in a pre-semester meeting with employees, Elder Holland said that one of the most important missions of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve is to “prepare the members of the Church to be recognizable to the Savior.”
Do you see, then brothers and sisters, why it is so very important that we use the proper name of the Church? We are not ‘Mormons,’ we are not members of ‘the LDS Church.’ We are members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each of us should be making a conscious effort to appropriately mention our membership in Christ’s true and living church as often as we can.
Now there is little question that if we were to see the Savior, we would recognize Him immediately. But if a stranger were to meet you, would they recognize you as a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of His restored Church? Would your speech, your actions, your dress and demeanor identify you as a capable and trusted disciple?
Let me share with you five things that successful missionaries did to narrow the capability gap and let’s see if we can liken these things to ourselves in our daily efforts to try and be a little more like Jesus.
Successful missionaries, first, had knowledge and understanding of their true identity and their purpose as a missionary.
Do you believe, do you really believe, the words of the Primary hymn that we all know and love? I AM a child of God, and He HAS sent me here. Knowing who we are – our true identity as the spiritual offspring of heavenly parents – is vital. When we know that, and believe that, and remember that every day, it will change our very nature and our desires.
Successful missionaries looked and acted like set apart representatives of the Savior.
They likened unto themselves the words of the Apostle Paul, when he said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, (or I became a missionary), I put away childish things” (1Cor 13:11). They knew that their success was linked to the choices that they made, because of that they chose to act, think, and behave like a worthy representatives of Christ.
Successful missionaries served with an eye single to the glory of God.
They knew that when they did their lives would be filled with light; they saw things more clearly, and they understood things more deeply. The same will be true for us. When we keep our covenants and we stay on the covenant path and becoming more like Jesus becomes our quest, God will endow us with power – even the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement.
Successful missionaries made every day count. They studied. They prayed. They served. They taught. They testified. They loved. And they worked even when it was really hard. They cherished the blessing of carrying the Savior’s name over and in their heart. And we can make every day count too. We can study. We can pray. We can love. We can serve.
Finally, successful missionaries endured to the end. They worked to the very last minutes of their very last day. Our enduring now, with faith and repentance and patience and humility, will qualify us to stand before the Savior one day and be received into His arms, and hear the words, “well done.”
Now I share these concluding words from Elder Holland:
“Brothers and sisters, every one of us aspires to a more Christlike life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human. May we refuse to let our own mortal follies, and the inevitable shortcomings of even the best men and women around us, make us cynical about the truths of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Church, our hope for our future, or the possibility of godliness. If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete—which is the New Testament meaning of perfection” (General Conference address, October 2017).
Brothers and Sisters, as Elder Holland taught us last week: the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of happy endings. We are all on different paths to becoming like the Savior. In our journey along that path we do not judge others if we perceive they are not quite yet where we are; nor do we compare ourselves to our fellow travelers as we stretch our vision to see them in the distance ahead.
I pray that Heaven will bless us all as we strive to be a little more like Jesus every single day. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.