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 16 grandchildren.
That Ye Might Remember...
President Bruce C. Kusch
Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak this morning. Alynda and I express our love to each of you. You are always in our thoughts and in our prayers. Our hope and wish for each of you as we begin a new semester, and a new year, is that your lives will be filled with joy and happiness and success. These are things within our reach regardless of the challenging circumstances that surround us locally and globally.
There are experiences throughout life that we may never forget. There are also many things that fade from our memories over time. And there are probably things that we would rather forget, but for a variety of reasons we don’t.
We might hear a song and it takes us back to a time and a place. In the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission, we sang “Hark, All Ye Nations” at the conclusion of every meeting. We did so with a future purpose in mind. It was our hope that whenever one of our missionaries heard or sung that hymn for the rest of their lives, it would cause them to reflect on their missionary service, and they would once again feel the Spirit of everything wonderful they experienced.
We take pictures of vacations and family gatherings to remind us of places we have visited and cherished time with children and other family members.
I will not forget, nor will it ever be forgotten, that on our first date I forgot Sister Kusch’s name!
Just a few weeks ago, I communicated with a former missionary companion for the first time in a very long time, and it brought back some special memories of the time we spent together preaching the gospel in Central America.
President Nelson’s recent invitation to express gratitude was an invitation for each of us to think about who and what we are grateful for. He counseled us that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.
The scriptures contain over 400 references that include the word remember, or some derivative of the word. Particularly in the Book of Mormon, we are encouraged to remember God; to remember His mercy, to remember how He delivered the righteous from bondage, from danger, and how He guided chosen groups to a new and promised land. As the resurrected Savior instituted the sacrament during his time among the Nephites, He taught them about remembrance of His body and His blood; and how doing so worthily would stand as a testimony to the Father that they always remembered the Son. And He included the promised blessing of the Holy Ghost for doing so. Clearly, remembering God and Jesus Christ should be an intentional part of our personal worship.
Alma the younger never forgot what he experienced following the visit of the angel calling him and the sons of Mosiah to repentance. In the midst of his torment, he remembered his father’s prophecies regarding the coming of Christ. He testified that as he looked to the Savior for mercy and forgiveness he could “remember his pains no more.” The lessons he learned about the healing and forgiving power of the Savior’s Atonement not only blessed him and those in his time; they continue to bless us in our time.
Following their own powerful conversion experience, King Benjamin admonished his people to “always retain in remembrance the greatness of God.”
Revelation given in our day teaches us to “Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” To that I would add, remember the worth of YOUR soul is great in the sight of God.
And “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”
Our personal and intentional remembering benefits us even more when we add time to reflect, to ponder, and to record the personal revelation God is willing to give us. Our effort to reflect and ponder allows the Holy Ghost to teach us important lessons and prepares us to learn and be taught new things. There is power in remembering. There is purpose in reflecting and pondering. Remembering, reflecting, and pondering encourage us to act, to repent, and to change. Recording what we learn is a demonstration of gratitude, a witness of testimony, a commitment to act, and can be an essential resource to help us and others in the future.
Significant events are associated with remembering, reflecting, and pondering. Luke records that following the Savior’s birth and the visit from the shepherds, that Mary “...pondered these things in her heart.”
In describing the life-changing effect that James 1:5 had on him, Joseph Smith recorded that he reflected on it again and again. His deep reflecting led him to act, and thus began the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.
Enos was inspired by the words of his father, Jacob, which had sunk deep into his heart.
Pondering can follow instruction or significant experiences, but also is preparatory for receiving more. Following six chapters of instruction by the Savior in 3 Nephi, the Savior sends the people home to ponder on things he said, to pray to the Father for understanding, and to prepare their minds for the next day when He would again come to teach them. But before they left for their homes, two more chapters record the miracles of healing, the Savior’s powerful prayer, the miraculous angelic ministry to the little children, and the institution of the sacrament.
Preparatory to receiving the remarkable vision on the redemption of the dead that we know today as Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, President Joseph F. Smith said he was sitting in his room “pondering over the scriptures.”
