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Children of God – Children of the Covenant, What if there was never a snowy day?

President Bruce C. Kusch Ensign College President
Alynda Kusch
January 10, 2023 11:15 AM

"Now brother and sisters, if I had one hope for what you take from my message this morning, it would be that you take with you a firm witness, born to you by the power of the Holy Ghost of who you really are: a child of God, a child of loving heavenly parents, and someone with divine potential."
— President Bruce C. Kusch
"Be grateful for the gift of opposition, for challenges, for hard things. They smooth out our rough edges, turn us to God, and help us appreciate a beautiful, warm sunny day."
— Alynda Kusch

Children of God – Children of the Covenant

By President Bruce C. Kusch
Sister Kusch is a master teacher and her father was a great man. He had a great sense of humor and his children often accused him of speaking in code making it a little bit difficult sometimes to understand what he meant but he and I had a code. When he would say, “Bruce, I think it’s time to go for a ride.” That was code for, “I need the biggest bacon cheeseburger you can find for me.” And I always loved that and even today when I eat a bacon cheeseburger, which isn’t very often anymore, I think of my father-in-law.

Brothers and sisters, before I begin my prepared remarks, I want to make you aware of a very special devotional which we will hold here in the Assembly Hall on January 31st, three weeks from today. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife Susan will be our devotional guests on that day. We wanted to give you notice of this so you can make whatever arrangements are necessary to be in attendance.

We will have more information available for you next week but we are very much looking forward to what we will be taught by the Bednars that day. It’s been a very long time since Elder Bednar has been involved in any formal event that is associated with the college and so we are very much looking forward to their visit.

After time away from school – like a summer break, or the Christmas break that we’ve just come back from, it’s not unusual to ask a friend or colleague, “So, what did you do during the break? Did you do anything fun?” If we were in a classroom and having such a conversation, I would tell you I did some amazing things and I would like to show you some pictures.

First, I got to be king for a day of a Latin American nation that will remain nameless.  I auditioned for a part in a new movie about Utah pioneers.  I played golf in a warm climate and while there got to drive a NASCAR race car.  And finally, I almost scored a goal in a World Cup game.

Now, the truth is, I did not do any of those things. None of these pictures are real and they do not represent who I really am even though I would love to score a goal in a World Cup game and I would love to be a NASCAR driver for like 30 minutes. Every identity was a fabrication that was created by technology I could not and did not control. Each image was created by an artificial intelligence software program. I uploaded an actual photo and the program created all of these different identities of me. Now I’m going to guess that for many of you, technology like this, is something you’re quite familiar with.

Many years ago, when I was much younger, Sister Kusch and I attended a dinner party with several other couples. Everyone brought something to contribute to the meal and it turned out to be an amazing feast of culinary delights with prime rib as the featured specialty. We had a great time and suffice it to say, we all ate more than our fair share.

About 4 o’clock the next morning I woke up in distress. I had chest pains, I had pain running down my left arm, and I was perspiring profusely. All symptoms of a heart attack. I got up, went into my home office, turned my computer on, and googled “heart attack symptoms.” After about 20 minutes with no change or improvement in my condition, I woke my wife up and told her what was going on and also told her I was going to drive myself to the emergency room of the hospital which was only about 5 minutes away. She told me in no uncertain terms that was a really dumb idea. We quickly changed out of our pajamas and headed for the hospital. When we got there, I got out of the car and walked into the emergency room lobby while my wife parked the car. There was a young man, I think a BYU Idaho student, at the front desk and there was thankfully no one else in the waiting room. I explained what was going on. He asked me to take a seat while he called a nurse. I heard him say, “There’s an older gentleman out here with chest pains.” And I thought, older gentleman, are you kidding me! That was a label no one had ever placed on me at least to my face and I had not thought of myself in that situation at least at that point in my life and it was a label that I was frankly not going to accept.

After an entire day of tests doctors determined my heart was fine. I got on a treadmill and did all the things. I was running a lot at that time and I was in really good physical condition except for that day. They concluded it was just some serious indigestion and maybe a touch of the flu along with it. This was, of course, a great relief but being labeled an older gentleman was the most painful part of the entire ordeal. And I might add that I’ve not eaten prime rib since!

