Ensign College Devotional
President Kusch began his academic career at BYU-Idaho in August 2002 as a member of the faculty of the Business Management department. In July 2008 he was appointed Associate Academic Vice President for Curriculum, serving in that role until June 2012 when he and Sister Kusch were called to preside over the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission.
Prior to joining the BYU-Idaho faculty, President Kusch worked in the high technology industry in Silicon Valley, CA in various sales, marketing, general management, and consulting roles. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, and a PhD in instructional design from Idaho State University.
Sister Alynda Kusch is a graduate of BYU-Idaho. Following her graduation, she taught Culinary Arts until she and President Kusch left for their missionary service in Mexico. If you know Sister Kusch at all, you know she is a master teacher, and master designer and creator of textile art.
Both born and raised in Southern California, President and Sister Kusch were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1974. They are the parents of four children, and 15 grandchildren.
President Bruce C. Kusch
Dancing to the Beat of Babylon's Band
Brothers and sisters, you have been well taught this morning. Sister Kusch is a woman of great faith whom I love very much. We are very grateful to be gathered with you again in our weekly devotional and wish each of you the very best as the semester begins. I strongly encourage students, faculty, and staff to make attendance at devotional a priority. Doing so is a sign of a continued desire to become a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ. Regular devotional attendance will enrich your semester – whether you attend in person or watch at a later time.
During my Aaronic Priesthood and young single adult years I enjoyed attending Church-sponsored dances. Now back in those days – that makes it sound like ancient history, doesn’t it? – the music was always provided by live bands. To have pre-recorded music at a dance was absolutely unthinkable. In fact, I’m pretty sure that we would have stopped going to dances if live bands had not provided the music. And the popularity of each band was based on how close they sounded to the real musical groups we listened to on the radio.
One band in particular always played the same song at the beginning of each dance. It was then and is still one of my favorite songs which I have on my Spotify play list. Every time I hear that song – which shall remain nameless, along with the band that performed it - it puts me right back in the cultural hall of a Southern California church building.
I want to return to my statement about the popularity of the bands that provided the music at our dances. Their popularity was based on their ability to be successful imitators; to sound as close as possible to the real thing, while obviously not being the real thing. I mean, can you imagine having the Beach Boys come to a stake dance? That would have just been epic. I also speak from personal experience. I was never in a rock band, but I sang and played guitar in a folk music group SLIDE 1 CLICK ON 1 all through high school and during the year before my mission. This is my geeky best friend in the ninth grade. We were huge fans of a very popular trio by the name of Peter, Paul, and Mary. We tried our very best to copy every note, every chord, and every beautiful close harmony. Our group was called “Uphill Road” and consisted of my best friend and me, and a girl we auditioned with the stipulation she sounded like Mary Travers, the “Mary” of Peter, Paul, and Mary. My best friend was our Peter, and I did my best imitation of Paul. This is what my best friend from high school looks like today. CLICK ON 2. I wish I had known sister Kusch during my high school days. She would have been the perfect “Mary” and is a much better singer! CLICK OFF But just like the bands, at the end of the day, none of us were authentic, or the real thing.
Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite pastimes is fly fishing. SLIDE 2 CLICK ON 1 It’s a pretty exciting thing to hook a fish and fight it into the net. I practice “catch and release” so anything I catch is quickly given its freedom and sent right back into the river to be caught by someone else on another day. CLICK ON 2 The basic premise of any fisherman is to present something to a fish that fools them into thinking that what they are seeing is real food. But fishermen are, at the end of the day, great imposters. And the better you are at it, the more successful you will be in catching fish. SLIDE 2 CLICK OFF
As President Nelson concluded the October 2021 General Conference he said:
“The voices and pressures of the world are engaging and numerous. But too many voices are deceptive, seductive, and can pull us off the covenant path. To avoid the inevitable heartbreak that follows, I plead with you today to counter the lure of the world by making time for the Lord in your life – each and every day.” And again, he said, “I plead with you to make time for the Lord. Make your own spiritual foundation firm and able to stand the test of time by doing those things that allow the Holy Ghost to be with you always.”