Pondering is an essential element of the learning pattern at Ensign College. Learners are invited to think about ways to apply and integrate secular knowledge with gospel truths, helping them to internalize the concepts that are being learned.
Each week as we partake of the sacrament, we remember the covenants we have made. We reflect upon the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. We ponder our own standing before the Lord. We renew our desire to repent, to change, and to improve.
Before seeking to know the truth of the Book of Mormon, and of all things, Moroni exhorts us to remember God’s mercy to His children from the time of Adam, and to ponder it in our hearts.
As Alma’s father Alma was seeking the Lord’s guidance on how to judge the rebellious of the rising generation, he received inspired guidance which he wrote down, “that he might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.”
I have cited examples from the scriptures, but you and I should have our own personal collection of things to remember and important lessons we have learned. As we reflect and ponder on them the Lord will continue to teach us in important ways. This is an essential element in receiving personal revelation. It is how He quickens our understanding.
I have reflected time and time again on my five years of full-time missionary service. As I have pondered those experiences, I remember important things I learned about priesthood power, about listening to and acting upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and my heart is filled with joy when I remember those who accepted the invitation to come unto Christ and enter the waters of baptism, and who continue faithfully on the covenant path.
Reaching several recent personal milestones has prompted me to remember, reflect, and ponder on experiences and important lessons learned. They are too numerous to mention in a devotional message, but I do want to share five...
1. You are going to have disappointments in life. Appreciate them. It just may be the Lord’s way of preparing you for even greater blessings.
2. Helping someone else achieve or accomplish something is heroic.
3. Wherever you are now is the best place you’ve ever been.
4. Seek the forgiveness of someone you may have wronged before it’s too late.
5. The Lord’s timing matters – a lot!
Lesson number 1.
You will have disappointments in life. Appreciate them. It just may be the Lord’s way of preparing you for even greater blessings.
Elder Hugh B. Brown, who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency told of an experience he had while serving in the British Army. Years earlier, on his farm in Canada, he had pruned an overgrown currant bush down to nothing but stubs, knowing that such drastic action would eventually allow the currant bush to be laden with delicious fruit. Elder Brown said at the time he could almost hear the currant bush say, “How could you do this to me?” He responded, “I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be...some day when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.”
Years passed and Elder Brown held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. He worked hard and was proud of his accomplishments. In fact, he was in line to become a general, which he wanted very badly. He was prepared. He had proven himself. He had seniority. One day he received notice from the general in charge of all Canadian forces to report to his office the next morning. Certain that this was to inform him of his promotion, he was bitterly disappointed to learn the position would be given to another – simply because he was a Latter-day Saint. Afterwards, in a quiet moment, he angrily shook his fists toward heaven and said, “How could you do this to me, God?” And then he heard a voice – it was his own saying, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” At that moment the bitterness left, he fell to his knees and arose a humble and grateful man who was to become a mighty servant of the Lord.
Lesson number 2.
Helping someone else achieve or accomplish something is heroic.
When our youngest daughter was in the 8th grade, she wanted to participate in a school trip to the East Coast. We told her she could as long as she earned the money to pay for it. Her best option turned out to be an early-morning paper route, but she would need help. Nearly every weekday morning for the entire school year, my daughter and I sat on the cold floor of our garage folding over 100 newspapers which we would load onto my Volkswagen Jetta to deliver. My daughter would do one side of the street while I did the other. This became sacred time for us. We talked about a lot of things. We listened to the same radio station every morning. We laughed a lot, and occasionally cried too. She earned every penny that was needed and we celebrated her accomplishment.
This daughter is the mother of three now, and a little over a year ago, when her teenage daughter wanted to go on a school trip to the East Coast, our daughter helped hers raise all the needed funds by making and selling homemade French bread and cinnamon rolls.
I hope that everyone who is listening to this message can reflect on someone who has helped them achieve or accomplish something. Those who serve others in quiet Christlike ways are true heroes and heroines. They do what they do out of pure love. They seek no praise or recognition. We need more of them in the world today. Strive to be one.
Lesson number 3.