Now two stories – one about identities I did not create and the other about a label that – at least in my own mind – was not accurate.

Some of you here this morning will remember when Primary was held during the week. I went to primary on Wednesday afternoons after school. I remember meeting in our chapel – and I remember learning Primary songs. I remember messages from the Primary presidency and I remember that there were times when we were pretty noisy and not as reverent as we probably should have been. I only remember the name of one of my Primary teachers – her name was Sister Marydene Hoagland – she was my teacher the year before I received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon. She was an amazing teacher – she loved us even in our eleven-year-old rambunctiousness and she inspired us to do our best.

I loved going to Primary and I especially enjoyed singing Primary songs and learning the hymns of Zion. On several different occasions I remember being told by the music director that we were going to learn a brand-new song that we had never learned before. One day we were told we were going to learn a song called“I am a Child of God.” It had just been written and published. Whenever I sing or hear this song in my mind I am back in our Southern California chapel on a Wednesday afternoon singing with my friends. This song contains messages that are powerful and inspired that we sing often but that should cause us to think deeply as we ponder these words.

Now we did not sing an opening hymn this morning. In its place, we are going to sing “I Am a Child of God” together now. As you sing, please listen carefully to the words and invite the Spirit into your minds and hearts as you do so.


Thank you. For me, “I Am a Child of God” teaches me about my true identity, who I am, and it inspires me to do the things that will qualify me to live in God’s presence one day – IF I live worthy of that blessing.

The Apostle Paul taught the Romans that, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” [1] Now brother and sisters, if I had one hope for what you take from my message this morning, it would be that you take with you a firm witness, born to you by the power of the Holy Ghost of who you really are: a child of God, a child of loving heavenly parents, and someone with divine potential. That testimony – firm, immovable, and unshakeable is essential for all of us as we each strive to navigate the challenges of mortality. That knowledge will give us the strength to endure opposition as sister Kusch taught us this morning.

Now, I am going to invite the participation of a few of you – and I am going to ask that you do so as an act of faith. And it will be an act of faith on your part and an act of faith on my part. It will be an act of faith on your part because I will be asking you to respond to a question but you will have to indicate your willingness to respond to the question before you know what the question is. And it is an act of faith on my part because I have absolutely no idea how you are going to respond to the question. I need a volunteer for the first question. In the back. Yes, would you please stand up? We’re going to bring a microphone so we can all hear you.

Last May, President Russell M. Nelson taught the young adults of the Church about labels and identities and who they really are. He mentioned three as the most important. He said, “First and foremost, you are a child of God. Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any other, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you into a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression.” [2] Now here comes the question.

QUESTION: Considering this statement from President Nelson, how might we avoid adopting or accepting a label that could affect our eternal progression?

Student Response.  Can I hear that question one more time please.

President Kusch. Considering what President Nelson taught about our true identities, how might we avoid adopting or accepting a label that could affect our eternal progression?

Student Response. Honestly, that is a very good question. Um, . . ..

President Kusch.  So the question is someone wants to put a label on you that is not one of these labels that President Nelson has taught about. What can we do to make sure that we don’t accept those labels and accept a lable that would hinder our progress.

Student Response. I would say it kind of reminds me of the talk that Elder Neil A. Anderson gave about how there was a guy that was trying to put a label on somebody else the whole time and that instead of just going along with the label he still said what he was trying to say how he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and they kept, “well obviously you are a Mormon.” He kept saying that he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and he kept saying that over and over again. The guy said finally, “why won’t you accept that the church is Mormon?” He responded, “Because that is not who we testify of. Yes, we have the Book of Mormon but that Book of Mormon testifies of Christ.” And basically he got to bear his testimony about how he is a firm believer in Christ. And I think that is the best way of how we can avoid labels, by bearing our testimony. And on top of that I think the other part of your question if you don’t mind telling me again?

President Kusch. How can we not let someone label us in a way and accept that label in a way that would hinder our progress?

Student Response. I feel like being the best example you can be which is like a true disciple of Jesus Christ. That is one way that one way that we won’t get labels. I feel like on top of that, my testimony, if you don’t mind me bearing my testimony, about this I guess. I feel like I believe the best way of avoiding labels and not getting a label is to show them our true character of how we are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

President Kusch. Perfect answer. Thank you very much.

