By: Bruce C. Kusch
A little more than six months ago we gathered in the Assembly Hall as Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of the Church Educational System announced three historic LDS Business College institutional adjustments. In his remarks Elder Johnson stated that the purpose of the adjustments, approved by the Board of Trustees, was to “better serve the students who attend the school now, and in the future.” In my remarks I stated that, “…the changes announced this morning are for the sole purpose of blessing and serving the students who attend here now, who will attend here in the future, and to bless and serve many who will never come here, but will feel of our love as we reach them and teach them through the means of technology.”
These past months, as we have worked to implement these adjustments, have been remarkable. Time does not permit a detailed explanation of everything that has taken place, but I hope you have felt and witnessed the Lord’s hand in this effort. This is His school. This is His work. And these changes were approved by the Board in what I am certain are according to the Lord’s timing.
So, a week ago Tuesday, we officially became Ensign College. I am grateful for the support of the Board in approving our recommendation for the name change. It is a fitting name for the work we are engaged in as an institution.
I am excited to announce that the first of our bachelor’s degrees – in Business Management – has received full accreditation approval by our regional accreditor. And as we begin the semester, there are more than 2,500 BYU-Pathway students around the world enrolled in Ensign College online courses. I hope you will each expand your vision regarding our relationship with BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Our work with them is extending the influence of Ensign College throughout the Church and around the world. And while our reach as an institution becomes more global, our work will always be to educate students one by one.
The author and historian David McCullough once said, “History is who we are, and why we are the way we are.” As we begin this new era in the history is Ensign College, I think it’s appropriate to understand a little about its history.
On four different occasions, over the past several months, I have walked the path to the top of Ensign Peak. Many of you have done the same. From the bottom of the trail you can’t actually see much of the peak. It’s only when you make the effort to reach the top that you have a full view of all that this valley has become.
Each time I have gazed across the valley to witness the fulfillment of what Brigham Young may have envisioned in 1847 I am grateful for what this sacred place means in the history of the Restoration.
Since its inception, this institution has always been focused on preparing well-qualified graduates to assume responsible positions in the workplace, with a personal foundation anchored on and in Jesus Christ and the doctrines of His gospel, instilling within them a moral compass of ethics, integrity, and a desire to contribute to the good of society wherever they may be.
One might think those aims are appropriately designed for a student body of young adults and even older adults seeking valuable skills to help them earn a living. While that is true today, it was not until 1931 that LDS Business College began offering only college-level courses. From its 1886 beginnings in the burned-out old bookstore of James Dwyer until 1931 the institution was primarily a junior high and high school. There was an attempt to add college-level courses, and even a bachelor’s degree in the early years of the 20th century but those efforts failed, and there was only one person who graduated with a bachelor’s degree. I am confident we will have more success than that as we begin offering our bachelor’s degrees next year!
The continued existence of this school has not always been certain. It has experienced some very challenging financial conditions during the 134 years since its inception. An ongoing commitment of financial support from the Church did not begin until 1986 – only 34 years ago! Is it any wonder, then, that sacrifice, hard work, determination, and frugality are traits that have always characterized the college, and that should continue to characterize us today? The word I would use to describe the pervasive attitude that has helped Ensign College persevere through challenging times and circumstances is scrappy. Committed and consecrated scrappiness must continue to be a virtue we all practice every day on this campus – and it is a virtue we should teach, model and exemplify for our students. Some might also call this grit.
Our new name, Ensign College, is the sixth name of the school since its 1886 inception.
From 1886 to 1890 it was known as the Salt Lake Stake Academy. From 1890 to 1901 it was LDS College. For 26 years, from 1901 to 1927 it was LDS University. From 1927 to 1931 it took the name again of LDS College. And then in 1931 it became LDS Business College.
In addition to five previous names, Ensign College has occupied 16 buildings in Salt Lake City’s downtown area and has had 13 presidents.
Those presidents have ranged in age from 21 to 65 as they began their service and served from 1 to 25 years. Two were born in Europe, 10 in Utah, and 1 in California – but that one lone Californian has deep Utah pioneer roots.
You might recognize the names of several former presidents: Karl G. Maeser, James E. Talmage, Stephen K. Woodhouse, and J. Lawrence Richards. But we also honor the service of Willard Done, Joshua Paul, Willard Young, Guy Wilson, F.Y. Fox, Kenneth Bennion, Ferris Kirkham, and Kenneth Beesley. Because of their collective efforts we stand today on shoulders of greatness.
Six names. Sixteen locations. Thirteen presidents. Operations as a junior high, a high school, a two-year college, and soon offering bachelor’s degrees that will certainly produce many, many graduates in the years to come.
Reflecting on all of this, one should easily conclude that institutional change is woven into the fabric and tapestry of this school.
