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
Born on March 17, 1960, in Provo, Utah, to Gary and Deanne Keetch, Elder Keetch
is the eldest 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
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."
Elder Keetch continues to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy at this posting.