And then this warning, SLIDE 3 CLICK ON “Even Saints who are otherwise faithful can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band.” To President Nelson’s counsel I add this from king Benjamin: “...I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard...even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not.” SLIDE 3 CLICK OFF
Let me summarize President Nelson’s cautions and counsel: SLIDE 4 CLICK ON – ONE BULLET AT A TIME
1. There are many voices in the world that are engaging.
2. Many of those voices – too many – are deceptive and seductive, designed to move us off the covenant path.
3. Even faithful Saints can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band – the things of the world, the mocking that comes from the great and spacious building.
4. To avoid this and to avoid the accompanying heartache of succumbing to these voices, we must make time for the Lord – each and every day.
5. We must build a spiritual foundation that allows the Holy Ghost to be our ever-present companion.
Brother and sisters, none of these things are new for any of us. I rather doubt this is the first time you have heard warnings to stay away from the spiritually damaging things of the world. SLIDE 4 CLICK OFF Satan is like that crafty fisherman – he places things in our view to entice us and that appear real – but he is the greatest imposter of them all. He does not practice catch and release with those he lures into his net. Once caught, there is no release.
So, what might be included in the “steady beat of Babylon’s band” that might derail us? As King Benjamin said, there are so many that they can’t be numbered, but President Nelson gave us guidance on how to counteract them. He said, “If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished. If you are also not seeking the Lord through daily prayer and gospel study, you leave yourself vulnerable to philosophies that may be intriguing but are not true...nothing invites the Spirit more than fixing your focus on Jesus Christ.”
Just like Korihor in the Book of Mormon there are modern day Korihors who seek to weaken and eventually destroy our faith. They would have us question the inspiration of the living prophets. They would have us question Church policies and practices. They would have us become casual about the covenants we have made – especially the sacred covenants made in the temple. They would stir us up to contention against that which is sacred and good. We are taught in Moroni 7 how to judge the motives of these people – people who are not acting under the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost – no matter how well-meaning and sincere they might pretend to be.
Social scientists have labeled generations for more than 100 years. I am proudly a baby boomer. Most, if not all, of you are considered part of Gen Z. Along with these labels behavioral characteristics and attitudes have been associated with each generation. I will not go into detail on what they are, but there are two labels, that if you will adopt them, and hold fast to them, will assure that you are not derailed and deceived by the steady beat of Babylon’s destructive band.
The first label is found in the familiar Primary song, “I Am a Child of God.” Just as Moses came to know that he was a son of God as he visited with the Lord face to face, it is essential that we each gain a similar knowledge. Once Moses knew that he was a son of God, none of Satan’s tactics were ever effective in derailing him from his prophetic mission and purpose. If you have doubts about your divine nature and origin, please go to the very Source of Truth and ask Him. I promise that God will assure you that you ARE his offspring.
The second label is your identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ. We would all be well-served to follow the example of Mormon, who said: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
In my lifetime I have learned the vital importance of being aligned with the Lord’s prophets, seers, and revelators. When we are in alignment with them, we are in alignment with the Lord. And when we question anything that comes from the President of the Church, we directly question the Lord: “...whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” I do not suggest that there may not be times when we have questions about something that comes from God’s prophets, but having questions is much different than questioning. When we question something – it is an expression of doubt. When we have questions, we seek with a sincere heart and real intent to have our questions answered.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, SLIDE 5 CLICK ON “When difficult things are asked of us, even things contrary to the longings of our heart, remember that the loyalty we pledge to the cause of Christ is to be the supreme devotion of our lives.” SLIDE 5 CLICK OFF
The ancient ruins of Babylon the city exists today. New Testament references to Babylon most likely refer to Rome or apostate Jerusalem. Modern day revelation teaches that Babylon is the world and consistant with that revelation, the Babylon that President Nelson referred to is not a physical place; rather, it represents everything that seeks to weaken our faith, and our loyalty to Jesus Christ, His gospel, His Church, and His living prophets.
Now, brothers and sisters, each of you can leave this devotional today, returning to your daily routines unchanged, with your attendance today making no difference in your discipleship. And while I am not suggesting that you go back to your home and plan wholesale changes that would overwhelm you, I am inviting you to consider small improvements that will help you make time for the Lord and obtain greater strength to reject the enticing and steady beat of Babylon’s band. Just start wherever you are. As I conclude, here are a few questions I would invite you to ponder:
1. How am I doing in making time for the Lord every day? What does that look like, for me?
2. What could I do to be more focused on Jesus Christ?
3. Is there something I should stop doing – that I KNOW I should stop doing – that would allow me to have a greater measure of the Holy Ghost in my life?