Just a brief comment about the changes which have taken place here over the past several years – and how they have come to be. I want to assure you that no significant changes have taken place at Ensign College without the review, support, and approval of the First Presidency and the Board of Trustees. From time to time questions arise about past Board-approved direction that is different than our current efforts, with the suggestion that we have strayed from Board guidance. Let me simply say we have not. One of the primary responsibilities of the president is to identify things within the institution that should change. When significant change is contemplated, it is proposed first to the Executive Committee and then the full Board – and then we allow prophets to be prophets.
A recurring theme in the Book of Mormon is the importance of remembering. Remembering God’s deliverance on many occasions. Remembering the Savior’s mercy. Remembering His infinite and eternal Atonement. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, were given their names with the specific and stated purpose that they might remember the original Nephi and Lehi, to remember their works, and to remember that they were good (Helaman 5:6).
So, as we are appropriately excited about the changes we are implementing, as we look forward to a future filled with limitless opportunities, it is essential that we always remember and honor those who laid the foundations of this school. Those who had a vision of what it should be and would be. Those who led, those who sacrificed, those who were committed to seeing that this school would not only survive but thrive.
So, what has made this institution great and will continue to make this institution great?
As important as is our new name, it’s clearly NOT about a name.
The school has occupied 16 different buildings. It’s clearly NOT about a building.
What it IS about is the heart. Your heart and my heart.
Elder David A. Bednar said: “our hearts – the sum total of our desires, affections, intentions, motives and attitudes – define who we are and determine what we will become.”
So, when we talk about the heart - it’s about the heart of each and every employee coming to work every day with a spirit of sacrifice, hard work, unity, and frugality. It’s about a determination to provide the very best experience possible for every student to help them become a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s about a heart filled with love and gratitude for the Father and the Son. It’s about the unwavering belief in the divine potential of each student, remembering that the worth of a soul is not measured by ACT scores or grade point averages. It’s about a love for those students in providing the highest quality educational experience possible, preparing them to be valuable leaders, teachers and contributors in their professions, their families, and their communities. It’s doing all we can to inspire them to anchor their lives on the Savior with a commitment to build the kingdom of God with a faith and courage that is steadfast and immovable. It’s about hope, and opportunity, and becoming. As President Gordon B. Hinckley once counseled, we should “reach a little lower to lift a little higher.”
Now, brothers and sisters I want to extend an invitation to each and every one of us to commit to making a positive, personal contribution to the spirit, environment, experience, and reputation of Ensign College wherever we are and wherever we go. Every interaction with a student and with one another should be such that it invites the presence and influence of the Holy Ghost. Our students will feel the Savior’s love for them through the way we help them, speak to them, and even minister to them as appropriate. This school is known for that. So many have told me, “when I am on this campus, I feel the Spirit so strongly.” I would simply say it’s not about the campus; rather, it’s about the goodness of the people who work and serve here.
Many of us are very new to Ensign College. If the spirit of what this institution has come to be known for during its 134 years of existence is to continue, it will be because you and I work and serve with hearts knit together in unity and love, with patience and acceptance, with goodwill, manifesting a godly walk and conversation at all times, in all things and in all places. And it will further be because we make every effort to be like the Nephi I mentioned a few minutes ago; always seeking to know and be in alignment with God’s will, and never asking for anything contrary to His will, or that serves a personal agenda in any way. In our work there can never be a place for pride – even just a little, nor a spirit of contention in any way on any matter.
Of the many miracles I have witnessed during my time as president, there is one, generally, that I cherish the most: it is witnessing how the Lord magnifies our resources and magnifies the talents and capacity of our employees to achieve what was once thought impossible, or at least improbable. We have had sufficient resources for our needs. And, when we needed a little more to accomplish our work, the Board generously provided additional means.
I have learned, and have witnessed, and testify that when we move forward with humility, and a desire to work according to the will of the Lord, and according to His timing, and in alignment with His chosen prophets, we will see that He has gone before us, preparing the way, and opening the way to accomplish what He desires for us to accomplish.
As I conclude I want to express my love and appreciation and respect for each of you. We have made remarkable progress since late February when our institutional adjustments were announced. And, this has all been done in an environment and under conditions that disrupted everything we knew about our work at Ensign College. There is no doubt that we have received heavenly help. But we only qualify for that help when we are giving a full measure, working with unwearyingness, as each of you have done.
We will look back on this season of our lives and truly say they were days never to be forgotten. I would just add these ARE days never to be forgotten.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Tim Sloan's Remarks
Brothers and sisters, I’m honored to be asked by President Kusch to say a few words today, especially at a historical time like the present here at Ensign College. I want to begin by saying that for the eight months that I’ve been working here, what a joy it has been to learn from President Kusch and my colleagues on the President’s Executive Council and to be associated with everyone on my staff, the deans, the department and program chairs and everyone else in the other departments whose talents and dedication are so impressive. I really love working with every one of you.
These are strange times to be sure and despite the challenges and the ups and downs, everyone in all the departments are pressing forward, getting their work done with a smile on their faces. Of course, maybe some are smiling because they may be wearing flip flops and cut offs while they’re on Zoom.