Volunteer number two.

In the same devotional, President Nelson taught: “Labels can lead to judging and animosity. Any abuse or prejudice toward another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture, or other significant identifiers is offensive to our Maker! Such mistreatment causes us to live beneath our stature as His covenant sons and daughters!”

QUESTION: The students who attend Ensign College are diverse and share many of these significant identifiers that were mentioned by President Nelson. How can each of us avoid being judgmental or displaying any animosity toward another, and instead have a campus community that is filled with the love of the Savior?

Student Response.  That reminds me a lot of a lesson that I, I think it was a relief society lesson a while ago. She talked about how her and her husband were having a hard time with each other and she felt the spirit impress upon her to see him in white and that changed the way that she looked at his mistakes and also the way she looked at his efforts. And I think that is something that has kind of stuck with me since that lesson because in the temple everybody is wearing the same thing and we are all doing similar things and so I think that’s how Christ tended to see how we are all different but because of the Gospel and because of the covenants that we make we can all have the same purpose together. If we see each other in white and we can see each other as Christ sees us, we can avoid labels and judgments.

President Kusch. Perfect. Thank you very much.

Okay, one more volunteer. You have to be a good listener. A really really good listener. It probably isn’t a man. I’m just saying.

One more statement from President Nelson’s devotional and it is kind of long. That’s why you have to be a good listener.

“Sister Nelson and I recently attended the inauguration of a university president. During that excellent event, I thought about the countless educators worldwide who are dedicated to teaching men and women your age. Education is very important. I consider it a religious responsibility.

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. My purpose tonight is to make sure that your eyes are wide open to the truth that this life really is the time when you get to decide what kind of life you want to live forever... Every righteous choice that you make here will pay huge dividends now. But righteous choices in mortality will pay unimaginable dividends eternally.”

QUESTION: How can we keep the knowledge of our true identity as children of God first and foremost in our minds, and what will be the blessings of doing so?

Student Response. That comes through diligent and fervent prayer and a reflection of those words until they are seared within you. And as you said in your talk, if we are faithful, we will receive all that the Father has and achieve our divine potential. That’s what the Gospel is. It makes the earth heaven and man God.

President Kusch. Thank you.

Brothers and sisters, I didn’t invite each of you to answer these questions in your own minds as I was asking them but I hope that they have given you some things to reflect on. Now I need probably one more volunteer. You raised your hand and I didn’t call on you. Can I volunteer you to be that volunteer? Thank you.

Would you briefly bear your testimony about believing and following the counsel of President Nelson? Student Response. Yes. I can do that. I really like all of the quotes you have shared so far and I love what you have been sharing with us. And also sister Kusch, I truly believe that when we truly know who we really are, I think that is the strength and that it is the eternal knowledge that we can have to rely upon when things get hard. Like the previous quote that when we know who we really are we will know the way for us to be progressive in life. I believe that life is not easy like Sister Kusch said. Life is hard. But for us to grow and progress we need hard things. Because if we don’t know how we understand the pain, we would not appreciate the happiness that we receive after. And I know that only through Christ that we all can find true happiness and the true meaning of success because I feel like we are all college students and we all want to be successful in our lives. And I can testify that the only true success that we can find is through Christ and all of the principals that we have been taught. I know that we are children of God, we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and if we continue to follow him and keep learning and reminding ourselves of who we are from time to time when we get discouraged, we will have the strength to move on. And I know that the church is true and I am grateful for all of the things that I have been blessed with and all the knowledge that I have received from this Gospel. And I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

President Kusch. Thank you so much.

Brothers and sisters. We are going to conclude our devotional with a special musical number. Brother Decker has arranged a small group to sing “I Wonder When He Comes Again.” This is another wonderful song I learned in Primary. It teaches us about the Savior’s return to earth and invites to do everything possible to be ready for Him when He does.