Wherever you are now is the best place you’ve ever been.
On our final evening in the MTC before leaving for Mexico, a banquet was held, and we had the opportunity to sit at the same table with Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan. In the course of conversation, I asked Elder Bednar a question, and given the speed of his response, it was obvious he had been asked the question many times before. I said, “Elder Bednar, you’ve now been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for eight years. You’ve traveled and met Latter-day Saints all over the world. Of all the places you have been, which one is your favorite?” He quickly replied, “The last one where I was, because that’s where the Lord sent me.”
Elder Bednar’s response taught me a great lesson, which we taught to our missionaries. Wherever you are is your favorite area you’ve ever served in, because that’s where the Lord sent you. The mission you are assigned to is the best in the whole Church because that is where He sent you through an inspired Apostolic assignment. Ensign College is the best school in the world – for you – because that is where the Lord has led you to be a student. “Best” or “favorite” has little to do with location or majors or even reputation, and everything to do with knowing you are where the Lord wants you to be.
Lesson number 4.
Seek the forgiveness of someone you may have wronged before it’s too late.
I had the same early-morning seminary teacher in my Southern California ward for all my years of Seminary. Her name was Myrtle Housekeeper. This is a family I won’t ever forget. Her husband, Boyd, served as the financial clerk in our ward for many years. As a child I remember paying my tithing and fast offering to Boyd. As a very young bishop in that same ward, Boyd was still the financial clerk. Their son, Roger, baptized me. And every little boy in the ward had a crush on their beautiful daughter, Laura.
We knew that Sister Housekeeper loved us. We could feel it, but I am not sure we appreciated it as we should have. She was one of the happiest people I have ever known. She always had a smile on her face. She was not very big physically – but her testimony of the gospel knew no bounds. Early morning after early morning she did her very best to get the gospel deep down into our hearts.
Now, I must confess that there were days I was probably not the most model and obedient students in Sister Housekeeper’s class. I didn’t pay attention as I should have. I may not have always shown her the respect she deserved.
And as happens with some, if not many, of us upon arrival in the mission field, we begin to recognize our immature ways and begin to feel remorse and a desire to make amends. That’s what happened with me. I wanted to reach out to Myrtle Housekeeper and tell her I was sorry I had not been a better student, to thank her for being such a great teacher, and to acknowledge the positive impact she had on me. But I never got the chance. I wrote home asking for her address only to get a reply from my mother that Myrtle Housekeeper had recently passed away losing a battle to cancer. How I wished then and how I wish now I had not waited!
Lesson number 5.
The Lord’s timing matters – a lot.
2020 was a remarkable year in the history of Ensign College. Historic changes were announced last February that have been and are being implemented. The decisions were made by prophets, seers, and revelators. They were not made quickly or casually but were years in the making – dating back in some cases to more than a decade.
Now, this is what I know, and bear testimony of with the kind of perfect knowledge Alma describes in the Book of Mormon: When we act in and with faith in the Savior, when we are in alignment with the Lord’s will, with His anointed prophets, and in accordance with the Lord’s timing, we will witness the literal fulfillment of His promises in D&C 84:88:
“...I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
So, brothers and sisters, I invite you to remember. I invite you to reflect. I invite you to ponder. I invite you to record the important things the Lord teaches you. And I invite you to act promptly on the impressions you will receive from the Holy Ghost. Doing so will lead you closer to God as you “hear Him.”
Remembering God and His blessings is an important and essential part our personal worship. Not remembering, even forgetting God, is a bigger problem than not knowing Him at all (see CFM lesson, Helaman 7-12, “Remember the Lord”).
May we ever remember Him and His Holy Son is my prayer for us all. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Desire, Decide and Do
Sister Alynda Kusch
Many years ago, our family was living in Northern California. One summer afternoon President Kusch and I were traveling on our way to speak at a youth conference.
At one point in our trip, we stopped for gas and a cold soda. As we walked into the convenience store to pay, we noticed two very nicely dressed women talking to the store clerk.
We were standing behind them in line and could not help but overhear their conversation.
