Elder Dushku: Making the Savior the ‘very center of everything’

‘We walk with Christ, arm in arm. And then we walk with each other. We need each other,’ Elder Alexander Dushku says

Elder Alexander Dushku’s parents joined the Church in Boston after visiting the World’s Fair in 1964. His father was spiritually moved by what he learned about the gospel in a Church-sponsored pavilion, and he invited missionaries to teach him and his soon-to-be wife. 

Truman Madsen was the mission president of the New England Mission at the time, and he sent a pair of missionaries to visit Elder Dushku’s father.

Elder Dushku said his mother was less enthusiastic at the time, but his father “had some very powerful experiences with the Spirit.”

He said his mother’s conversion took a slightly different path than that of his father, saying, “It took a little longer, but it wound up being just as deep.”

Being the oldest child in a newly converted family brought many firsts for Elder Dushku. He was first to attend seminary and Brigham Young University and first to serve a mission.

Lessons from missionary service

While his parents were new to the Church when he was born, Elder Dushku said a mission was always in his future.

“I always knew I was supposed to serve a mission, and so I was going to do it as a matter of duty,” he said.

Serving a mission helped him see how the Atonement of Jesus Christ helped individuals overcome challenging circumstances.

“It wasn’t until I got on my mission that I began to really understand the glory of missionary work and how powerful it can be. It just completely opened my eyes to the kingdom of God and what it means,” said Elder Dushku, who served as a missionary in the Portugal Lisbon Mission from 1986 to 1988.

Growing up in Sacramento, California, his parents created an environment that built a strong foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. He attended Primary and his Aaronic Priesthood quorums. His family read the scriptures together, prayed together and attended Church together.

Building an eternal marriage

Elder Alexander Dushku and his wife Jennifer Burnham Dushku pose for a portrait at the Church Office Building Plaza in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Elder Dushku was sustained as a General Authority Seventy at the October 2023 general conference. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Before serving a mission, Elder Dushku began attending Brigham Young University. He remembered seeing Jennifer Burnham stand and be sustained as the new Relief Society president in their student ward their first semester.

“My heart leapt,” he said.

While the two didn’t date that first semester, they got to know each other during their second semester before he left for Portugal.

The two joined friends to hang out in the Cannon Center at BYU. They both recalled one night having a conversation about the letter of the law and spirit of the law of the gospel. The conversation lasted until all their friends had gone home and they had to be asked to leave when it was time to close the building. That was the beginning of a friendship that would be put on hold while he served as a missionary.

The conversion of Jennifer Burnham’s family began more than 100 years before Elder Dushku’s. It is a heritage she is proud to carry on.

She is a descendant of John P. Greene, who first received a copy of the Book of Mormon in Canada from Samuel H. Smith, the younger brother of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Samuel was the Church’s first called missionary.

Around the time Elder Dushku returned home from his mission, Jennifer was considering serving a mission of her own. The two reunited, dated and were married six months after he returned from his mission.

“It was inevitable,” she said. “And it has been one of the greatest gifts of my life … . It is just a constant source of strength and joy for me.”

Sister Dushku said the key to that feeling has been her husband’s focus on Heavenly Father and His commandments.

“When your husband loves God more than all else, God keeps turning his head back to you,” she said. “So my heart has always been safe with him.”

Raised in the gospel and raising in the gospel

Having been raised by parents with similar beliefs and habits, Sister Dushku said the decision to do things with their own family, like read scriptures together, was never hard.

“We had the great advantage of having been raised the same, so we were on the same page,” she said. “His family lived the gospel the same way my family lived the gospel.”

Sister Dushku said they tried to keep things simple in raising their family. She said they had two main goals: “To give my children love and teach them to love God. Everything else was superfluous.”

The two shared in the dirty work of raising children, too. Elder Dushku said he changed an average of at least one diaper each day for 19 years. Sister Dushku said she is grateful for a husband who shared in those duties at home.

“There was no task that he was too good for,” she said. “Any aspect of parenting, he felt as invested in [as I did]. … He is a true partner.”

Jesus Christ, the remedy for an ailing world

The Church has now grown to more than 17 million members, compared to a global population of more than eight billion people. Elder Dushku has great belief in the potential of the Church’s membership to make a difference in the world.

“While our numbers might be small, they are meaningful and powerful,” Elder Dushku said.

“We sometimes have this view of life that we are supposed to do it all by ourselves, that we are supposed to walk the covenant path alone. But nowhere in the scriptures does it say that,” he said. “We walk with Christ, arm in arm. And then we walk with each other. We need each other. We ourselves become the hands and the voice of the Lord in lifting and strengthening others.”

Elder Dushku sees acting and teaching in the Savior’s way as a mirror that allows others to find comfort in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and to feel the Holy Ghost confirming the truth of His restored Church.

“The heart and soul of all of it is that Jesus Christ lives. He is indeed the true and living Son of the true and living God. And He stands at the head of this true and living Church, which is led and guided by living prophets and apostles.”

Elder Dushku said he knows that when an individual has that confirmation that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His Church, all the challenges of life can be navigated in a faithful, not fearful, way.

“Modern life is more complex than any time in human history — and yet it is also simple. Choose Christ. Put Him at the very center of everything that you are, and choose to define yourself according to who you truly are — a son or daughter of God and covenant disciple of Jesus Christ,” he said. “If we do, His promise is that He will not leave us comfortless. He will come to us. He will abide with us. He will walk with us. He will empower us and fill us with His grace and His mercy and His love and His power and His peace and His joy.”

As he sought to find balance with Sister Dushku in their marriage, raising their eight children, serving in different Church callings and becoming a successful lawyer, he said that balance only came because of their shared focus on the Savior.

“The word ‘balance’ is a challenging word because it suggests an equality among various competing interests,” he said. “But the balance is Christ. You just simply put Him first.”

After that, Elder Dushku said, individuals, couples and families have to seek to know how the Lord would have them use the remaining time and energy they have.

“That is the bottom line. That is the great truth that we all have to learn in this life — that Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the whole world, and, just as importantly, of my individual world and yours. And when that becomes the center and the focus of our lives, everything else falls into place. Or, as President [Ezra Taft] Benson would remind us, it falls out of our lives.”

About Elder Alexander Dushku

Map showing Fairfield, California
Map showing Fairfield, California, the birthplace of Elder Alexander Dushku, a newly sustained General Authority Seventy. | Church News graphic

Family: Alexander Dushku was born on Nov. 17, 1966, to Nicholas and Donna Lee in Fairfield, California. Elder Dushku married Jennifer Burnham in 1988 in the Salt Lake Temple. They have eight children and 10 grandchildren.

Education: Elder Dushku earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brigham Young University in 1990. He received a juris doctorate from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1993.

Employment: He worked for a national public interest law firm and clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit prior to his most recent employment with Kirton McConkie, where he has focused on the First Amendment and religious freedom.

Church Service: Elder Dushku was serving as a stake president at the time of his call. He has also served as a high councilor, bishop, bishopric counselor and elders quorum president.

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