But not everyone has weathered this COVID-19 pandemic well, and for good reason. We all worry about getting the virus, many have struggled with the virus itself or have loved ones or friends who have fallen ill or even passed away. To be sure, living under these conditions have been stressful, and for a lot of us we’re just going stir crazy in our homes and wearing the mask can feel stifling at times.
Much has been written about the anxieties, tensions and conflicts that are associated with the entire upheaval of our lives because of COVID-19 (https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/ ).The loss of normalcy as we knew it is very unsettling. Experts say that with all of us being cooped up we’re getting a little edgy and irritable, even “making mountains out of mole hills.” I recently read a humorous meme that describes some of the pent-up feelings that are out there: “For the second half of quarantine, do we have to stay with the same family or can we rotate?”
When we start this new academic year, our school experience will be a little different. Some of us will gather on campus while others will learn and teach remotely. We’re having to make some adjustments, like wearing a mask, socially distancing, for example. It may be a little awkward at work, finding our classes, teaching our classes, and navigating the stairwells. Yes, some of the same stresses and anxieties that we’ve been feeling may continue because of the inconvenience brought on because of COVID-19 health protocols. My message today is an invitation for all of us is to continue being united in the great cause that President Kusch and the Board of Trustees have laid out for us at Ensign College. This certainly includes not only being united around our mission but also embracing the great future this school has in blessing thousands of students.
Back in July, I met up with a friend to fly fish up on the Middle Provo River. That morning, as I was getting into my car, the thought came to me to listen to a particular General Conference talk, given by President Ezra Taft Benson back in 1989, called, “Beware of Pride.” Like for many of you, this particular talk I have read several times over the years. The prophet’s message is always a good reminder, one that I need to review from time to time.
So, what does a prophet’s talk about pride given 31 years ago have to do with us? Let me read just a few of the descriptions that President Benson uses to explain what pride looks like. The following are just a few, but these really jumped out at me because in these descriptions I have seen myself all too often:
“Faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring…[being]…easily offended…[indulging] in defensiveness…to justify and rationalize….” And while he provides many more descriptions, he says that “Pride is ugly. It says, ‘If you succeed, I am a failure.’” (General Conference, April 1989)
What I love about working at Ensign College is the impressive people I get to interact with. I’ve seen over these months nothing but selfless service and a “can-do” attitude with everyone being united, pulling together to make the best of this very challenging situation. We have several workgroups and taskforces that are in full operation, united in their efforts to accomplish the Five-Year Plan and getting us ready for this fall semester. On a personal note, I can tell you, in behalf of my colleagues on the PEC that while we may have to work through disagreements on issues with different perspectives, and we eventually always do arrive to a common understanding, we are all united behind President Kusch’s vision and the direction he has set for the college.
Now, lest you think that I’m being a little pollyannish and looking at a glass that’s a little too rosy, let me explain…President Benson’s talk was entitled, “Beware of Pride,” which denotes a warning. This warning is found throughout the scriptures and it connotes a present and future context. In other words, while there are so many positives to be said for the culture of teamwork that we enjoy today, we must also be vigilant and not succumb to pride in our personal and professional lives. Over a week ago, in a thought I shared in Prayer Meeting, I quoted Peter Drucker who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Well, I could modify that a bit to say, “Pride eats culture for breakfast.” In a talk given 12 years ago, President Eyring warned us of pride and how nuanced it can be when he said the following:
“Pride is the great enemy of unity. You have seen and felt its terrible effects. Just days ago, I watched as two people—good people—began with a mild disagreement. It started as a discussion of what was true but became a contest about who was right. Voices became gradually louder. Faces became a little more flushed. Instead of talking about the issue, people began talking about themselves, giving evidence why their view…was more likely to be right.” (General Conference, October 2008)
Maybe you can’t relate to President Eyring’s words, but I certainly can. There have been many occasions when I have allowed pride to enter my heart in the same way he describes. I call these “warm disputations” and they can escalate quite quickly, and they are very different from honest disagreements between two people who want to do what’s right, independent of their personal preferences.
Every day we have a choice to show our belief in Jesus Christ by the way we anticipate and react. It is the moments of life, within a 10 to 60 second range of time, during our interactions with our family and co-workers that reveal how much our beliefs really mean to us. Those interactions can determine the joy we aspire to have in our relationships. What we say and think can be so consequential in our lives (As a Man Thinketh, James Allen). We can choose to invite the calming influence of the Holy Ghost or we can be negligent in forgetting to remember our Savior. I’d like to relate a quick story about the power of Holy Ghost that comes when remember the Savior. Years ago, I was in Mexico traveling with my company’s country agent and we met with a man who was one of our franchisees. At one point in our meetings, a disagreement arose about a financial matter between my agent and the franchisee. The disagreement soon escalated into yelling and accusations with fingers pointed in both directions. In the midst of this heated exchange, out of nowhere, the words of the sacrament prayer came to mind. In my thoughts, I began reviewing the words, even tuning out of the discussion. Within a minute or two of my thoughts on the sacrament, in a miraculous way, the discussion made a sudden, but significant pivot and the heated feelings dissipated and the meeting concluded on a positive note. All I did was choose to remember the Savior for just a moment. Later we had a cordial dinner and the day was a success. That experience and many like it have shown me how the powerful the peaceful influence of the Holy Ghost can be in our relationships and work when we choose to remember the Savior throughout our day. Remembering the Savior can break down our prideful tendencies.