I bear my testimony that each of us – you and I – are children of a loving, glorified, all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father. As part of His loving Plan of Salvation we have been sent to this earth to learn, to grow, to obey, and to make covenants that will allow us to live with Him and our families in exalted glory for all eternity. Jesus Christ makes this possible because of His infinite and eternal Atonement. I further witness and testify that every doctrine taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s doctrine and is true – 100% of it. I know that President Russell M. Nelson is God’s holy prophet on the earth today. He holds the keys and authority necessary making it possible for him to preside on the earth in the Savior’s Church. When he speaks, he speaks for the Savior, and we should listen and hearken to every word as if they have come from the Savior Himself.

I pray that we will believe him and follow him. As we do so, we will show that we believe in Christ, and that we desire to follow Him.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Romans 8:16

[2] President Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity,” May 2022

What if there was never a snowy day?

By Alynda Kusch
Well I don’t know about you but I was really happy to see the sun this morning. Just brief before it starts to rain again. In case you haven’t noticed, the last few weeks have been very snowy and cold. I have slipped on the ice, driven in a blizzard, shivered in the front of the fireplace, and wondered to myself, “Will this cold and snow never end? When will I be warm again? I am tired of winter!”

A friend of mine posted this picture on December 21st with the caption “My view right now” - taken from her deck chair at a beautiful resort in Mexico. On the same day, this was my view, and I wasn’t very happy about it! At that very moment, I wished I could trade places; blue sky, 74 degrees, a gentle breeze. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

What if every day was sunny and warm? What if that was the only weather you had ever known in your life, no rain, no wind, no dust, no snow, no ice? Heaven, right?

What I have come to realize is that a perfect day in the sun is only a perfect day if you have something with which to compare it. Without a snowy day, could you truly appreciate the warmth of the sun, or would it just be another day?

Each January we wish each other a happy new year. One friend sent me a note that said, “Wishing you 12 months of success, 52 weeks of laughter, 365 days of fun. May every hour be filled with joy, every minute with good luck, and every second with happiness.”

That may sound like an ideal life - never a sad thought, never a harsh word, never a challenge of any kind - but would it really be ideal?

What if every day was sunny and warm? Would you really appreciate it if you had never shivered in the cold.

What if you were always happy - how would you know it if you had never been sad? What if you quit everything that was difficult? Would you have ever ridden a bike? Or learned to play an instrument? Or played in a soccer game? What if everything was easy? Would you have ever learned to work hard for something worthwhile?

When Lehi was offering encouragement to his son, Jacob, whose life had not been easy, he taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.' (2 Ne. 2:11.)

We think of this scripture with regard to the wonderful gift of agency - the ability to choose the Lord and the covenant path and all things righteous. But have you ever thought about how much your life is improved because of opposition and adversity and challenges?

It is the principle of the polished rock. This is a picture of a rock I found years ago while walking on the beach in Hawaii. It was interesting to me because of the contrast in the roughness of one side and the smooth beauty on the other. From the top you can see the rough surface, with ridges and sharp edges. From the bottom of the rock, you can see definition, a variety of colors and a smooth, polished, beautiful surface.

It is the same rock. How could this be? This change was accomplished because of sand and water grinding against the rough exterior – friction, opposition - which finally, after much time, produced a beautiful, polished stone. Ok. You may say, “that works with rocks but what about people?”

I would like to tell you about my dad as he learned and grew spiritually, hard edges ground off and a polished soul exposed, because of difficult trials. My dad was a man who worked very hard throughout his life. He did not have a lot of leisure time because he worked very long hours, but one thing that he had always wanted to learn to do was to make silver and turquoise jewelry. Growing up I didn’t know that.

When Dad retired, he finally had time. He found a jewelry making class at a local college and enrolled in the course. He made some beautiful jewelry with silver, turquoise, and other gems. This is a necklace that my dad made and gave to me, as is the one I am wearing. I love these pieces of jewelry because they are beautiful, but more importantly, I love them because they represent many hours of very intricate work that Dad did with his new skill.

A couple of years later, my father developed severe arthritis in his hands. He could no longer handle the intricate tools required to manipulate the silver and as a result he was no longer able to create new pieces jewelry.

With some sadness Dad sold his tools and the silver and the turquoise. With the profit, he bought wood and saws and other tools so he could learn to make simple furniture and other art pieces. In my home, I have several things that he made for me, and they are precious because my dad made them. When I look at them, I can see his hands.