4. Is there something I should start doing – that I KNOW I should start doing – that would allow me to have a greater measure of the Holy Ghost in my life?
I promise that if you will prayerfully seek answers to these questions, with clarity God will inspire you and will enlighten your mind and you will know where to start and what to do. The steady beat of Babylon’s bands can be enticing and tempting. If we follow the inspired counsel of the Lord’s living prophet and make time for the Lord in our lives each and every day, we will, with laser focus, see these things for what they really are: the acts of imposters whose only motive is to derail us from the covenant path.
I testify of these things and pray we each might have the desire and the courage to obey. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sister Alynda Kusch
Need Help? Seek, Ask, then Do!
I love to be taught the gospel by children. They tell things as they really are and in a way that is simple and easy to understand. So, I was happy to be able to attend the Primary program in our son’s ward in November and to hear the testimonies of 3 of my grandchildren. It was wonderful.
My granddaughter, Avery, is eleven and the topic that her class was assigned was to share how they know that Heavenly Father loves them. There was a consistent theme to their messages.
One young girl explained that her baby cousin was in the hospital and having serious surgery. The adults decided to fast, and she wanted to join them, only the day of the surgery, which meant the day of the fast, was a weekday. Her friends told her that she did not have to fast because she was at school, but she wanted to, to show Heavenly Father that she was serious with her prayer asking for His help. During lunch, even though she was hungry, she went to the library to study while her friends ate their food in the cafeteria. She said that she was very happy that she could fast and pray for her little cousin.
Another Primary girl shared that her new little kitten had gone missing. Her family was afraid he might be hurt. After they had looked and looked with no success, she prayed asking Heavenly Father to show her where the kitten was. The answer that came however was not the location of the kitten, but instead was what she should do; go outside and keep looking near the house. She got up from her knees, went to the backyard, and found the frightened kitten hiding under a bush near the stairs.
And then it was Avery’s turn. Avery has suffered for a long time from anxiety. In the past it has proven almost crippling for her, but her mother has done a lot of research on how to help Avery, and together they have made plans for her on how to handle difficult situations.
I share this with you so you will understand the impact of her testimony that morning. This is what she said:
“My name is Avery Kusch. We just moved into this ward a few months ago. I have been asked to talk about how I know Heavenly Father loves me. Moving can be scary. Making new friends can be scary. Starting at a new school can be scary. But I know when I pray to Heavenly Father, he can help me with things. I prayed about having a good first day at school. I prayed about making new friends. I met a girl at school the very first day and she introduced me to all her friends and now all 5 of them are my best friends in one big group. I knew that turning to Heavenly Father would help me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and will always help me when I ask. I turn to Heavenly Father with big scary things, and I can turn to Him with smaller things, and he will always help me because he loves me.”
The theme of their talks was simple - I feel Heavenly Father’s love when he answers my prayers. That is a great gospel truth – and prayer is powerful.
However, some people may say, “If Heavenly Father knows me and what I need, why doesn’t he just give it to me?”
From Gospel Topics we learn these prayer principles:
- Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with Him.
- He loves us and knows our needs, but because of our agency He will not force anything upon us. Rather, our obligation is to approach Him in prayer and ask.
- Heavenly Father hears our prayers, and He does answer—even if His timing is different that we expect.
The primary girls in Avery’s class know and understand these prayer principles and they taught me three important lessons that Sunday:
- Prayer, combined with fasting, can be very powerful.
- This was one of the primary girl’s testimonies – even if it was hard to go without food, she wanted Heavenly Father to bless her little cousin, and this was a way to show Him that she knew He could. And He did.
- Because Heavenly Father loves you, He will help you in all things.
- You may think that having a good first day of school or finding a new friend is a small thing, but to Avery it was everything, and Heavenly Father knew that.
- This was her testimony - Heavenly Father will help you with big things and with small things.
- When you ask with faith, and then get up and do what the Lord tells you to do, that’s when blessings come.
- The Lord taught Joseph Smith, “Inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand…..I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee…prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you.” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1-3)
- The Lord basically said to Joseph, “You asked. I will answer. Prepare yourself to obey.”