In the latter days of his life, Moroni is seemingly writing to two different audiences, but in reality, it’s only one audience:
- In one setting he gives us a warning, he writes, “I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not…and I know your doing…I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts…unto envying and strifes, and malice….” (Mormon 8:35-36)
- In another setting, he acknowledges our striving to be disciples, “…I would speak unto you…that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope…because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.” (Moroni 7:3-4)
By choosing not to walk in the pride of our hearts, I believe all of us are and can be peaceable followers of Christ when we choose to follow the spiritual promptings that teach us to be kind, to forgive, to not be easily provoked, to not be offended but to be easily entreated (Moroni 7:45)—the very opposites of President Benson’s descriptions of pride. Yes, there may be moments during this semester that we might feel stressed, anxious and even put upon, but let’s anticipate those moments before they happen. We can choose in advance to not be offended and feel defensive. And in those small moments when we are laboring with and feeling laden with our pride, let’s turn to the Savior. I believe Him when He asks us to “pray always” because He knows how much we need Him (3 Nephi 18:18). The “peace” He gives unto us depends so much upon how much we are willing to let go of our pride (John 14:27). Throughout this semester, I hope that we come to learn of Him, to walk in the meekness of His spirit, that we might feel His peace always during these challenging times (D&C 19:23). Again, I’m honored to be associated with you all. Thank you for your examples of goodness. May we stay united with President Kusch in “making a positive personal contribution” in this great work of helping others become capable and trusted disciples of the Savior.
President Steven J. Lund's Remarks
I'm so delighted to be here. President Kusch, what a wonderful place to be, and congratulations on your recent appointment and on the exciting things that are going on here with your name change that we'll talk about a little bit.
I'm delighted to be able to speak to people of your stature. I've spent a lot of time in classrooms in my life and know something of what it takes to keep an organization like this refreshed and running on the staff side, and to prepare to walk into a classroom in front of barbarians every morning, trying to bring civilization into their lives, and I'm impressed with you all. I have gone through and looked at your faces and read your names. I seem to recognize a few of you a little bit. One of my good but relatively recent friends, Brother Hollis, is here as an adjunct. He's an impressive guy. He works for the Church and was in charge of these For the Strength of Youth conferences that we had scheduled for this summer as part of the new Children in Youth program. So, imagine you've got this job. He put together hundreds of conferences around the world, meaning scheduling campuses to put them on, getting housing, getting food, getting registrations, getting people signed up. Then, he went through and hired tens of thousands of counselors and employees to run these organizations, and then signed up hundreds of thousands of young people to come and attend them – only to have COVID-19 strike, and then he had to unwind all of that and go through it – try to figure out how to get out of all those contracts and treat everybody fairly and be treated fairly along the way.
My respect for him knows no bounds and the bandwidth that he has do such things. If he's reflective of the student body and the faculty of this organization, and clearly he is, each of you in your own right are doing amazing things with your lives. How impressed I am. I'm happy to be here because as I look back across my life, I'm just old enough that I can sort of see the inflection points. The quality of my life has been driven more than anything else by sitting in rooms not unlike this one. I'm sitting in front of people just like you trying to pull me into the 20th century, then 21st century, so I'm impressed with you. I do have some formal remarks that I hope to divert from, but let me jump into it. I sense that there's a missed opportunity here that shouldn't go uncommented on as the Church moves towards simplifying its programs to best facilitate a home-centered, Church-supported framework of worship. There was a recent opportunity centered here to render moot the great debate, but with the inauguration of this academic year and the new signage out front, you are extending the lexical logical quandary that has divided the Church since I was a child – and that is, is it Ensign (en-SIGHN) or Ensign (en-SUN)? We could have just done away with tha,t but no it's still on our menu. I consulted the free online dictionary for a definitive answer, and shockingly, it's pronunciation guide is non-definitive, so the debate continues. But we can, however we say it, learn some things from the name and sign. It means things that you've already learned and discerned. For instance, as you know, in battle a flag bearer carrying an ensign would march under the field of engagement and armies would organize themselves around their ensigns, carried usually by an unarmed standard bearer who was the bravest of the lot. With a double portion of risk he carried a banner, so he was easy to find, but not a sword and not a shield. He relied on others for his defensive barrier. If the ensign fell, it would be picked up by the next bravest soldier around.