The women were clearly upset and, waving a small map, explained to the clerk that they were late for a wedding. They were completely lost and asking for help.
Now just a note: this was long enough ago that cars were not equipped with a navigation system, cell phones were as big as a shoe and had no capability to connect to the internet let alone provide GPS directions. We had to rely on reading paper maps.
When the young man behind the counter explained that he had no idea how to help them, the women left the store frustrated and disappointed.
We decided to offer our help and President Kusch asked if he could take a look at their map. As soon as he saw it, he knew right away what the problem was.
The map that had been included with the wedding invitation had been drawn upside down, with “south” at the top and “north” at the bottom.
This is how lost they were: imagine that they left from Ensign College expecting to attend a wedding at the Payson Temple. They finally stopped to ask for directions when they saw a sign that read “Welcome to Idaho.”
After turning their map right-side-up, and pointing them back toward the freeway, the women were on their way once again traveling in the opposite, but correct, direction.
As I have thought about the experience that we had that afternoon, there is a great lesson to be learned.
Even with your destination known to you, a map with incorrect or incomplete directions can lead you away from your desired journey’s end.
Maybe you have felt like I have these past few months as we collectively have experienced the unexpected, the difficult, and the strange.
Do you feel like you are trying to read a map that has been drawn upside down, with no clear markings as to where the path is or where it leads?
Do you wonder if it is possible to travel safely during this challenging time; academically, physically, and most importantly, spiritually?
Well, the answer to that question is yes. It is possible because we have a sure and correct map, drawn by the Savior himself, and a prophet-guide to lead the way.
It is possible to navigate safely and to keep ourselves on the covenant path.
How we do that in uncertain times becomes the great question.
We are here this morning at the beginning of a new semester, under circumstances that are different than what we had hoped for. But brothers and sisters, we all want the same thing – to see ourselves in April, on the other side of this semester, better in every way than we began.
From my own experience, I offer this morning three things that can help us do this.
They are the three D’s - Desire, Decide, and Do.
We will accomplish little if we have predetermined that the task before us is something that we find impossible or horrible. The first thing that is required then is to have a desire. We must want to want to do something better.
We are more likely to make goals and plans that will help us stay physically fit, or stay up-to-date with our class assignments, or take the time to read our scriptures and pray, whatever our goal is, if we want to do it.
President Kusch grew up in the ward where President Howard W. Hunter’s family lived and speaks fondly of seeing and talking with him when he would come to visit his parents.
President Hunter was a deeply spiritual man; a General Authority for 35 years as an Apostle and as our Prophet.
As a child, he had a desire to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but President Hunter’s father was not a member of the Church and his permission was not given.
As a result, President Hunter’s 8th birthday came and went, and he was not baptized.
His 12th birthday came and went, and he was unable to pass the sacrament with the other deacons in the ward.
But President Hunter really wanted to be baptized and to receive the Priesthood, so he repeatedly begged his father for permission. Finally, on April 4, 1920 (at the age of 13), he and his sister Dorothy were baptized in a large indoor swimming pool in Boise, Idaho.
Shortly thereafter, young Howard was ordained a deacon by his bishop and his great desire was realized as he happily was able to pass the sacrament with the other Deacons in his ward.
Can you see that without President Hunter’s yearning to be baptized and to receive the Priesthood, it would not have mattered that his father said no? He simply wouldn’t have cared.
Our desires lead us to action. If our goal is to stay firmly on the right path, traveling toward our destination, we can pray for the spiritual gift of desiring to do the things that will help us realize our worthy goals. We can ask the Lord to help us want to want to do those things that are required.
The second D is Decide.
We make decisions all the time; what time to get up, what clothes to wear, what to eat for dinner. But I am talking about decisions that will guide your worthy actions.
I read an article recently about happy people and their model for behavior. The key to their happiness was that they had decided to be happy. Making that decision then guided their interactions with others as well as their view of their personal circumstances.
When you make a decision that is prompted by the desire to do something worthwhile, then it is so much easier to have the resolve to see that desire turned into action.