Several years passed and he began to have problems with his eyes. When his mid vision became blurry, we collectively determined that it was no longer safe for him to use power tools. Again, sadly Dad sold them. With the money, he bought a computer, learned how to operate it, and wrote weekly letters to his children and grandchildren who were serving missions. He wrote these letters as if he was speaking directly to us, with little punctuation and some creative spelling, so when I read them, I hear his voice.

Shortly after, Dad suffered a severe allergic reaction to some new insulin that he had been given to treat his diabetes. He hovered in a coma for several days and he nearly died. As he slowly recovered, he felt that the Lord had spared his life so he could write his personal history. He wrote day and night until it was finally completed. He then organized the pages into a book and gave them to each of his children for Christmas that year. When I read his book, I appreciated the photos he included and the stories, many of which I had not heard before. I love this book and when I miss my dad, I can open the pages and see him.

A short time passed, and my father lost his left eye due to an infection and had very limited vision in the other. He was now considered legally blind. But this did not stop him. Dad purchased a screen to place in front of his computer that magnified the images and characters so he could see well enough to continue to write. He labored over a second book, this one about and for his grandchildren.

So good things came from the oppositaion in Dad’s life. If you were to ask him if his days were always happy and full of sunshine, he would tell you, “no.” Sometimes life is just hard. But he got up every day and gave it his best.

As the sand and water of life ground away the rough edges of my father, a more gentle, loving, appreciative man emerged. If he was here he would tell you that he was grateful for what he learned and became, because of many difficult years. As I watched him, I realized that opposition and challenges are actually a gift. Although they can require us to pass through the deserts and storms of life which is not fun, they turn us to the Lord. They bring us to our knees in prayer. They help us dig deep within ourselves and motivate us to do hard things. They smooth our rough edges and polish our souls.

What do the experiences that my dad had have to do with you - as you begin a new semester, a new adventure, new experiences, perhaps while in the midst of your own opposition? Well, I learned some things from Dad that I hope will help you:
  1. The first is unexpected things happen. This is a true principle – for my father and for all of us. Expect some detours and twists and turns during your college experience. Look for the opportunities that these surprises offer because they will teach you about yourself and what you are capable of.
  2. The second thing is celebrate your small victories. This is what kept my dad going, being happy for the small, new things he learned to do. You will be learning new and challenging subjects, that is the way college is designed. But just because something is new and perhaps even a little difficult, does not mean that it is bad nor worth your effort and time. Look forward to mastering that which today may seem impossible and happily celebrate small milestones. Recognize how you have grown – what you can do today that you could not do yesterday.
  3. The third thing is employ “the power of yet.” Our son has taught us this valuable principle and my dad lived it. As you attempt new things and may not be an expert at them immediately, you don’t say, “I hate myself because I got that wrong.” What you do say is, “I can’t do that, yet!” This implies that you keep working until you can. That is empowering!
  4. The fourth thing is do things that will help you have the Spirit in your life. During those challenging years my dad worked in the temple and that gave him the spiritual lift each week to keep his difficulties in perspective. You can expect help from Heaven when you have done all you can to live according to the covenants you have made. Then you ask the Lord for help and I promise you he will help you.
  5. And the last thing, fifth, challenges change you, isn’t that wonderful! This was very true for my dad. Opposition and friction made him better. The difficult things that happened in his life softened him and helped him live closer to the Spirit. In the ten years before my father’s death, he served as the patriarch of his stake. He would tell you that this was one of the greatest blessings of his life. He would also say that this was not possible without what he learned from challenges and some wintry weather.
So I ask you again, “What if there was never a snowy day?” “What if there was never anything that was challenging or difficult in your life?” How much less would we be? How much less would we appreciate or accomplish? How much less of the Spirit would we have in our lives?

So, be grateful for the gift of opposition, for challenges, for hard things. They smooth out our rough edges, turn us to God, and help us appreciate a beautiful, warm sunny day.

May the Lord bless you as you go forward this semester, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.a

About the Speakers

President and Sister Kusch

President Bruce C. 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.

Alynda Kusch

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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