The most impressive warrior & carriers may have been the Scottish pipers. Their ensigns weren't visual – they were audible. More like the ensigns that you as faculty wield to marshall the capabilities of your students, to engage the world. The pipers’ instrumental voices caused armies to move and directed armies into the fray and enemies out of the way. The ensign that this institution displays to the world has attracted students from 50 states and 80 countries. All told, they come here because your banner has come to means something. It means everything that your former brand meant, and that's a lot. But it also means something more. Your new name and brand and marquee outside represent the renewed commitment of the sponsoring institution to this school's purpose and mission and future. And so, they come from around the country and around the world. Like a Neil Diamond song, they come. Inside is something of a beacon. It's a flag. It's a standard. It's a banner. Tt's a token of power or authority and insignia of membership of office or dignity. All of those meanings of ensign apply to places like this. Ensign College is a designator of a place – Zion. Back in the 20th century, I served a mission in Holland – the Netherlands Amsterdam mission. When I came home, I joined the United States Army. I arrived at the induction center in Oakland, California, and waited in lines and took tests and filled out papers all day with a very diverse group of people. This was in the 1970s. We have to go through a multi-step process to become soldiers, and we all looked remarkably the same. If there were differences, they were ethnic. In the Army, there was a transformative march to the barbershop. We were issued uniforms of various badges and denominators. The world at large could also tell a lot about a soldier by his clothes, but something else happened somewhere amidst all the marching and saluting and running and exercising and physical fitness. We picked up something else that was evident to others, later, as I moved around the country and around the world. Whether I was in uniform or not, people knew that I was a soldier. Walking through airports in the same jeans and t-shirt that I wore into the induction center that day, people would ask me where I was stationed. A friend and I took leave when we were living in Europe and jumped on a flight to Israel where, in civilian clothes, people generally knew that we were soldiers and they knew that we were American soldiers. Puzzled by that we'd ask how they knew. They claimed it was something about the way we walked.
When students study here, your ensign rubs off on them too. They will wear that logo for the rest of their lives. They may not walk differently, but they will think and serve differently. They'll be perceived differently by the world. This organization will influence where they work, what they do, how secure they become, their relationships, their ability to communicate – both the simple and the complex. And also the sublime.
Our goal as faculty and staff of Ensign College is to ensure that we make a difference, and that that difference in their lives, truly sparkles. Rex E. Lee was the dean of the law school I attended, and then later, he was the President of BYU. He came to visit me once in my office years later out of law school. He had no reason to pick me out of the crowd when I was in law school, and I thought that he might be wanting that diploma back, but instead it turned out that he was raising money. His pitch was a very compelling one. He said we have some of the best law students in the world coming to BYU Law. All of our students have made choices and had alternatives. They've also been admitted to other law schools, but they come to us because they believe our promise that we will provide them a world-class education here. We need to keep that promise. That means that we need to continually reinvest in faculty, programs, the library and scholarships – in order to have this university be comparable to the ones that they walked past.
Well, all of that holds true here at Ensign College. Your brand is a promise. A promise that the skills learned here will carry those who trust us into the workplace prepared to make the difference that they were born to. Ensign’s heritage is a quality community engaged, skills-based business college. It must endure and students who come here rely on another promise that is made by virtue of our name and sponsor – that their secular education will be enriched. BYU Law, which is a first cousin to Ensign College, declares that the mission of the BYU Law School is to teach the laws of men in light of the laws of God. The law school strives to be worthy in all respects of the name it bears and to provide an education that is spiritually strengthened, intellectually enlarging and character building. Thus, leading to life-long learning and service. Among its stated goals, it says to incorporate religious ethical and moral values. All of that is clearly part of the promise that Ensign College makes to its students. Of course, you cover a much broader waterfront of disciplines than law school, which means that you strive in more ways and in more directions to make that all come true.
I live in Provo. In my home ward, back in Provo for many years, lived a fellow who was the commander of the BYU ROTC program. He was a West Point graduate and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and a really neat individual. He's now teaching back at West Point again – teaching leadership courses. He's got a little newsletter he sends out to anybody who listens. I'm on his list. I love this guy. He taught a concept in one of these little leadership lessons that he shared with me that I've been using a lot lately, and that I think might be useful to you because we're going to change in a state of disruption. He says the first of Murphy's laws of combat is that no plan lasts past first contact – as in contact with the enemy.
Shortly after graduating from West Point, myself and several classmates had our orders changed to report immediately to Fort Texas at Fort Hood. I was quickly assigned to an M1A1 tank platoon as its platoon leader. All of my soldiers and non-commissioned officers were veterans of the first goal for my first platoon.
