Tuesday, Sept. 15, served as a day of firsts for Ensign College — the first devotional of the new fall 2020 semester and the first since the institutional changes in February, which included the name change from LDS Business College and the school offering a limited number of Bachelor of Applied Science degrees.
“These past months, as we have worked to implement these adjustments, have been remarkable,” Ensign College President Bruce C. Kusch said. “Time does not permit a detailed explanation of everything that has taken place, but we have felt and witnessed the Lord’s hand in this effort.”
President Kusch reflected on the historic event in July 1847 when Brigham Young and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles climbed to a peak overlooking the valley where they determined it would be a good place to raise an ensign to the nations.
“On four different occasions now, over the past several months, I have walked the path to the top of Ensign Peak,” said President Kusch, adding that “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 place and this valley has become.”
President Kusch described the history of the school since its inception as a junior high and high school in 1886, when William B. Dougall gathered a group of local leaders from Salt Lake City to consider a proposal to create a school for the youth of the city.
The night before the scheduled meeting, a fire broke out in the bookstore of James Dwyer where the gathering was to be held. The leaders were determined to move forward and held the meeting nonetheless.
“Sitting amongst the burned out remains of the store, on wooden boxes, with water dripping on them, plans were made, and the school opened several months later, on Nov. 15, 1886,” President Kusch said.
Ensign College has undergone five name changes. It was first known as the Salt Lake Stake Academy, then LDS College, followed by LDS University, then LDS College again, and then LDS Business College until its most recent change.
“One should easily conclude that institutional change is woven into the fabric and tapestry of this school,” the college president said. “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.”
He continued: “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.”
President Kusch emphasized that what has made the institution great throughout the years is not the various names nor the building it occupies, but rather “it is about the heart — your heart, and my heart.” He echoed the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said that “our hearts — the sum total of our desires, affections, intentions, motives, and attitudes — define who we are and determine what we will become.”
However, there is still symbolic importance to be found in the word ensign, President Kusch said, quoting another Apostle, President Boyd K. Packer: “The ensign to which all of us are to rally is Jesus Christ. … We are to ‘rejoice, and be exceeding glad’ … we will face the challenges, for we cannot avoid them, and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach of Him as our Savior and our Refuge, our Redeemer. … “We are not to be afraid … we are to be happy and positive. Fear is the opposite of faith.”
President Kusch extended an invitation for all to commit to making a positive, personal contribution to the spirit, environment, experience and reputation of Ensign College.
“Over my years of service here, many have commented, ‘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 hearts and goodness of the students and the people who learn, work and serve here,” he said.
President Kusch also invited listeners to look for and apply the spiritual lessons to be learned from these challenging times, as all are experiencing something no one has ever lived through before.
“There are essential things to be learned that will be preparatory for challenges we will face in the future. … While masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing all help protect us physically, much more important are the spiritual protections that come from deepening our faith in Heavenly Father and in the Savior. …
“We will look back on this season of our lives and truly say they were days never to be forgotten.”