What do you need to decide? Should your decision be about the outcomes you would like to see this semester in your classes? Or perhaps your decision would be about what you would like to change in your life or how you would like to improve your relationship with the Savior.
I can’t determine that for you because only you truly know your needs, your shortcomings, and especially your strengths. But this I can promise you, when you ask Heavenly Father to help you see what decisions you must make that will lead to a wonderful outcome, the Holy Ghost will guide you.
Part of successful decision making is determining a plan for success.
In 1989, two significant things happened. It was the year that the movie Field of Dreams was released, and it was the same year that I was teaching Church History in seminary.
Field of Dreams is a movie about a farmer who plows under his corn crop in order to build a baseball field where miracles occur.
One Friday night in the early spring of that year, President Kusch and I were on our regular Friday night date and I casually mentioned to him the idea that we could possibly combine a trip that summer to see Church history sites and visit the actual baseball field where the movie was filmed.
My husband loves baseball so it didn’t take much convincing that this would be a fantastic trip.
We went to the local mall and bought a map of the United States. On the bench at the mall, we spread the map out looking to see if such a trip was possible. We decided that it was and that we would do it.
I knew that Iowa was east of California, but that knowledge was not enough if we were going to find our way to Dyersville, a very small town that I now know is in the north-east corner of the state almost to the Mississippi River.
So, I began the preparations –
- I studied the map to decide which roads we would take, how far we would travel each day, and where we would stay for the night.
- I looked at places where we would stop to see Church history sites along the way and gathered interesting facts and stories about each place.
- I complied all this information and put it into a book.
Our trip was successful and wonderful because I was confident in our map and in our preparations.
Can you see how important deciding not only where to go, but also how to get there coupled with a correctly drawn map was the only way that this trip would have worked out so well for our family?
Deciding on a goal and determining a plan on how to achieve it will serve you very well this semester. Look at what you want to do, decide that you will do it, and then make a plan on how you can accomplish that goal.
Wanting to complete a task or make changes in our life is wonderful. Deciding and then planning on how that will be accomplished is also excellent. But is that enough?
We knew that we really wanted to make this trip, and our children were excited about the journey. But where would we have been if we had not actually packed the car, put on our seatbelts, and driven away? Sitting on the couch crying and wondering why it hadn’t all worked out for us?
President Monson once said, “It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort….It’s in the doing, not just the thinking that our goals are accomplished.” (Churchofjesuschristquotesmemes, Instagram)
Wanting and deciding, even planning is not enough.
The third D is Do.
Many years ago, as a young adult, I had the desire to have a greater influence of the Holy Ghost in my life. In order to have that desire realized, I wanted to be sure that what I filled my apartment with were things that would invite the Spirit and not drive it away.
I concluded that if this was what I wanted, then I had to do something about it.
Music is one way that I feel a great connection to the Spirit, and I realize its powerful influence on me, for good or for bad.
As I considered the music that I was listening to, I made the determination that some of the songs that I owned were not in keeping with my spiritual desire.
At the time there was no Spotify, or Pandora, or Amazon Music. Instead, we bought record albums that had 10 or 12 songs on them. There was no way to isolate one song to listen to, it was either listen to the whole album or not at all. I had hundreds of dollars’ worth of records. What I came to realize is that for every one or two songs on a record that I loved and were appropriate, there were many others that were not worth listening to, even damaging to me as I desired a greater measure of the Spirit in my life.
And so, I decided to get rid of the music that was offensive to the Spirit. I can see myself in my mind’s eye, standing at the dumpster throwing away record after record. I did what I had decided to do, and I felt a great sense of relief. I knew that in deciding, and then acting, I had qualified to have the Holy Ghost with me.
Can you see how this applies to you? We first have a desire, and then we decide it is worthy of our full attention and we do something about it.
As you prayerfully determine where you want to be and what you want to be in April at the end of the semester, the Lord will open your eyes and your mind, and your heart and you will know how to realize your desires. Then decide that you will do something about it, make a plan, then get up on your feet and do your best.
I trust the Lord and know that He will help you, with your best effort, realize your worthy goals and dreams.