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Ensign College President Kusch Encourages Students to Focus On Building Character Over Reputation

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By Megan McKellar, Church News

Much of the content posted on today’s social media platforms is more concerned with reputation than character. President Bruce C. Kusch explained the difference between the two in an Ensign College devotional April 20.

“Character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are,” President Kusch explained, quoting legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Social media is often used to create a reputation, President Kusch said, but by sacrificing character. “What we see is most often not a view of ‘things as they really are,’ [but] rather, ‘things as I want you to think they are.’”

Tests of character are a necessary part of mortality. Although examples of cheating, lying or other forms of dishonesty are rampant in society, President Kusch invited students to resist the pressure to do the same.

“It may seem to be the only option at the moment in a very competitive or desperate situation. Don’t do it!” he said.

The essence and purpose of Ensign College is the building of character.

President Kusch echoed President Russell M. Nelson, who taught that “the ultimate aim of true education is the building of character. One trains only for tasks, while character becomes the substance of one’s eternal identity.” The mission of Ensign College, according to President Nelson, is “to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Being capable means making choices and taking action diligently and intentionally. Being trusted requires guidance “by an inner moral compass — that is the Holy Ghost and the related spiritual gifts He makes possible,” President Kusch said.

Becoming a capable and trusted disciple of Jesus Christ is a choice that all must make.

As he invited students to take time to ponder their own efforts in building their personal character, he asked them to be kind to themselves: “Each of us is a work in progress. What matters most is that our efforts are sincere, steady and consistent.”

President Kusch warned that “character is not built in the crucible of challenges, trials and tribulations. But it is tested in the midst of these fiery furnaces. When we face them, and face them we will, if we are found lacking in character, it will be too late to develop it in the moment of need.”

He invited listeners to “guard your character as you would guard your own life.”

“When the Lord knows we can be trusted, the heavens open and blessings are poured out far beyond anything we might imagine.”

In preparation for their departure to serve a mission in Mexico in 2012, President Kusch and his wife, Sister Alynda Kusch, moved their belongings into a storage room in the basement of their Rexburg, Idaho, home. During the final year of their missionary service, their home in Rexburg was flooded and the basement was filled with 8 feet of mud, water and debris.

Sister Alynda Kusch addresses students in an Ensign College devotional Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Photo courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“What was left, after approximately 220,000 gallons of water and mud were pumped out, was destruction and damage beyond what I could ever have imagined,” Sister Kusch described.

From this experience, Sister Kusch learned seven lessons about “repentance, forgiveness and God’s love for His children.”

The first lesson was the ability to make the decision to change.

“Making the decision to repent and turn to God is as vital for you in your spiritual life as was our decision, in order to avoid further damage, to clean and repair our home,” Sister Kusch taught.

“Cleaning up can be hard, but it is essential,” was the next lesson.

She described the extensive efforts taken to remove damaged materials in the flooded basement, leaving only a foundation, cement floors and open studs.

“The tools used to clean up the mud that invaded our home were shovels, hammers and buckets. Your tools will be faith, prayer, the scriptures and the sacrament,” Sister Kusch said.

The following lesson was that “the will to rebuild is powerful.”

“Do you want to have the Holy Ghost in your life? Do you want to feel clean and pure before the Lord?” she asked. “The will to want to do whatever is necessary to have this is a powerful thing.”

The cost of repairs and rebuilding is great was her fourth lesson.

None of the cleanup or repairs were covered by their insurance, putting the financial burden of rebuilding the home solely on President and Sister Kusch.

During an Ensign College devotional April 20, 2021, Sister Alynda Kusch describes the damage done to their basement during a flood in July 2014. Photo courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

In contrast, Jesus Christ has already paid the price to grant all the privilege of repentance and forgiveness.

The fifth lesson was that “you are not alone.”

Because the Kusches were away in Mexico, they relied on family and friends to help after the flood.

“Loving bishops, parents and friends all stand at the ready to assist you as you turn or return to the Lord,” Sister Kusch said.

“Being clean is a lifelong pursuit” and “hope shines bright in the midst of the storm” were the final two lessons.

Sister Kusch concluded by bearing testimony of the process of repentance. “What was damaged and filthy and uninhabitable became clean and new and beautiful.”

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