My sergeant was Sergeant First Class Anthony Garcia. Garcia had more than 17-years experience on tanks, and he would probably be the most influential person in my training regarding tanks. One of the first concepts that Sergeant Garcia taught me was to fight the tank. Meaning that we had to make the best of whatever situation we had in front of us, including fighting off of a tank that might not be fully functional. You see, at Fort Hood, we had brand new M1A1 Abrams heavy tanks, and they were immaculate 70-ton technological marbles with top-of-the-line fire control computers, 1500 horsepower gas turbine engines that could go cross-country in the desert at more than 50 miles an hour – as smooth as a caddy when firing. Then we were sent to California for a month of simulated combat with the National Tank Center. We had to leave our tanks, our shiny new ones, in Texas and draw some well-worn M1 tanks and fought the simulated battles using those tanks. We did everything we could to maintain those worn-out M1s, but the truth is they were well worn. A few days into the simulated war at NTC against the Krasnovian Horde, we called them, we received orders to establish a battalion. The entire regiment of the opposition forces were going to attack the next morning. It was pitch black that night. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face as we prepared and rehearsed. Unfortunately, the train was not our friend, so we beat each other up pretty badly running 70-ton machines in the dark as the sun rose and the opposing regiment attacked. I struggled to communicate from my tank, and my very large driver had bent the master power switch – hitting it with his knee in a particularly hard spot during the night. So, even the slightest touch would shut down the entire tank. My platoon sergeant had it even worse with his tank next to me. There was no time to repair either Sergeant Garcia's tank nor mine.
Sergeant Garcia reminded us to fight the tank. What he meant was we had to do the very best we could with what we had on hand. He meant that even a degraded tank with half of its capabilities broken down is still a formidable presence. It can still hold an invading army at Bay. It can still protect and defend the soldiers within its sphere. It can still read the battlefield with its optics and electronics. It could still communicate and act as an auxiliary command center. It probably had lots of firepower remaining.
Sergeant Garcia's tank was going to fight from where he was since it was broken, as long as he could. My tank was also going to fight very carefully so that we didn't kill the power in the middle of a firefight furthermore. I had communications issues. The range from my radio was suddenly diminished to about 100 meters. Anyone further away I couldn't talk to. So, I was having to rely on Sergeant Garcia to talk to the company commander, who was about 500 meters away. I couldn't realistically expect to be able to call for artillery either. As the battle started, my wingman, led by Sergeant Harris, had his fire control system malfunction. He had to use auxiliary sites to continue fighting. Our platoon was credited with destroying 47 enemy vehicles during that day's battle. Sergeant Harris, with the broken weaponry fighting into graded mode with his auxiliary site, was named Hero of the Battle – credited with 18 kills. We dominated an enemy known for regularly overwhelming rotating units. It didn't get within a thousand meters of our position because we knew that we had a mission, and then we had some challenges. We didn't complain. We realized that even though we won, we still had to fix things. We did everything we could with what we had. I was the happiest dude on the planet that day, up until we realized that even though we won, we still had to fix those tanks for the next day. When disruption happens in a tank fight, or a game, or at work, or in life, we've got to seize our outlook and turn it to the positive. Take hold of the belief that something good is just about to happen and you'll notice that disruption can actually become a good thing.
John Wooden said things turn out for the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. I was called to be the Young Men General President after serving for five years on the Young Men General Board, which was a really fascinating five years. While serving early on in this Board, President Holland made the comment one day that the bullet has already left the revolver, we just don't know when it's going to land. That meant that we needed to be putting together the replacement program for the BSA relationship, which was the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood.
We needed a new activity arm, and we needed to be ready not knowing when exactly that that would be required of us. A tremendous amount of staff work, and back and forth, and up and down the hill went on as the refinements to children and youth came about. Until the end of last year, the pieces were in place, the collateral literature was there, and it was rich. The announcements were being made, we had apostles doing global communications broadcasts. January came around, and we pulled the plug, got the umbilicus, and left scouting. We were on our own. Then, as we tried to build momentum with the implementation of this new program, COVID-19 struck and we lost our ability to communicate to our youth because we weren't going to church anymore. We couldn't communicate with our leaders because they weren't going. We weren't holding leadership meetings anymore, and then everything just pretty much ground to a stop. We'd thrown a track in our tank, and we were stuck in the bottom trying to decide how to move forward. Children and youth, as it evolved, was about creating leaders. It occurred to us very early on that our young people could not take the summer off while the disease came and went – that the mission hadn't changed, that our admonition to go therefore unto all nations, our mission to prepare these young people for a hostile world that they're stepping into, didn't change. It's become very clear Satan didn't take the summer off, did he? It's been a crazy time when so many things have been going wrong and the world's changing in dramatic ways. So, children and youth is about creating leaders. And what we're training is that if we don't make leaders of every one of these young people, then what will they go into the world as? They'll go out as followers and a follower will follow anyone. Children and youth is about helping them to find balance in their lives – balance physically and intellectually and spiritually and socially. It’s about helping them find the Savior through those Wednesday night activities, and through active quorum and class presidents, who themselves will be seeking inspiration from the heavens about how to help each other. We intend through all that to thrust them right into the engine room of salvation, for the Savior does His work and they're working alongside God and prophets.
