The defining moment of Elder Von G. Keetch’s life came as he was completing a judicial clerkship with Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court and preparing to enter full-time law practice.
He could have worked in any city in the United States for a multitude of big law firms. Instead, he and his wife, Bernice Pymm Keetch, asked the Lord what they should do. After a period of uncertainty and searching, the couple felt directed to return to Salt Lake City, where he went to work for the law firm of Kirton McConkie.
At the time, Elder Keetch thought he might be sacrificing his ability to work on cutting-edge legal cases in order to follow the direction of the Spirit and be near family.
Instead, as the chief outside legal counsel for the Church, Elder Keetch, 55, argued constitutional issues and supervised precedent-setting cases on religious liberty. He has represented almost every major religious denomination in the country.
“I have loved being able to work for such a great client — being able to work on such great issues,” he said, noting that Church leaders strive, in every legal matter, to make “the moral choice, not just the legal choice.”
“Working for a client like [the Church] has blessed our lives greatly,” Elder Keetch said.
Born on March 17, 1960, in Provo, Utah, to Gary and Deanne Keetch, Elder Keetch is the oldest of four children. His family lived in Orem, Utah, before moving to Pleasant Grove, Utah — where he and his future wife would serve on their high school seminary council. She invited him to a high school dance and the high school students laid the foundation for a life-long friendship.
As a young man, Elder Keetch served in the Germany Dusseldorf Mission, held many leadership positions and came to love the German people. He discovered that, in Germany, “once you are friends, you are friends for life.”
Elder Keetch recalled a visit from Elder Robert D. Hales, now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to the Dusseldorf mission. The message Elder Hales, then of the Seventy, shared with the missionaries “changed my life,” recalled Elder Keetch. “In a few special moments alone together, Elder Hales taught me that if I would make the decision at an early age to dedicate my life to the Lord, He would lead me along and guide me on the paths I should take throughout my life.”
After returning from the mission field, Elder Keetch married Bernice (who had written him every single week of his mission) in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov. 21, 1981; they have six children. She had received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Utah State University and began teaching school in Orem, Utah. Elder Keetch attended BYU, where he earned a political science degree in 1984 and received a law degree in 1987.
After graduation the couple moved their young family to New York City and then Washington D.C. In addition to his demanding clerkships, Elder Keetch taught seminary and the couple “learned a lot about the Church outside of Utah, about its strength.”
Looking back, Elder and Sister Keetch noted that those were “special times of our lives.”
After returning to Salt Lake City, Elder and Sister Keetch enjoyed the blessing of living near family. Elder Keetch — even while serving as a stake president — made an effort to attend his children’s activities. He loved the basketball games and the music concerts and plays. “As busy as we have been, family has always been first in importance,” he said.
The Keetchs’ life, although happy, has not been without challenges, however. Just after accepting the call to serve as an Area Seventy, Elder Keetch was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and five surgeries. “It is hard experiences that teach life lessons about what is important,” he said.
Priesthood blessings have brought the family great comfort. “Our future is bright,” Elder Keetch explained. “We are not afraid of the future.”
Sister Keetch has learned much through her service in the Church. A naturally shy person, she once struggled to know how to serve as the stake Young Women president. She wanted to serve the young women and their leaders faithfully, but didn’t feel she had the outgoing personality to do so. She prayed the Lord would change her, but then received the tender reminder from her stake president that “maybe your way of doing things is what our stake needs at this time.”
“I learned,” reflected Sister Keetch, “that sometimes our perceived weaknesses are really our strengths.”
She realized she doesn’t have to fit a certain mold to serve the Lord, noting that what is important is for every Church member to strive to have the “Spirit with us.”
This is a lesson Elder Keetch will remember as he approaches his service as a General Authority. He remembers the impact Elder Hales had on his life as a young missionary so many years ago. Now he will strive to “do his very best” to help others and to rededicate himself to the service of the Lord.
He prays that if “something needs to be done or needs to be said,” he will be able to do it or say it.
He has seen, as the chief legal counsel for the Church, how the Lord moves His work forward. “I marvel at the way the Lord puts the pieces in place so His kingdom on earth becomes what He wants it to be. I am grateful to be part of that effort.”
Family: Born March 17, 1960, in Provo, Utah, to Gary and Deanne Keetch; married Bernice Pymm Nov. 21, 1981, in the Salt Lake Temple; six children: Steffani Dastrup (Brian), Alyson Ball (Jarom), Jared (Anna), Tyler, Cameron, Kaden; five grandchildren.
Education: Graduated from BYU in 1984 in Political Science and received a law degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU in 1987.
Employment: Served as a judicial clerk to Judge George C. Pratt on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; served as a judicial clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court; practiced law at Kirton McConkie law firm since 1990 where he worked as chief outside legal counsel for the Church.
Church service: Served a full-time mission in the Germany Dusseldorf Mission from 1979-81, in bishoprics, on high councils, and as a stake president and an Area Seventy in the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy.
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