Ensign College President Bruce C. Kusch began his Tuesday, Sept. 14, devotional address by heralding a couple of “landmark milestones” in the history of the Church-owned school:
“First, we are now officially offering three fully accredited Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, and second, through our collaborative partnership with BYU-Pathway Worldwide we have enrolled thousands of matriculated BYU-Pathway Worldwide students around the world in Ensign College online certificates and degrees.”
Those two landmarks, he added, mark the “beginning of a new era in the storied history of the college, made possible by the consecrated efforts of many since its inception in 1886. As I said previously, we stand on the shoulders of those giants of the past, and I pay tribute to them today.”
President Kusch was accompanied Tuesday by his wife, Sister Alynda Kusch, who joined him on the devotional program.
The school’s 13th president charted the circuitous path that led him from the tech industry to academia — ultimately ending at the helm of Ensign College during an era still being defined by challenges and change.
Throughout that journey, President Kusch can trace the navigating hand of the Holy Ghost in his life. He has also learned five key lessons and divine principles.
1. Don’t be in a hurry for God to answer your prayers. But, when answers come, you will know it
“As he spoke [I received] a very, very strong spiritual impression that I should prepare myself to teach at Ricks College,” he said. “This was an answer to a prayer that was most unexpected — but gratefully received.
“I had been seeking heaven’s guidance regarding my professional pursuits for nearly six years. In 1998, I did not have the qualifications to be hired; I did not have a master’s degree, which I knew would be a requirement.”
2. God puts people in our path to fulfill His purposes — and often in miraculous ways
After returning home from the graduation ceremony, President Kusch spoke to a Ricks College faculty member named Craig Bell, who explained the school’s hiring process. Bell told him if teaching at Ricks College was “meant to be, it will happen.”
Determined to qualify for a teaching position, President Kusch enrolled in an evening MBA program, looking ahead to one day shifting his profession in Rexburg, Idaho.
3. When God’s timing is different than yours, trust His. He always knows best
At the end of 2001, President Kusch was finishing his MBA course work. One day he was browsing through the Church News and learned there was a faculty opening in Rexburg at what had become BYU-Idaho.
He had not planned to pursue professional opportunities in academia for another few years but felt spiritually prompted to act.
“The impressions were correct. I came to understand that had I not applied when I did, there would not have ever been another opportunity for me to join the BYU-Idaho faculty.”
4. If it’s meant to be, it will happen
President Kusch applied for a position in the business management department, but was originally told he was not being considered for the school faculty. Later, he learned there had been an internal mix-up with his job application. The man he had spoken with years earlier — Craig Bell — was instrumental in discovering the mistake.
“On the Friday morning of general conference weekend of April 2002, Dean Fenton Broadhead called and offered me a position on the business management faculty. We knew then it was meant to be.”
5. If we allow it, God will ‘educate our desires’ to prepare us for things we might never decide to do on our own
After a decade of teaching in Rexburg, President and Sister Kusch were called to preside over the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission, serving from 2012 to 2015. They planned to return to BYU-Idaho.
But shortly before his mission ended, President Kusch felt “strong impressions” about working at what was then called LDS Business College. He told no one about those impressions, including his wife.
After their return home, President Kusch had a conversation with J. Larry Richards, who was serving as president of LDS Business College. President Richards asked him to consider moving from Rexburg to Salt Lake City to become the Chief Academic Officer at LDSBC.
For the first time, he told his wife about his early impressions about working at LDSBC. Sister Kusch told him she had received similar impressions.
“Heavenly Father had educated our desires many months before, preparing us to respond to President Richards’ invitation in a way we most likely would not have, had it not been for those powerful impressions,” he said. “Our experiences at Ensign College have been of far-reaching importance to our happiness, and we cannot imagine our lives without them.”
Concluding, President Kusch testified that God answers prayers and fulfills His purposes, even through circumstances that appear random and coincidental.
“Let us trust Him and His timing as we seek to be guided in our holy desires and efforts to stand in holy places. I witness that as you live in that way you will discover the custom-made plan that Heavenly Father has just for you.”
Stand in holy places
In her remarks Tuesday, Sister Kusch challenged the Ensign College students to find safety “even in the midst of commotion and uncertainty” by standing in holy places.
The temple and Church meeting houses are surely “holy places.” But there are many others. “Remember,” she said, “that a holy place is anywhere where the Lord can come and speak to us through the Holy Ghost.”
Sister Kusch shared an experience from her mission in Mexico when a dangerous situation prompted the evacuation of 90 missionaries from an area in their mission. She was tasked with finding ways to immediately relocate the missionaries.
“As I sat at my desk in the kitchen of the mission home looking at a list of missionary apartments, I offered a quick but fervent prayer that I might know what to do to help our displaced missionaries,” she said. “The answer came swiftly and powerfully to my mind. I knew what arrangements needed to be made.
“My desk in the kitchen of the mission home became a holy place.”
She went on to identify other common-place locales — including a shopping center parking lot and the interior of her car — that became unexpected “holy places” because that is where the Holy Ghost spoke to her in answer to earlier prayers.
“Do you see a pattern here?” she asked. “It has more to do with you and less to do with where you are. You can be in church, with your mind wandering and playing on your phone, and get nothing out of the meetings. Yet you can be in your car and have a glorious experience with the Spirit. It depends on you.”
Sister Kusch offered two suggestions on creating holy places.
“The first is simply to have a desire,” she said. “You must want to be in a place where the Lord can speak.
“If this is not what you truly want, and, because as humans it is easy to wander and lose focus, it will be difficult to remain in places of safety where you can feel the Lord near you and hear the Lord’s voice.”
The second suggestion is to “be determined.”
“The Savior said that we must not only stand in holy places, but that we must not be removed from them. There are many things that will pull at you to close the shades to gospel light, that will dim the Spirit’s influence. You must guard against the adversary’s enticements. ‘Just this once won’t matter,’ is a dangerous yet effective tool of his.”
Be determined to “stand with the Lord” — and then stay there, she said.