They'll develop understandings and the ability to hear how the Lord talks to them personally. And with that information, they have a fighting chance to get on in this crazy world that's taking them every other direction. Children and youth is about creating opportunities for them to seek Him and hear Him. Children and youth is not about everything else. Remember the program we left, scouting? It was about creating rounded human beings to go out into the public, and that was a noble cause and considered well enough for a long time, but clearly nobody ever left the Church because they didn't know how to tie a square knot. They were leaving the Church because their foundations in the one place that matters to our sponsoring institution was not deep enough. They hadn't developed the kind of relationship with the heavens that they needed in order to get through the adversity that they would run into. Diversity, or brighter and shinier objects, were distracting them from the path. They didn't have a clear enough view of how this path has happiness attached to it and how any diversion from it brings unhappiness. And so, children and youth isn't about everything else we've narrowed our focus on now. We've got them very much focused on the works of salvation. This disruption came along with COVID-19 and we're learning some interesting things. The restrictions locked down missionary work too – locking missionaries in the apartments. It sent them home from remote missions. We all wondered what the mission world would look like in that environment. This was an enterprise that relied almost completely upon missionaries getting in front of people, meeting them on the streets, meeting them on doorsteps, occasionally meeting them in church. So, it was a little unsettling to think this new missionary environment, but what happened is astonishing. The most effective mission leaders out there were saying to their missionaries something like, you know, we're in uncharted territory here. You understand our constraints, and you also understand our mandate to go unto every nation, kindred, tongue and people, and it remains. COVID-19 doesn't change our promise to serve with all of our heart, might, mind and strength, so use your minds and all of your hearts and please go figure it out. These young missionaries have been doing work. There are missions that are reporting months with baptismal levels at multiples year-over-year from even last year when there was no COVID-19. My business partner’s son, whose name is London, is serving today as a missionary in London, England. I like to tell him that if he had any sense he would have named his son Atlanta, and then he would have gone to a real mission. Instead, they're unamused and so are you, probably, but I cracked myself up.
At times this elder and his companion looked at their limited tool chest over in London and decided to contemporize the Hyde Park phenomenon where missionaries used to go stand on a crate to start talking until they'd gathered a crowd, hoping that when the crowd dispersed they'd be left with a few seekers then they would teach them.
To draw a crowd, London and his companion started a cooking show through a podcast. They made it so that only people who they could help could see, and then they taught them how to make Mexican food. There isn't very much of that in London, so they tapped into a fair amount of interest during the show. The magic of Mexican cooking is that you cook the same thing, and then you just pull the tortilla differently and it gets a different name. They had to hide that secret for a long time to keep them coming back, but they did that during the show. They’d invite people to comment or to contact them, and eventually when the crowd clears, they're finding more people to teach than they ever taught pre-COVID-19. These wonderful missionaries are still baptizing by innovating, and they're baptizing people that they would have never found the old way. Under question is why it took a pandemic for us to discover these techniques and what else is out there for us to discover as we continue to innovate. Given the new toolbox that has been delivered to us with these emerging technologies, we are learning that the leaders and influencers we are hoping that our students here in college will someday become already reside inside of the. We need you to deliver them the knowledge that will amount to the keys to the car. I recently read in the paper that you're doing a hybrid model, or virtual learning, until Thanksgiving here, and then you'll resort to all remote learning. We don't know what that'll look like because it's still being embedded. It flies in the face of one of my favorite writers, GK Chesterton. He was a wonderfully creative journalist. In 1928, he commented as he raged against the cold indifference of the industrial revolution.
He said a man might possibly learn to appreciate machines from a book, whereas I gravely doubt whether the most patient pupil could ever learn to appreciate a book from a machine. I guess we'll see, but teaching us to appreciate books and life skills from machines is exactly what we're about right now. Your students will leave here into the same world that these missionaries are living in – one that's disrupted by pandemic and transformed by remote sociology. So, I asked myself in preparing this lesson, what it means to live and thrive to age 134 and then to change your name.
The scriptures speak about many name changes. By one account, father Jacob was about 91-years-old when he began his return trip to the fatherland with his family. It was there where he would wrestle with an angel and secure a blessing from the Lord. That blessing changed Jacob's name to Israel, and it also changed the name of the nation that would descend from him. We don't have perfect clarity about the details of this summary narrative, but it's worth noting that his name was changed because he had somehow shown his worthiness, and he struggled with the Lord accomplishing a great thing. Which mattered to the future world only because of what happened after the name change – when his family would establish the gospel in the promised land.
Which is all to say that through 134 years, LDS Business College has excelled in its mission, earning its new name, and it still expanding its vision. One-hundred and thirty four years later, the full promise of Ensign College lies not in its past but in its future. I imagine it's been noted somewhere that there's something afoot when the words Ensign and Pathway are conjoined in one. If this college is to be an ensign to the nations, there has to be the way from the nations to the ensign.