- This young Primary girl’s testimony was consistent with what the Lord told Joseph – when you get up off your knees, it is important to act upon what you were inspired to do.
These are simple and powerful prayer principles, taught by Primary children, and they are true and will help us in our lives.
To these truths I add two additional lessons that I have learned.
The first is that many times our prayers are answered in ways that are different than we expect, but because the Lord knows and loves us, the answers are perfect for us in our circumstance.
A few years ago, I was asked to be the facilitator of a Self-Reliance class that the Church offers.
During one of our meetings, a class member shared that when his wife retired, they were not sure how they would be able to pay their bills without her income. One evening as he was sitting looking over the bills that were due, he offered this prayer, “Heavenly Father, I do not know how we can meet our obligations. Please help me know what to do.”
The answer to his prayer came in an unexpected way. He was not offered a better job, nor received a large raise. Instead, he immediately had the thought that he should leave for work earlier in the morning, to miss the traffic during his commute, and to take a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. These were small things, but with faith he did them. He said that the amount he saved by following that prompting was enough to bridge the gap in their income and to provide for their needs.
I heard him also explain that his daily lunchtime sandwich tasted sweet and delightful, and that he had eaten one every day since that evening prayer. He quickly added that this had been a surprise to him because at no other time in his life could he stand the taste of peanut butter.
The Lord has promised great blessings as we show our faith by praying and then acting. This couple received financial benefits by following the promptings that this brother received, but in addition, just as the Lord made the taste of manna sweet to the Israelites in the wilderness, He blessed a meager peanut butter sandwich to be delicious.
When you get up off our knees and act, even if the answer is different that you could have imagined, great blessings will be yours.
The second lesson that I have learned came as an answer to this question, “Do you have the faith to ask?”
One of my responsibilities in the mission field was preparing hundreds of meals for the elders and sisters and I loved doing that. On one occasion I was preparing dinner for missionaries who were returning home the following morning. I wanted it to be an expression of my love and appreciation for their faithful service.
It was near the holidays, and I decided that I would make my traditional Thanksgiving dressing. Just a side note – the stove in the mission home had not been working for several weeks and I so I used my counter-top roaster any time I wanted to “bake” something.
As dinnertime approached, I went into the kitchen to check on the meal, especially the dressing which I had put in the roaster. As I lifted the lid, I smelled burned food. It was blackened around the edges and as I tasted the dressing it was clear there was no way I could serve any of it because all of it tasted burned.
I stood for a few minutes at the kitchen counter and thought, “What am I going to do?”
I walked into the pantry, surveyed the contents, and felt panicked. As I stood there, I closed my eyes and offered a simple prayer, “Heavenly Father, I don’t know what to do and I have nothing to feed the missionaries.” I don’t know what I expected, but it was not what happened. The thought came immediately to my mind, “The Lord parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, he can heal the food, ask.”
What? Did I have the faith to ask Him to do this? I took a deep breath and uttered the words, “Please Father, heal this food.”
I left the pantry, walked back into the kitchen, and had the feeling that I should check on the dressing one more time. I lifted the lid, and even though it looked the same, blackened around the edges, it tasted perfect.
I was grateful and amazed. That day I was reminded of God’s love, of His desire to bless His children, and that He is a God of miracles.
But my experience in Mexico was an exception. Although the principle is true, having faith to ask is important– most often answers to my prayers do not come is such a dramatic manner rather they come as the Lord described, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12) in the form of a little inspiration here and a little light in the darkness there.
I find answers to my prayers in the scriptures, from hearing speakers in conference, in other church meetings, and in devotionals. Many times, I have had to wait for answers to come, all the while reminding myself that Heavenly Father’s timing is not mine and that I need to be faithful for a little while longer.
I trust President Nelson and I believe his promise, “There is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know…When we seek to hear – truly hear His Son, we will be guided to know what to do in any circumstance.” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” April 2018 “Hear Him,” April 2020,)
That is a powerful promise; guidance from the Lord in all we do.
From experiences with a lost kitten, a new friend at school, a peanut butter sandwich and a plate of dressing, may we learn this truth; Heavenly Father loves us when we seek Him, ask, and then do. I testify that our lives will be blessed as we do so. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.