I'm excited about the Pathway program and the promise that it holds for people. I don't know that we can really ever overestimate the value of that combination here and that flexibility. The American educational system, I believe, really has a remarkable advantage that explains in some significant measure why our economy tends to flourish sometimes when others don't, and why we continue to reinvent ourselves so well. I served on the Board of Trustees at Utah Valley University for a number of years. As a regent, I've worked with Salt Lake Community College. Schools like SLCC and UVU and Ensign College and Pathway are providing a remarkable facility to students that doesn't exist in most places in the world. After living in Europe and having had much business travel there and around the world, I’m more persuaded that flexibility we enjoy here to obtain learning when we are ready, rather than having our academic path largely made for us by about the ninth grade, really matter. If you were a good student as a young child in most foreign countries you had choices, but if not, if you had problems concentrating, or if you had discipline issues, or if you were me – you were forced into professional tracks. How many non-traditional students do you know who came back and excelled after their synapses had finally fully connected? I guess I'm an example of that. I returned to college after a six-year summer vacation for mission and military – entering my sophomore year as a 24-year-old. I finished law school about six years later as I was turning 30 – a trajectory that simply would not be open to citizens and most countries, at least not until now with Pathway and with you, yet my access to college has made all the difference in my life. Had I been from Europe or Asia, it would have been unlikely that I could have found a pathway to a professional degree. My feeling is that Ensign College and Pathway will open possibilities to tens of thousands of people who are college capable, but whose life's demands have pushed them off of the college on-ramp. I think of a pair of return missionaries, an elder and a sister that I got to know in Sub-Saharan Africa. They had grown up together. They were adorable, convicted members of the Church who had left it all on the altar as missionaries living in the same African city and attending the same ward. They both served missions. They were beautiful people and very much in love. They both had been leaders in their missions with he as an assistant to his mission president. But they couldn't marry. They couldn't find a way to marry because her family hadn’t been able to send her away to college. He had no such resources, and with all of his brilliance and charisma and leadership skills so amply displayed as a missionary, he still had no path forward except on his family's small subsistence farm. With siblings and young parents, they could not see a way to support a family. I think of them and I wonder if Pathway is arriving soon enough to help them. I hope so. With Pathway and Ensign College, they and virtually anyone, virtually anywhere, can learn virtually anything, virtually. Let me close with this. When you live in an interesting time, it's just an echo of times that have gone before. Though we've seen this movie before, religious observance has been in decline in the western world as affluence has taken the urgency out of the search for meaning for many. But unbelief has a fundamental problem. As an organizing principle, human beings are believers. They live on the quiet side of the veil. They are bathed in the light of Christ, and while many have only long-distance relationships with the heavens, they still carry religious fervor about their passions and their ideals. It isn't that they've stopped believing in deity. They simply exchange their belief in God for something less. In what can only be described as a shockingly bad trade, trading the worship of the creator of the universe for worship of a tiny aspect of that universe. There are many compelling reasons of our day that speak to the yearnings of mankind's inner souls. The remunerations are being conflated with holiness for many in their search for meaning. Religions seems to have been supplanted. The Harvard theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich wrote extensively about the question, what is faith? He argues that faith is a state of being ultimately concerned about something unconditionally. He argued that it can be God or it can be about something else God created.
Who has not felt holiness in nature? The sense of stewardship over the environment? It can tap into our religious impulse, igniting religious fervor. Other honorable endeavors have been elevated too. Human rights are certainly causes worthy of our best efforts that resonate harmonically with our souls. Searching for the divine science is a pathway to elevating humanity that can be allowed to overshadow discipleship. If you've not chosen the kingdom of God, it has been said it will make little difference which you've chosen, instead it's going to be something less. Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the chance that I'm having here to be with you and talk with you. It pains me a little bit that we're not all in the same room where we can have a conversation, but I would leave you with my testimony.
For these past several months I've been engaged in a real job too. I have two full-time jobs, but I've been fully engaged with trying to figure out how to optimize the environment for our young people who are facing horrible consequences. They're not necessarily asking what Joseph Smith did with the Church is true, they're grasping this day, what's going to make me happiest and the Church is just one item on a menu of many that they're trying to explore.
The thing we've learned through Church research that keeps them on that path, that causes them to that happiness, is best found here: engaging them with faithful Church leaders to whom they have trusting relationships, and then giving them personal religious experiences. Children and youth is really about that – getting the Aaronic Priesthood governance, fully functioning under a bishop's control.
We've taken off the training wheels by firing the young men's presidents, and so there's nobody that stands between the bishop and young people. Bishops have stewardship over these young people. It is truly an inspired move, and the remarkable thing that's happening is that young people are now getting together to counsel as quorum presidencies and as class presidencies.
They’re praying about each other and looking for ways to save each other. When that happens, when they get outside of themselves, when they become leaders, which means they're thinking about tomorrow and not just 10 minutes from now, and about the future and about how they can spend their time moving forward to make a difference in the world, and suddenly, they become members of the crew rather than tourists passing through the kingdom of God. I see that playing out. I’m grateful to be part of it, and I guess I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't recruit you in this effort.
That's my prayer that Ensign College will go on to be everything that it's been designed to be, and I have no doubt that is a lot. I leave that prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.